Monday, February 22, 2010


Some dogs LOVE going for rides in the car and others, absolutely HATE it! The best time to start training your dog is when he is a puppy. OMG, all of us have some horror stories to tell when it comes to taking puppies in the car. One puppy in the car can be enough to make you not want to ever take him again but have you ever taken a litter or puppies in the car? If you are a breeder, you most certainly have. Be prepared to take loads of newspapers with you and rolls and rolls of paper towels and a bottle of a good smelling disinfectant! You’re going to need it! You’re going to be making many stops along the road.

Going for a ride in the car might sound like a good idea to you, but what does it evoke in your dog? He might get anxious just hearing the car keys rattle in your hand as you walk to the door calling his name to come to you. And if he’s a true car hater, he just might put the brakes on altogether as you TRY to coax him out of the house and into the car. Try lifting a 90 lb. German Shepherd who goes dead weight on you as you try to get him into the crate. His legs stiffen, his paws and toe nails are sticking out at “attention” and as you try to battle his uncooperative body into his crate, his stiff legs prevent you from even getting his front part of his body in the open door. Don’t expect him to help you by making this easier on you. All he knows is that you are TRYING to make him do something that he absolutely HATES!

Just what makes a dog hate riding in the car so much? It’s usually due to his not so fond memories of a sick tummy and throwing up all over your nice clean car. Hey he didn’t mean to do it, but you forced him into this torture chamber and now you’re paying the consequences for it. Many times when a puppy is first introduced to the car, he is anxious or excited and many times fearful of his new surroundings. It’s unfamiliar to him and he’s not quite sure what to make of it. Then you turn the key on and all of a sudden his firm footing is not so firm anymore. Add to that all the bumps and turns in the road and it can all add up to a very unhappy little fellow with a sick little tummy.

So what can you do to make the car ride more enjoyable to your puppy? First of all, let the puppy get familiar with the car BEFORE you start riding down the street. Let him smell his new surroundings and make it a fun experience for him. Maybe take him for some short rides at first. Perhaps just down the street and back home again all the while talking and reassuring him that everything is alright. For dogs that get sick tummies, some people swear by giving the dog ginger snap cookies. Ginger is supposed to be calming to sensitive stomachs. What you are trying to do is to make the puppy’s first car ride an enjoyable one, not something that makes him sick. If you don’t want a sick puppy or dog, DON’T FEED HIM BEFORE YOU TAKE HIM IN THE CAR for a few hours. (Except for the ginger snap cookie)!

Here are some tips to ensure that the car ride is safe and enjoyable for your dog.

Your dogs should always be in a safe and secure crate that is well ventilated. The wire crates and the hard plastic ones (shipping crates) are usually the best for the size of a German Shepherd. Make sure that the crate is large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, sit and lie down. Also make sure the crate is secure in the car so that it’s not going to shift back and forth and it won’t roll or fall over especially if you have to put the brakes on and make a quick, unexpected stop. Many times if you crate your dog at home, he will associate the crate in the car as a friendly place because he is already familiar with it. Leaving a dog to ride loose on the back seat is not safe. Truth be told, I have done this more times than not. My bad…….! I have done this when I’m taking a quick little ride and won’t be gone long and want the company of one of my dogs.

Feed your dog three to four hours before you make the trip with him in the car. Also don’t feed him in the car when you are traveling. Your sweet gesture towards your dog can backfire……all over your car!

Never leave your dog in a car when the temperatures are extreme. Even with the car windows open on a hot day, your car can become a furnace in no time and heatstroke can develop. If you are showing your dogs, pay special attention to your dogs that are left in crates in the parking lots. If it’s very cold weather, your car can feel like a refrigerator holding the cold in and in turn having your dog freeze to death.

Besides carrying all those newspapers, paper towels and disinfectant that I already mentioned, here are some other things you should take with you. Obviously you already have his leash and collar with you…….DON’T LEAVE THESE THINGS ON HIM without being supervised. I never leave a choker collar on my dog when he’s in the car or anyplace else for that fact. I put the dog in the car and then remove his collar. I don’t want to chance him getting his choke collar hooked to something and he chokes to death. You might be taking with you his grooming supplies if you are showing him, medication and a first aid kit, maybe his favorite toy, his food and treats and lots of WATER!

Make sure your dog has identification in case he should get loose. He should be micro-chipped or tattooed. You might have a collar on him with his identification tags which would have his home address and cell phone and contact information.

If you are one of the guilty ones like me that (occasionally) let your dog ride loose in the back seat, then please don’t let him stick his head out the window. I know, I know……he love’s to do this. This is one of the joys he has in life! But no matter how good it feels having the wind blow in Rovers’ face, this can give him inner ear damage and lung infections and he can be injured by flying objects and bugs that may get into his precious little eyes. If you don’t want to crate your dog, you can put him into a harness that attaches to the back seat of your car.

And what ever you do………DON’T LET YOUR DOG RIDE LOOSE IN THE BACK OF A PICK UP TRUCK!! This is one of my pet peeves. I want to pull up next to the driver and scream at him for allowing his dog to travel in this EXTREMELY UNSAFE way! But then when I see his tattooed, bulging muscles leaning out the open window and his tobacco chewing grin, I decide to quietly groan under my breathe instead! What are these people thinking when they do this? Obviously they are NOT THINKING at all! I’ve seen dogs up on their hind legs with their front paws on the rim of the cargo area that they are kept in. Oh the dog is having a ball alright……breeze blowing in his face…….free as a bird. But unlike that bird, if the driver has to put his brakes on all of a sudden, the dog will literally be flying free as a bird, but only without the bird’s wings to save him from hitting the pavement full force!

If you’re going to be traveling across state lines, it’s advisable to bring your dog’s rabies vaccination record. Some states require this proof at certain interstate crossings. I’ve personally never experienced this with my dogs, but it’s always better to be on the safe side.

As I said before, bring lots of water for your dog to drink. Its better that your dog drinks water that came from his own house or bottled water than to drink water from another area he’s not used to. Sometimes this can result in your dog’s tummy becoming upset.

If you do lots of traveling with your dog, it might be wised to invest in rubberized floor liners and waterproof seat covers. Let’s face it, owing German Shepherds we can all attest to this breeds constant shedding of hairs. It’s also a good thing to bring a hand held vacuum like a Dirt Buster with you for easy clean ups.

Traveling with your dog can and should be a positive experience for both of you. Taking a little precaution to ensure that it is will save you a lot of aggravation in the long run.

From the book "Living with Dogs"....In 26 stories and 400 full-color photographs of homes, collections, galleries, meets, shows, kennels, and camps, Living with Dogs celebrates the devotion and passion of the millions of Americans for whom a life without dogs is not worth living.

My rating: traveling with dogs: (4), "Living with Dogs": (4)

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