The number of pet dogs in the UK has grown rapidly over the last decade to reach an estimated population of 9.9 million, according to the 2019 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report. Dogs have become an important part of people’s lives, serving various purposes like giving unconditional affection, boosting security, and helping people reduce their stress levels. A lot of dog owners also take their dogs along on car rides to make errands less boring. While this may seem fun and practical for other dog owners, it may not be the same for you. Taking your dog on his first car ride is a huge step, which is why you need to ensure that you train him well for it.
Have the right car
Before you begin car-training your dog, you need to ensure that you have the right car for the job. Not every car will be suitable for your dog, especially if you have a large breed like a Great Dane or a Mastiff. Ideally, the car you choose should have a comfortable space where you can safely restrain your dog. Vehicles with large bodies like SUVs, crossovers, sedans, and vans are the most ideal for ferrying your furry friend. Pick up trucks, convertibles, and sports cars may be too uncomfortable or unsafe for dogs.
Calming your pup’s fears
Dogs can develop a fear of cars, especially those that have never ridden in one before. The sound vehicles make, the speed, and previous rides always ending up at the vet can make a dog wary of getting into any car. To deal with this, you’ll want to get your pup accustomed to being in the car as early as possible. Start by providing him with treats in the car without turning on the engine. Once he relaxes in the car, try turning on the engine on and off periodically until he’s comfortable with the sound. After that, you can try a short trip around your neighbourhood, rewarding him for good behaviour if everything goes well. Keep increasing the length of the car rides gradually, building up tolerance with consistent handling and patience. Always end your car rides with a pleasant experience like a walk to the dog park.
Get your dog used to restraints
In the UK, it is illegal to take car rides with an unrestrained dog due to the safety risks involved; not only is an unrestrained dog a distraction in the car, but he can easily jump out of an open window as you are driving. As such, you want to ensure that your dog is familiar and comfortable with the type of restraints you use, whether it’s a crate, carrier, safety harness, or dog-specific seat belt.
With proper planning, training, and patience, you and your pup can enjoy car rides whether you are going on a long road trip or just across town. If your dog still has trouble, you can ask for help from your vet or a professional dog trainer.