She’s eight weeks old, taken away from her mum, her brothers and sisters, the familiar smells of the surrounding fields and everything she’s ever known. You would think she’d be terrified but no, she looks around for a few seconds before dipping her tiny head and sleeping the entire 40 minute journey home.
Needless to say we’ve been very lucky with Lola, our cocker spaniel puppy, and people have been keen to remind us of that often, especially after the tough times they’ve had with their own furry friends. She’s never required any toilet training, simply doing her business in the garden and she’s slept all night from day one. Since that first journey to her new home she has never made a peep in the car. In fact, she’s desperate to get in it most of the time, obviously having already realised the wonderful places the magic box can take her.
However, that love of the car was about to be put to the ultimate test.
With Lola at just four months old we were relocating across Europe. Our plans for a relaxed 14+ day journey were shattered when Kirsty’s knee operation turned out to be more serious than we anticipated. Instead we were driving a far more direct route in just seven days with a young puppy, a broken wife and a very nervous husband.
Our Tips for Travelling with a Puppy
The Puppies Safe Place
We’re big fans of ‘crate training‘. Everyone we know with a dog has used this method and we always knew it was what we wanted to do. Lola’s crate was the first thing she saw when she arrived at her new home and since that day she has grown to love it. It’s where she goes when she’s scared, tired or just had enough of everyone.
It’s also been the only way she’s ever travelled in our car (after that first journey). Having her own safe place in the car, especially when travelling such long distances makes a big difference. Inside her crate nothing has changed, she has the normal smells of her bedding and familiar surroundings. As usual, during our trip she had no problems climbing back into her bed when it was time to hit the road again.
Of course this is essential with any dog, or pet for that matter, but especially with a young puppy who may not be have become as used to travelling in the car.
Luckily for us, the rest stops and services across mainland Europe are wonderful, France in particular has some stops that would be deemed worthy of a day out back in the UK. This of course made the stops much better for Lola, rather than just jumping out for a quick wee she was able to roll around on the grass, run through the tress and even interact with some other dogs.
The stops not only allowed her to stretch her legs but also gave us a chance to feed her if the time was right. Most importantly it gave us the chance to show her some attention, something puppies crave a lot of. The last thing we wanted was for her to think the magic box had broken and she was never getting out.
As a rule we never drove for more than two hours without stopping for at least a 20 minute break. We also planned our route so that 4 hours a day would be enough to get us to our destination within the 7 day time period. Due to issues on the road, a couple of our days ended up being much longer than this so we adjusted our rest stops accordingly to make sure Lola had even longer out of the car.
While you may be used to only seeing your puppy drink after a snack or a good play session it’s important to remember to offer them fresh water regularly on the drive. If it’s a hot day or you’re using the air conditioning settings in your car then this is extremely important.
We were quite surprised by how much water Lola would drink at each stop so make sure you have plenty available on board.
While you might convince yourself that you’ll always have time to play with your adorable little puppy it’s important to make sure you have plenty of supplies. By supplies I mean, chews, treats and toys.
If you have one of those days where the traffic has been terrible, you left something at the hotel that you had to turn around for or there was a problem with the car you might begin to think twice about playtime. Of course your little monster doesn’t care about any of these issues, they’ve sat quietly in the car for hours and now they’ve got energy to burn.
Some extra special chews or a new toy might buy you the half an hours peace you need after finally arriving at your destination.
For the sanity of both you and your pup it’s important to include rest days into any long road trip. On the 4th day of our 7 day journey we didn’t drive anywhere. We picked a nice camp-site by a lake in the shadow of a mountain to rest up and spend some quality time spoiling Lola.
The rest day gave us the chance to work on our usual routine with our puppy. Two nice walks, regular feeding times and even a chance to get a good training session. After two nights in the comfort of our tent (which she had already been familiarised with previously) Lola was much more relaxed and ready to complete our journey.
While travelling with a puppy for long distances is never ideal, unfortunately sometimes it is unavoidable. If you take time and care to plan your journey accordingly though it can be done with little stress to both owner and puppy.
Have you ever taken your pets on a long journey? What worries did you have beforehand and how did you deal with them?