Just like humans, the needs of dogs change with their age.
If you’re a loving and caring dog owner (and of course you are, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this), however unconsciously, you’ll adjust their regimes gradually as they get older. In fact, the changes might be so subtle that, taken as a whole, you might not actually realize how much you’ve altered how you treat your canine companion.
But there’s one instance when all the differences between caring for a young pup and a doggy senior citizen are brought into sharp focus – and that’s when you take them with you on your travels.
Unsurprisingly, travelling with an infant pooch and an older canine companion present two whole different sets of challenges. And what’s also no big shock is that there’s a mass of advice out there whichever end of the age spectrum your dog falls into.
So we thought it was a great idea here at Citizenshipper to pull together the pick of the tips available. These should help you prep your pup for any journey, and can even help you with your inquiries when you’re arranging for them to be shipped by one of our corps of caring carriers!
Paw-loose and fancy free
A dog aged six to 18 months is full of life and keen to enjoy new adventures, so if you can hold off until they reach this age, it should be easier for you to introduce them to the delights of travel – especially if this is going to include an overnight stay.
But by the same token, you’ve got some new concerns emerging which you’ll need to be sure of, not least of which are:
Behaviour: If your dog has been going to pup classes, this should make all the difference when they’re faced with the unfamiliar sights and experiences of an extended road trip. You should be able to rely on him to sit, stay and walk at your side reliably on command (on a leash of course). And if they can pass these tests and not get freaked out – consistently – you shouldn’t expect too many problems.
Toilet training: It’s not enough to be able to trust your young dog to behave and go to the toilet properly MOST of the time – you need to be confident that he’ll do it ALL of the time. The first trip could cause him to suddenly get nervous and forget what he’s been taught. That’s why one of the most important factors in planning a road trip will be the possibility of regular bathroom stops. So play it safe and do some research beforehand into available stop-off points.
Crowds: Going from keeping ourselves occupied when on our own in the back of the car, to wandering through a busy rest stop, where everyone is heading in different directions at the same time can be disorientating for we humans, let alone our canine companions. And that’s before you consider that just about everyone will suddenly want to greet you – or rather, your dog.
Don’t Curb Their Instinct To Explore
Contributing to an article listing traveling tips for dogs of all ages on Dogster.com, California-based animal behaviourist Jill Goldman Ph.D. said: “Dogs are social creatures who bond with humans and, for the most part, enjoy traveling with their human companions … these days, you can bring a well-mannered dog almost anywhere.”
She even goes on to recommend that car (up to and including a van and SUV) is by far the favored way for them to travel, provided they can be properly secured in a pen, where they’re free to look out of a window – and, of course, sleep.
Older Dogs Enjoy Getting Out And About Too
As they get older, dogs are very like we humans, in that they start to appreciate far more their regular, familiar surroundings.
But that’s not to say that, like many of us, they aren’t up for discovering new places. They just need to know that everything to cater for their physical needs is catered for. That includes the following:
Slow things down: Like us, your dog will appreciate you shifting down the pace of your travels. While that six-mile walk through rugged countryside might be your idea of a great holiday activity, it might be beyond the reach of poor Fido.
Keep it cool: Warm weather makes most of us want to get out and enjoy it – but an older dog can’t handle the heat like he once could, so again, temper your activity level, and the journeys you plan, accordingly. And if it does involve the car, use the air-con to keep the temperature at a consistent and comfortable level.
Focus on comfort: Creaky joints are a problem suffered by dogs as much as humans, and from the experience of your own older relatives, you might appreciate how a long journey can be uncomfortable if your bones can’t take the strain. So a comfortable bed will be essential for them to nestle down into, and allow those journeys to be enjoyed. Check out some of the larger, firmer dog beds available from good pet stores, as these will give their older bones and muscles better support.
Schedule regular toilet breaks: An elder dog’s bladder won’t be as strong as that of a young pup. Couple this with their need for regular drinks, and you can see how this combination could add time to any journey with a senior dog. So try to plan your route so that you can pull over and let them go to the toilet.
Check the pet policies of any stopping-off place: Policies for acceptance of animal guests vary from one chain to another, and even sometimes, because they’re run as franchises, there might be variations between hotels in the same group. Jill Goldman says that, rather than relying on what the hotel’s website says, you’re better calling the hotel directly and checking their exact conditions for accepting canine guests – that’s because the website might be out of date, or the stipulations might be more detailed than it shows, with accompanying dogs only allowed in certain rooms. Cross-check your chosen accommodation on a website such as BringFido.com, where you might find first-hand reviews from previous guests and their pets.
Take along a few treats: And by this, we mean it’s probably good to make them something pretty special, which your dog doesn’t get to enjoy often. But equally, don’t overdo it – you don’t want to make them ill with your kindness.
Keep down the noise in the car: You might be used to cranking up the volume of the in-car entertainment once you hit the freeway – but your dog almost certainly won’t appreciate it the same! The same goes for the kids’ noisy portable games consoles, so be sure they’ve got their earphones connected.
Let your dog set the pace when getting used to the car: Put him on a leash, as you would when he was travelling, and let him climb into the car, and take in the view from his seat. Try shutting the doors and going back into the house, and see how he responds. If he panics, go straight out and collect and reassure him. If not, you’re on your way – but if so, you’ll need to go back a step and take things a bit more slowly. Ultimately, you want to get him to the stage where he’s sat in the car while it’s moving, and he’s behaving as if it’s completely normal.
It’s what Jill Goldman calls ‘desensitization training’ – gradually getting your dog accustomed to being in different surroundings and treating them, and sensations such as the movement of the car, as being perfectly normal.
You’ll find plenty of references on the internet to solutions such as playing calming music, or using herbal remedies to stop your dog from getting anxious. If anxiety on car journeys is a regular problem, your vet can recommend potential treatments.
Make it as easy as possible for your dog to get into and out of the car: Again, this echoes the situation with older humans, but with dogs, their size can make a big difference to the scale of the problem.
As in our picture, pet stores and specialists can supply a variety of ramps and steps to help them climb aboard and get their paws back on terra firma at journey’s end. You might need to use a little bribery to get your dog to climb the ramp – maybe placing a few treats for him to enjoy at the top. But you should wait until he’s comfortably seated before you close the door.
Because the last thing you want is for your dog to dash out into traffic when you get to your destination, you also need to train him to do the same in reverse. Make sure he only jumps out when you tell him to – maybe use ‘wait’ and ‘go’ commands – and you have secure hold of him when he hits the ground.
Car equipment to help an older dog travel well
Just as you would yourself, you should pack a bag containing some essentials to make a trip easier for them.
Here’s what it should include:
- Vaccination and health records.
- Their regular bed and blanket. Nothing will calm your dog more than the reassurance of being able to settle down in the comfort of their usual bed. Most of us humans aren’t quite so attached to our beds – but after a few days away, I’m sure you know that this also works for you!
- Enough food to provide for all regular meals along the way. You should try to feed your dog at its appointed times while on the road, so that they don’t have the extra worry of this part of their routine being disrupted.
- Plenty of water, or access to it, and at least a couple of bowls. Again, you can buy travel-friendly bowls which will fix to your vehicle’s floor, and you should also invest in a set of wipe-clean floor mats, so spillages don’t damage the upholstery.
- Your dog’s regular leash. This will give them something familiar to help keep them comfortable, and provide them with a link back to what they know in any unfamiliar surroundings.
- A selection of their toys, and any other knick-knacks that reassure them. As above, these will keep them occupied when there’s a risk of them getting bored, and prone to worrying about the journey.
- A few treats. Again, you shouldn’t over-indulge them, but you can show your dog that they’re being cared about by slipping them the odd favourite snack. Just don’t overdo it!
And finally, a few general hints: ensure your dog is microchipped, and the details on it are up-to-date. Their collar should also show your current contact details, while having a current photo of him/her is a good idea – in case the worst happens and you need to go on a pet hunt.
Dogs generally love discovering new stuff, and they associate travel with that. So as long as you’re prepared to make them feel at ease throughout the trip, they should enjoy it just as much as you.
The people who advertise their driving services through Citizenshipper.com are often dog owners themselves. Many have gone into doing the job off the back of their own experiences of transporting their pets long distances. Having realised that they enjoy taking their dogs with them – and most importantly, that the dogs enjoyed it too – they’re now offering their services to help you.
So when you’re looking to arrange an overland trip for your dog, register and enter your details with us. We’ll make the introductions, and a selection of the drivers signed up to use the site will give you a price for making the journey.
Then it’s down to you to contact the carrier of your choice and make all the arrangements, but if you’re in any doubt, see here for tips on selecting a driver. It’s a person-to-person transaction, and we have plenty of examples of real, honest feedback from our customers.
But our service begins and ends with ensuring that you and your pet have a great experience. Whether your pet’s journey is a one-off, or a regular occurrence, you can trust Citizenshipper to make it a happy one! Ready to get quotes for an upcoming pet shipment? List your shipment details here.