Taking Your Puppy for a Car Ride
A puppy is a great constant companion around the home, but puppies and dogs love joining you on road trips-short or long-as well. If you've tried taking your puppy along in the car before and met with bad results, don't give up. It might take a little longer to help your pet feel comfortable after a bad experience, but you can train your puppy to ride quietly in the car. It requires foresight and patience on your part, but the rewards are worth it.
What kind of personality does your puppy have? Is she a confident, mellow pooch or a high-energy, somewhat fearful animal? Consider, too, your relationship with your puppy. Does she see you as the pack leader and obey your commands? Both of these factors have an impact on how much work you'll need to do before the two of you hit the road. A puppy that is calm by nature and obedient will more quickly adjust to sitting still in a moving vehicle. On the other hand, a "hyper" animal that doesn't respond to basic obedience commands requires specific training to ensure her (and your) safety in the car.
An uncontrolled animal is a serious car accident waiting to happen. It is important to keep your puppy confined to one area of the car. This might be the back of a truck or SUV, a kennel, or simply sitting on the seat, secured by a safety harness designed for use in cars. If you plan on using a safety harness, introduce it to your puppy outside of the car. Let her sniff and otherwise investigate it. Drape it over her and praise her when she stands quietly. If she shakes it off and runs, try again using treats and only placing it against her so she gets the feel of it. Once she accepts having it placed over her, let her wear it while you take walks or lounge at home. Be sure to give her treats and verbal praise whenever you put the safety harness on her. You want your puppy to associate the harness with positive things.
The same holds true for car rides in general. If the only time your puppy rides in the car is to go to the vet's office, she'll associate the car with an unpleasant experience. Once your puppy is used to sitting confined in the car, take her for short rides. If she has gotten carsick in the past, drive slowly along as straight a path as possible. Take her for a ride at least once a day, slowly increasing the distance and speed. Talk to her in a happy voice as you go, and give her a treat before you take her out, so she connects the car ride to something yummy.
The sight of a puppy with her head out the car window, nose in the wind, makes just about everyone smile. Smell is your puppy's best sense. With the window down, she's picking up all kinds of new, interesting smells. This stimulating experience is fine at slow speeds for short distances, be careful about letting your puppy make it a habit. While puppies love the feel of the wind in their noses, dust and debris can cause respiratory problems.
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