How to Train Your Pet to Travel Well

Traveling with Pets is a great way to spend time with your companions. For some, new places to smell and moving landscapes are a thrill. For others, the experience is stressful. Whether you’re going to the vet’s or on a road trip, Pet travel training will make the experience safer and more enjoyable for all. The trick is to have your Pet think of traveling as a common everyday experience.

Cat carrierPet Safety Considerations

When riding in cars, Pets should always sit in the back seat with a restraint because:

  • Front airbags can seriously injure Pets when they deploy.
  • Pets can come between you and the brake pedal if they squirm their way to your feet.
  • Pets can distract you.

Just as you encourage your family to wear seatbelts, it is a good idea to secure your Pet, too. A handful of Pet seat restraints exist on the market:

  • Harness: Some manufacturers sell short leashes that clip onto a Pet’s harness on one end and a seatbelt buckle on the other. Other harness models have loops that work with seatbelts.
  • Vest: Vests are similar to harnesses, but provide more stability. The soft material might also feel more comfortable to Pets.
  • Booster seats: Pet booster seats are like Pet beds that you secure with a seatbelt. They often have a short leash that clips onto a harness or collar.
  • Carriers: Several hard- or soft-sided carriers secure to a seat with seatbelt. If you have a larger dog, you may place the carrier in the trunk area if your vehicle is a hatchback. (Note: Never place Pets in enclosed car trunks, such as those found on traditional sedans.)
  • If you are not using air conditioning, and have your windows open, make sure they are not open wide enough to enable your pet to jump or fall out.



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Pet Travel Training Tips

Start Young
After you bring home a new puppy or kitten, take it on short car trips regularly to start. Take it to the park or a Pet-friendly café. This will help your young Pet get used to traveling and wearing a harness or being in a carrier.  Over time, as your pet becomes comfortable, you can gradually lengthen the trips.

If you have an older Pet, spend as much time with it as possible before the car trip. Your Pet looks to you for guidance and assurance. The more time you spend with it prior to traveling, the safer it will feel.

Obedience Training
Training a Pet to sit and stay keeps it safer during your travels, especially in new environments. It also helps socialize your Pet, so it’s less likely to act aggressively in new situations.

Carrier Training
A calm Pet is one that feels safe. With the right training, a Pet that feels stressed in the car will view a kennel as a safe place. If your Pet isn’t used to being in a carrier or kennel, start slow. A good kennel to use for training is one that allows you to separate the top and bottom halves.

Place the carrier in your home and remove the top half. Sit next to the kennel and encourage your Pet to stand in it. When it does, pet and praise it. As your Pet becomes more accustomed to the bottom half of the kennel, train it to sit and lie down inside the carrier.

Leave the open kennel in your home and help your Pet feel more comfortable being in it by placing its favorite blanket and toys inside. Once your Pet is used to the kennel, replace the top half and encourage your companion to enter it. When it does, don’t close the door. Instead, allow it to enter and exit freely. Give treats to the pet when it is in the kennel.

When the idea of going inside the kennel no longer frightens your Pet, place it in the kennel, close the door and go for a ride in the car. If you have a dog that’s too heavy to carry, place the kennel in the car and encourage it to go inside. After your Pet gets used to traveling in a kennel, it can graduate to a booster seat or harness. Keep in mind that your Pet might always prefer traveling in a kennel.

If you plan to fly with your Pet, consider kennel training with a carrier approved for air travel.

Acclimating Your Pet to a Car
If your Pet is afraid of riding in a car, begin training it for travel it by playing with it near the car and inside the car. If playing near the car isn’t a safe option, bring it in the car and sit with it in the back seat, but don’t start the vehicle. Do this a number of times until your pet gets comfortable.

After your Pet is used to the idea of being in the car, go for a ride around the block. When you go on slightly longer trips, go somewhere fun, like the Pet store or a park.

New Situations
Pets that do great in a car don’t always do well on planes or trains because the new sounds and smells can be overwhelming. Prepare your Pet for a big trip by getting it used to noisy and chaotic (yet safe) environments.

If you plan to travel by train, go to a train station in advance and walk around the platform with your Pet. If you plan to travel in a plane, take it somewhere loud, like a ball game. The cheering and other random noises will help prepare it for the loud noises on a plane.

Easing Anxiety
Some Pets can’t help but feel nervous when traveling, even with exhaustive training. If this is true for your Pet, talk to a veterinarian. The vet can recommend items that have a calming scent or relaxing effects. Depending on your circumstances, the vet might even prescribe a medication that will help your Pet feel more relaxed while traveling.

Motion Sickness
Like humans, some Pets experience motion sickness. This is particularly true for puppies because their inner ears aren’t fully developed. If you have an adult Pet that experiences motion sickness, wait at least two hours after a meal to travel. Take cleaning supplies with you just in case.

Traveling with Pets is a fun, exciting way to explore the world. Before going on a long trip, especially on an airplane, consult with a veterinarian to ensure your Pet is healthy enough for this type of adventure. Teaching a Pet to get used to the open road takes time, patience and several baby steps. Ultimately, your hard work will reward you with the ultimate travel buddy.

[Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, via CC License]

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