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Puppy Pointers: Traveling with puppies

By Andrea Critch, Program Lead, Puppy Raising Supervisor 

A yellow Labrador-retriever laying under his volunteer puppy raiser’s bus seatFor future guide dogs, travelling is a key part of the daily journey. Whether by car, bus, train, subway, plane or even ferries, they must be prepared for any means of transportation.

It’s best to keep sessions short and slow when beginning training. It may be easiest to start by introducing him or her to a car so they can have daily short exposures. The safest place to keep your pup is in the front passenger footwell in a down position, or in a crate that is secured. Once the pup has mastered settling in your car, you can move onto public transit.

If your dog demonstrates a negative reaction such as whimpering, trembling or reluctance to go in a vehicle, take some steps back. Try feeding your pup in your vehicle, having a play session or doing some obedience training to build confidence around the vehicle. Future guide dogs are not fully vaccinated until they're 16 weeks, so public transit would not be safe for them before then.

When traveling on a public bus, most drivers will lower the bus ramp so there isn’t a big step for the handler. However, the sound of the hydraulics can be scary to a young pup. If your pup backs away, you know you need to expose them to this more before attempting to go on the bus. Remember to never force your pup to do something when they are uncomfortable because this can lead to negative associations.

Again, start small and break up each session so it’s not overwhelming. Each dog is unique and you will need to learn your pup’s calming signals.

Tips for successful travel:

  • No food or water 30 minutes before or after a journey. This could cause them to feel nauseated.
  • Travel when they are tired so they are more likely to sleep.
  • Have a special toy for the trip.
  • Add a bed or blanket to make their area more comfortable.
  • In a car, make sure the foot vents are off so you don’t have hot or cold air blowing onto their backs.
  • Try not to rush as this could create some anticipation energy.