GUNDOG VET: Travel safe

Vicky Payne pro­vides some help­ful hints to keep dogs safe while on the move, ban­ish travel sick­ness, and coax re­luc­tant ca­nines into ve­hi­cles

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Most work­ing gundogs will need to travel in ve­hi­cles, both to get to shoots, and of­ten to get around them too. But I see lots of dogs in the clinic who get travel-sick or refuse to travel. This month we will cover how to make sure your gundog is safe and happy while on the move.

Your dogs should be se­cured in your ve­hi­cle for ev­ery­one’s safety. Be­ing hit by a 30kg dog thrown for­wards in a crash at 30mph would be like be­ing hit by 900kg, and would likely kill you both. If you have a ve­hi­cle with a small load space you could con­sider a har­ness which at­taches to the seat­belt. Few of these have been crash tested, but I used them with my own dogs for many years and the dogs have stayed on the seat un­der sud­den brak­ing. For larger ve­hi­cles, a dog crate in the boot is of­ten the pre­ferred op­tion; again, few have been crash tested, but I have seen dogs walk away from crashes which have writ­ten off the car. If you travel with your dogs loose in the boot space then a dog guard is es­sen­tial to pre­vent them climb­ing into the pas­sen­ger seats, and to pre­vent them be­com­ing mis­siles in a crash. Con­sider tail­gate bars too, to re­duce the risk of your dogs es­cap­ing in an ac­ci­dent. You might also want to train your dog to lie in the pas­sen­ger footwell while you hold the lead. This is not ideal for long jour­neys, but is use­ful if shar­ing a ve­hi­cle on a shoot day. Avoid trav­el­ling with dogs in the back of pick­ups without a box, or with their heads out of the win­dow, as I have seen dogs jump out of both. I rec­om­mend that dogs wear a col­lar and tag while trav­el­ling in case they are lost in an ac­ci­dent.

Start ‘em young

It is best to get pup­pies used to trav­el­ling from a young age. Most gundog breeds don’t be­come afraid of novel ex­pe­ri­ences un­til they are around 16 weeks old, so in­tro­duce short jour­neys as soon as you can. Try not to travel when pups have a full stom­ach as this makes them more likely to be sick, and con­sider hav­ing an adult dog with them for the first few trips.

If you have an older dog that doesn’t like to travel this may be be­cause they are afraid, or be­cause they get travel-sick, or of­ten both. If you think your dog suf­fers mostly from travel sick­ness try trav­el­ling with him in dif­fer­ent parts of the car. The boot space is not de­signed for travel and your dog may feel bet­ter on the back seat in a har­ness. Some dogs pre­fer to be able to see out of the win­dow, while oth­ers are bet­ter in a covered crate. For mild travel sick­ness try to travel no less than two hours af­ter a small meal with some grated gin­ger added. For more se­vere cases ask your vet about herbal prod­ucts and drugs which can help.

Scared stiff

If your dog is fear­ful of the car you will need to slowly get him used to it. Start by play­ing games and feed­ing around the car, and build up un­til the dog will get into the car by him­self for food or a toy. The next step is to start the en­gine with the dog inside, be­fore build­ing up to very short jour­neys. A com­pan­ion dog who en­joys trav­el­ling can help.

If an older dog starts to be­come re­luc­tant to get into the ve­hi­cle, con­sider whether he might be suf­fer­ing from arthri­tis. Dogs with hip or back prob­lems might find jump­ing into the boot dif­fi­cult, and they may also feel in­se­cure as the car goes around cor­ners. Some older dogs will learn to use a step or ramp, and a deep bean­bag bed can pro­vide sup­port once they are in.

‘Your dogs should be se­cured in your ve­hi­cle for ev­ery­one’s safety. Be­ing hit by a 30kg dog at 30mph would be like be­ing hit by 900kg’

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