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French Bulldogs and Long Car Trips – A Few Tips
Getting Used to the Car
Does your French Bulldog seem agitated when you take him out to the car? It’s likely they have developed a negative association with car travel. Trips to the vet or a boarding kennel could be on their mind. Maybe you are going to leave them again?
Think of it like any other obedience training. You need to get them used to car travel gradually and support their appropriate behaviour with treats. Start by putting your Frenchie in your car while its just parked in the driveway. You are not going anywhere. Give him a couple of treats while he’s in the car and lots of encouragement for a couple of minutes and then get them out again.
Do this routine again for a few days; slowly increasing the time you spend in the parked car. When you are ready, take them for a short drive, maybe to the shops and back. Even with short trips, such as to the local park which you would normally walk to, put him in the car and drive. Each time he is learning that the drive is not scary, and that it usually means that he is going to have a fun time at the other end.
Don’t forget that even when you get to the destination; don’t be in a hurry to get out of the vehicle. Give him more pats of encouragement and treats for being so good! In no time, he’ll be taking you to the car with that look that says… “Come on, let’s go”.
Try to bring along several familiar items on the trip. Keep his favourite blanket and toys in his crate when you pack it. These will help to soothe any anxiety he’ll be feeling. If your French Bulldog is particularly attached to you, some owners even put an old T-shirt they have worn in the crate. These items will also help your Frenchie feel right at home once you’ve reached your destination.
Another tip I’ve heard from owners is to bring a blanket from home to cover the couch at your destination. Beside the element of familiarity and comfort, your Frenchie will be less likely to leave any marks on the owner’s furniture. I’m sure that will make the owners more comfortable too!
In terms of food for the trip, pack your pet’s regular food rather than plan to pick some up when you reach your destination. You may not be able to source that brand. Most pets are fussy eaters and Frenchies are no exception. I’m sure you will have better things to do on the trip than trying to get them to eat a new brand of food!
Remember to lay some plastic liners in the bottom of his crate, and pack extra liners, garbage bags, a roll of paper towels and a spare blanket in case there are any in-car toilet accidents.
If you are travelling interstate, check if there are any rules that apply to transporting dogs by road. Also, if your dog has to be registered in your state, make sure their registration is up to date.
Also, consider his overall health before you even make plans. Is your Frenchie healthy enough to travel? Are all of their vaccinations, worming and flea treatment is up to date? If he’s on any prescription medication, make sure that you have enough packed to get through the trip. Depending on where you will be travelling to, you may want to get some advice from your vet on precautions for paralysis tick.
We know that packing lists can grow and sometimes get out of hand! So, here is a summary checklist of the most important items. You can copy and use this list before going on any long car trips;
- Pack your Frenchy’s regular food and treats. Don’t forget a can opener if your dog eats tinned food.
- Bedding and/or a travel crate to sleep in.
- Food and water bowls. Always carry enough bottles of fresh water in your car in case you can’t find a tap.
- Collar and or harness / lead.
- His or her favourite toy(s).
- Grooming equipment including a towel in case they get wet.
- A ‘pooper scooper’ and plastic bags to clean up.
- Any required medications and a first aid kit.
NO Free Roaming in the Car
Just as you need seat restraints for your own safety, your Frenchie should also be restrained while travelling. It is just good common sense regardless of the law. Keep in mind that laws may differ between states, but generally it’s against the law for an animal to cause a driver to be not in full control of a vehicle. Eg: driving with a pet on your lap. In fact, pets should not even be anywhere in the front part of your car. If you are in an accident, even a dog restrained in the front seat can be killed or injured by an exploding airbag.
Like most dogs, Frenchies love an open car window, with lots of wind and outside smells to excite them. But they should not be allowed to ride with their head out the window. Despite the obvious safety issue, most vets will tell you that its just going to end up giving them an eye irritation.
Good quality vehicle restraints for small dogs are widely available. Generally there are two versions; those that either attach to existing seat belts or those that have buckles that clip directly into the seat belt. The other end would be attached to his collar or harness. Some owners prefer to always use a transport container that is then secured within the car. It’s really up to individual preference, as long as some means of restraint is being used.
This is not an easy one. Just like kids, dogs can get carsick too. Luckily, there are a couple of solutions.
If you’re travelling for the day then don’t give them their morning meal. Fasting your Frenchie for the day will not hurt them. (Even though they’ll give you that look that says…”You’re starving me”.) If you feel your willpower weakening during the trip, then a couple of treats are OK.
The great thing is you can also get anti-nausea medication from your veterinarian. This will really help them to feel less travelsick and make their (and your) journey easier. Whatever you do, remember to take regular toilet breaks during long car trips. It can also be an opportunity for a bit of on-lead exercise.
That’s good for both of you! If possible, you should also have on hand the contact details of the local vet at your destination; just in case you may need to make an appointment. And an Important Reminder: Never leave French Bulldogs unattended in a car. Even with the windows slightly down, they can easily experience heat stress.
Arriving at your Destination
When you arrive at your destination, even well trained dogs can get excitable and unpredictable in a new unfamiliar environment. So, the first rule is to keep him on his leash and check around for any obvious hazards.
If you are in a rural setting, check for insecure fences (with gaps) or old bits of barbed wire. Look around for any items that might pose a danger like old bones or pieces of iron. Also, just make sure that if there is any chemicals or rat poison, that they’re secure and inaccessible. Some owners have even used an old ‘kiddie gate’ to block off off stairs or areas you don’t want him to go.
Another tip is to put a little holiday tag on his collar; just in case he does run off and get lost. It does not have to be expensive, just one of those key ring tags with a paper insert. On it you can write where you will be located in the holiday area.
Other than that, just let him explore his new surroundings and have a wonderful time together.
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