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It’s the Journey not the Destination

Sometimes humans and dogs travel together - by foot, by car, by boat… and there are ways to make it more enjoyable for both.

When travelling with dogs you need to know what they like. Some dogs love car rides while others prefer to keep the home fires burning. Some dogs love water; others abhor getting even their feet wet. But all dogs love exploring new places as well as familiar ones.

“People interested in stimulating their dogs should explore new areas, new routes and novel environments on walks,” says Jason Shute, a Guelph-based dog behaviour specialist who runs ‘Shute Balanced Dog Training.’

 “Mixing up your routes is fun and rewarding for dogs,” he says. And while it is “critical” for puppies and young dogs to be habituated to new environments, dogs at any age benefit from new “smells, sounds, sites and situations.” The key is to mix it up. 

For most dogs car travel is a favourite activity and for good reason. According to experts, dogs feel as if they are on a hunt with their pack (you and your family) when the car is in motion. As the scenery passes by they enjoy a sensory feast that is constantly being updated by their noses and eyesight.  Did you know that dogs have over 220 million receptacles in their noses for receiving scent messages? “Dogs have great depth and spatial perception and love seeing new stuff,” notes Shute.

It’s not surprising car rides may overstimulate and make some dogs sick. But for most dogs, the car promises grand adventures with their owners … not to mention the potential of a treat (think drive-through snacks of ice cream etc.) and going somewhere new and exciting.

This is the time of year when many Canadians are planning weekend getaways to a cottage or a road trip with their dogs in tow. Here’s what dog owners need to keep in mind to keep those trips safe.

The number one safety rule is never leave a dog in a hot car. A dog can easily overheat and a car becomes an oven in hot weather. A car parked in the hot sun can quickly reach a temperature of 38 degrees Celcius, which can cause brain damage or kill a dog. Keeping the windows ajar is not enough to ensure a dog’s safety in a parked car in the heat.  So don’t do it.

The number two safety rule is never drive with your dog on your lap. It may look cute but it is dangerous to you, the dog and other drivers … and it can net you a charge under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act for careless driving. See for more information.

Instead, dogs should always be kept in the backseat, preferably in a secured crate or a seatbelt harness, in cars. Even a small fender bender can be extremely harmful to an unsecured dog. “Any traffic collision can be amplified for a dog,” says Shute. “Practice safety first."

And when a car is in motion, never roll the windows open to the point where a dog can jump or fall out. A dog’s natural inclination is to lean its nose out the window and a fully open window may prove too tempting an invitation to bolt … after a squirrel, a garbage bin, a butterfly, you name it.

If you are taking a long road trip, make sure your dog has access to water and frequent stops.  And bring along any medications the dog may need as well as a toy or pillow to provide some familiarity in the car.

It all boils down to common sense and a spirit of adventure when travelling with dogs. Keep it safe and fun and enjoy the journey!



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