What is the optimal break management for the dog?
Taking frequent breaks is not necessarily good for the dog. If he’s relaxed and asleep, I don’t necessarily have to stop. In such cases, it is less stressful to drive through longer and just leave the dog alone. But after about three hours it’s over: Then people and dogs should take a break and stretch their two or four legs.
Is a stop at the motorway service area enough?
In a pinch, that’s enough to take a short ten-minute break. After four or five hours of driving, you should take a break of at least half an hour. Better not at the noisy service area. It is better to leave the motorway and look for a quiet, green spot. A break in the forest or on the meadow is much more relaxing for humans and dogs.
What is particularly important during a break?
The most important thing is movement – and that you don’t push your dog to do everything that needs to be done quickly. Let him sniff in peace. When making a short stop at the service area, you have to make sure that the dog is well secured and does not jump out and run when you open the transport box because it is frightened by the noise on the motorway. In the worst case, he panics and runs onto the road. Unfortunately, this happens again and again, especially during the holiday season.
Does the dog have to be in a crate when out and about? Aren’t harness and leash enough to secure the dog while driving?
I am in favor of a carrier because it is much safer for the dog than any leash solution. The box should be stable, made of steel or aluminum, not fabric. It is also important that it is not too big. The dog should be able to move, but in an emergency it must not throw itself around and injure itself.
Transport boxes usually after two to three weeks of routine
How do I get the dog into the transport box?
I have to get him used to it at home before the holiday. For this I put the box open and with a few treats in it in the living room when the dog is not there. When he comes back from the walk, there is something new that also smells delicious. He finds his way in through his nose. For a few days I always serve the dog something tasty to chew, which he can only get there. So he will associate the box with something beautiful.
When the dog gets used to it, I put the box in the motorhome and let him go in there. I repeat the exercise over and over again. At some point I can also close the box, but remain standing next to it and observe the animal’s reaction. If you stay calm, everything is fine. Then I start the engine and take him for a short lap in the car. If the dog gets nervous, I take a step back in training until he stays relaxed.
Approximately how long does the training last?
That depends on the dog, but dogs usually get used to driving in the box very quickly. After two to three weeks, this is usually routine. But it is very important that the bottom of the transport box is non-slip. There is nothing worse than the dog slipping around corners or when braking. This is very uncomfortable for the animal. The best thing I can do is fix his favorite blanket to the bottom of the box with double-sided adhesive tape. Then the dog has the necessary support.
What can be the reason if my dog suddenly behaves completely differently on holiday than at home?
It’s completely normal for dogs to be a little nervous and excited in a new environment. This usually settles down quickly. The animal first has to process the many strange smells at the holiday destination. This is usually not a big problem for older, more experienced dogs, but for young dogs, a change of location is often a big deal.
Familiar smells help
What can I do if my dog is excited or even anxious?
When I arrive, I should first let the dog relax on his blanket for a while. Because he has to get there first. The blanket helps him with the familiar smells from home. You should always be with you when you visit somewhere or go to a restaurant. Then the dog knows: Here is my place. With the relaxation blanket I can transport relaxation to any new place. It takes the animal’s nervousness away and reduces stress. A change of location always means some excitement, especially for inexperienced dogs. The blanket helps the dog get down quickly.
So I shouldn’t walk the dog as soon as I arrive and show him the new surroundings?
There are travel-experienced dogs that are okay with that. But it’s usually good if I give the animal a breather on the campsite. When my dog has calmed down and is relaxed, I can go for a short walk with him, a maximum of 15 minutes, so that he can absorb all the new smells and impressions. I keep a close eye on the dog. If he gets nervous, I’ll end the round earlier and it’s back to the blanket. In addition, a chewing bone helps him to loosen up.
What can I do if my dog suddenly behaves differently on vacation than at home and reacts aggressively to neighboring dogs, for example?
If the dog already has a problem with aggressiveness and the new environment makes them nervous, it can get exhausting. If there is stress with the neighbour’s dog, I immediately intervene. But I know my dog and can usually predict its reaction to other dogs. Then I simply avoid all situations that could lead to aggressive behavior. I have to make sure my dog stays away from dogs he doesn’t like or who don’t like him.
Neutral first encounters are great
And what if the four-legged abomination is the camping neighbor of all people?
Then the best tactic is to familiarize the dogs with each other. I talk to the neighbor and invite him to walk the dogs a few meters. For example at the dog beach, where there is plenty of space. Both dogs are initially on a leash. Sometimes one, sometimes the other, a few meters ahead. Because it is important not to let the dogs approach each other head-on. Ideally, the owners do not interfere in getting to know each other via the leash. Otherwise you can screw it up badly.
The dogs do it and get to know each other through their noses along the way. These neutral first encounters in motion are always great. The more relaxed people are about it, the better. The serenity is transferred to the dogs, they are very empathetic. If the first encounter works well, you can also let the dogs run free. As a rule, after getting to know each other like this, I no longer have any problems with the neighbour’s dog.
Why do dogs pull on the leash so often in unfamiliar surroundings?
For my dog, an unfamiliar place means an explosion of new smells. It’s incredibly exciting, and the dog sometimes forgets that it’s been trained well and that it’s on a leash. He is simply overwhelmed by the new environment.
What can I do against it?
I can help my dog a bit and show understanding by using a slightly longer training leash. When I put my dog in such a completely new situation, I can’t immediately demand the behavior that I taught him at home. I just need to understand and temporarily tolerate that my dog has a problem. If I react too harshly and demand that he back off, I make it unnecessarily difficult for him. And myself too. That’s why I’m a friend of giving him more space on the first day.
Are there any tricks other than the long leash?
I can use a harness and attach the leash to it. This helps the dog and prevents me from breaking the dog’s leash on vacation. Give the dog three or four feet of leash. I usually notice after just a few minutes that the other end of the leash is more relaxed and the dog isn’t pulling as much. However, by the third day he should have got to know his new surroundings to some extent and he is back on his usual leash. Then I should ask him to walk on a leash and insist on it.
Getting used to it before being left alone is important!
Why is it when my dog suddenly doesn’t want to be left alone on vacation?
Dogs are social creatures that generally don’t like being alone. Especially not in unfamiliar surroundings on vacation. It sometimes happens that the dog barks when it is separated from its people.
This can cause a lot of trouble at the campsite! Exactly, that’s why it’s very important that my dog gets used to the new environment and the many new noises before I leave him alone for a while. In the first few days you should therefore not go to the restaurant and leave the dog alone. The relaxing blanket may not help the dog much, and it may start barking or howling.
Can I practice being alone on vacation with the dog?
Yes, that’s very easy, especially on a camping holiday. I leave the dog in the camper on his blanket, walk out the door and close it for a few minutes. The best way for me to observe his reaction is with the cell phone camera. Does he behave differently than at home? Is he lying quietly on his blanket? Or does he run restlessly and stressed through the mobile? Could he start barking? In that case, I have to train him and gradually increase the times when he is alone in the camper van. If I don’t practice being alone with the dog, it can be very unpleasant for the dog, for me as the owner and for the camping neighbors.
How long should the dog be alone at most?
That depends on what he’s used to. And mostly because of his age. But I should generally be back after four to five hours. Experienced dogs can also manage six hours. But that should remain the exception. What’s the point of having a dog if he has to wait for me for so long?
It can also be impossible to leave the dog alone at all because of the temperatures and the sunshine…
Right. Many dog owners still underestimate how unbearably hot it can get in the car, caravan or motor home. It’s not enough if I leave the roof hatch open. In the midday heat, I can’t possibly let the animal stew in the vehicle, that’s life-threatening. In the evening, when it’s cooler and the sun isn’t shining anymore, I can leave the dog in the motorhome if I ventilate the interior very well and provide the dog with fresh water. It’s best if he doesn’t stay in the vehicle but can wait in the ventilated awning until I come back.
What else helps the dog to feel comfortable on vacation?
The most important trick is the rest blanket. She is the rescue anchor for the dog, his little home. Ideally, he gets his usual food on vacation. Basically, a clearly structured day is also helpful. If you have a fixed daily routine at home, you should roughly stick to it on vacation. Under no circumstances should you abruptly change the rhythm on vacation. But that doesn’t mean that I have to take the dog out at six like at home. I can carefully move the first round backwards. Who wants to get up so early on vacation?