No one wants a travel-sick terrier or spaniel loose on the hard shoulder, so what is the best way of getting your dog to the shoot? David Tomlinson assesses the options
There are many ways to transport your dog to the shoot, but which avoids travel-sickness and muddy paws while keeping them safe and secure? David Tomlinson advises on how to transport your dog in a car.
Breaking in to shooting can be difficult, and even more so when you want to work an HPR. Read how to take an HPR shooting for more expert advice.
HOW TO TRANSPORT YOUR DOG IN A CAR
Most dogs love cars and I’ve never owned one that hasn’t relished the prospect of a car journey. The fact that they spend most of it asleep, rather than looking out of the window, suggests that they generally associate the car with going somewhere interesting. What is remarkable is that they seem to know where they are as soon as they arrive and sometimes even before that. You can sense your dog’s gloom when it discovers it is in the vet’s car park and not at a shoot.
Adult dogs that suffer from car sickness are a rarity but most puppies are ill on their first journey, greatly increasing the stress of leaving their mother and siblings for the first time. Such sickness can be avoided: the last litter of puppies I bred was taken for short daily car journeys from the age of five weeks. This soon accustomed the puppies to the motion of a moving car and none were sick when they left for their new homes, despite several having to endure long drives.
Quite the best way to transport your dog, or dogs, is debatable and does depend to a certain extent on the dog, its size and temperament. Much as I like my dogs, I don’t like mud or hairs on car seats, so they have always been trained to sit, and stay, exactly where they are put. In the case of saloon cars, this is the front-passenger footwell; in an estate car or hatchback, the rear compartment. As a former motoring correspondent, my spaniels had the chance to travel in a great variety of road-test cars, from Fords to Ferraris, while it was a matter of pride that they never left any evidence of their presence.
CAGE, CRATES AND BOXES
Undoubtedly the safest way for a dog to travel in a car is in a travelling cage or crate, the most expensive of which claim to be crash tested. However, here it’s a case of buyer beware, for an internet search will reveal that the majority of dog crates cannot withstand a 30mph crash. Top-of-the-range crates that can withstand a severe impact, such as those marketed by Safedog, are expensive: a double cage, suitable for carrying two labradors in a BMW 5-series estate, is £620.
The advantage of such a crate is that it provides an exceptionally secure place for your dog to travel. The downside is that once the crate is in place it’s not easy to move or lift out, which is why it remains secure in the case of a crash. Of course, you can always carry your shopping, or luggage, in the crate but probably not while the dog is in there.
It is arguable that any sort of crate, cage or box is better than nothing. A friend was involved in a relatively mild motorway pile-up – no one was injured – but the rear impact led to the tailgate of his estate car flying open and his terrified dogs escaping onto the carriageway. One, a labrador, was captured quickly but it was some hours before the other, a Jack Russell, was safely recovered.
If your dog is going to travel loose in the back of an estate car, then a dog guard is important, especially with big dogs. This will keep the dog in the back and stop it climbing through to join its human companions and, equally important, it prevents the animal being thrown forward into the passenger compartment in the case of a crash. Small dogs, such as cocker spaniels or terriers, will be restrained by the seat backs but big dogs can easily be thrown over the top, which is not good for the dog or other occupants.
A soft, folding, travel crate is a practical alternative to a hard metal crate, and one that has much in its favour. Orvis’s folding travel crate, for example, is light and practical: it is made from polyester on a tubular metal frame, with prices starting at £89. Dogs usually like travelling in crates such as this, while the crate can also be used as a mobile kennel when you reach your destination. One great advantage of a crate of any sort is that it keeps your dog, or dogs, securely in the car when the tailgate is lifted.
Gundog handlers, travelling with numerous dogs, favour purpose-built dog trailers. Lintran, the Lincolnshire-based company that specialises in dog transport, imports an impressive selection of trailers from Germany, with anything from two to 10 berths. These are high-specification pieces of kit, with air vents and electric fans and numerous options, such as front store boxes. They are, I’m assured, light and easy to tow but are really aimed at professionals.
If you’re not a professional but have a pack of working dogs, then a pick-up is the answer and, arguably, the most popular gundog transporter today. A pick-up with hard top has the great advantage that the dogs travel with you but separately, so you don’t have to worry about muddy paws in your vehicle, or even the smell of wet dogs after a day’s shooting. The downside is that pick-up trucks are large, cumbersome and uneconomic, but if your dogs are happy, who cares?