If you are a pet owner moving from city to country, consider how to help as your city dog adjusts to countryside living. In this article, our petsitter, Gretelle, shares her personal experience of dogsitting with her dog. In particular, she describes how she helped her Spaniel adjust to country living in the mountains of Spain during a long housesit. She and her dog were city dwellers used to urban life in Barcelona, so petsitting and housesitting in the high plateau of Northern Spain was a fascinating experience. Read on to learn from her top tips.
How a city dog adjusts to countryside living
Thinking of retiring to the country with your pet? Or going on a long rural holiday and have decided to take your furry family member with you?
Recently, I took the unique opportunity to do the latter – a house & pet sitting opportunity in the high plateau of Northern Spain that allowed me to bring my small dog with me. While my dog and I live in the same region as our sit, our situation could not be more different. So going from a temperate coastal city to the rugged rural countryside was indeed an exciting prospect for both. New sights, new sounds, new smells – there’s a whole new world to explore.
However, these changes can also be stressful for our pets in ways we don’t necessarily expect. Aside from getting used to new routines, getting comfortable in a new sleeping area, and getting to know an unfamiliar neighbourhood – your pet will have to navigate situations they may have never encountered before. Here are a few tips to prepare you and your dog for this new adventure.
Adjusting to country living – Top Tips
Upgrade their collar or harness
Country life, while idyllic, offers a fresh set of challenges and obstacles for the city dog. Their curious noses will lead them into many a bush, tree, rock – you name it. It is important that you furnish them with quality collars or harnesses that won’t easily come off or break when coming into contact with the natural elements. It’s also essential that you get the correct size and adjust them to fit snugly on your dog. Depending on the make and model, most manufacturers recommend being able to fit no more than two fingers under their collar.
Loose collars or harnesses are more likely to get caught in branches and vines, which will prevent your dog from moving around. They may also be able to pull away and lose them altogether, which means they won’t have their identification tag. Make sure they have quality, durable gear correctly sized for their body.
A good leash goes a long way
Leather, nylon, rope, retractable – while there are hundreds of beautiful choices for leashes, they may not all be practical for country life. Your dog may have a statement leash that’s fine for the city streets and your local dog park, but you will need something more durable for country walks. Your dog will be more likely to pick up on enticing scents and zig-zag across the wild terrain, and you’ll be brushing up against rough tree barks and thorny brush. Ensure you’ve got a high quality and sturdy lead that can withstand more wear and tear than standard ones.
Protect your dog from ticks, fleas, and other parasites
Even in the city, you have to ensure your pet is up to date on their treatments. But keep in mind that in the countryside, they will have even more exposure to ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, heart worm, etc.
Depending on your location and the season, make sure you protect your pet with the correct treatments and dosages. Asking a local vet for recommended preventative measures is always a good idea.
Make sure your pet has a flea and tick collar that you have tested on them before, as some brands may cause allergic reactions in some cases.
You can give your dog pills or topical treatments, although these may not be the best course of action if your pet likes to swim or gets bathed often.
Additionally, it would help if you also examined your dog regularly. There are fine-tooth combs that can help you find any ticks that may be hiding in their fur.
Care for their paws
Rough terrain, uneven surfaces, muddy puddles and frozen ground – all can take a toll on your dog’s paws, especially if they aren’t used to them yet.
Over time, they will build a harder layer of protection on their paws, but you must help them through the transition.
Regularly check their paws for thorns or pebbles that may have gotten stuck between their toes.
Mud can also build up on their toe fur, so it is helpful to trim these areas. They may also get small cuts, or their paw pads can crack from cold or dryness.
Remember to clean these regularly to make sure they do not get infected.
There are also paw balms available on the market for those tough winter days that may give some relief to our furry friends.
Train them for the unexpected
While your dog may be very well-behaved, remember that the outdoors offers new distractions. More importantly, these distractions can be irresistible to your dog. People have bred many dogs to go after game or look after farm animals. It’s just natural that the scent or sight of these animals may be enough for them to forget their training.
Reinforce essential commands beforehand, such as recall. It’s always good to teach them a little self-control. Depending on where you are going, there could be other wild animals that are dangerous to your pet. Also, local farmers may not appreciate your pet running after their livestock. Training is key to ensuring safety for your pet and peaceful coexistence with your neighbours.
Use pet trackers
If you’re thinking of giving your pet more freedom outdoors, why not invest in a GPS tracker? Even if you only let them loose in the garden, you never know if they happen upon an opening in the fence or a dog through a hole. Many trackers are equipped to have safe zones or virtual fences and will alert you if your pet has left the designated area. Even if you are with your pet and they wander off during a walk, you can find their location using your smartphone. Additionally, some trackers have modes that monitor their activity levels and tell you if your dog is getting enough exercise.
Build up their strength in preparation
Being out and about in the outdoors is loads of fun, but remember that dogs, just like humans, need some getting used to more physical activity. Going up and down the hills may leave them with sore muscles if they are used to flatter terrain in the city. If your dog is left off lead, they can do up to double the mileage of their human counterparts. Remember to have calm, gentle walks after periods of intense activity. Know that even the most active breeds still need rest – around 15 hours a day!
Final thoughts on how a city dog adjusts to countryside living
Let them have fun
Dogs interact with the world differently from humans. You may enjoy a spectacular view from the top of the hill, but they see the world through their nose. Do let them take the time to stop and literally smell the roses. The outdoors will be a whole different world of smells. They will certainly be excited to get to know them all. Don’t just tug on them to move on. Let them sniff, explore and learn about their new environment. Remember that letting your dog sniff is another way to exercise them and gives their brain a much needed mental stimulus.
Get ready for the road?
Getting away from the city can be a whole new way to bond with your furry friend. Do keep in mind that city dogs may take some time to adjust to the countryside. There is a new environment, and there will be new routines. So be patient and carefully observe their reactions and behaviours. Let them slowly take it all in, and they’ll feel at home in no time.
Further reading on housesitting, housesit travel and housesitters
At Housesitmatch.com we like to share useful blogs and practical advice about housesitters, housesitting and pet sitting. We hope you find this small selection of our blogs on house sitters and house sitting in Europe useful.