North to South Island with a Dog

Hey! Finally here comes the South Island blog posts! Just a couple of months too late! If you have no idea what I am talking about, you can read this blog post that I wrote before my trip on what my trip was all about.


My biggest worry with my South Island Road Trip was crossing the Cook Strait. It had been something that had prevented me from travelling down South prior to this trip, and caused me a lot of anxiety. I wasn't worried about myself, I was more worried about how Diego would handle the trip. He used to have quite bad separation anxiety which I slowly worked on in a home environment and has come a long way. The idea of a 3 - 3.5 hour trip where Diego had to be either in my car, or a kennel in the car area stressed me out. During the trip on the ferry, you are not allowed to visit your dog at all. There have also been reported deaths of dogs on board ships recently which made me very nervous.

With those two options for Diego, I did decide to leave Diego in my car while we travel. Diego as a pup was crate trained, but hasn't been in a crate for many years, nor had to be in an outside kennel of any description, ever. That kind of put the kennel idea out the window immediately. On the flip side though, I haven't really worked on his car manners, or being able to sit in a car for an extended period of time. If I do take him in the car it is to either travel, go for a hike, or for me to do something super quick in a shop. I don't really make him wait in the car alone for more than 30 minutes max at a time.

Since we left in April, the months leading up to our trip were still quite warm, and I didn't feel comfortable leaving Diego in the car most of the time. This made our 'training' for the trip get pushed closer and closer to the actual date of departure. My plan was to slowly acclimatise Diego to waiting in the car for an extended period of time, and making sure he was comfortable at each stage. This started with us going for a walk, and then I would leave him in the car to go to the library, supermarket or any other place that doesn't take more than 30 - 45 minutes. This was a good way to start as he was tired enough from his walk that he just slept.

After this, in the evenings I would visit friends and family and leave Diego in the car. This could take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours and was a great way to teach Diego that I might not return right away. Honestly, sometimes these were hit and miss. He would sleep sometimes, other times you could see that he sat looking out the window the entire time I was gone. If I had more time, I would have dropped back a step at this point, but we were too close to the trip to really do much about it.

I booked both ferries there and back to be at times of the day where Diego would be most sleepy, and the weather would be at his coldest. Our first trip was first thing in the morning, and then our return trip was late at night. On the morning of our trip, I woke up super early to walk Diego enough that he was tired, but not completely worn out where he would have to drink a lot. Finding the balance in that was a bit hard, but it worked out. I also made sure to give both him and I some Rescue Remedy drops to calm down any nerves we had about the event that was about to unfold.


I had already set my car up for our month of sleeping in it, which you can see in the pictures! I think this helped Diego feel relaxed as he was just able to sleep on the bed like he would at home when I am out. I also purchased grates for the windows so that I could lower down the windows to let some air flow in. The other thing that I think really helped, and made the scary interior of the boat less scary, was I put up my curtains. This made the car dark, and that he could only see out the two front door windows. If he was in the back of the car on the bed, he would have been in relative darkness.

The whole boat trip to Picton I was fretting that I had forgotten something, that he was stressing or that something had gone wrong while in the car. Thankfully, and kind of surprisingly, I came back to find him relaxed in the front seats. He wasn't panting, there was no visible sign of previous stress, and he acted like he always does when I get back to the car by saying hello and then trying to find his ball.

If you are planning on going across the ferry at any point, I do highly recommend doing some sort of work with your dog to make sure they will be more comfortable in their surroundings. I have heard positive experiences from people using the kennels when their dogs are used to kennels, or crates. I think in mid-Summer you would really have to look at how you arrange your dog to make sure they do not over heat, but my plans worked well for early April, and would continue to work well throughout the Winter season.

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