5 Top Tips for Bringing Your Dog to University

Bringing your dog to university might be something you’ve considered before. Leaving your dog behind, or any pet for that matter, can be one of the hardest parts of transitioning into university life. Many studies have proven that even small interactions with dogs can cause your brain to produce the “cuddle chemical”, oxytocin, which increases happiness, stress relief, relaxation and trust. For many of us, our fury companions really are our best friends, so it’s no wonder it’s so difficult to move away from them.

During my second year, after a few trips back and forth from uni, in a moment of complete stubbornness, I decided the best possible decision was to take my dog to my shared student housing and hope for the best.

bringing your dog to university
Simba, blue merl border collie
Picture of Simba, Border Collie

Simba is a blue-merl border collie, who had been by my side for four hectic years prior to starting university. Neither one of us took being apart from the other too well, my visits home consisted of him punishing me for leaving, and by the time he forgave me, I was getting ready to leave again.

I was confident that he would enjoy an Oxford get-away for a few months but was also conscious of the fact that it would be a big adjustment for the both of us. It’s safe to say the experience was a rollercoaster; yet it’s something I would do again in a heartbeat. Nevertheless, there are a few things I wish I knew before taking him hours away from home to enjoy university life in Oxford. So, here’s my list of dos and don’ts when sneaking your dog to uni.

1. DO prepare for the worst, always have a plan B  

While it’s always good to have a positive mindset when taking risks, it’s important to prepare yourself for all possible outcomes. According to the RCPA, it can generally take around 3 weeks for a dog to adjust to a new place, to feel at home and comfortable. This can mean that they sometimes don’t seem themselves for a little while; they may be restless, on edge, have less appetite and ultimately just appear a bit unsettled.

Luckily for me, Simba adjusted pretty quickly when acclimatising to his new home. He was slightly clingier and needed more attention, but he seemed overall happy within himself much sooner than I expected. However, every dog is different, and its important to be aware of the signs to look out for to know when your dog is distressed.

Similarly, there are many reasons that the transition might not go to plan. Always check that your house mates and neighbours are happy to have a dog around before bringing them and prepare yourself for the fact that they could change their minds. Remember that if you, your dog or your house mates aren’t happy then it’s okay to admit defeat, you have to do what’s best for all involved and have a plan B, and maybe C, for if things just don’t work out quite right.

Dog at South Park, Oxford
Simba enjoying South Park

2. DON’T let your dog rule the world and become attention obsessed, you’re the boss.

It might not always be the case, but the chances are that your house mates are missing their dogs too and so are incredibly excited to see yours every day. Simba went from a routine where he would have to share with other dogs at home, to suddenly having 24/7 attention and treats whenever he did anything cute, which lets face it, was all the time.

He had everyone wrapped round his little paw and a never-ending basket of toys to keep him amused. As a hyperactive, stubborn border collie, he would not stop. He would have people throwing tennis balls in the garden for him all day or playing tug of war with whatever chewed up bit of rope he could find.

It’s important to remember that you’re the boss. You chose when it’s time for toys to be put away and when it’s time for them to go to bed. The non-stop love and attention is all well and good until they have to go back home to normality, so don’t make it harder for yourself in the long run, try to make the transitions easier by sticking to a routine.

3. DO make the most of Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire is full of incredible places to take your dogs. There are countless picturesque walks and pooch friendly pubs. Having Simba around was the perfect excuse to put the uni work away and get some fresh air. His personal favourites were South Park and the C.S Lewis Nature Reserve, followed by falling asleep under one of the tables in a beer garden.

Prepare yourself though, these walks and pubs are full of other homesick students who are craving a puppy cuddle. It’s often difficult to make it down the road without having to stop numerous times.

Dog at CS Lewis Nature Reserve
Simba at the CS Lewis Nature Reserve

4. DON’T get caught up in the idea, be realistic about bringing your dog to university

The idea can sound incredible but, when deciding whether to take your dog to uni, be realistic about the consequences, taking care of a pet is a huge commitment. You know your dog and yourself best; if they won’t fit in well with your university lifestyle, or if you aren’t willing to make changes, then maybe it’s best they stay at home. Having plenty of open spaces and dog lovers around you is vital for a seamless transition, as is ensuring that your dog is fully trained and comfortable around you.

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas campaign with Dogs Trust
Photo credit: Dogs Trust, A dog is for life campaign

5. DO enjoy it and have fun!

Taking Simba to uni with me was an experience I wouldn’t change for the world. Having him around bettered my wellbeing and made me feel much less homesick, it was a well needed distraction from the not so perfect realities of uni life. Similarly, he enjoyed spending some one-on-one time with me, taking a break from the bouncy puppy he lives with and getting to be an only child for a while, and embracing the constant treats and attention.

As long as you’re realistic about the potential consequences, sneaking your dog to uni and giving them a holiday is something I’d recommend to everybody. If you do choose decide you are bringing your dog to university, here are 5 amazing picnic spots you should check out with them.