How to Road Trip Safely With Your Dog
We’ve all been stuck at home for far too long, that much is certain. By now you’re probably sitting in your house thinking about the pull of the open road, and may have even begun to make your own plans to go on an adventure. Many of you may be planning to take your dog on your trip with you, but pump the brakes before you jump in the car and consider the following. Does your dog enjoy being in the car? If the answer to this question is “no” even in the case of short trips around town, it is probably a better idea to leave your dog at home in the care of someone you trust, such as a friend or a boarding facility.
Even if your answer to the question posed above was a resounding “Yes” there are still a couple of things that you need to think about before you go, and you should also think about doing a few test runs in the car with your dog, as longer trips can be also be stressful for dogs that love car rides.
Before the trip, you should make sure to take your dog for a checkup at your vet’s office. Tell the vet what you are planning to do, and where you are planning to go on your trip in order to make sure your dog is healthy enough for travel. You should make sure that your dog’s tags are up to date, and plan to also bring an updated record of your dog’s vaccinations. It is also recommended that you have your dog chipped for identification before leaving, in the event of a lost dog emergency while you are far from home.
If your dog is one of the unfortunate ones who experiences motion sickness from being in the car, we again recommend reconsidering bringing your pet on the trip. If you have no other option, the vet can also help you out with recommending and prescribing anti nausea medicine that will alleviate those symptoms for your dog.
All of those things should take place days, or even weeks before your planned departure date. In addition to making a visit to the vet, you should plan your trip itinerary with your dog in mind. Make sure that you know what the regulations about dogs are for every location you plan to visit. Many places, such as national parks and nature reserves have a very strict dog policy so do research ahead of time to make sure that you and your dog will be welcome wherever you decide to go.
You should also plan to make accommodations with your pet in mind. Does your dog bark a lot? If so, it is better to consider a rental over a hotel where your dog’s persistent barking may disturb other guests.
On the day of your planned departure, you should prep your dog for the trip. Take the animal for a long walk, or an extended play session so that they are worn out before even getting in the car. This way, they will sleep in the car for at least a couple of hours, making the trip easier on both of you.
Do not feed your dog right before leaving, as a full stomach can make dogs feel sick in the car. Instead give them plenty of water, and plenty of treats to stave off feelings of hunger and keep their energy up.
When you are getting in the car, make one last mental check to make sure you’ve brought every essential item your dog will need while you are travelling. A sample checklist might look something like this:
- Dog Food
- Bottled Water
- Bowls for both food and water
- Updated ID Tags
- Updated Vaccination Records
- Favorite toys
- Blankets or Dog Bed
- Equipment to pick up dog waste, waste bags
- A Collar
- A Leash
- A Harness
- Grooming Wipes
- A Towel
Now, take some time to set up a space for your dog in the car that will keep them comfortable for the duration of your journey. Do not let your dog roam around the car. This is not only very unsafe for the driver, as your dog could easily get underfoot and could cause an accident that hurts not only you, but the dog as well. Give your dog entertainment for the car ride in the form of their favorite toys. If you buy new toys for the trip make sure that you buy something that will last and not fall apart the first hour you are on the road.
It is recommended to have a crate, or some other kind of carrier or harness that is outfitted for your dog, you can put the toys in the crate to make the journey less boring.
The Luxury Pet Carrier from SleepyPod is made from durable luggage grade nylon material, and features ultra plush inner cushions made from polyester for your dog’s comfort. The inner cushioning is water resistant to protect against accidents, and is also washable for better protection against odor over long-term use. It also features a mesh dome top so you can see your pet, as well as a handle for easy transport. There is also a cushioned shoulder strap for hands-free carrying if necessary. The Mini size of this carrier will fit animals up to 7lbs.
The SleepyPod Atom is for dogs up to 8 lbs. For larger dogs up to 15 lbs, SleepyPod offers the Air in-cabin carrier. Both the Atom and the Air feature straps to fit the carrier securely in the car seat next to you. For this reason both carriers have been designed to meet the same safety standards as child safety devices. For ease of transport both models feature a convenient passthru pocket which allows you to secure the carriers to your luggage over the telescoping handle of your suitcase. Both designs provide plenty of ventilation for your pet, as the tops and sides are almost entirely constructed from durable, see through mesh. The Air features a special zipper design, which runs all the way around the perimeter of the pet carrier. This unique design allows you to collapse and stow the carrier when it is not in use, or is no longer needed. This larger carrier also features a durable, padded shoulder strap as well.
If you do not want to crate your dog for the trip, or if your dog is too large for a carrier, it is still recommended that you employ a harness and fasten them safely to the back seat so that the dog can sit or stand comfortably but can not roam about and distract the driver.
When picking out a harness for car travel you have to make sure that the harness can stand up to the destructive forces of a car accident, while keeping your dog safe. Sleepypod delivers that product. Their harnesses are the only brand of harnesses on the market to earn a safety certification, and five-star rating from the Center for Pet Safety, and pass Subaru’s crash test for durability. There are two options of harnesses. The first, the Clickit Sport features something called an Infinity Loop design. This design redistributes and reduces damaging physical forces that can cause injury to your dog, and works to reduce forward and lateral movement in the event of a collision. The Infinity Loop design also negates the need to use metal buckles to fasten your dog into their seat.
The other option, called the Sleepypod Terrain, features a sturdy buckle closure and can also be used as a harness for walking. It also has the option of attaching a service dog patch to the harness. Both the Clickit Sport, and the Terrain harnesses are lightweight and easy to slip on and off your dog’s body. As well, they feature a durable ballistic nylon construction, and neoprene padding for your dog’s comfort, as well as reflective strips for high visibility.
Kurgo has also recently unveiled their redesigned Tru-Fit Harness for enhanced strength. It is also crash tested to the same safety standards as the Clickit Sport and Clickit Terrain. The new design features a special “double nesting” buckle system that is based on harnesses used by rock climbers and linemen. The harness tethers to your seatbelt, and is adjustable so that your dog may sit or stand. Like the Terrain from SleepyPod, this harness can also be used as a walking harness.
It is probable that you will eventually have to make a pit stop, either for yourself or your passengers, or so that the dog can relieve itself. Make sure to pay close attention to the needs of your dog while on the road. When you stop, make sure that your dog is wearing the collar you brought for the trip, and the leash that you packed. Many rest stops and gas stations that you may stop at are busy places with quite a bit of noise and other distractions and you want to make sure that your dog does not become overstimulated and bolt. Do not leave your dog’s waste behind for others to smell or worse, to step on, as this is rude and generally frowned upon. Pick it up with the bags you brought and throw it away.
In the event that you decide to stop for a bite to eat, or to stretch your legs, you should also make sure to accommodate for your dog’s presence. Remember, you chose to bring the dog on this trip so any places you stop at should either allow dogs inside, or should allow you to get your food to go and eat in the car with the dog. NEVER leave your dog unattended in the car on a hot summer day. This is cruel, and pretty much illegal everywhere you go, with a few exceptions.
After you arrive, let your dog out and reward them with a nice long walk. Not only will this give them ample time to stretch their legs and release some pent up energy from the long car ride, but it will allow your dog to explore and familiarize itself with the new surroundings. While you are out walking with your dog, in the case of places like natural parks and other wooded areas you need to be aware of the local wildlife. Don’t be caught unprepared in the event that a bear or some other large animal should suddenly appear. As always, when you are in the woods, you still need to pick up after your dog as you would in a public place.
If the reason for your excursion is to attend a special event such as a wedding, or some other activity that will take you away from your hotel, or rented accommodations then you need to plan accordingly not to leave your dog alone. This may mean inquiring about local dog sitting options for the duration of the time you will be gone. Your dog is already in a completely unfamiliar area, and you are the only constant it knows. Leaving the dog all alone so that you can go out could be very traumatic to them, and you shouldn’t do it.
In general, while you are travelling or staying away from home it is important to stick to your consistent routine. It may not be possible to strictly adhere to your dog’s normal schedule all of the time but you should strive to do so whenever possible. Feed and walk the dog at the normal time for instance, as this will provide a sense of normality for your dog in a strange place.
All of this might seem like a lot to think about during the sometimes stressful process of planning a trip, but these pieces of advice are merely common sense practices that shouldn’t be much of an imposition if you are prepared, and following these practices will make the trip so much nicer for your dog.
Think about it in terms of your own comfort. If you were told you were going on a trip, wouldn’t you want the person driving to take your needs into consideration? It’s only natural that you’d want to be comfortable and have some entertainment for the long ride, and your dog feels that way too. Make sure that your dog is provided for and the trip should be easy going! Now have fun, and be safe!