If your dog is your companion through every adventure, you undoubtedly take them along on road trips. Whether you’re traveling in a beat-up Volkswagen bug or crossing the country in a luxury motorhome, there are a few precautions you need to take to ensure your faithful friend’s safety and comfort on the road.
See Your Vet Before Traveling
Make sure your dog is current on all vaccines and ask your veterinarian if there are specific shots they might need based on where you’re traveling. Also, ask about what you should have in your pet’s first aid kit. If you’re traveling in the desert West, a snakebite kit might be needed. Will you be heading into frigid weather? Your vet can advise you on ways to prevent frostbite and hypothermia in your dog. While you’re there, get a copy of your dog’s vaccine records and medical history. Pop it into your glove box so you can provide it to out-of-town vets in the event of an emergency.
Make Sure Their Collar and Leash are Sturdy
Even the best-behaved dog’s prey drive can kick in when they are at a rest stop or park and suddenly see an enticing animal that’s new to them. (Miss Lizzy goes NUTS for prairie dogs!). A sturdy but lightweight collar and leash combination makes it easier for you to rein your dog in. Pupups’ collars and leashes feature stainless steel buckles and strong but lightweight clips, making them dependable but comfortable. The collar should have dog tags with your contact information in case he ends up lost.
Restrain Your Dog
Dogs are like toddlers – they don’t like to be restrained; they don’t always know what’s good for them. On the road, make sure your bestie is properly restrained, so they don’t fly through the windshield in an accident. You can find harnesses in a variety of sizes and styles that will secure your dog comfortably. Most of them attach to the seatbelt of your vehicle.
If you’re traveling in a motorhome or with a small dog, a crate is an alternative. Bonus: if you have to leave your dog alone in a hotel room or at a friend’s house for an hour or two, your dog will feel safest in his crate. Make sure the crate is big enough for him to lie down, stand, and turn. Accessorize with a comfy mat or blanket and include a water bottle attached to the side. His favorite ball or squeaky toy will keep him happy (until he’s been squeaking for three hours straight while you’re driving, but we can’t do anything about that).
Go On Some Test Drives
If your dog loves riding in the car, you’ve won half the battle. If she isn’t used to it, start with a short drive around the block. Do this until she’s calm and comfortable, then increase the duration of your trips before hitting the road for a long journey.
Go Over the Car Ride Check List
Once you’re in the car with your dog, there are several things to check to ensure her comfort and safety, including:
- Is her harness properly installed?
- Does she have access to a water bowl?
- If she’s crated, is there good air circulation around the crate?
- Is there room for her to sit and stretch out?
- Did you bring poop bags? Not picking up after your pet at a rest stop or campground is a huge no-no.
- Have you brought a few treats or food for when you stop?
- A new toy for distraction and an old toy for comfort is a minimum.
- If you have to get out of the car for more than a minute or two, designate someone to stay with your dog or bring your dog along (properly leashed, of course!) NEVER leave your dog unattended in a car.
- Have you rolled up any window the dog can access? It looks adorable when your dog sticks his head out the window until a piece of debris smacks them in the face or their eye is scratched.
Don’t forget to schedule potty breaks at rest stops, gas stations, or other spots to let your dog stretch her legs and alleviate boredom. Let her walk around a bit and reward her for good behavior.
Keep Meals Light
Not every dog gets carsick, but if yours does, you will regret giving them a heavy meal before hitting the road. Give them a light meal three or four hours before leaving so their stomach has a chance to settle. If you need to feed them while traveling, stop somewhere before feeding them. Let them take their time eating, then have them walk around or relax before putting them back in the car.
With proper preparation, your dog will love road trips as much as you do, turning travel into an unforgettable adventure.