Travelling with your dog can be a great joy, but do you know how to keep him/her safe in the car? Does your dog only associate the car with going to the vet? Below are some things you need to know when travelling with your dog…
If you are training a new dog to travel in the car, let your dog become used to the car gradually. Allow him or her to sniff around the car while it’s not running. Begin by taking your dog on short trips (around a few blocks and back home) and gradually increase the time you are away until your dog starts looking forward to getting in the car.
Allow your dog to use the restroom before you get in the car. Bring your dog’s water dish, and keep a gallon of water in the car. Make regular stops (every hour or two) and allow your dog to stretch, drink and relieve itself before getting back in the car.
Allow your dog to travel on a relatively empty stomach (feed it several hours before you leave) but make sure it gets regular water breaks. This will help prevent car sickness.
Always keep a leash on your dog. When making pit stops, it’s especially important you maintain full control to prevent your dog from running away – or into oncoming traffic. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with your contact information on it. If your dog does get away, this may well be the only way it will be returned to you. Just in case, carry a photo of your dog in case it does get away.
When stopping, don’t just make it a quick bathroom break. Allow your dog to walk around and stretch (on leash!). This will also help relieve any pent up energy it has, which can cause irritability and future negative feelings about being in the car.
Preferably (if your car allows it), put your dog in their crate with things it’s familiar with – a blanket, a favorite toy, etc. Give it a (non-noisemaking, if you’d like to stay sane) chew toy but avoid treats, such as bones, as those could upset their stomach and cause car sickness.
If you can not fit a crate in the car, put the dog in the back seat. NEVER put your dog in the front seat with you. Not only is this a distraction when driving, but if there were to be an accident, your dog could be seriously injured or killed by the airbag. Also, do NOT allow your dog to ride in the bed of an open truck. Your dog could be thrown from your vehicle if you hit a particularly rough bump, or are in an accident.
Do not allow your dog to stick its head out of your car window. We’ve all had our cars hit by flying debris or stones – at high speeds, these items could seriously injure your dog.
NEVER leave your dog unattended in a hot car. Even in what feels like mild weather, temperatures can rapidly rise to a fatal level, especially if the sun is coming directly in the windows.
Giving your dog some one on one time will help make the ride more enjoyable. Rather than leaving your dog in the car for a few minutes while you run into a fast food chain and eat (if the weather would have allowed!), go through the drive-thru and take your meal to a local park. Feed and/or water your dog while you eat.
If you are staying in a hotel but plan to be out & about, find a kennel or doggy day care in the area you are staying. It’s not fair to your dog to be left alone in an unfamiliar place. Many hotels won’t allow it anyway (even if they are pet-friendly), as a scared dog could become destructive or relieve itself in the room.
If you’ve tried every “trick-of-the-trade” and your dog is still uncomfortable with car rides, talk to your vet and ask for a mild sedative for times when he/she needs to be in the car. NEVER give your dog a sedative that was not specifically prescribed for him/her.