With careful preparation and the proper safety equipment — hitting the road with your canine companion can be fun and hassle-free.
More often than not, dogs make for eager and willing travel companions. Some dogs have achieved literary fame as puppy car companions, like John Steinbeck poodle Charley. But if your dog is eager or reluctant, having attitude and the proper gear can help to assure that the trip is safe and satisfying for all.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Make sure that you have everything you’ll have to keep your dog healthy and happy, before you hit the road. Here’s a list of probably-should-haves and must-haves:
Lead, collar and ID tag. That’s bad — if your dog were to get far from home. If your dog were to get loose far from home with no kind of ID — that’s really bad.
Food, water, bowls. Bring along a supply of the food your dog is used to eating. Bring along plenty of water, also — and bowls, of course. Changing to food and water that are distinct from what the dog normally absorbs can blend with the car’s motion to create, shall we say, unpleasant physiological reactions.
Blankets and baggies. Blankets for heat, and in cold weather, for bedding. Bring waste disposal baggies for parking lot rest stops (You wouldn’t want to accidentally step in that, would you?) .
Old washcloths. Handy to have on hand for wiping muddy paws that have just bounded through roadside puddles.
CRATES AND RESTRAINTS
Some dogs love to get in a car, hang their heads out the window, and revel in the experience, jowls and ears . But that is not a fantastic idea. It should not be allowed to roam free within the confines of your vehicle, even if your dog is a traveler. This could be very bad for your dog in the case of an accident, and an unrestrained dog may even be the cause of an collision. And pet body parts should remain inside the vehicle at all times. Dog crates are perfect for car travel, assuming that your dog’s size isn’t a factor that is limiting. It should be large enough to allow the dog to stand up inside and turn around when picking a crate for your dog, but there shouldn’t be so much space that the dog can slide around inside to the movements of the car. It should be well-ventilated, and structurally sound. And it’s important that the crate be securely fastened in place; a loose crate isn’t much of an improvement on a dog that is loose. If a crate won’t work for your dog, there are other choices. A harness that’s secured to a seat safety belt is a great alternative. It supplies the dog some liberty but restrains the dog in an crash. Make certain to buy a harness that’s specifically designed to be used with straps. Barriers can also be powerful restraints and are great for securing a dog in a van, such as in an open area, or in the back of a wagon or SUV. Be careful, however, when you’re in the market for a barrier. Be certain that can be connected to the interior frame of your vehicle, and that it is rated to restrain your dog’s weight in an accident.
STOP, REVIVE, SURVIVE
YOU might be for grinding along hours at a time on the road up, but your dog isn’t. And keeping your dog contained and restrained in your car for hours on end is a fantastic way to sour it on automobile travel. Plan on making frequent stops, if small children were along for the trip just as you would. (And if there are small children along, well then — two birds with one stone!) Frequent potty breaks and opportunities to burn-off a little bit will help to make your dog a happy traveler. Be careful when you let your dog out of the 20, to not have an escapee in your hands! When you do stop, be sure to never leave your dog in the car in the hot sun if the windows do crack. Temperatures can climb to levels that aren’t.
CHECK WITH YOUR VET
You may want to discuss your plans with your vet briefly if this will be your first trip with your dog. There are medications that may help with problems like anxiety and motion sickness. It would be good to understand what’s available — just in case.
PREPARE FOR FUN
It’s frequently said that dogs are man’s best friend. With the proper equipment and with planning, there is no reason to leave your best friend behind when you hit the street. Be careful, be safe — and have fun!