Want to turn your dog into a leaping, barking, squirming bundle of ultimate joy expressed? Ask him if he wants to go bye-bye in the car. Dogs can go from being fast asleep and snoring to doing perfect imitations of whirling dervishes in five seconds flat when they hear that question. There’s no doubt that most dogs love to go for car rides (unless they figure out you’re taking them to the vet.) Most of the time a car ride with your dog means a relatively short trip; but what about longer trips? Should you consider taking your dog on a road trip with you? The answer to that depends on a few factors that are known only to you, and the final choice is yours. If you’ve made the decision to take him along, however, there are a few tips and tricks to make the trip pleasant for everyone involved, both human and canine.
A couple of weeks before you go on your road trip, take your dog to the veterinarian for a complete check up. The last place that you want to be dealing with a sick pet (other than a carsick pet, which simply happens sometimes…sorry) is while you are on vacation. It’s probably the last place that your dog wants to be feeling sick, too. Get a clean bill of health from the vet for your dog, or clear up any problems he finds before you leave. Make sure all your dog’s vaccinations are up to date also. You never know when proof of that may be required. You can also ask your vet if there is anything you can give your dog for carsickness, just in case.
One of the most important things you can do before you go, if you haven’t already, is get an identification microchip implanted under your dog’s skin. If your vet doesn’t have the technology to do it, your local animal shelter should be able to help. If your dog gets separated from you during your trip and is turned into an animal shelter, they will scan it for the chip and get the contact information stored in it. Do this in addition to a collar and identification tags. This can save you a lot of possible grief.
Bring along a comfortable crate for your dog to ride in; one that gives him plenty of room to stand and turn. The image of the happy, smiling dog with his head out the car window and his ears flapping in the breeze is a pleasant one, but stop and think about that for a minute. Would you let your kids ride that way? It’s probably a good bet that you love your dog and want him to be safe. Riding in a comfortable crate that is secured so that it doesn’t slide around is safer for your dog and everyone else in the car. An alternative to the secured crate would be a special harness for your dog that fits onto the seat belt. This keeps your dog harnessed in safely and allows him a good view. If you choose to have your dog in the harness while in the car, it’s still a good idea to bring along the crate. Naps are often more comfortable for your dog in a crate.
Make a list of what you need for your dog about a week before you leave, and add to it when things come to mind. Check things off the list right before you go. You want to bring his favorite food, favorite blanket, and favorite toys. Don’t go changing anything on him now; it’s not the time! He wants familiarity. Don’t forget to bring enough bottled water for everyone, and that includes the dog. Don’t make anyone fight for water; that can put a damper on the whole trip.
If you’re driving in hot weather, keep your air conditioner on always. No exceptions. It may decrease your gas mileage, but your dog’s welfare depends on it. He is more uncomfortable than you in hot weather; and getting overheated is not only miserable for him, it’s dangerous. Never, ever leave your dog in a parked car in the heat, whether you have the windows down or not. Not even if you are standing right next to the car. If you are standing next to it and it is running and the AC is on, that’s fine, but make sure your dog is harnessed in and isn’t able to roam around the car. You really don’t want to watch your car drive away without you after Fido kicks it into drive, do you?
A road trip with your dog can be a great experience. He will love being included in the vacation, and you and anyone with you will love the company. Follow the common sense rules about keeping your dog safe and comfortable and everyone should have a wonderful trip.