Thinking of taking a road trip with your dog? Driving cross country with your dog(s) can be a fun way to see the sights and include your companion in the fun. Helpful tips to keep in mind:
Hopefully, your dog is used to riding in the car. If not, start in advance and go slow. Take short, quick trips with plenty of treats to promote the fun of being in the car with you.
Your dog should be kept secure in the back seat, with either a ventilated crate (if crate trained) or at a minimum, a pet safety belt or travel harness. Ideally, his crate will be large enough to allow him to sit, stand, lie down and turn around.
Never let your dog hang his head out the window. Flying objects, including rocks on the road, can be injurious.
Ideally, you have a human travel companion to stay with the dogs in your air-conditioned car while you make gas and fast-food breaks.
You might want to research Veterinarians and 24/7 clinics in the area you plan to visit. Hope you don’t need those resources, yet in the interest of safety and preparedness it’s a good idea.
Before hitting the road for the first time, it’s a good idea to practice first with short trips. This will help your dog adjust to a longer car ride and lets you know if your dog is prone to motion sickness. If that’s the case, talk to your Vet about anti-nausea medication. Your pet should eat a light meal 3-4 hours prior to departure.
Consider the locations you will be visiting and talk to your Vet about possible threats in those areas. While your dog may be updated on routine vaccinations, there may be other “lifestyle” vaccinations to consider when entering new terrain, such as Lyme disease or Leptospirosis.
WHAT TO PACK
Comfort objects from home, such as a favorite toy and pet bed, will help with the change of scenery. In addition to plenty of food and treats, pack water and a portable drinking bowl, a pet first aid kit, medications, proof of vaccinations, ID tags, collar, leash and/or harness are road-trip essentials. Bottled or tap water in large jugs is recommended to avoid bacteria ingestion from unreliable public sources.
Check the weather forecast in advance. Weather-related accessories may be required if you’re traveling to a different climate. If your dog is used to year-round sunshine and you’re headed to the mountains, consider a dog sweater or raincoat.
If you are headed to open spaces, such as a campground, an extra precaution might be a GPS Whistle tracker to place on your dog’s collar. The GPS function will track any on-the-loose dog within 3000 miles.
PIT STOPS WITH YOUR POOCH
Puppies and senior dogs will need more frequent restroom breaks. Stopping every 2-3 hours is a good rule of thumb and will allow all of you to stretch your legs and stay awake, especially if you plan to cover long distances in a day.
There are many pet-friendly hotels that will accommodate your overnight stays, to break up the time spent in the car. Plan ahead and book reservations in advance. Hotel policies vary, including extra fees and weight or breed limitations. A great website to find dog-friendly hotels, restaurants and local events and venues (ex: dog parks and hiking trails): www.bringfido.com.
State-run rest stops off the interstates might offer a designated pet area for your pit stops. Keep plenty of doo bags with you and always keep your dog on a leash when out of the car. Traffic is busy, including large, long-distance trucks that can spook a dog. Some states have breed restrictions, so research the states you plan to travel in to ensure you’re not entering an area that doesn’t appreciate your dog’s heritage.
DOGGIE DAY-CARE OR BOARDING
Some dogs can’t be left alone for long periods, particularly in an unfamiliar place, so make advance arrangements for their compansionship while you are off-site for longer than a few hours.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, do your best to maintain established routines while also enjoying your vacation getaway.
Hit the road with happy hearts and wagging tails!