Every dog parent knows that traveling with Fido is part of the journey.
But some journeys can be stressful, especially for your four-legged best friend. Difficulties arise when a trip isn’t planned for, so you have to do your utmost best to prepare your dog for travel.
Whether you’re taking your dog for a quick errand or going on an epic road trip, safety should be your top priority. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe when traveling with your furry, four-legged best friend.
No Shotgun Rides!
Your dog is your best friend, and best friends always ride shotgun. Right? Not when it comes to dogs. You may be the best and safest driver on the planet, but you have no control over what other drivers do. Your dog may also bother you while you’re driving: jumping on your lap, barking or chewing the door handle.
Deployed airbags can be fatal to dogs, and seat belts aren’t designed for them. Another thing you have to consider is your dog getting crushed under the dashboard. Love your dog as you would treat a child and place Fluffy in the backseat.
All Body Parts Inside the Car, Please
You see this all the time in ads and movies: dogs having a blast sticking their heads out of a moving car’s window. While this may seem cute and your dog is having fun, it’s hazardous. Flying debris can enter your dog’s eyes and mouth, causing severe injuries.
Not to mention the genuine threat of decapitation during a road mishap! Unless you’re asking your dog to do a VIN number search or call out potholes, don’t encourage this behavior. You can open the windows to let in the breeze, but not all the way down so your dog can’t stick his head out.
Don’t Let Your Dog Roam Free in the car
Dogs can become projectiles during an accident if not adequately tethered. Ordinary seat belts aren’t designed for canines, so you need to get a harness to secure your dog inside the car. For small breeds, you can opt for a high dog car seat.
To keep your dog from hopping over the center console and bothering you, get a waterproof dog hammock. The hammock has a dual purpose of protecting your backseat and creating a barrier so your dog can’t go to the front.
Consider Getting a Dog Crate
Are you going on a cross-country road trip? Consider getting a crate for your dog. Dog crates act as a mobile home for your dog, offering security, familiarity, and comfort. Crating your dog is the best way to keep her safe, especially for extended travel.
Make sure the crate is big enough for your dog to stand, lay down and stretch in. Adding a soft bed, some chew toys, and something familiar from home makes the crate comfier. Don’t forget to tether the box to keep it from moving, and use the backseat whenever possible.
Go on a few Practice Runs
If your dog isn’t used to riding or being inside a car, the entire situation can be highly stressful. A stressed dog is susceptible to illness and negative behavior. Do a few practice runs with your dog if this is the case. Have your dog go in and out of the car while the engine is off, so Fido grows accustomed to being in it.
Once your dog masters the art of being inside the car, it’s time to move. Drive your car a few feet forward and reverse a few times when you’re in the driveway. When your dog has a feel for movement, plan a short trip around the block.
The last leg of your dog’s training should be short trips to a nearby park, or anywhere Fido can play. When you reward your dog with play after a car ride, he will associate traveling with playtime instead of trips to the vet.
Take Your Dog to the Vet
Speaking of trips to the vet, you should take your dog to one before heading out. A routine checkup will tell you whether your dog is fit to travel or not. The veterinarian looks for any underlying health concerns and will advise you on treatment options.
This trip is also the perfect time for any missed vaccines and anti-tick and flea medication. It’s best to prepare for deer ticks, especially when you’re planning an outdoor hike. Some deer ticks carry Lyme disease that could cut your trip short if you or your dog gets bitten. Also, ask for medication if your dog gets car sick when traveling.
Microchip Your Dog
Dogs will be dogs, and even the most well-behaved dog can chase a squirrel and get lost in the process. For your peace of mind, take your dog to the vet and have a microchip installed. The chip is about as small as a grain of rice, and the vet inserts it between a dog’s shoulder blades.
Micro-chipped dogs are easier to locate when lost. All it takes is a chip reader, and a local shelter will immediately know all there is to know about the dog and who owns it.
Don’t Forget the Collar
Some local shelters may not have a microchip reader handy, so make sure your dog wears a collar at all times. Your dog’s collar should have tags with your address and contact information are written on it. Make sure to get a durable collar with tags that won’t break off or become unreadable when wet.
Some collars have your information stitched on it. Don’t put your dog’s name on the tag so no one else can claim Fido as their dog. If you want to take it a step further, there are collars with a built-in GPS that you can track via an app on your phone. Bring a spare collar and leash with you, in case the one your dog is using breaks, gets lost or muddy.
Always Carry a Dog First Aid Kit
Your dog’s first aid kit should be separate from your own. It should contain all the essentials for the emergency treatment of wounds, burns, splinters and broken bones. According to this ASPCApro article, a dog first aid kit should have the following:
- Absorbent gauze pads
- Adhesive tape
- Cotton balls or swabs
- Fresh 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting (always check with a veterinarian or animal poison control expert before giving to your pet)
- Ice pack
- Disposable gloves
- Scissors with a blunt end
- OTC antibiotic ointment
- An oral syringe or turkey baster
- Liquid dishwashing detergent (for bathing)
- Small flashlight
- Alcohol wipes
- Styptic powder
- Saline eye solution
- Artificial tear gel
Phone number, clinic name, the address of your veterinarian as well as local veterinary emergency clinics.
ASPCA also advises that you should always check your dog’s first aid kit for any expired medication.
Schedule Plenty of Pit Stops
Map out your ride and choose roads that give you a lot of chances to stop. Dogs need plenty of stops. Especially puppies and seniors need lots of care. Use these stops for bathroom breaks, walks and playtime if your dog has plenty of excess energy.
Playing with your dog during a scheduled stop zaps Fido of all the extra pent-up energy. A tired dog usually sleeps it off or relaxes, which is better for your long-term travel plans.
Never Leave your dog in the Car Alone
Do not leave your dog inside a car even with the windows rolled down. Cars become ovens within minutes, especially during the summer. When traveling alone, always take your dog with you wherever you go. This takes careful planning, as not all establishments allow pets.
It’s OK to leave your dog inside the car ONLY when there’s someone else in there with him, and the AC is on.
Food and Water
Always bring a full day’s supply of food, water and treats when you know for a fact that there is a place where you can buy more from along the way. If you’re not sure, bring supplies that will last your dog the entire trip.
Traveling with your dog is part of being a pet parent. But traveling with a dog can be challenging at times and needs plenty of preparation. Always make dog safety one of your primary concerns when making travel plans. You’ll get to spend time with your furbaby more and have loads of fun in the process!
Patrick Peterson is a writer/editor at AutoDetective. Born and raised in the automotive world. He’s a passionate writer who crafts exquisite content pieces about everything related to cars and bikes.