By Laurie Darroch
When you go on a long road trip with your dog, it should be a positive and pleasant experience for both of you. Going into the trip fully prepared for all possible situations that may occur along the way will make the trip easier and less stressful.
Before You Go
Traveling with a dog can sometimes be a challenge. It’s a good idea to follow the old scout motto and “Be Prepared” before you head out on a long trek.
Pack all the items your dog will need on the trip. You can’t always depend on their availability along the way or at your final destination. Bring dog food and treats, water and food bowls, a favorite blanket, a few toys, and any necessary medications. Bring a good leash also. Don’t forget to pack emergency information for your veterinarian in case of an accident or for contacts if your dog gets lost. Make sure your contact information is on your dog’s collar tags in case you get separated.
Check the weather before you leave. Knowing what to expect along the way and at your destination will help you prepare for what your dog may need. Research fun stops along the way that can include your dog. They like to explore and see new things too.
Before you leave for the first leg of the trip, take your dog for a long walk or run. If they are well exercised before they get into the car, they will be more relaxed and ready to calm down for the drive. During your trip, take them for a good walk each day before you get in the car.
Dogs can sleep during a long soothing drive, but they can also get restless and uncomfortable when they are cooped up for long periods. They need a chance to take an occasional potty break the same way you do. If available, stop at rest stops where your dog can really stretch and explore a bit. Every stop is a curiosity filled with smells, sights and sounds that your dog will enjoy investigating. A little exercise and relief time will help them relax and settle down again on the road.
Be courteous at rest areas and follow the rules regarding dogs. Some require that all dogs be on leashes. Even if your dog is very well behaved and obeys, someone else’s dog at the rest stop may not be.
Comfort and Safety
Depending on how your dog behaves in the car, you may need a crate for long road trips. Make it a pleasant and positive experience if they need to be kept in a crate. If your dog is easily able to sit calmly without distracting you while you drive, a crate may not be necessary. The more you go on trips with your dog, the more he will get used to the travel and car routine. He may actually get excited when he sees all the familiar activity associated with preparing for a trip.
You may want to check any laws along your travel route to see what is required for a dog to travel with you. A seat belt and harness may be a good idea if your dog is not in a crate and needs some restrictions for movement around the car. Reinforce good travel behavior with praise and a calm demeanor. If you are anxious, your dog will be too.
Not all dogs are great travelers. Some are prone to motion sickness, which may or may not pass once you start traveling. You might want to go on some short drives before you attempt a long trip, so you can see how your dog handles car travel. If you have any concerns, check with your vet to see if your dog may need medication to handle the trip. However, it is better not to medicate your dog unless it’s absolutely necessary. Your training, practice and positive reinforcement is a great way for your dog to get used to road trips.
In hot weather, try to find places to stop that provide some shade for your dog. Make sure they can stretch out and stay cool in the car.
When to Eat and Drink
Feed your canine travel buddy a light meal of his CANIDAE dog food before you leave on the trip. You can keep some treats easily accessible in the car in case you need to reinforce certain behaviors, or for rest stops. While on the trip, feed your dog at your destination each day, or when you stop for breaks to let them stretch their legs. It is better to feed them outside of the car.
Keep bottled water in the car for rest breaks. Even at rest stops where water is available, the facilities are not always fully functional. If you stop at open camping areas, running water may not be available at all. Your dog needs to stay hydrated, even though they are not exerting much energy on the long drive.
Traveling with a dog can be a wonderful experience. Dogs make good companions on a long trip. It is humorous to see an excited dog that is anxious to get in the car and get going. Their nervous pacing, fidgety behavior and standing at the car door waiting for you to open it to let them in are signs of a happy dog that is looking forward to the trip.
Read more articles by Laurie Darroch