Traveling with dogs can be a hassle, especially in the car. With the summer in full swing and vacations coming up fast, we’ve created the ultimate guide for canine car travel.
Start with training.
Just like training a dog to sit or rollover, dogs can be taught to ride in a car. Experts reccommend starting the training process by letting your dog sit in the car with you while the car is parked, allowing them to sniff about, explore, and adjust to their new surroundings. Once your dog has acclimated to being in the car, try taking them for increasingly longer rides. According to the ASPCA, these short training trips will not only acclimate your pup to driving but also help reduce the likelihood of car sickness on longer trips.
Trainers and vets also say that incorporating treats and other rewards, like rides to nearby parks or other favorite places, also help with early training; this helps the dog associate the car with fun!
Provide as much comfort as possible.
If car rides make your dog anxious, you can also try bringing along a toy, a blanket, or another favorite item, as these can help your dog remain calm in a strange environment. For food, it’s best to avoid switching brands while you’re on the road and to opt for bottled water when possible– drinking water from an unfamiliar area is another common source of stomach discomfort. Many vets also recommend adjusting your dog’s feeding schedule to avoid any tummy trouble, especially on longer trips.
Get the right gear.
Lead, collar and tags, and a water bowl are must-haves for all trips. For longer journeys, you’ll also need a way to keep your pets safe and secure. The ASPCA recommends a well-ventilated crate or carrier that’s large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in. The crate should be properly secured to prevent sliding or tipping over, in the case of a short-shop or sharp turn. If you opt for a back seat harness instead, make sure it’s secured to the seat buckle so that your dog can’t stick their head out the window. Some SUVs and larger vehicles also have a dog guard or gate between the back seat and the storage bay area, which allows your pup more freedom to move around and is perfect for multiple dogs. Never let your pet ride in the open bed of a truck, or leave them in a hot car.
Check out the ASPCA’s full travel checklist here.
Never leave your pup in a hot car.
Never leave your pet unattended in a parked car for any period of time. On a warm day, the temperature in a parked car can reach 120F in a matter of minutes — even with the car windows partially open. Your pet can quickly suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke or suffocation when trapped in high temperatures.
Still have questions? Consult your vet.
If you’re planning your very first long trip with your dog, or your dog has any major health issues, you might also consider a brief conversation with your vet before departing. There are many medications that can help with problems like motion sickness and anxiety. Even if you don’t want or need them, it’s good to know what’s available – just in case.
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