Traveling with dogs can be a hassle, especially in the car. With the holidays coming and travel plans inevitable, we’ve scoured the web to create the ultimate guide for canine car travel.
Start with training.
Just like teaching a dog to sit or roll over, dogs can be taught to ride in a car. According to the DMV, many veterinarians suggest starting the process before you even leave the driveway. Let 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 the pup has adjusted to simply being in the car, try taking them for short rides, slowly increasing the distance over time. 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.
You can even associate the experience with a treat as they become more and more comfortable with the new space. Experts say that incorporating treats and other rewards, like rides to nearby parks or other favorite places, early in the training are best; this helps the dog associate the car with fun and treats!
Provide as much comfort as possible.
If car rides still make your dog anxious, try bringing along a toy, a blanket, or another favorite item, as these can help your dog remain calm in a strange environment. Many professionals also recommend adjusting your dog’s feeding schedule for travel to avoid any tummy trouble, especially on longer trips. You should also opt for bottled water as drinking water from an area he or she isn’t used to is another common source of stomach discomfort.
Get the right gear.
Lead, collar and tags, and a water bowl are a must have 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.
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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