Traveling with dogs can be a hassle, especially in the car. With the holidays right around the corner, we’ve scoured the web to create the ultimate guide for canine car travel this holiday season.
Just like teaching a dog to sit or rollover, 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. By letting your dog sit in the car with you, sniff about, and adjust to the new surroundings while the car is parked you’ll help them become comfortable with the space. You can even associate the experience with a treat. Once the pup is comfortable just being in the car, try taking them for short rides. Rides to nearby parks or other favorite places are best; this way the dog can put two and two together: car rides equal fun and treats!
According to the ASPCA, these short trips will not only acclimate your pup to driving, but also help reduce the likelihood of car sickness on longer trips. Many professionals also recommend adjusting your dog’s feeding schedule for travel, starting with a light meal three to four hours prior to departure, especially for long 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. Having a toy, blanket, or other favorite items can also help your dog remain calm if car rides make them anxious.
When planning your very first long trip, you might want to discuss your plans with your vet briefly. There are 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.
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. The crate should be secured to prevent sliding, shifting, 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 and 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. This allows your pup a little 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.
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This article was originally published in November 2017 and has been updated to reflect current best practices.