Whether you’re going “over the river and through the woods” to Grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving or heading out on vacation for Christmas, traveling with your pet requires advance planning. Long car rides can be difficult for pets, particularly if they suffer from anxiety or don’t like a change in routine. Here are some tips for making car travel with your dog more enjoyable for everyone.
Plan for Extra Time on the Road
Dogs have smaller bladders than us, so you’ll need to make frequent bathroom breaks. A short walk periodically will also minimize restlessness; just be sure to let your dog sniff some things!
Stick to a Schedule
Try to accommodate their routine as much as possible. Feed your dog at the usual time and schedule around taking a break for a long walk during the day or evening. You can stop at a park or rest stop where there’s plenty of space for your dog to stretch their legs.
Bring Your Dog’s Health Records
If you’re crossing state or international lines, be sure you get a health certificate for your dog from their veterinarian and keep it with you. Ask your veterinarian a few weeks before you leave to give them time to prepare it.
Use a Safety Harness or Crate in the Car
Restrain your pet properly while in the car. It may be cute to have their head hanging out the window, but it’s dangerous. Flying debris and wind can scratch their corneas or do other damage. They are also more likely to be injured in an accident if they aren’t wearing a harness attached to a safety belt. Dogs who aren’t fastened in can distract the driver, causing an accident. If your dog is small enough, you may be able to put their crate in the back seat, providing them comfort and safety.
While it’s impossible to eliminate travel anxiety in a skittish pet, you can minimize it if you prepare your dog in advance for a long journey. Take them on short car rides periodically in the weeks before your holiday trip to get them used to the vehicle. Giving them a treat or taking them somewhere they love, like the dog park, will help them associate car travel with positive things. If your dog has severe anxiety or motion sickness, talk to your veterinarian about medications that can help.
In addition to packing plenty of water and food for a long car trip, bring along a few of your dog’s favorite toys and comfort items. If they have a special blanket or stuffed toy they sleep with, bring it along for the ride. Make a fuss over them when traveling, reassuring them with praise and petting throughout the trip.
Before you hit the road, give your dog a light meal. Don’t load them up on heavy foods, as this is more likely to lead to vomiting if they become carsick. You can bring training treats along to give your dog after each rest stop but keep them small and nutritious. If you need to feed your dog while on the road, try to time it around your meal stops so there’s more time for their stomach to settle before you start driving again.
Back Seat Only
No matter what size dog you have, the front passenger seat isn’t the place for dogs. If an airbag deploys, it can crush your dog or break the bones in its face. They are also more likely to get thrown through the window in an accident or distract the driver by hopping over to the driver’s side. The back seat is best.
Make sure your name and your contact information are on a dog tag securely attached to their collar. Your pet will be more easily spooked when you’re traveling and could unexpectedly run off. Make it easy for whoever finds them to get in touch with you. If your dog isn’t microchipped, now is a great time to get a microchip implanted for an extra level of protection against loss or theft.
With proper preparation, even a long car trip can be enjoyable for you and your pet. At the end of your journey, be sure to reward your dog for being the best boy or girl on the road, and enjoy the holidays!