10 Important Tips for Making Long Car Trips with Your Dog(s)

Traveling with our furry friends over long distances can be tricky. Our overly enthusiastic canine companions can be quite a handful in the confines of a small vehicle, family van or even an SUV. Picture how active your dog is at home—running around, barking at everything, chewing on any object unfortunate enough to land in its path—and transfer this to the confines of your family van/sedan/SUV.

Regardless of the size of your dog, traveling with it for long distances requires a bit of know-how and a lot of patience. If you are planning an upcoming road trip that includes your canine best friend, these 10 tips will help you optimize the car travel experience for both you and your dog.

Tip #1: A Spent Dog is a Calm Dog: Pre-Travel Exercise

Taking your dog out for a nice walk right before you bundle up into the vehicle is not only a good idea, it is strongly advised. The more tuckered out your dog is in the vehicle, the more conducive the driving atmosphere will be. This way, you will not be tasked with keeping your eyes on the road while at the same time trying to stop your pet from chewing up your seats or jumping onto your lap while you drive. Make regular stops (preferably in nice, grassy areas where your dog can run) and give your dog about ten minutes to thoroughly tire himself/herself. Your trip will be much more relaxed and safer for both of you.

Tip #2: Plan Adequately Ahead

This can save you a lot of headaches. Go online and find out the listings for pet-friendly hotels and other roadside accommodations. You do not want to be stuck trying to find a place for you and your pet at 1 a.m. in the middle of nowhere. Visit either www.dogfriendly.com or www.bringfido.com for a comprehensive list of dog-friendly accommodations. Get this task out of the way as part of the preliminaries so that by the time you start the engine, you have your entire trip planned out to the last detail.

Tip # 3: Make a Doggy Travel Bag

Yes, your dog may need to have a bag of his/her own. If you have no clue what to put in the bag, give your vet a call for a more pet-specific checklist. However, a few basics to be brought along on the trip include:

· Vitamins and any medication your dog may be on.

· Vaccination records (preferably copies of the original documents).

· A dog grooming kit. This should include a dog brush, tweezers, towels, a pooper scooper, nail clippers and extra plastic bags.

· A spare collar and leash with updated contact information.

· A first aid kit.

· A list of pet hospitals and veterinarians at your destination and along the way. The contacts for a Poison Control Center may come in handy too.

· A stress reliever. Although optional, this can go a long way in keeping your dog calm all through the trip. It is recommended if your dog is easily excitable.

Tip #4: Vehicle Preparation

This tip is not so much providing a comfortable experience for your pet as it is saving your car from unnecessary grief. Keep in mind that you will be spending hours, maybe even days cooped up in there with your dog.

The first thing you should think to bring along is lint rollers for your seats. Dogs shed fur and unless you want your seats looking like the floor of a doggy barber shop, it is in your best interests to cover them up.

If your dog is small enough to be crated then by all means bring a crate. They are safe and comfortable enough for the dog and will do well to get them out of your hair while you drive. Also bring a sanitizing kit along because accidents (of the toilet variety) can happen at any time. In this scenario, it’s best not to learn from experience.

Tip #5: Keeping Your Pet in Line

A tired or calm dog does not necessarily mean a non-reactive dog. He/she may be relaxed and calm until something happens to draw his/her attention. This may be the smell of a food truck passing by or the hundreds of strange sounds coming from the highway. Either way, this may lead to a very excitable pet when you least expect it. To counter this, create your own calm atmosphere in the car. Roll the windows all the way up and play some soft music to mask the sounds emanating from outside.

Tip #6: Optimizing the Atmosphere

Speaking of creating calm environments, be prepared to help your dog adapt to the different climates you may come across on your road trip. If you anticipate driving through cold places, stock up on extra blankets or even a sweater. If it is hot climates you expect, pack enough water to keep your pet(s) well hydrated throughout the trip. In case you have to leave your pet in the vehicle, ensure there is sufficient air conditioning before you switch off the engine and crack open the windows. Never park in sunny areas; it is just as dangerous for dogs as it is for children.

Tip #7: Familiarize Yourself with Laws Concerning Dogs

Where you are going, the laws around pets may be different (stricter) and so it would be best if you know beforehand. Bear in mind that some places have different Leash laws, Beach Laws, Driving Laws and other codes of conduct for pet owners and their pets. Some places will not take too kindly to dogs riding unstrapped or in the front seat so practice caution and carry with you all the necessary requirements to avoid tussles with the law enforcement. If the laws are not apparent or clearly stated somewhere, ask around at gas stations or hotels just to be on the safe side.

Tip #8: Update the Information on Your Dog’s Collar

It is prudent to plan for worst-case scenarios. Granted you should not let your dog out of your sight when traveling to strange places, it is very important that he/she can be traced back to you easily in the event you lose him/her. Ensure all the relevant contact information on the collar is updated before you embark on your trip.

Tip #9: Maintain a Regular Routine as Much as Possible

Dogs can have serious adaptability issues when introduced to unfamiliar settings. Save your canine friend from the nervousness and restlessness by trying to bring some consistency. Retain the normal feeding times, play times, exercise times and other aspects of their lives at home. You can also bring along their favorite toy, blanket or other treasured belonging that will make the change seem less drastic.

Tip #10: Two Helpful Pointers

· Carry water from home for your dog. You do not know how he/she will react to water from strange places. Freeze it into cubes and place it in the bowl where they will melt slowly to give your dog a constant source of refreshment and hydration. This way, you do not have to worry about spillage.

· Invest in a good doggie seat harness. Restraining your pet can save them from injury or death in case of an accident. It will also give you peace of mind knowing that your pet is comfortably and safely secured in a place where he/she cannot interfere with your driving.

No one wants to leave their pet behind especially if it is for a family vacation. These tips can help you safely and comfortably include a treasured member of your family in your vacations. Consider the pros and cons while planning because sometimes, for the sake of safety, it is better to leave your beloved pet at home.