Vacations are a lot more fun when you share them with your best friend. If you plan to take your dog with you, careful planning and safety measures will make the trip more enjoyable.
- It’s safer for everyone if your dog is securely fastened or confined during car trips. A large dog in your lap or a small one bouncing around the accelerator pedal is dangerous, and in an accident, your unrestrained dog might be thrown about. Popular options for safe dog travel include dog seat belts, crates and car barriers. If you choose a seat belt, put your dog in the back seat. Riding up front increases the possibility of injuries or death if you have an accident and an airbag deploys.
- Microchip your dog before leaving home and attach an ID tag with your cell phone number to its collar. Never leave your dog unattended in a hot or cold car. It’s not just uncomfortable. It’s also inhumane and potentially life-threatening.
- Identify emergency animal clinics close to locations you plan to visit, particularly if your sidekick is a senior pet.
Things to Bring
Pack a spill-proof water bowl, your dog’s regular food, edible chews, medications and favorite toys, including chew toys. It‘s also good to pack something that can safely secure your dog when it’s unsupervised. A sturdy tether, a crate or an exercise pen works great.
Dogs Who Dislike Car Rides
Although some dogs gleefully bound into the car, others seem to dread the ride. If your dog seems afraid, anxious or uncomfortable in the car, experiment before making a long haul.
- Speak with the veterinarian. Your dog may suffer from carsickness. Even if it doesn’t vomit in the car, it might still feel nauseated. Watch for drooling, trembling or a hunched posture. A vet can tell you about medications that may remedy this problem.
- If your dog is afraid of car rides, simple exercises ahead of time can help change the way he feels. The key is to start small. Feed at least one meal a day in the car. At first, keep the car turned off for the entire meal. In a few weeks, work up to short rides. If the rides end at a fun destination, like a hiking trail or dog park, your dog may get over his fear quickly.
Excited, Unruly Behavior in the Vehicle
If your dog gets overexcited and whines, barks or paces, try these strategies to encourage calm behavior:
- Consider crate training your dog. Resting in a comfy crate covered with a blanket or towel may cut down on his excitement and barking.
- If your dog whines and barks until you reach your destination but rides quietly on the way home, try driving him to the dog park or a hiking trail before setting off on a longer drive.
Eliminating on Cue
Some people don’t know until their first road trip that Fido will not use the bathroom anywhere but his own backyard. Teaching your dog to eliminate in different places and on cue will speed up your trip and allow faster bathroom breaks at rest stops. To teach your dog this skill in preparation for an upcoming journey, try this:
- Your dog has cues that he’s about to eliminate — sniffing, circling or sidling up to a tree. When you notice that behavior, add a cue of your own, a phrase like “Hurry up!” Aim to say the cue right before your dog starts to urinate.
- As your dog relieves himself, praise him quietly and, after he finishes, give him a treat.
Repeat these two simple steps for a few weeks. It may help to visit the same spot at first. After two or three weeks, try saying your cue right after you take your dog outside. If he immediately does his business, praise him enthusiastically and deliver his reward. If he doesn’t, pause for a few seconds and then try again. If he still doesn’t respond, practice the steps above for another couple of weeks.
With practice, your dog will get better at relieving himself right after he hears the “Hurry up” cue. At this point, start practicing in different places and on different surfaces.
Nights on the Road
- Make sure the hotel, bed-and-breakfast or campsite where you plan to stay allows dogs. You can search for places that allow dogs online. (Try websites like www.dogfriendly.com or www.hotels.com.) When making reservations, ask about specific pet policies. Some hotels don’t allow guests to leave their dogs in hotel rooms, even if they’re kept in crates. Others ask for a pet deposit or charge a non-refundable pet fee.
- At the end of a long day, it’s great to relax with a calm dog in your hotel room or at your campsite. If you and your dog have been hiking all day, he should quiet down naturally when you do. If you’ve been driving, take time to let your dog stretch his legs before settling in for the night. A nice jog, game of fetch or a visit to a local dog park will help expend pent-up energy.
- If your dog barks at sounds outside your hotel room, he may disturb other guests—and you may be asked to leave. Try some white noise. Leaving a fan on may help muffle the sounds of footsteps in the hallway.
- Give your dog something to chew before bedtime. Chewing and licking are soothing to dogs and may help yours get to sleep.