Road trips with your furry best friend are likely at the top of your summer to-do list, but are you sure your car is as ready for the adventure as you and your pup are? “Your dog’s safety is important, and just like humans, dogs can get stressed, carsick or injured on a road trip,” says Gina DiNardo, the American Kennel Club’s executive secretary. “Taking a little extra time to prepare for the trip will make a world of difference when it comes to your pet.”
So what’s the best thing to do to prepare for traveling with pets? Follow these tips from DiNardo and your road trip will be both fun and safe for everyone involved.
1. Plan to Secure Your Pup
Dogs riding in cars should always be secured, generally with a dog car seat, crate, carrier or harness that attaches to the seatbelt. The Dogit Car Safety Dog Belt is a good option, for example, while the K&H Pet Products Bucket Booster Pet Seat, and the Kurgo Leash/Zipline Combo are all solid choices, as well.
2. Avoid the Major No-Nos
There are a few things that should always be avoided when taking your dog along for a ride. “No dog should ever ride loose in the back of a pick-up truck,” says DiNardo. “That could lead to serious injury in the event of an accident.” Additionally, stones and other debris can come off the ground or from other cars, so DiNardo suggests keeping all of your dog’s body parts—including her head—inside the car at all times to avoid head, ear or eye injuries, or worse, the potential of her falling out. “Lastly, never leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle,” DiNardo cautions. “When it’s 80 degrees outside, the inside of a vehicle can reach 125 degrees in a very short time. Never leave your dog alone inside your car.”
3. Stock up on Supplies
Besides securing your dog properly inside your car, you’ll need some additional supplies to keep her happy and safe as well. “Take a water bowl so your dog always has access to fresh water, and don’t forget your dog’s favorite toys and treats,” says DiNardo. “Also make sure to bring plenty of paper towels, cleaning supplies and deodorizing spray to clean up. Accidents happen!” If your pup will be riding in style in your back seat with a seat belt, something like the PetSafe Happy Ride Quilted Bench Car Seat Cover will keep your car’s interior safe from any accidental messes, as well.
4. Double Check Identification
Always make sure your dog’s proper and updated identification is on him before you head out on a road trip. “Most importantly, make sure your dog has a collar and is microchipped should he get lost,” says DiNardo. “His tag should have your cell phone number on it, and check with your recovery service provider to ensure your contact information is current.” To enroll your pet in a 24-hour recovery service, you can visit www.akcreunite.org.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
Many of the issues dogs face when traveling by car—most notably car sickness—are caused by anxiety, says DiNardo. “Before you take your dog on the open road for a long trip, get him used to the car by taking many short trips,” she suggests. “Take him to fun places like the dog park so he doesn’t associate the car with going to the veterinarian and the groomer only.” Keep in mind that some dogs also do better on car trips when they haven’t eaten for several hours before they go in the car, while others need to have a small meal immediately before the ride.