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Dogs can enjoy road trips with preparation

By Barb Besteni, Staff writer
Published On: Dec 01 2011 09:52:07 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 01 2011 10:04:44 PM CST
dog in goggles riding in car

Danijel Juricev/SXC

Many dogs love going for a ride in the car. Crack open the window just a bit and your best pal is ready to ride like the wind to be free again.

According to Cars.com, nearly a quarter of all pet owners travel with their pet more than 20 times a year.

And whether it's a quick trip to the dog park or a trip across the continent, keeping a pet pal safe and secure is a top priority for many dog owners.

Experts said their tips can get your dog bragging about a longer vacation to all his friends at doggy day care for years to come.

Is your pet ready?

Some head for the door the minute they see their owners pick up car keys. Others, like Anna Martin's mini dachshund, Pearl, get the dry heaves any time a car commercial comes on TV.

"Not all dogs are good travelers," Martin says. "My family always took our dogs on vacation, so I thought dogs and cars just went together. But for Pearl, it took some getting used to."

Before you take your dog on your dream trip across the country, take a test drive around the neighborhood. This is especially important if you're dealing with a puppy not yet used to the movements, sights and sounds of traveling in a car.

If your dog goes from bark to barf in 15 seconds or less, Martin recommends that you don't give her anything to eat for at least two hours before your next ride. Keep water to a minimum and let her take a potty break right before getting in the car.

Some dogs keep their cookies down just fine but become extremely anxious while riding. If your normally calm dog begins to channel Stephen King's Cujo when you start the ignition, ask your veterinarian to prescribe a mild sedative to prevent these road rage tendencies.

Packing for your pooch

Once you're sure your pet is road ready, it's time to pack his bags.

First and foremost, get a current copy of your dog's medical and vaccination records to take on your trip. These records can literally be a lifesaver if he gets sick or injured and you have to visit a veterinarian who is unfamiliar with your dog's medical history.

This is also a good time to get a microchip inserted in your dog if you haven't already done so. If she should get lost in unfamiliar surroundings, microchips can help to get her back home. Microchips also satisfy the American Kennel Club's policy for record keeping and identification.

Your dog thrives on routine at home as well as on the road. Taking her routine with you on the trip helps soothe any stress she may feel in the car and unfamiliar surroundings.

Must-bring items include:

  • Favorite toys, food and water bowls
  • Bed, blankets and towels
  • Collar with identification and license tags, which should never be removed. The contact information on the ID tag must include a phone number where you can be reached while you're on the road or the information of a trusted friend back home.
  • The regular brand of dog food. Measure out daily rations in individual bags and leave the oversized bag of food at home.
  • An extra leash and collar. If one should get lost, you won't have to scramble to find a replacement.

Enjoy The Ride

There are dozens of great products on the market to keep your dog safe while traveling, such as dog seat belts, dog safety seats, carriers and auto barriers. Travel crates are another option.

While driving, your attention must always be on traffic, not on your dog. Keeping him restrained will help avoid unexpected surprises.

Many veterinarians and pet owners believe you should buckle up your dog in a car just as you would a child. This is for the dog's safety as well as yours. Furthermore, since most cars are equipped with air bags that can injure or kill an animal if deployed during an accident, you should never allow your pet to ride in the front seat.

Whatever restraining method you choose, be certain your dog is totally comfortable with it before your trip.

And no matter how many times you've cried out, "Awwww, how adorable!" when you've seen it, don't allow your dog to stick her head out the car window. It's cute but dangerous. If you want her to enjoy the wind in her hair, open the window enough to let her catch the scents and sounds of travel without getting hurt.

Potty breaks

Just as you need to rest and relieve yourself during the trip, so does your dog.

And never, ever leave her alone in a locked car for any amount of time, not even if you'll be right back.

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