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Top Cars:  Dog Day

Got Dogs, Will Travel: Tips for Awesome Road Trips With Your Pup

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author photo by Lindsay Martell August 2017

About to embark on a road trip with your dogs? There's nothing like packing up the fam and your 4-legged kid and setting off on a 4-wheeled vacay.

Prepping the family takes time, especially if you've got a fuzzy babe in tow. Here are some tips for making your road trip pup friendly:

Give Your Vet the 411

Before Fido gets comfy in the back seat, take that fella to the vet for a exam. Make sure he's up to date on his vaccinations and heart worm and flea-prevention meds. If your guy gets carsick, consider getting an Rx for an anti-nausea treatment such as Cerenia. (1 in 5 pups suffer from canine motion sickness, and nothing puts a damper on a trip like an upchucking pup).

Get Your Play on (Before You Leave)

Some 4-legged kids are journey lovers; others recoil in horror when you open the car door. If your little lady hates to ride, some desensitization is needed.

Dr. Jason Nicholas, president and Chief Medical Officer of PreventiveVet.com, suggests making time for some pre-trip games in the car:

"With the car turned off, just take their favorite toy and throw it in the car and let them get it. Then, give them a treat when they get out." He suggests doing that for a few minutes every day for a few days leading up to the trip. "You just want them to start seeing the car as a fun thing, because it should be."

He adds that just letting them sit in the back seat of the car, while giving them treats, playing with them, and petting them can really help.

If your sweet gal still needs time to get used to the bumps on the road, never underestimate the power of short rides and treats to get them on board. A few short jaunts to a dog park or a stop at a pet supply store for a treat can go a long way to ease their nerves.

"So it's not that the car is just this transport to the vet or for something that is not fun," says Dr. Nicholas.

Crate 'Em up

Pets love fresh air, and we're all familiar with the site of a furry face, riding shotgun, fur flapping in the breeze as he pokes his head out the window. But don't do it. Animals should be restrained with a safety harness (Mighty Paw Safety Belt is a good one), a carrier that can be belted in (such as Sleepypod's mobile carrier) or a crate (this one from Gunner Kennel gets top marks from the Center of Pet Safety for its crashworthiness) and seated in the backseat or the cargo area.

Dr. Nicholas says it's the safest place for your pet. "Unrestrained dogs are a huge, huge safety risk." Not only can it be a perilous distraction, but that curious guy can get into toxic foods (sugar-free gum with Xylitol or a chocolate bar), or even suffocate by getting his head stuck in a snack bag. Vets say it happens too often.

And if you can't swing a pricey crate or pet seat belt, a cheaper version is fine.

"Anything that restrains your pet properly will help prevent an accident," he says.

Take a Break (Lots and Lots)

Want to ensure a breezy trip? Take a break. Keep your canine from becoming surly with lots of leg stretch time. Be sure to schedule lots of little breaks for your furry lass to sniff her surroundings, get the wiggles out, relieve herself and have a snack and a lap or two of water. Experts suggest a 15- to 30-minute break every 4 hours. You'll get extra mama and daddy points if you can find pet-friendly spots, such as a dog park, so your girl can really get her sprint on.

Know the Forecast

Getting clued in on what you can expect, weather wise, will make a road trip go much smoother. Be sure to pack your little one a rain slicker if you'll be heading into a rainstorm, or an extra sweater and booties if the temperature drops.

Pack It up

You've got your travel bag all packed . . . better not forget Fido's. A simple tote is all you need, stuffed with the essentials: any medication or supplements, your pup's food, bottled water, a collapsible food and water bowl (SiliPet makes super sturdy ones), leash toys, an extra leash, a blanket and dog towel, a brush and shampoo, poop bags and treats. Be sure to throw in a pet bed, too. Tiger will want a familiar spot to flop down after long hours in the car.

Another must-have is a first aid kit, packed with essentials for families with pets. Stock it with an ACE bandage, blood-clotting powder for any number of pesky ouches your guy can get (ClotIt is a favorite of vets), a flea comb and tick remover, Benadryl, a bottle of saline eye rinse and tweezers and gauze. You may also want to download the American Red Cross's Pet First Aid app (available for Android and iOS) for its helpful advice on packing an emergency kit and invaluable resources. It gives suggestions on what to do in a number of common pet emergency situations, and includes a list of veterinary medical providers across the United States.

I.D. Check

Before you set out on that trek to the mountains, beach or grandma's house, be sure your puppy's microchip is up to date (and if you haven't gotten your little one chipped, do that ASAP.) Also, experts suggest getting an additional tag just for the trip -- one that has your cell phone number, your local address (or hotel or campsite name) and an additional emergency number for a friend or family member in the area (if available). Quicktag machines create engraved pet tags at big box stores, such as Petco and PetSmart.

Keep Your Routine

Just like kids, pets thrive on routine. The newness of a road trip is stimulating enough, with new sites, smells and running around in a strange place. So keep Princess's mealtimes and walk times the same as you do at home. Also, it's not a bad idea to give her a little extra run-around time to quell any pent-up anxiety or uneasiness. Another plus? It's sure to tire her out before she curls up for a snooze.

Our furry kiddos can be great travelers. It's all about good prep and taking the time to let them smell the roses/dirt/old leaves.

"They really are part of the family. Having your dog with you is a fantastic thing," says Dr. Nicholas.

After all, she's your fur baby. She should be a part of wherever life takes you.

Looking for a Fido-friendly ride? Here are 7 Great Cars for Dog Lovers.

Read more paw-some articles about dogs and cars.

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Got Dogs, Will Travel: Tips for Awesome Road Trips With Your Pup - Autotrader