With air travel down significantly this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, more people are venturing out the old-fashioned way by hitting the road in a car or RV. One positive aspect of this is that more families can include their pet when traveling. Whether it’s just a short day trip or a longer trek across state lines, it’s vital to ensure that your furry family member is as safe as everyone else in the vehicle. Here are tips for assuring that.
The first and most important step when traveling with a pet is to make sure they are safely secured in the vehicle. Just as you would never drive without a seatbelt, your pets also need to be harnessed when a vehicle is moving. This is for their safety and yours. If a collision occurs and the pet isn’t harnessed, they can be seriously injured – and so can you as your beloved pet can fly forward in the vehicle if a crash occurs.
Your best bet is a canine seatbelt. These come in a variety of sizes to fit all manner of dogs. They usually attach to a collar or harness, then buckle into a seatbelt. A pet carrier may be more comfortable for smaller dogs, but again make sure that it is securely fastened to the seat.
And while we all know that dogs love to put their heads out the window, it’s really safer that they stay inside. This is especially true at highway speeds, where even the smallest of debris can hurt your dog’s eyes or ears.
Bring the Necessities and More
The length of your trip will determine what and how much of it you should bring for your pet, but some items are essential no matter if you drive down the road or across the country. The most important is fresh water and a bowl. Bring more than you think you’ll need. It’s always better to have extra than not enough, and this is true for the humans in your vehicle, too. For hotter climates and in the summer months, we’d recommend keeping water bottles in a cooler – after all, no one likes warm water on a hot day.
If your dog requires medication, this too should be brought. Even if you don’t think you’ll be using it due to the duration of your trip, it’s always better to bring it along. If we’re learning anything from 2020, it’s that life is full of unexpected detours. Play it safe and plan for curveballs along the way.
Plan for Meals
Bringing dog food on your trip is also vital. While we humans can get away with pulling into a drive-through when our stomachs growl, a double-cheeseburger and fries probably isn’t the best bet for Fido. Dogs do best with the familiar, so bring along the food they know, and keep those drive-through indulgences to a minimum, if that. The last thing you want is an accident in the car or outside a restaurant. Trust us, we speak from experience on this one.
Just as we don’t expect our kids to idly sit in back on a long trip without games, books or something to keep them occupied, it’s wise to have a toy, ball, bone or the like to keep your dog busy. While some dogs – and their fortunate owners – have no trouble sleeping for the duration of trips, others can get restless. Bring something familiar to keep them busy along the way.
Finally, bring your dog’s bedding or pillows and bedding with their scent on them. This will give them comfort and a sense of home even when you’re away from it.
Keep Everyone Comfortable
Once you’ve finally wrangled and secured everyone in the vehicle and are on your way, it’s time to keep them comfortable. Again, just as with kids, a good tip is to prepare them before getting inside. That means last-minute bathroom breaks and, for our dogs, a nice walk.
Once inside, make sure your dog has room to spread out and be comfortable while buckled in. If you’re including the family cat along for the ride, bringing a litter box is a good idea.
Ventilation and keeping your pet cool and comfortable is key. If your vehicle has rear-seat air vents, make sure they are open and directed toward your dog. If you only have front vents, point them so air reaches in back. It’s also helpful to crack the windows now and then to get in fresh air.
Keep attuned to your dog and take breaks as necessary so they can stretch their legs, heed the call of nature and sniff out the places you’re traveling through. And, of course, never, ever leave a pet inside a parked car, no matter how brief you think it will be.
Keep these tips and safety measures in mind, and all of your family members – the four-legged ones included — will have a far better experience when traveling.
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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated for accuracy since it was originally published.