Your dog is always up for an adventure, whether it’s a quick walk around the block or a trip to the park. But planning a road trip with your four-legged friend requires a little extra preparation. Here’s what you need to do to keep your pup safe, happy, and active on the road.
See Your Vet
Before any trip, make sure your dog’s microchip information and ID tag are up to date. You can print a new ID tag at most pet stores, but changing microchip information is a little more complicated. Your vet can help you retrieve microchip data so you can update your information with the manufacturer.
If you plan to board your dog at any point during your trip, he’ll need up-to-date rabies, DHPP, and Bordetella vaccinations. Check with your vet to see if your dog is due for shots and request a copy of his records.
Buy Safe Seating
It may be common to leave dogs loose in the car, but it’s far from safe. Your dog could get hurt in a crash or become a projectile that injures you and your passengers. The safest way for your dog to ride is restrained in the back seat. Put him in the front seat, and he could get hurt by airbags; place him in the cargo area, and he’ll be directly in the crumple zone.
There are two options for safe canine seating. For maximum peace of mind, choose a product certified by the Center for Pet Safety. These options are:
A crate: A sturdy crate secured to your vehicle keeps your dog in place and protects him in an accident.
- A harness seat belt: A harness seat belt connects to car seat belts so your dog doesn’t go flying during a crash.
Train Your Travel Companion
In addition to brushing up on basic obedience, spend time building your dog’s car confidence before your trip. He’ll need help getting used to his new harness or crate and learning how to behave in the car.
Start by introducing the crate or harness at home, not in the car. When your dog is in the restraint, praise him and give treats to encourage a positive association. Then, start using it in the car. Go on short drives at first and gradually build up to longer trips. Make your destinations somewhere fun so he looks forward to car rides. Provide a toy to keep him happy in the back seat and use the quiet command to stop excited whining. If he’s whining out of anxiety, take your training back a step.
Exercise on the Go
Roadside rest stops aren’t enough to keep your dog happy on long trips—and even if they were, what fun is that? One of the best parts of road tripping with your dog is finding fun places to explore along the way. Here’s are a few ideas for outdoor activities you can do on the road:
Plan a pet-friendly route. Green spaces are few and far between on major highways. Rather than trying to cover the most ground each day, plan a route that provides plenty of stopping points.
- Go on a hike. Roadtrippers is a travel planning platform that makes it easy to find state parks and forests along your route. Carve out a couple of hours for a fun hike or trail run with your pooch.
- Find a dog park. If your dog is a social butterfly or crazy to play fetch, check out BringFido.com to locate dog parks so you can play without risking an escape.
- Go for a run. A morning run tires your dog out so he’s well-behaved in the car. Look for multiuse trails or high schools that open their tracks to the public outside of school hours.
Having an adventure companion is one the best parts of being dog owner. But while you may have visions of your pooch with his head out the window and wind in his fur, that’s not the safest option for you or your dog. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find excitement on the road. Focus on safety while your car is in motion and make lots of stops for fun and bonding along the journey.
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