Dogs in Cars: Going on a Long Road Trip with a Beloved Pet

While air travel is our bread-and-butter, Dogs on Planes loves talking about pretty much anything related to pet travel. One big thing that sticks out to us: While people tend to overestimate the hassles and risks that come with flying with a dog, we find that they tend to underestimate these same hassles and risks when going on a long road trip. We wanted to take a moment and address potential problems dog owners face. We’ll also provide tips to plan for going on a road trip with a dog in the best and worst-case scenarios.

 

The Golden Rule for Going on a Road Trip with a Dog

As with most any type of pet travel, the golden rule is to know the habits and temperament of your dog. Is he or she typically a chill animal? Does he or she normally do well with traveling? When it comes to air travel, it gets a little pricey to go a trial run. The exact opposite is true with car rides. Even for dogs that are used to car rides, if anything, step up the number of places for which you bring along your dog. No reason to go crazy or try to take them someplace they don’t belong, but don’t assume that the best plan is to take a break from car rides because the dog will get their full on the road trip.

 

Tips for Making Iffy Dogs Car-Happy Travelers

Even if you know this golden rule, there’s not always a clear-cut yes or no answer. Many dogs are reasonably well-behaved in most situations, even though getting in the car isn’t their favorite thing. One of the most common reasons that dogs aren’t thrilled by car rides is that they associate the car with going to the vet. This is something that’s easy to change especially for dogs that aren’t too old and set in their ways. Take them to the dog park. Take them to the pet store with you for their next toy or treat. Take them to see friends, family members or neighbors. Take them on doggy playdates if they like other dogs. Take them to the lake if they like to swim. Give them plenty of affection and create a positive experience.

 

General Tips for Road-Tripping with Your Dog

  • Make sure the vehicle is in good working order. And not just the engine, but the air conditioning and heater as well. Especially if you expect to need it.
  • Take lots of potty breaks. Every 4-6 hours is ideal. More than 8-12 hours and the pet’s urological health is bound to suffer. Apart from the animal’s comfort level, you definitely don’t want to deal with a urinary tract infection while traveling.
  • Bathroom breaks aren’t the only reason to make frequent stops. Just like humans, there are few things better for relaxation than plenty of exercise. Less commonly, an anxious or low-energy dog may curl up in one spot for long periods of time. Encourage the dog to run around to calm down and to prevent the rare blood clot.
  • Small, frequent snacks are usually the best bet for feeding on a road trip. The dog shouldn’t go hungry, but a full belly in a cramped space is going to make it that much harder for the dog to get comfortable. It can also lead to doggy vomit.
  • Get a micro-chip. Even if your dog always responds to voice commands. Even if your dog sticks by your side all the time. There’s simply too much potential for a dog to get spooked in an unfamiliar setting and less chance they will be able to find their way back to you if separated.
  • Windows can be tricky. Roll them down, and the dog gets to see and smell the outside world. It’s a little different when you’re at highway speeds and the slightest piece of debris can cause serious harm. We roll our windows down when we’re not on the highway and try to leave them barely cracked when we are on the highway.

 

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