Traveling by Car with your Dog
by Lisa Pallardy
For many people, summer vacation means vacation time. And it seems only natural -- since most pet owners consider their dogs to be members of the family -- that we would want to take our dogs with us when we vacation.
If you're traveling by car for your vacation and plan to take your dog with you when you travel -- at any time of the year -- there are several things you'll need to consider before embarking on your journey.
Before you even back out of the driveway, make sure your dog is wearing an id tag, preferably two, on two separate collars. The id tag should be engraved with your name and a phone number where you can be reached while you're traveling. Remember, you aren't going to be home, so if your dog becomes lost while you're vacationing, there won't be anyone at your home to answer a phone call when he's found. It's a good idea to have your cell phone number, your destination phone number, or the phone number of a friend or relative who will be able to reach you while you're traveling. Even if your dog has a tattoo or microchip identification, the average person who finds your dog may not know to look for these types of identification. And if they do, it won't be as quick or convenient (since they will have to go to a properly equipped vet's office to read the microchip, and if it's a weekend or holiday, this could take several days) as just reading your dog's id tag.
Since traveling in a car for more than a couple of hours can be highly stressful for your dog, several weeks before your trip begin taking your dog for rides in the car to help familiarize him with it, and to help teach him proper "car travel" etiquette. During these "practice sessions" be sure he travels in either a crate or a harness, or behind a barrier, however he will be traveling when you actually leave for your trip. This way, he can begin to become familiar with the routine.
A list of important items bring along to make your car trip with your dog more enjoyable includes:
- Food and water bowl (collapsible bowls are handy for travel)
- Food and fresh water (it's best to bring along your dog's regular dog food to keep his diet consistent)
- Two collars and two id tags
- A few toys
- Some favorite treats
- A grooming brush
- If you're camping, be sure to pack flea and tick repellant, and a pair of tweezers to remove ticks
- A favorite blanket and/or bed
- Small plastic bags (to clean up after him when you stop for potty breaks)
- Any medications your dog is taking
Some people choose to sedate their dog to help make the travel easier. Whether or not you choose to do this is a personal decision you'll need to make after discussing it with your vet. However, if your dog is prone to excessive agitation and/or stress while traveling, this may be the best option if you absolutely must take him with you.
It cannot be stressed enough that you should NEVER, under any circumstances, leave your dog in your car in any kind of weather. When it's hot, heat stroke can happen very quickly. In the winter, he could suffer from hypothermia. And believe it or not, even in "good weather" it's important that you never leave your dog in your car, because some dogs can become extremely protective of the car and be aggressive to people who are walking by. Plus, there's always the concern that someone could steal him, which happens frequently!
As long as you're prepared, and allow extra time for your trip, you should be able to have enjoyable vacation with your dog. Enjoy!
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