We have been travelling by car a lot in recent years. First, we had to drive from England to Italy. A year later, we had to go from Ukraine to Italy and then do a reverse journey. Now we are preparing to cross half of Ukraine to visit our relatives. By the end of March, we plan to be on our way to Italy again.
Mailo enjoys car rides, so he is positively a car dog. That makes our journeys smooth and peaceful. But what makes a dog appreciate being in the car for long hours?
Anyone considering hitting the road with their dog should follow certain tips and prepare their dog accordingly.
Your dog is ready.
So, first things first. Get your dog used to the car by letting him or her sit in it with you while parked. Then start going for short rides. It is important to let your dog get accustomed to the car. Car trips provide dogs with mental stimulation because they can observe the world outside through the window. They also get to sniff new smells and mark unfamiliar territories during stops. But, all that is going to be ruined if your dog has a behavioural issue or trauma related to the car. If that is the case, consult a dog behaviourist.
No car sickness.
Avoid car sickness by letting your dog travel on an empty stomach. Still, make sure he or she has plenty of water at all times. Your dog should stay hydrated at all times. If you suspect that the dog is dehydrated, check its gums. Sticky gums are a bad sign as they can also or show a heat stroke. Dry nose, panting, lack of energy, no appetite, dry or sunken eyes and loss of skin elasticity are all signs of dehydration.
Fresh air and comfort.
Keep the car well-ventilated. Your dog should be able to breathe freely and have access to fresh air. It is important for your dog to be able to change positions and be comfortable. No one appreciates being claustrophobic or numb limbs. If you are travelling during the cold season, make sure you have a cosy doggy blanket.
Make sure to not let your dog ride with his head sticking out of an open window. This can lead to eye injuries and it is not safe in general. Never let your dog ride in the back of an open truck. This is very dangerous and can cause severe injuries or fatality.
Safety Yet Again.
Last but not least, never ever leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle, especially in the summer. If you have to leave the car, assign a member of the family to stay with the pooch.
Additionally, there are five general rules to follow before committing to any journey.
Visit your dog’s vet before travelling. Do a check-up and make sure your dog is good to go for an extended ride. Make sure all vaccinations are up to date.
2. Prepare the necessities for a healthy trip.
Make sure to bring a supply of your dog’s regular food. Keeping your dog’s diet healthy is important. Provide plenty of clean water for the dog to stay hydrated. Take any medication your dog needs. Keep a towel and a blanket for your dog in the car.
3. Take all the documents with you.Dogs have their papers as well. If you are a responsible dog owner, you should keep your dog’s medical records updated. You may need them in case of an unexpected vet visit.
It’s an absolute must: your dog should have a microchip with your current details. It is also a good idea for your dog to wear a collar with a tag. That will allow people to contact you on the spot if they find your lost dog.
5. Get a doggy seatbelt.
Visit your local pet store or order it online. They come in different lengths and make sure your dog is secure in the car. Put a comfortable harness on your dog and attach the seatbelt to it.
6. Legal issues.
Wherever you are planning to go, make sure to check the local law on dogs. Unfortunately, not every country treats all breeds equally. Also, get to know how pet-friendly your destination is. It may become an issue if you need to book a hotel room.
From my experience, these tips and rules always prove to work. I have been traveling long distances by car since I was little. My father was doing all the driving and my mother was responsible for all the necessities. My part was very easy, sharing the backseat with our dog Buch. He was a total car dog, always relaxed and ready to go. I have fond memories of those trips.
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If you want to know more about improving your dog’s behavior in different situations and avoid excitement or anxiety in the car, check ‘Conquering Fear: Desensitization Method’ by Simone Burani.