Whether it be by train, plane or automobile, traveling with our furry friends can be a fun experience but it can also be stressful and dangerous!So here are some top travel tips to help make holidaying with your hound easier and safer for you both!
Expect the Unexpected
You may be one of the lucky people that have never had a car accident but please still read on, as most people will have a couple of scrapes at some point in their lives. No matter how good a driver you are, you can’t always foresee hazards on the road, whether that be flood water, an animal or person running out in front of you or other irresponsible drivers on the road.
Even stopping suddenly at 10 M.P.H. your beloved pet is at risk of injury-but this doesn’t have to be the case. There are a number of easy and inexpensive precautions to significantly reduce the risks and help keep both you and your furry traveling companion safe.
Top 10 Tips for Safe & Happy Canine Car Journeys
#1 Don’t let your dog roam around the inside of the car. They can impede your driving and distract you – just like kids! If you have to stop or swerve suddenly, they can immediately become a high velocity projectile (just like a bullet from a gun!) and thrown into the dashboard, windshield, the back of a seat or the head of the person in front. At the very least your pet will suffer emotional distress, worsened by cuts, bruises and broken bones from blunt force trauma.
#2 Never let them sit in your lap or on the edge of your set next to an open window. Not only does this impede your driving, if you stop short or have a head-on impact, they can be crushed between you and the steering wheel, injured by airbags or ejected from the car into moving traffic.
#3 Don’t let your dog roam unsecured in the back of a truck. Secure a crate to the bed of the truck and keep your dog inside of it. The risks posed to those furry friends are 100 times greater than those loose inside of a vehicle.
#4 Dogs should stay restrained in the backseat or cargo area of your vehicle. A metal separator is not enough to keep your pet safe; that really only prevents them from jumping into the seat in front and hitting the dashboard in a sudden stop or accident. It won’t prevent injury if your vehicle rolls or is impacted and if the window is open in their space, they can still be ejected.
There are many good safety harnesses and crates available today which prevent this kind of injury to your pets.
Safety Harnesses – These come in a range of price and quality but try to invest in one that is sturdy, padded for comfort and designed for automobile use. And remember to use it on even the shortest of journeys as, sadly, most accidents occur close to home. The harness should be on a short enough tether to anchor them in the event of an accident or sudden stop, but long enough to allow your dog room to stand up, turn around, move a bit from side to side and lay down when they want.
Crates – Many dogs, especially nervous or new travelers are often more at ease in crates. Buy the sturdiest crate you can, preferably crash-tested and approved. Place it in the car with the long side against the seat back, to avoid extreme impact on one part- possibly the head- of the animal in case of a crash. Then secure it not only with the seatbelt but also with a couple of wide, heavy-duty luggage straps. You might have a mechanic install anchors for these.
In the case of small dogs, placing the crate behind the front seats on the floor is reasonably safe but somehow anchoring it there is even better. This may require having bolts put in the car specifically for this purpose, like you would in the back of a truck.
Finally, fit it with their favorite blanket and favorite toy, so it feels more like home.
#5 Opening car windows is great for ventilation and feeling the wind through their fur but make sure your pooch can’t jump out if they see something they’d like to chase.
Avoid letting your dog stick their head or paws out of the car. Just like humans on a motorcycle, their head and eyes exposed to high speeds and wind without protection are at risk to dangerous highway debris or obstacles. Remind yourself of a time when a stone was kicked up from the road and hit your windscreen, when a bush or tree branch scratched the side of your car, when you’ve had to pass a wide truck and only had a hair’s breadth between your wing mirrors, or when a motorcyclist has come speeding up between you and the other lane… then imagine your beloved pet’s face sticking out and being hit by one of those things… Seriously, I know it makes for a great photo but your beloved pet doesn’t know the dangers. They rely on you to keep them safe and it’s just not worth the risk!
So, keep the air conditioning on, or just crack the windows, to let the air flow instead and let your dog get some fresh air on your regular pit stops – store up the fun for your vacation together!
#6 Keep their collar and tags on. It might seem more comfortable for your pup to have his collar off in the car, but if you crash and your dog panics, he may run away. Not everyone checks for microchips, so that little tag is still the best way to ensure their safe return.
#7 For longer car rides, remember your pup needs food, water and breaks too. Feed your dog a small meal a few hours before your trip, then make regular stops for water/food every hour or two, or when Fido gets overly restless; this will give you both a chance to stretch your legs. When travelling in high temperatures, you’ll need to stop more often, about every 30 minutes to offer your pooch water. These breaks are especially important if it’s your pet’s first car trip, or they don’t like cars because a stressed and nervous dog runs a higher risk of dehydration than a calm pet.
#8 Not all dogs like the car; some associate it with trips to the vet or groomer and others are simply of a nervous disposition. Newly adopted pets may become car sick or nervous due to a previous unknown trauma. Exercise them prior to the journey, so they get rid of excess energy and are ready for a rest.
Have a batch of specific treats your pooch really loves and use them ONLY for car journeys, so that it builds a positive association with the car.
Weather permitting, rolling down the window a little closest to your dog will help distract them by smelling the air around them and also assists with limiting nausea. Better still, for their first journey, get another person to hold and comfort them, especially if they’re not in a secured crate.
Nervous dogs often prefer being enclosed in a crate as it feels like a den and covering it with a dark blanket reduces the motion they can see through the windows and makes them feel more snug, safe & secure.
#9 If you can’t afford a safety harness or crate, you can always loop a strong, thick leash through the seatbelt to restrict your dog from moving around and while it may not be 100% effective, it lessens the risk significantly and something is better than nothing!
#10 Put down a towel or sheet on your back seat, to protect it from muddy paws, hair and toenail snagging. Also, if your dog is prone to car sickness, you won’t be distracted or worried if they vomit and you can just pull over at your earliest opportunity.
Flying With Your Furry Friend?
• Learn the airline’s pet policy. There are often fees associated with flying your pup and certain breeds are almost never allowed to fly or only allowed to fly seasonally. Some airlines have a strict ‘No canine passengers’ policy.
• The ideal is to travel with your pet in the cabin but if your furry friend won’t fit under your seat, a crate is be the best option. But make sure you select a specially approved travel carrier to ensure your best friend’s safety and comfort. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around comfortably.
• Prepare your dog for hours alone in a crate. Practice with your dog and the crate several weeks before the flight date, so that they associate their crate with positive experiences and seem happy to spend some time in their crate alone with you nearby. Leave the crate out in your home with the door open and with their usual comfortable bedding and favorite toy in it. Feed your dog with the crate door open and work your way up to feeding with the door closed. Keep the same blanket & toy in the crate, to provide warmth and comfort for the duration of the flight.
• If your pooch has to be checked into the belly of the plane, consider freezing a bowl of water. This way, it won’t spill when you’re transporting it, but will have melted by the time the dog gets thirsty. It’s also worth taping a small pouch, preferably made of cloth, of dried food outside the crate, so that airline personnel will be able to feed your pet in case he gets hungry on long-distance flights or a layover.
• Camping is one of the most popular vacation activities for furry families but don’t let your pooch run loose unsupervised. With so many new smells to explore in the great outdoors, it can be exciting for a dog, but there are also dangers to be aware of, from wild animals, to steep drops, to poisonous plants. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so keep your dog on a leash during a camping trip.
• Stay close at night. Though it may not be appealing to have a dirty pup that’s been playing in the woods all day asleep beside you, a dog tied up outside risks weather and wild animal hazards (for you both!), so keep them in the tent, cabin or RV with you.
• Check the hotel/motel policy on pets before booking. If you are bringing your dog to a hotel, do some planning. Nothing is worse than trying to check into a hotel after an exhausting journey, only to discover that your extra-large pooch does not meet their size or breed restrictions.
• Bring your dog’s crate or a dog bed from home if it’s practical, as it will be familiar to your dog and will help make them feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. By having a crate, your dog has a piece of home, and a place to stay when you aren’t in the room. Make sure to train your dog before the trip, so it will be used to the crate.
• If your dog is allowed to stay at a hotel, respect other guests, staff and the property. I know it’s hard to believe, but not everyone loves dogs!
• Keep your dog as quiet as possible and do not leave them unattended. Many dogs will bark or destroy property if left alone in a strange place.
• Ask the management where you should walk your dog and ensure you pick up their poop.
• Remember that one bad experience with a dog guest may result in the hotel management asking them to leave and potentially refuse to allow any dogs in the future. Be considerate of others and leave your room and the grounds as you found them.
Health and Safety
• Arrange a check-up with your veterinarian before going on an extended trip. Make sure all their vaccinations are up to date and bring the shot records with you. Health certifications are required for airline travel.
• To keep your dog healthy as you travel and help get them settled in to unfamiliar surroundings, bring along a supply of their regular food and treats. Be sure to bring any medications they need and usual supplements to keep them in tip top condition.
In the event that your dog gets away from you on your trip, you can increase the chances of a safe and swift recovery by making sure they can be properly identified:
• Be sure your dog has a sturdy leash and collar. The collar should have identification tags with the dog’s name, your name, and your telephone number, as well as proof of rabies shots. Remember to attach a temporary tag with details of your vacation address and contact number too.
• Consider a permanent form of identification, such as a microchip.
• Bring a recent picture of your dog along with you.
Additional Things to Pack
• Paper towels, stain and odor remover and anything else you need to clean up after any accidents.
• Plenty of poop bags.
• A bowl, plenty of water, and some treats.
• Seat covers (an old towel or blanket with plastic bags underneath works) if you want to protect your car from stains, hair and toenail scratches.
• Make sure you have at least 3 days’ worth of food and any medication your pet needs, a warm blanket, towels, a pet first-aid kit and toys, in case you get stuck on the road due to adverse weather, major traffic incidents or if your vehicle breaks down.
Wishing you and your canine companions happy travels!
Helen & The FidoActive Team
About the Author:
Helen Broadley is co-founder of FidoActive, a small business of life-long dog owners and dog lovers who have been motivated, by their own experiences, to create superior, all-natural products that promote good health in all canine companions. Helen has been surrounded by dogs since her childhood and been a dog parent all her adult life – from pedigrees to mutts – but she loves them all the same!
She regularly volunteers at animal shelters, often having that as her main vacation activity. FidoActive also supports the amazing work of many community rescue shelters across the USA through product donations, to help get their furry residents in tip-top condition whilst waiting for their forever home.
The FidoActive team believe wholeheartedly that the best way to reward their best friends’ unconditional love and loyalty is by helping them to have a healthy, happy and active life.
Fido means faithful & loyal– a quality that your dog gives unconditionally
Active is what we want every dog to be!
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