While road trips with the family dog can bring much enjoyment, there are many mishaps that need to be avoided if you decide to take your dog on an extended vacation adventure. The truth is that your dog is at risk when you are traveling because accidents happen, and some dogs are not suited for travel because of physical impairment, illness, or temperament.

So before planning a trip with your dog, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Will your dog be welcome at the vacation destination?
  2. Is she in good health?
  3. Will she enjoy the trip?

If you can honestly answer “yes” to these questions, you need to devote some extra time to prepare for the trip. Unless she already enjoys long car rides, begin taking her on short rides every day, gradually increasing the length each time. ( If she is nervous or tense, it might be wise to leave her home with a pet sitter or at a boarding kennel that you have carefully checked out!)

  • Free –roaming dogs are a hazard both to themselves and to the humans in the car with them, and it is important to practice with the system that you will be using to restrain her while traveling. Two major options are a seat belt or a crate. Crates are great as long as the dogs are comfortable in them, but some dogs have had previously bad experiences and live in fear of them, and seat belts need to be introduced slowly to a dog.
  • Don’t start out in the car, but take fun walks as your dog wears the harness part of the restraint system attached to his leash. Remove the harness when the fun time ends and praise him, so that he associates the harness with fun. Then move to riding in a car. Most dogs will acclimate to a seat-belted harness very quickly.
  • Keep him out of the front seat. Air bags can save human lives in the event of an accident, but they can be deadly for dogs.
  • Keep his head inside the car. Dogs love to stick their heads out the windows of a moving car, but this is downright dangerous. Eye injuries are most common among dogs riding with their heads out the window.
  • On the road, stop to let your dog stretch his legs about every two hours. Always attach the leash BEFORE opening the door of the vehicle, and keep him leashed at all times.
  • Offer water, and be sure to clean up any droppings. Dogs usually do not eat, drink or eliminate the same as they normally do at home, and it is important to monitor them carefully when around other dogs or humans.
  • Be sure to pack a doggie bag especially for your four-footed traveling companion.

Doggie Road Travel Bag:

  • Extra Bedding
  • Dog food and bowls for food and water (include a can opener if you use canned food)
  • Any medications that the dog may be on.
  • Identification tags with current information securely attached to the dog, and a folder with registration papers
  • A photo of your dog, and other identification aids
  • Your veterinarian’s telephone number, and any other info that might be needed in case of an emergency.
  • Clean up bags and paper towels for muddy paws and general clean up.
  • Treats, and toys (a few of her favorites from home)

Keeping these tips in mind will help ensure a safe, enjoyable vacation for both you and your companion animal.