My mutt has done his fair share of traveling in the last year. That means he has spent plenty of time in the car. Here are some tips for taking road trips with your dog.
1. Train your dog to exit the car on your terms.
All dogs are excited to travel and get out of the car and play as soon as possible. To prevent Ace from jumping out of the car and taking off the second I open the door, I trained him to wait until I say “OK.” I open the door and tell him to wait. Then I can put his leash on and situate my stuff before he jumps out. If your dog jumps out before you are ready, put her back in and tell her to wait. She will get the idea that she can’t get out until you are ready and she is calm. Ace also enters the car to the command “load up.”
2. Train your dog to stay in one spot.
My mutt knows his spot is the back seat. It’s annoying and dangerous to have a dog walking around the car, constantly switching seats, so I picked the back seat for Ace to ride every time. I make sure to always let him in and out through one of the back doors. That way he never has a reason to crawl into the front.
3. Invest in a collapsible kennel.
Before I discovered the collapsible kennel, I was actually trying to fit a Vari-Kennel in my Grand Am by taking it apart every time. Not only did this waste time, but the kennel barely fit in my car. The collapsible kennel, on the other hand, folds down to about 2 inches high and three feet long. It takes five seconds to fold it up or put together. It is just as sturdy and as big as the plastic Vari-Kennel once it’s set up. It makes traveling so much easier.
4. Exercise your dog before a long car ride.
Ace’s behavior in the car depends a lot on whether he’s had a walk shortly before our trip. If we have a five-hour drive ahead of us, I try to walk or run with him for a good half hour before we go. Of course, this isn’t always doable. When he doesn’t get a run in before our trip, he is more likely to cry in the car, which really tests my patience. Once we reach our destination, his behavior will vary, depending on the amount of exercise he’s had. It never hurts to walk Ace again once we reach wherever we are going.
5. Keep a blanket or towel on the seat.
I never have a clean car, but keeping a towel across the back seat where Ace sits helps at least a little with the muddy paws and dog hair. I just switch towels every two weeks or so. Plus, Ace likes to sleep on a towel or blanket. Some dogs will be more comfortable and less stressed if they have something familiar to sleep on while traveling, such as their usual dog bed or blanket.
6. Bring a favorite toy along.
I always keep at least one tennis ball in the car. That way if I have a few minutes here or there during the trip, I can let Ace out to chase a ball. This tires him out temporarily and gives him a chance to get out, stretch and run around.
7. Bring a supply of chew toys.
Dogs get bored in the car just like we do. I try to give Ace a rawhide during a long car trip. He also likes Kong toys, Nylabones or just about any hollow bones filled with peanut butter. If he has something to do every few hours in the car, he will be more content.
8. Bring enough food, dog bags and water.
It seems like I never have enough dog bags, so I try to keep a supply of at least three extras in the car. I also keep a dog bowl for Ace to drink from, extra bottled water and food.
9. Remember to check the weather.
It seems so obvious not to leave your dog in a hot car, yet every year pets die from hyperthermia. I absolutely never leave my dog in a hot car for even ten minutes. I would rather leave him in a cold car than a hot car. But in the winter, I bring a blanket along for Ace to curl up in if he will be waiting in the car at all.
10. Visit pet-friendly rest-stops.
Rest-stops in general usually have a pet area. This is much better than trying to let your dog out on a tiny patch of grass at a gas station or a McDonald’s. Some rest-stops even have walking paths and dog water fountains.