Make Sure Everyone is Road Trip Ready
You check your car tires, you grab your road trip creature comforts, so be sure to check whether your dog is ready for a longer car trip. If your dog rides in the car often, but never for long distances, add a few longer trips – 1-2 hours – before taking your vacation to see how they do. If your dog rarely rides in the car and mainly just to the vet, then be sure to set aside enough time before the trip to practice.
“For really anxious dogs, you can organize a fun game in the car when it’s not moving,” says Step Rousseau, Kurgo’s canine behaviorist and trainer. “Make sure the car is parked securely, hide treats around the car, and then encourage your dog to find them,” she says. “The idea is to associate the car with happy experiences.” She says to play this game several times a week until your dog is excited to be around the car and will easily jump in and out. Now try some short trips working up to 1-2 hour trips.
Just in case of motion sickness or accidents, you can still consider covering your seats with a waterproof car seat cover or dog hammock.
The Front Seats Should Be a Human-Only Zone
Distracted driving accidents are on the rise and a dog can certainly be a distraction. Nearly 30% of drivers admit to being distracted by their dog while driving (AAA/Kurgo Study). Pets should never under any circumstances be allowed in the front seat with you where they can get in the way of driving. The best option is to use a dog car harness to keep them in the back.
Uncontained dogs are dangerous – for you and them. An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of force on anything it hits, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert about 2,400 pounds of force. This can injure and even kill other humans in the car, not to mention injuring the dog too.
Your dog is also part of the family, right? So, they need to be buckled up for their own safety. If you use a crash-tested dog car harness, your dog is safely buckled up just like you.
Stop Often & Stay Hydrated
“Take frequent breaks for water,” says Dr. Susan O’Dell, Kurgo’s consulting veterinarian. She recommends every 40 minutes to an hour. Some dogs have anxiety in the car and tend to pant more which means they need more water than on a normal day. Be sure to bring along water and a dog travel bowl for them to get a drink. Throw a 2 gallon jug of water in your trunk for trips of 3 hours or more.
“Please Keep All Arms, Legs, Paws & Heads Inside the Vehicle at All Times”
If you wouldn’t let your child hang out the window of a moving vehicle, then the same should go for your pets. “Even though dogs “like it,” it simply isn’t worth the risk of your pet possibly being clipped by a passing vehicle, having debris kicked up into their eyes or exposing their lungs to exhaust pollution,” says. Dr. O’Dell. By keeping your windows up, you also prevent any opportunity for your pet to hop out the window when the car is stopped.
Secure & ID Before Opening the Door
Hundreds of pets are lost or injured each year when they dart out of cars uncontrolled, which is heartbreaking considering how simply this could be prevented. Before opening the door in a strange place, be sure your dog is secured so they can not jump out and run off. You can do this by using a car harness that is connected to your vehicle seat belt or a leash tied to a fixed point and attached to a harness. Never drive with a secured leash on a collar as you might choke your dog on a sudden stop.
Also be sure your dog is microchipped and is wearing id tags on their collar or harness. A lost dog is going to find its way back to you sooner if they have an easy to read and act on id tag.
Never Leave Your Dog Alone
It should go without saying that a dog should never be left unattended in a car, regardless of the weather or the amount of time you’re gone. The most obvious danger is heat, especially when considering that when the outside temperature is 70 degrees, the interior of the car can reach 89 degrees within 10 minutes and 104 degrees within 30 minutes. So, make sure you can include your dog in vacation activities or you have a back-up plan like a pet sitter or doggy day care where they can be left to have some fun.
For more tips, check out this Pet Travel Safety Tips Video:
About Kurgo Products
Kurgo is dedicated to helping people get out and enjoy the world with their dogs. As the leading pet travel and outdoor products company, Kurgo makes everything from crash-tested dog harnesses for the car to car seat covers to outdoor gear like dog backpacks and booties. Go together.