Good Dog’s Guide: Road Trips

The great American road trip is a summer staple. And if you’ve always wanted your furry friend along for the ride, this is a must-read. With a little planning and patience, you and your pooch’ll both be wagging your tails in no time. Here’s your roadmap to dog-friendly road tripping:

Puppare for the new normal. This dang pandemic has changed everything from how we dine to how we walk at Target, and even our blessed driving pastime now requires new considerations. Be sure to call ahead to any hotel, restaurant stop, or campground just to make sure that any dog-friendly information online reflects current reopening guidelines. Current road trip best practices involve considering ways to minimize contact with others, which might mean fewer stops, more packed snacks (yay!), and even bringing extra bottled water for you and the pup. And as always, don’t furget to load up on sanitizer!

Know thy dog. You hear this from us a lot, but it couldn’t be more important. Not every pup is destined to go cross-country. Talk to your vet and trainer before you and the pooch hop in the car for that 15-hour trip. They can help with anxiety, nausea, and general discomfort issues. And don’t forget practice makes perfect; take some test drives.

Be realistic. Are you and the fam going to be enjoying a lot of no-dogs-allowed activities? Then this likely isn’t the best trip for the pup. Consider boarding, hiring a pet sitter, or leaving your dog in the hands and home of a trustworthy friend.

Get checked. While visiting the vet, get up to date with vaccinations and ensure your pooch doesn’t have any illness symptoms. (Road tripping with a sick dog = no fun.) Pets crossing state lines need a recent health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination. International travel rules can be even stricter.

ID up. Even calm dogs can experience anxiety and fear in new places, increasing run-away risk. Be sure your pup has proper identification and a microchip. An additional temporary ID with the phone number and address of your getaway is also a great idea.

Pack for your pooch. Your dog should have her usual creature comforts to help keep her content. The basics — a pet first-aid kit, water bowl, jug o‘ fresh water, usual food, and beloved toy — are non-negotiables. It’s also not a bad idea to bring along your dog’s medical records just in case. And keep both the canine and human treats to a minimum while on the road to avoid stomach upset (fast food isn’t good for you or Fido).

Plan your stay. Not every hotel is going to welcome your buddy with open arms, so do your research. When seeking respite at a hotel, make sure your pooch has a safe place to relax, like her crate, and a special chew toy or treat as a way to keep calm.

Secure Scout. A pet who is not properly restrained is not just a hazard to himself but to everyone in the vehicle (and on the road!). In fact, some states even require it. Heed the CPS’s advice when shopping around and know that the only safe place for your pup is inside the vehicle.

Master mindfulness. Think about it: We humans stay on top of taking regular potty, stretch, and snack breaks while on the road. Keep an eye on any behavioral cues about when it’s “time to go,” and be generous about taking short play/walk breaks in a secure area. Try to keep your pup to his daily routine as much as possible.

Roll up the window. Yes, dogs just love taking in the sights and smells at 60 mph. But it’s a dangerous habit that can result in eye and ear injuries — or worse. Crack the window if you like, but don’t let your pooch hang halfway out.

Mind the golden rule. And last but certainly not least, never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, especially in the sizzling summer months. Need proof of just how dangerous this is? Check out this vid made by a vet who dared to spend 30 minutes in a parked car.

—Blair Shackle


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