Travelling long distance with your pet: Insider tips from a vet
- by DR Roxanne Jones
There are a number of reasons you may need to take your dog with you on an extended trip. Maybe you’re relocating, or perhaps you want to take your pooch on holiday with you. In the latter case, not only do you get to inject even more fun into your trip, but you also enjoy the added benefit of not worrying about your furkids when you’re away.
It’s possible to have a safe, happy road trip with your dog in tow, but for their comfort and yours, we recommend you follow a few tips to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
10 tips for travelling with your dog
- Confine your pet to one area of the car
As much as you may dislike the idea, crating or retraining your pet is necessary when in the car. This serves two purposes: it prevents your pet from jumping around in the car and distracting the driver or getting in the way of the pedals, and it will also ensure your pet isn’t thrown around in the case of an emergency brake or impact.
- Find the type of restraint that is most suited to your pet
Whether your use a crate, a harness or a special pet seat belt will depend on various factors, and your vet will be the best person to advise you. Keep in mind that while you have seat belts and airbags, your dog doesn’t necessarily enjoy the same protection.
- Exercise first
A well-exercised dog is a tired dog, and that’s ideally what you want before setting off. Take your dog for a run or a long walk before embarking on your journey, and s/he’ll be more likely to sleep in the car. This is particularly helpful if you’re crating your pup.
- Keep the crate clear
If you’re crating your pet, make sure that the only thing inside is your pet and a comfy blanket. Anything else – especially leashes and loose collars – can present a strangling hazard. While we’re on the topic, it’s recommended that you use nylon collars when travelling, and not choke chains. Choke chains can get caught on items in the car and seriously injure your pet.
- If your dog has never been crated, practise first
It’s important to stay positive, in both your actions and the tone of your voice, when crating your pooch. If they hear sadness or anxiety in your voice, that will cause them to get anxious, believes world-renowned dog behaviouralist, Cesar Millan. Watch his video on training your dog for crate travel.
- Make car rides a regular activity
If you’re planning to travel with your pet often, get them used to the car by regularly taking them out on fun little trips – to the beach or the park, for example. This way, they won’t associate your car solely with trips to the vet, which is likely to cause anxiety and distress.
- Let your pets be backseat drivers
Never travel with your pet on the passenger seat. If you have an accident and your airbag deploys, it could cause serious harm to your pet. Airbags are designed to protect humans, not animals, who are smaller and lighter and could be injured by the force of the airbag
- Keep the fresh air flowing
Letting your pooch stick their head out of the window may be fun for them, but it’s not safe. Not only could they fall out or get injured in the event of an accident, but they can get dirt and bugs in their eyes and ears. Rather keep the windows shut and the fan or aircon circulating fresh air throughout the car.
- Lock window buttons and door handles
An excited pooch can easily stomp on the wrong button in the car and end up opening a door, or with their head caught in an electric window.
Finally, make regular stops to enable your pooch to stretch their legs, relieve themselves, rehydrate and have a snack. Try to stick to regular mealtimes where possible, as this will help them to maintain a bit of routine in an unfamiliar environment. Always take water with you in case there isn’t any when you stop, and have a leash on hand so they can have a little walk around and a sniff.
Pet-friendly holidays = the best kind of holidays!
Taking your dog on holiday with you will add to the fun and adventure, for both you and your pooch. When safe and possible, it’s always a great idea to include your furkids on family trips. After all, they’re part of the family.
Read more of our articles on dog health and wellbeing, or browse our online vet store to stock up on all the things you need before your trip. Happy travels!