Car travel with your dog isn't quite as easy as opening the door and commanding, "Hop in." From safety concerns to motion sickness treatments, here are the best ways to prep your pooch for the ride.
What could be better as you drive than the wind in your hair and your furry best bud at your side? But whether you're planning a road trip or just a few errands, safety comes first. "There are the same risks for your dog as for a child roaming freely in the car," says Victoria Wells, senior manager of behavior and training with the ASPCA. Plus, dogs can suffer anxiety or physical unease in the vehicle. With some safety tips and training, though, your pooch will be ready for the road.
It's tempting to let your pup sit on your lap or ride in the passenger seat, but this is incredibly dangerous - as is letting a dog ride with its head out the window. "Dogs should be restrained in the car," says Lindsey A. Wolko, founder of the Center for Pet Safety, in Reston, Virginia. "They can distract you from driving, and if you stop short or get into an accident, they can be seriously injured or worse." (Their hurtling mass can also hurt human passengers.) Studies show that backseat harnesses may be the best form of restraint; the safety of crates is still being tested.
Go for a test drive
"Even before you get in the car, get your dog used to the restraint," says Wells. If you'll be using a crate, start feeding your dog and giving it treats while the crate is still inside your home, she says. After a few days, move the crate into the car, and again, feed and treat. Advance to driving to a place your dog loves, like the park. "These increments help build a positive association with the car," says Wells.
Quell the queasies
Some dogs get carsick. Sometimes they vomit or have diarrhea, but they might also "whine, pace, pant or drool," says Wells. To keep your dog from vomiting, don't feed it for three to four hours before travel, says Kirsten Theisen, director of pet-care issues at the Humane Society of the United States. Your vet can also recommend car-sickness medication. And during pit stops, never leave your dog alone in the car with the windows up - even in the cold of winter. "If your car is in the sun, it can get warmer than expected and overheat your dog," Theisen says. Chances are, your dog will want to be walking along at your side, just as at home.
Have gear, will travel
Before you head out on the highway, there are a few items you should pack to help your dog feel like it never left home.
- Toting a doggie dish isn't awkward or bulky with the foldable Randal bowl and bag, complete with a handy clip. Use the set for kibble or water. $36, billywolfnyc.com.
- Picking up after your pooch is the least glamorous part of pet care, but you can do it in style, thanks to the Rufus waxed-canvas poopbag holder. $25, billy wolfnyc.com.
- The Martha Stewart Pets booster seat for dogs fits pups up to 25 pounds, clips to the seat belt and has an open top and window. $69, petsmart.com.
- Great for larger dogs, the Sleepypod Clickit Utility safety harness works with your car's latch system and doubles as a leash harness at pit stops. $90, petswag.com.
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