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Sunday, July 03, 2005


On The Road With Your Dog

TRAVELING WITH YOUR PET: On The Road With Your Dog To ThePetCenter.com

On The Road With Your Dog

Maybe you’ll be lucky and your dog will be a “Napper”. On the other hand your canine car companion could be the embodiment of Rover Road Rage. You won’t know until you try.

Let’s start out on our own literary journey down this freeway of discovery and try to understand the many facets of successful traveling with a dog. And the best place for us to start is with a puppy. If you have an adult dog that has not traveled before, skip this puppy class and proceed to ON THE ROAD.

Puppies are smart. They just don’t know it yet. So you’ve got to show them how smart they are by putting them through a few little practice sessions prior to show time. Soon after you have that new pup home, spend some time in the car with it while the engine is off and the car is parked. Tiny tidbits of treats will assure the little rascal that cars are a neat place for snacking. After a few practice sessions, do the same routine with the engine running in a well-ventilated area (NOT in the garage!) Do not get all excited about how great the puppy is doing and be overly praising, if you do, your smart little pup will think this car stuff is a big deal and we don’t want that. To a dog, cars are just another area for snoozing or introspective world watching. If you are quiet and passive the pup will take your lead and learn to relaxed.

Gently speak to the pup. Sit quietly and try to show the pup that being in the car is normal and not a place for rope tugging, barking or games of “betcha-can’t-catch-me”. You set the tone. If you have to assert yourself, do so. Command the pup to sit and stay… then offering tiny rewards for being good will reinforce the self-control. That smart little pup will begin to understand what YOU want and expect. Remember that what you do now will set the stage for years of happy traveling together.

NOTE: Many veterinarians and pet owners believe strongly in buckling up pets in a car just as you would a child. There are many types of restraining devices for dogs that could significantly add to the safety of travel and you should seriously consider using such a device to keep your dog in place during a trip and to ensure additional safety in case of an accident.

Ok… so now after a few days of sitting in the parked car with the engine running, it’s time to strike out on that long ribbon of highway that leads right around the block and back into the driveway. The same rules apply: Calmness and control shall prevail. This is a good time to get the pup used to a restraining device that will secure the pup comfortably in the seat and yet will allow adequate mobility. Any signs that the pup wants to bark or climb through the window (they are closed, right?) to greet those moving trees, busses and other living creatures should be met with a firm command to "sit" and "stay". Reward with a tiny treat. In the beginning keep the trips short and be firm with your control of the situation. (Did I mention that this takes two people? It’s preferable to have a licensed driver at the wheel while you conduct riding etiquette school.) If you have more than one puppy, do not try to teach them both at the same time. Their attention will be directed toward each other and not on you.

As the schooling progresses the pup will get the idea that trips in the car are normal occurrences and are not constructed for the pup’s amusement. You will find your puppy pal will be a pleasure to have in the car with you and that it won’t tell anyone about your off key sing-alongs to the “Oldies”.


The very first rule of traveling with your pet is to have an ID tag or other means of identification securely affixed to the dog. Thousands of dogs end up in shelters simply because the owners never dreamed the dog would get loose or become lost while on a trip. There are few disasters in a person’s life that are worse than having to drive off without a pet because every means of locating and recovery have failed. This kind of tragedy will haunt you for the rest of your life; don’t let it happen. Get an ID tag!

Before you leave make sure you consider the option of leaving your dog in a hometown kennel. Most dogs love being in a kennel; there’s lots of activity, they get special attention and in most cases consider a stay in the kennel like we would a stay at the beach. Visit the local kennel and see what goes on. Also there may be a Pet Sitter in your area who would tend your pets in your own home. With a Pet Sitter you can even call home and tell your dog how much fun you’re having... oh, yes, and also how much you miss the rascal.

In the following section we’ll sample a few ideas that will help facilitate a safe and enjoyable road trip. Make sure you know how your dog reacts to trips by taking a number of local short trips, then if you need to take an “all-dayer” you’ll have a good idea of what to expect. Any “all-dayer” is just a bunch of short trips anyway. So, before you set off on that cross country trip be sure that you are confident that you can predict how your dog will behave.

Vomit happens. Sometimes even humans get carsick. Most dogs can overcome motion sickness through desensitizing them by using the same training sequences of steps as described above in the puppy training. Gradually accustom the dog to spending time in the car with the engine off, then with the engine on, then short trips, then the cross-country adventure. Prior to a trip be sure the dog has been fed at least three hours before you set off. You can also use anti-motion sickness medications to help settle the stomach and prevent the sometimes prolific drooling that occurs in a nauseous dog. Most medications are very safe antihistamines and many dogs eventually can travel without the aid of medical assistance. Just in case, bring a roll of paper towels.

Note: Motion sickness or hyperactivity? Here’s the difference… dogs with motion sickness are generally quiet and even a little depressed because they feel awful. They will drool all over the place, maybe even pass stool, and eventually start vomiting. Even with an empty stomach the vomiting reflex can be very strong. These dogs will greatly benefit from anti-motion sickness medication if it is given long enough in advance of the trip to be working before the dog even suspects that a ride in the car is imminent.

The dog that goes bonkers when in a vehicle demonstrates hyperactivity. These dogs aren’t sick, they’re possessed! Salivating, panting, whining, jumping from front seat to back, barking at butterflies and trying to sit on the steering wheel are common characteristics of the hyperactive canine traveler. If you must bring the hyperactive dog with you, medication to sedate the dog will surely make the trip safer, easier and less stressful for both the dog and the human.

What do you do with the dog that simply cannot control itself once that engine starts and the wheels begin to roll? If you have really tried to train the dog to do as it is told but the motion and noise of traveling are simply overpowering and turn your dog into a slathering, panting, barking demonstration of a Tae Bo exercise, there’s hope! Call your veterinarian and describe the demonstration. Then request medication that will “take the Tae out of the Bo”. There are a number of safe medications that will allow your dog to travel without all that stress, noise and confusion. It will be a safer trip for both of you, not to mention less stressful.

The key to successful use of pretrip medication is to administer it well before the trip starts. Some dogs start their Tae Bo routine as soon as they HEAR the word car! Be nonchalant, sneak a little medication in a treat, and don’t mention the c a r anywhere near the dog prior to your trip. If you believe your dog may be a candidate for medication, be sure to do a leisurely pretrip trial well ahead of the time you REALLY need it. About one dog out of ten will not respond well to a particular medication or a particular dose. You do not want to find this out the morning of an eight-hour, midwinter trip through the Rockies to accept that national writing award you won for the article on "Logical Steps To Effective Planning".

Yours should always be on the traffic, not on the dog. If your traveling pal is a little dog, they usually will curl up next to you on the seat and catch up on some sleep. Do not ever allow them to go near the driver side floor where the brake and gas pedals are located. Big dogs may be best situated in the back seat and then you can legally refer to the dog as your navigator. If you choose not to use a seat restraint a gate type barrier between the front and the back seats is a good idea to prevent an unexpected visit from your traveling companion.

These inventions are very handy. Your dog, if happy and comfortable in a crate, will be safer and you will have the peace of mind knowing it is secure when you must leave your dog alone for short periods. If you do use a crate, be certain that the dog is totally accustomed to it well prior to the trip. PetFoodDirect.com has an assortment of crates, leashes and other restraining devices that will add to the safety and enjoyment of traveling with your pet.

Plan ahead… well ahead. If you know you will be staying overnight somewhere, be sure to have reservations at an establishment that welcomes pets. A handy list of “Pet Friendly” motels/hotels can be found if you do a little searching.. Don’t even think about it if you hope to hide your dog in your room or think you will launch a successful appeal to the motel owner’s sense of sympathy if you show up with an unannounced Great Pyrenees. And don't forget to bring along some disposable "Scoop n Toss Bags"; you must be socially conscious about where your dog chooses to relieve itself. Be prepared!

Make your timetable consistent with occasional stops along a side road where your leashed dog can find relief. Many veterinarians do not think the Rest Stations along the Interstates are a particularly sanitary area for your dog. Not that you have to be fussy but why not select an area that avoids conditions where dozens of dogs have already baptized the environment? And be sure to have some “Pooper Pick-Ups” with you so that in the event of an unexpected deposit in a public area, you can perform the courteous cleanup immediately.

It wouldn’t hurt to pamper your pal… bring along your dog’s own food and water from home and you will be better off. Not that you’re fussy, right? And a few old towels or rags will make good cleanup devices if the dog happens to discover a mud puddle or contacts something nasty like spilled ice cream sundaes! Emergency first aid kits are very handy for you and the dog if a sudden cut, sliver or rash intrudes upon your day. Anti-itch medication, bandages, and antibiotic ointments may save the day when you least expect something will go wrong. It is a good idea to have your veterinarian give you a copy of the dog’s medical history to take with you just in case a visit to a veterinarian along the way becomes necessary.

Here’s a safety tip… Bring two leashes. That way you’ll have a spare when you misplace one. Your dog MUST be on a leash whenever you are in unfamiliar surroundings. All it takes is a split second for a disaster to start its fateful chain of events. There are hundreds of reasons why your dog has to be on a leash whenever you are not in your own back yard. Travel crates, human versions of dens, make great containment devices and many dogs enjoy hiding out in them while traveling; bring one if your dog likes the security of a crate.

Leaving a dog alone in a car has a number of potential risks. Always be conscious of the effects of heat buildup in a parked car. It only takes a few minutes for the internal heat to build up forty degrees above the outside air temperature especially if direct sunlight bakes the car. Even the dog’s body heat (expired air in the dog’s breath is 102 degrees!) will act like a heater inside the car. Leaving windows open slightly at the top surely helps IF there is a breeze. However, that opening also invites children to poke their fingers in or unkind folks to tease the dog with sticks. Be very cautious about leaving dogs unattended in parked cars. Heat stroke is a dire emergency and one from which many pets do not recover. And you'd be shocked to find out just how fast it can occur. If you ever find your pet distressed from overheating in a vehicle, get to the nearest animal hospital immediately... don't even call first; just GO! For minor mishaps, having a First Aid Kit on hand for your journey may be your wisest investment. And keep the phone number of your veterinarian accessible just in case you need to refill a lost prescription or need quick advice. Sadly, many pets are harmed every summer by inattention to the very real dangers of heat stroke. Look at more info on heatstroke in pets.

Don’t forget to bring along some fun toys and tasty treats. These will keep the dog contented for hours while you enjoy your trip. And bring the camera! Visit PetFoodDirect.com for lots of treats and toys to entertain your dog while on the go!


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