Traveling with your dog can be the most fun and rewarding experience. But there are safety concerns along the way, and there should be some preparation for your trips, be they short or long.
I have a firm belief that animals within a car sadly become moving projectiles at the first short stop, and worse, any kind of collision. While you may think that your dog enjoys hanging their head out the window, keep in mind that some things do pass closer than you think, and unfortunately if the head can fit through a space, in a collision the body is likely to follow. I can’t even count the times I’ve seen people driving down the road with their little fluffy pet wedged between their upper body and the steering wheel, hanging a head and paws out the drivers window. Folks this is not safe by any stretch of the imagination. Not for the dog, nor the driver, and NOT for the other drivers or pedestrians on the road.
The safest and best thing you can do for your dogs and even your cats is to put a hard plastic crate in the car and safely secure it to either a seatbelt or with the hooks made for child seats. Keep a nice cushy mat inside it and for many dogs a nice high sided or bolster sided round or rectangular bed in there so they can comfortably nap on your trip. Especially for long trips a nice little container of water secured on the door is a very good idea. Some folk prefer a wire crate for airation, but as long as there is safe bedding in there, the chance of your dog becoming a projectile are severely limited and the distance their bodies can travel is as well. This is a much better and more secure and comfortable way of traveling and keeping pets safe. Of course there are some breeds like Great Danes who don’t fit unless you drive a large vehicle capable of handling a crate large enough. That would still be the best option, but at the very least a well secured and padded harness is of some help, and for a station wagon there are grills you can add to keep the dog from slamming forward into the driver or out the front window. Ideally, the crate option is the most secure and safe.
Make sure your pet is wearing a secure collar and identification tags and keep their leash handy by their crate. In the event of an emergency, if authorities need to get them out safely or free you from the car, your dogs are protected and can be safely removed rather than ending up on the freeway running in every direction.
Another great idea for traveling and so much more important for long trips is to have emergency instructions in your car/wallet/on the crate itself. Should something need to be done with your pet, you are letting authorities know your wishes and the dog’s or cat’s special needs. Also consider a note from yourself giving others authority to authorize both care and payment for services if necessary.
Things to include:
Your vet’s information, pet’s name, feeding and medicine instructions, who to call in an emergency that can retrieve and care for your pet, and make decisions. For long distances, a baggie of food and bottled water. A vaccination record will also be a wonderful addition, especially when crossing state lines. Please have your dog microchipped as well, it may very well be the difference between getting back a lost dog or not. And no matter how long your trip, PLEASE stock up on baggies for the occasional cleanup! The world around you will thank you.
Make sure that you’ve reserved yourself Pet Friendly hotels to stay at and observe their rules. More and more hotels and motels are no longer taking pets due to bad pet owners leaving messes and whose pets have damaged hotel property. If you must leave your dogs, make sure they are not going to bark and keep them crated with toys and water and bedding. Clean up promptly any mess that is made.
There are a number of books and websites now listing pet friendly places to stay. One of my favorites is the Dog Lovers Companion Book, now available for many states.