If you think the road is a stressful place, imagine what it’s like for your dog. Sure, we all hate traffic jams, red lights and sudden stops but this situation is ten times worse for your pet, who has no idea what’s going on.
Here’s a few ways you can make travelling by car easier for your four-legged friend, even if you can’t contain your own road rage:
Restrain them properly
This might seem obvious, but your dog’s safety is paramount. Just like you’d strap a baby into a car seat, restraining your pet properly before setting off is essential. After all, there’s nothing more distracting than a dog bouncing around your car when you’re trying to watch the road ahead. The RSPCA suggests a dog guard or a harness that you clip into/onto a seat belt or buckle. However, these vary and it’s important to get the right size for your dog. Fortunately, we have everything from extra small to large harnesses right here. It’s a good idea to get them used to wearing one before going on a car journey so that it does not stress them out when they’re clipped into your car for the first time.
Make sure they’re comfortable
If your pet finds the road particularly stressful, a cosy den in the boot might be a better option, assuming your dog is well-behaved enough to sit still, that is. One option is to use a cage, where they can curl up and ride not just safely, but also comfortably. Make sure it’s big enough for your furry friend (they should be able to stand up, turn around, and sit down at full height), make sure to cushion it with pillows and bedding to ensure you have a content pup. If your dog isn’t afraid of small spaces or being covered up, you can also throw a blanket on top to enhance the calm and quiet atmosphere. Hopefully your dog will be pleased with their own personalised happy place and will cope better with the changing environment around them.
How about a barrier?
It’s cute when they want to sit on your lap, although this isn’t the case when you’re driving. If your dog really can’t stand being strapped in but keeps hopping out of their bed, the solution could be a barrier. These can be installed in-between the front seats of your car, acting as a barricade for an overly excited or anxious dog. Several types are available but make sure to get one that accurately fits your car to ensure maximum safety.
This is not so much of an issue if you’re just popping to the local vet, but if you’re going on a long car ride, be sure to take plenty of breaks. Keep water and dog-friendly snacks at hand to avoid dehydration and hunger and make sure your pooch has plenty of loo breaks. We all know road trips can be boring, so chew toys are a must for keeping your pet entertained, as is exercise. Driving with Dogs helps you find spots on your route to take your dog for a walk, as well as highlighting dog-friendly places in the area.
Check the temperature
If you have to leave your dog in the car while you stop for a loo break, check the temperature first – no one wants a hot dog! Leaving your pet in a sweltering car can be considered a criminal offence in the UK under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act.
If a dog which has been left alone inside a hot vehicle became ill, or the action resulted in a fatality, the owner could be prosecuted for neglect and if convicted, face up to six months in custody and/or a fine of up to £20,000.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as cracking a window open or parking in the shade, as dogs can still overheat. Plan ahead to find dog-friendly places to rest so you can take your pal with you and avoid getting a fine.
Finally, preparation is important
If you have a long drive planned with your pup in the near future, acclimatise them with shorter trips to local places first, especially if they’ve never travelled before. You can also find ways to convince your dog that the car is a happy place, where they’ll be going on adventures, to lessen their anxiety. Give them a treat as a “well done” for getting in the car or play their favourite game when you reach the other end.
When the time comes for your big trip, feed them two hours before you’re set to leave and give them a chance to go to the toilet, as dogs handle travel more easily on an empty stomach. Make sure they also get plenty of exercise beforehand, as this will tire your dog out making them feel more relaxed and more likely to sleep on the journey away. If your dog still suffers from anxiety during car trips, a DAP collar may be the answer. This nifty invention releases synthetic hormones that can calm your dog temporarily, making the expedition easier on both of you.