How to Safely Take Car Rides With Your Dog

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Illustration for article titled How to Safely Take Car Rides With Your Dog

Photo: Javier Brosch (Shutterstock)

Traveling with your dog can eliminate the stress of kennels or paying someone to dog sit, and as more people are opting for long drives instead of flying, there are few things worth considering when bringing your dog along for the ride. I spoke with Gabriel Riesco, founder of Pawmos Pet Care, on how to prepare your dog for long trips on the road.

Safely secure your dog in the car

Safety is the number one priority for you and your dog when it comes to car trips. The Humane Society (HSPCA) says that dogs shouldn’t roam in the car, urging pet owners to travel with dogs in a well-ventilated carrier that can be strapped or secured with a seatbelt. Dogs who are allowed to roam can present a distraction for the driver and be a danger for both you and them. The HSPCA also suggests keeping your pet in the back seat, as front passenger airbags can injure your pet in an accident.

Riesco also recommends keeping your pet in a crate in the backseat, or the trunk if you have an SUV with open access to the crate from the back seat.

As much as our pets love the open air, keep your dog’s head inside the car at all times. Dogs “can be injured by particles of debris or made sick by having cold air forced into their lungs,” the HSPCA explains.

Consider your dog’s behavior before travel

Anxiety, territorial barking, excitement barking, and car sickness are common issues for dogs, Riesco explains. Anxiety can be brought on by excessive excitement, nervousness, and your dog’s past traumas:

Condition your dog to be calm and comfortable in the car before you do a long drive. If your dog is properly crate trained, the crate will take care of that. If not, just be mindful of not putting a lot of excitement when getting in the car. Excitement is not necessarily happiness and it tends to lead to anxiety … Relate the car with calmness and quiet time. The more relaxed and comfortable they are in the car, the better.

Help keep your dog from getting sick along the way

Motion sickness can be common for younger dogs. The Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) states this can go away as the dog gets older and their inner ear becomes more developed, but the main cause of motion sickness and vomiting in dogs is anxiety. Signs that your dog is feeling nauseous can include:

  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Whining
  • Panting
  • Lip-licking

You can help prevent motion sickness from anxiety by making them feel at home. Bring along their favorite toy, and give them an old t-shirt or blanket that smells like home to help give them a sense of comfort during the ride.

The Dog People with recommend buying a thunder shirt or calming collar to potentially reduce your dog’s stress and prevent messy accidents from happening. Be sure to take regular breaks and walk your dog along the way, as well—besides letting them go to the bathroom, “give them a break from the potentially conflicting sensory signals that might be causing their motion sickness, too” says veterinarian Jason Nicholas.

There’s also dog medicine to help them avoid the nausea. Dramamine can be useful, but may have side effects like sleepiness and dry mouth; ginger can be a natural way to calm nausea for you and your pet. You can hide ginger root it in a treat, or get ginger powders for easier consumption.

Get them used to the car

The best way to prepare your dog for long trips is to get them acquainted with the car right away, and build a tolerance and positive relationship with car rides. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends getting your dog used to car travel by taking them on small trips, then over time increasing the length. This can condition your dog to be calm and comfortable before long car rides, making for a more enjoyable trip all around.

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