More and more people are on the go with their pets these days! Whether you’re bringing your best friend with you as you’re traveling on vacation, or letting your buddy ride shotgun in the car while you run various errands around town, there are a number of ways you can prepare ahead of time to make traveling with your dog safer and easier.
Here are 5 tips on how to make sure your best friend is safe and having a good time while hitting the road with you!
1. Be sure that your dog is wearing proper identification and safety gear - just in case.
Even if your dog is your best friend and would never leave your side, it’s important to have multiple forms of identification on your dog just in case of an unforeseen accident:
An ID tag with, at minimum, a good phone number. You may want to include your home address and/or e-mail address as well. Having an up-to-date rabies tag and a city license tag may also be required, depending on your location.
- A registered microchip. There are many dogs running around that have an implanted microchip which isn’t registered with the correct contact information. Click here for step-by-step instructions on ensuring that your dog’s microchip registration is up-to-date.
- If you want the peace of mind of always knowing where your dog is located, consider investing in a GPS pet tracker. These devices clip on to your dog’s collar and you can use an app to pull up your dog’s location on a map. This Whistle GPS Tracker monitors your dog’s activity throughout the day and will even send an alert notification to your cellphone if your dog tries to leave your home or other specified area (such as your campsite, your car, and more).
If you are hiking in the woods, or if you are walking near farm property, you should have your dog wear a bright orange hunting vest, such as this reflective vest from SafetyPup. You never know if someone with a firearm could mistake your dog for a wild animal or predator, and this is why visibility is extremely important, especially when you and your dog are exploring new areas together.
2. Depending on the mode of travel, ensure that your dog is properly secured.
Even if you’re just driving around town, it’s important to keep your dog secured in the car. Unrestrained dogs become projectiles when a vehicle stops or moves abruptly, even if it’s a relatively mild accident such as a rear end collision. This is a dangerous situation for both you and your dog.
Keep your dog contained in the back seat. The front seat is an unsafe location for your dog, since a deployed airbag may seriously injure or kill a dog. You may even want to invest in crash tested equipment, such as this Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness, or this Variocage Dog Crate.
If your dog likes to stick their head out the window to take in the sights and feel the fresh breeze, it becomes even more imperative that they are properly secured in a harness. Even with the window just cracked open, some determined dogs can squeeze out of a surprisingly tiny space. Don’t forget to protect your dog’s eyes, as well - these Rex Specs will allow your dog to have a full range of view, while also shielding their eyes from the sunlight, dust, and debris.
3. Keep plenty of fresh water on hand, and give your dog the opportunity to potty every 2-3 hours.
Your dog will probably get pretty thirsty with all the excitement of travel! There are a number of dog bowls on the market specifically designed for travel - such as this soft and collapsible Quencher Bowl by Ruffwear or this No Spill Bowl by Petmate. Most adult dogs like to potty between 3-6 times a day, so be sure to give your dog the opportunity to relieve themselves once every few hours.
4. Train your dog to be emotionally prepared for travel.
If your dog has spent many years of their life being a homebody, they may become stressed out if you suddenly thrust them into new situations like long car rides, hanging out at a busy brewery, or coming with you to work in a busy office. We recommend starting slowly and providing lots of positive reinforcement in the form of tasty treats.
For example, if you have a particular crate that you’d like your dog to use for travel, start out by placing the crate in your living room and feeding your dog’s meals out of the crate. You could offer a bully stick, a stuffed frozen Kong, or some other long lasting chew.
Keep your dog contained in the crate while they’re actively chewing their treat, then let them out as soon as they’re finished. Move the crate to your car and start taking very short trips to locations that you know your dog will enjoy (such as to the park, where you can play a quick round of fetch).
Short, repetitive exercises such as these will quickly teach your dog that being crated is not a scary thing.
5. Train your dog to come when they are called, no matter what.
If you’re planning on letting your dog offleash, whether you’re hiking in the mountains, taking a stroll along an open space, or splashing alongside the river, your dog needs to have a 100% solid recall.
When you are out exploring the world with your dog, the two of you will encounter things that you don’t normally encounter in your day-to-day life - such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons, aggressive deer protecting their fawn, bears, territorial elk and moose, livestock such as sheep, goats, cattle grazing on pasture, and even more.
Your dog needs to know how to control their impulses and look to you for direction. Otherwise, they risk finding themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.
To begin recall training, use a loud whistle and a handful of special treats that your dog doesn’t have access to otherwise (such as pieces of grilled chicken, steak, hotdog, cheese, or high-value training treats). Blow the whistle (keep the sound consistent throughout your training), and offer your dog lots of really tasty treats when they come up to you.
Start in your kitchen, then practice in your living room and backyard before you go to your regular park. Lastly, try to visit a brand new park.
Practice these recall drills on a daily basis and in a variety of situations. You want your dog to generalize the sound of the whistle as, “If I stop what I’m doing and go to my owner right now, I’ll get my favorite treat ever!” Recalls are a behavior that needs to be maintained - that means that just because your dog learns to come when they hear the whistle, it doesn’t mean that you never have to practice it again.
For a step-by-step guide on training a reliable recall, read this article written by professional dog trainer, Pat Miller.
Dogs are a part of the family, so it’s only fitting that they are being included in travel plans and daily outings! Tell us about the last time you went on an adventure with your dog, we’d love to hear your stories!