Awwww…..did you go and get yourself a new puppy? Lucky you! Puppies are so much fun and you and your new best friend are in for many happy years together.
What’s even more fun is a road trip with your puppy! Our pooches are our family, and we wouldn’t dream of going on a road trip without them. However, although traveling with a young puppy in your car can be a hoot, it can also be inconvenient, uncomfortable, and at times, downright dangerous.
Fret not. In this blog post, we’ll give you some handy tips accumulated from years and years of being on the road with our dogs. With some tweaks, you can turn your new pup into the ideal traveling companion.
1. Get Your Pup Used To Riding In A Car Before A Long Trip
Your pup’s first road trip can be a daunting experience, what with all the new smells, sounds, and a completely alien environment. It is important to familiarize your pup with riding in your car for short trips before a long trip, so that by the time you’re ready to hit the road, so is your pup.
First, start by introducing your puppy to the car when it is stationary, allowing them to go inside, explore, and make themselves at home.
Next, take your puppy on a short trip around the neighborhood so your puppy can get used to being in a moving vehicle. Gradually increase the length of your drive, encouraging your pup every step of the way and making it fun for them to be in the car.
This also ensures that your pup gets used to car rides and won’t get motion or car sickness. There’s nothing worse than driving for hours with a miserable, sick pup and a car that smells of doggy puke!
Go for many, MANY car rides in increasing duration before you attempt a long drive. By the time you're ready to travel, your puppy will be well adjusted and even excited to come along. Read more about how to raise a puppy..
2. Make A Packing List
You may think you have everything under control in your head, but a packing list is always a good idea, especially right before the trip when stress levels might be high and you might be rushing. Nothing is worse than arriving at your destination and realizing that you forgot your pup’s favorite toy, food, or bed.
A packing list is especially important when you have never traveled with your puppy before. Having a packing list will help you visualize all the things you will need for the trip and arrange to have them with you.
Here is a list of essential things to include. Feel free to adjust it to your particular situation.
- A dog leash - You shall need one when you take breaks and step out of the car.
- ID tags - You must have some form of identification on your dog in case your puppy escapes you inadvertently. This can be in form of a microchip or a tag securely attached to your puppy's collar.
- Car seat or confinement - Whether it is a harness, seat belt, or carrier, ensure you have at least one of these to keep your puppy safe and in place while you drive. Not only is a puppy bouncing around the car distracting, but it can also be downright dangerous, even if you get into a minor car accident.
- Paper towels and other cleaning supplies - When nature calls during your trip you have to be ready, or your pup might have an accident. And if he or she does, you’re ready for that too.
- Dog food and collapsible feeding bowls - Carry sufficient food and water for your puppy. You can also include their favorite treats to encourage them on their first road trip.
- Health certificates - This is only necessary if your travels include crossing the border to another country.
3. Restrain Your Dog In The Car
Having an unrestrained dog in the car is a serious safety concern. At best, it makes the trip uncomfortable for you and your passengers to have a distracting puppy jumping all over the car, but at worst, it could have disastrous consequences if you get into an accident, even a minor fender bender.
Alternatively, you can bring a dog carrier that is large enough for your puppy to comfortably move around in. If you decide to use a harness or dog seat belt, be sure to introduce it to your puppy beforehand so that it's not a new experience when it's time to travel.
The back seat is the most ideal place to have your puppy when traveling. It is tempting to have your puppy ride in the front seat especially if there are no other passengers, but it is best to keep them in the back seat.
The back seat has more space for a dog carrier and is the safest position for a puppy in a car. Research shows that while an airbag can save your life, it can kill an unrestrained dog should it inflate. Since airbags are common in the front seat of cars, it would be best to keep your puppy in the back seat protected by a dog seat belt or harness.
5. Mind The Weather
Puppies are sensitive to heat, and temperatures that feel comfortable to you can be uncomfortable or even dangerous to your puppy. While 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) can feel okay to you, leaving your puppy in the car at this temperature for as little as 15 minutes can lead to heatstroke and if left untreated and it escalates, eventually death.
For this reason, NEVER leave your puppy alone in the car even if the temperature feels okay, you’re parked in the shade, and you have your windows down.
6. Limit Food And Water During Travel
Of course, you’ll have to hydrate your dog but make sure to do so during potty breaks and not have water freely available. Puppies have small bladders and cannot hold their pee for very long.
Young puppies below 4 months can only hold their pee for about two to three hours at a time while older pups might be able to last about four to six hours.
Try to feed them at least two hours before the start of the trip, as your pup will be less anxious if they don't have to answer the call of nature in an unusual place (your car!) especially if it's their first time traveling.
An empty belly will also lessen car sickness (also known as motion sickness) which is a genuine concern for dogs, especially the younger ones. If your puppy is prone to motion sickness, this tip is a must for your puppy's comfort during the trip.
Most puppies eventually grow out of their motion sickness, but if this does not happen, please consult with your veterinarian.
7. Look Up Pet Traveling Laws At Your Destination
A lot of countries have laws on travelling with dogs in Europe, and pets in general to ensure road safety. In some countries, you must have dog safety belts in your car if you would like to travel with them. In the US, different states have separate laws regarding pet travel as well.
Moreover, if you intend to cross the border with your dog, then it is important to research the requirements for crossing the border with your puppy to avoid delays and inconveniences. Usually, identification, as well as health certificates like vaccination certificates, are required.
These requirements vary depending on the border, so your research should be specific to your destination. Do this before your trip so that you carry everything you will need.
8. Monitor Your Pup For Signs Of Distress
No matter how much practice your puppy has had, he or she is still a baby, and actual travel can still be overwhelming. It is therefore important to be on the lookout for signs of distress in your puppy. Read more about car anxiety in dogs.
Your puppy could become distressed for various reasons, for instance, motion sickness. It could also be that your puppy is overwhelmed by the new environment. If their anxiety continues unabated, take a break so that your puppy does not become traumatized by traveling and end up disliking it.
Common signs of distress in puppies include:
- Excessive yawning
- Excessive barking
- Excessive panting and drooling
- Shaking and shivering
- Crying and whimpering
- Panicking and scratching at the carrier or crate
9. Take Loads Of Breaks
Just like you would like to stretch your legs during a long journey, your puppy would enjoy the break as well. If you want to travel with your puppy, then frequent stops to stretch and get out of the car are important.
Your puppy will enjoy the freedom of being outside even if it is for a short period. It is recommended to give your puppy water outside the car, but you might want to hold the food until you get to your destination. Feeding and drinking water outside the car will make your puppy less likely to feel car sick. Read more about car sickness in dogs.
10. Do Not Allow Your Puppy To Stick Its Head Out Of The Window
When you think about car travel with your dog, of course, the image that comes to mind is a happy dog with its head out of the window and its tongue lolling to the side.
This may sound like fun for your dog but it can quickly turn into a disaster, especially at high speeds and in heavy traffic. This is because the puppy can get eye irritation or even get hit by passing vehicles and debris on the roads. Save this activity for a short joyride around the neighborhood on empty streets at slow speeds.
As any pet owner knows, car rides can be a bit stressful for puppies. Not only is it a new and unfamiliar experience, but it can also be dangerous if they're not properly secured. Always, invest in well-made dog travel products. Such as, a dog car seat, dog seat belt and dog harness.
By following these simple tips, you can help ensure that your puppy has a safe and comfortable car ride. Have fun, and bon voyage!
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