Are you planning a road trip with your pets? If so, are you prepared to do all you can to insure their comfort and protect them? Read on for some helpful tips, innovative hacks and available products to aid you in providing a safe journey for both you and your beloved animals.
We love out pets and more and more, especially during the warmer months of the year, they travel with us in our cars and are welcomed in many more animal friendly restaurants and hotels than in years past. Whether conducting daily errands or embarking on a family adventure vacation, according to a recent AAA/Kurgo Dog Travel Safety Study, more than 56% of dog owners traveled with their pets at least once a month. We hope we won't hit anything else when we hit teh road, but all dog owners traveling with their pets must be prepared for any mishap. Consider some of the tips offered below.
1. Prepare your vehicle for the trip
Traveling with pets is really no different than traveling with children in terms of providing the same things for both of them; namely, entertainment, comfort and safety. Consider purchasing a sun-shade for your side windows if they can't be pulled down because the heat of the sun can become intensely uncomfortable very quickly. Turn off power windows as a simple press of the paw can and sometimes does lead to disastrous results. Most dogs like to stick their heads out of the window but over-excited animals have been known to jump out of moving vehicles. The window could also accidentally close around the neck and choke the animal.
2. Transport your animal safely
Dogs can be restricted to open trunks, sitting on the backseat via a seat-belt restraint or placed in specially designed travel crates. All options are intended to prevent wandering while the vehicle is in motion and/or distracting the driver. An accident takes a micro second; tears, regrets and major injuries last a lifetime.
Crates are very safe even though many owners prefer their animals to "be free." The problem is just that; to be free in case of an accident translates into your dog becoming a furry projectile. Letting dogs ride loose in the car, head hanging happily out the window, is a disaster waiting to happen and against the law in many states with hefty fines ranging from $250 to as high as $1,000.
Driving with a dog in your lap poses a serious safety issue because it can and often does distract the driver, making it a dangerous move for you and everyone else traveling near you. A dog on your lap is just as dangerous as eating or using a smart-phone while driving (and maybe more so because food and phones don't move unless you do).
If you opt for a crate, buy one that is safety-certified, crash-tested and made with aluminum and plastic, which is reinforced with fiberglass. Place it as close to the center of the car as possible and secure it carefully. Make sure to select the right size crate for your dog and that the design is well insulated and allows for good circulation. You may also want to purchase crash bags for your dog crate,which will provide extra protection in case of emergency braking.
If you prefer a safety harness, look for one made from safety belt materials as well as a padded harness, which is specifically designed to protect pets in case of an accident.
3. Always bring water and a bowl for your pet
Dogs must have access to water especially on longer trips and keeping your animal hydrated will help to maintain body temperature. Store a cool water bottle in the car along with your other supplies. A collapsible bowl is easy to store and always works well but should you forget it, your dog will drink from your cupped hand. if you can deal temporarily with a slightly wet dog in your car, he or she probably won't mind an occasional spritz.
4. Keeping your animal cool
The warmer weather sparks the sense of adventure that lies dormant (and very chilly) in all of us who yearn for an occasional break in routine and change of scenery. If your dog is traveling with you in the back of the car, there are several products available that can insure the animal's comfort. Cooling pads like the PlayaPupChiller that is pressure activated and doesn't need batteries, and cooling mats) are available in most pet stores and will help your dog stay cool. You can also find cool collars and bandanas for your pet.
Consider adding sun screens in your car which can keep the car cooler when it is parked and can make a huge difference in the comfort of your pet. Side window screens help filter the sun's hot rays. The right fan can greatly aid in the circulation of air throughout the vehicle, but for best results, choose one with a long-lasting battery that is easy to install.
5. Organize Dog Supplies in The Car
Its best to consolidate items your pet might need for the road trip in one place. A small backpack could work well. It should include: a first-aid kit, water, some treats, insect repellent spray, medications if applicable, a collapsible food and water bowl, toys, poop bags, a supply of plastic bags, cleanup items such as paper towels for dirty paws and throw-up, wet wipes and carpet cleaner and a leash with a night-lite charm in case you need to walk around after dark.
This back pack or whatever you choose as a pet supply organizer, needs to be nearby and always accessible. It should never be buried beneath piles of luggage.
You should also provide a pet bed and a blanket for your pet, which serves as a comfort zone for the animal.
6. Protect your car's interior for the journey
One proactive measure in protecting your car's upholstery is to brush your dog with the furminator. No mistaking the clever reference to the infamous terminator, aka Arnold Schwarzenegger, this brush is expensive but highly effective in maintaining your dog's coat. You should also consider buying a special car carpet made exclusively for transporting dogs and a good pet hair remover.
7. Don't Leave Your Pet Alone In the Car
We've all done it for brief trips and errands but if it is at all possible, never leave your dog alone and unattended in your car. During the warmer months, heat is a deadly escalator and a car can become an inferno in less than ten minutes. Consider having someone stay with the dog outside the car on a leash.
8. Take the Dog To the Vet Before the Road Trip
If you are planning a long road trip, it's a good idea to visit the vet beforehand. Make sure all vaccinations are up to date, particularly rabies. and that you have an ample supply of all your pet's medications. Dog-friendly hotels, not to mention your dog, will appreciate a new batch of flea and worm preventative medicine as well. The vet can also insert a microchip under your dog's skin in case he or she gets lost.
9. Avoid stressing your dog out
An animal that is stressed can be difficult to manage, and if your pet is uncomfortable traveling by car, consider administering some Valerian Root. This natural supplement is easily crushed into food and can help to reduce anxiety. Remember too, that sounds affect a dog even more acutely than humans, and if your dog is in the back near speakers of any kind, turn them off. Your dog should be able to sleep peacefully in the comfort zone you have established. Keep the area clean and if there is a mishap, take care of it quickly.
10. Exercise your dog regularly
Driving for many hours creates cramping and muscle fatigue in drivers. Your dog is no different. If the trip is long, prepare to stop regularly every two to three hours, even if you don't feel tired. Your dog needs a break and so do you, even if you don't think so. The dog is cramped inside a car (especially inside a crate) and needs to stretch its legs even more than you do. Stop at designated rest areas, as many of them offer elaborate trails for dog walking. Don't stand still outside the car waiting for your dog to do his or her business; jog and interact with the animal. If you are not too pressed for time, check out dog parks that might be along the route and spend some time there with your pet .
Some Innovative Hacks
One company in particular, Kurgo, has developed a line of products that meets the needs of a broad range of dogs and owners as well as improving their time spent together on the road. Dog lovers and owners have created all these products. Currently, there are no government agencies that set safety standards for dog travel products, but Kurgo has gone beyond even it sown expectations with its development of a line of products that prevent driver distraction and are safe and effective.
These hacks include: Backseat Barrier, Auto Grass, Booster Seat, Auto Zipline, and Dog Hammock, which keep dogs out of the front seat and off drivers' laps. Their Impact and Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Harnesses are an improvement over all others because when connected to your car's seat-belt system, their crash-testing criteria is equal to that established by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No.213 for child car seats.
You, your family and your beloved pets want to reach your destination safely. Enjoy your vacation but remember that only you can prevent forest fires like Smoky The Bear used to say, and it's up to you to prevent road accidents caused by driver distractions.
Don't end up a statistic. Take precautions. Have a safe and wonderful trip!