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Tips to Take Your Dog On a Road Trip

The car is an indispensable part of our lives, whether it is only used for shopping or for a road trip on vacation. What is normal for us is initially alien to a dog. Some dogs think it’s great, some are afraid of riding in a car.

So how can you train your dog to ride in the car in a relaxed manner? What helps with problems? Where is your dog allowed to ride in the car anyway? How do you best secure it? You will get answers to all of these questions in this guide about taking your dog on a road trip.

a dog looks out of car window
A dog looks out of the car window.

Driving Safely With Your Dog In The Car

Before you go on a long journey with your dog, you should think about where and how you will transport it safely. The road traffic regulations stipulate that a load must be secured and restrained in such a way that it cannot slip and endanger the driver even in the event of emergency braking. A dog is considered a load and must be secured as such.

If you get caught when your dog is traveling freely, this can result in a fine of money and even points. If your dog has an accident, your insurance will not have to pay for the damage.

Apart from a possible punishment, it is safer for your dog if he is restrained. After all, you don’t just drive with your dog for fun. Likewise, your dog will be thrown around in the event of an emergency stop and can seriously injure itself if it is not properly secured. After all, thousands of car accidents are caused by drivers distracted by their unsecured pup.

There are basically two ways to keep you and your dog safe on a long road trip:

  • With a dog seat belt or a dog harness
  • In a dog crate or carrier

Even if you see it often: simply transporting it in the footwell is not allowed. Depending on how big your dog is, you have more or fewer options to drive with your dog safely. Because where there is space for smaller dogs on the front passenger or back seat, only the trunk remains for large dogs.

Transport Your Dog In the Trunk with a Mesh Divider or Dog Crate

For many dog ​​owners, this is the most obvious solution for driving a car with their dog. Either the back seat is occupied by the children or the dog is so big that it only fits in the trunk. It’s also easy: open the trunk, the dog jumps in and off you go.

However, this is not necessarily the safest solution – unless your trunk is so small that your dog has hardly any freedom of movement there and cannot move forward.

These solutions are ideal for safe transport in the trunk:

A Car Net Barrier or Mesh Divider:
With a net barrier or mesh divider, you make sure your dog cannot climb forward to you in the driver’s compartment. It also prevents your dog from being catapulted forward and through the windshield like a bullet in the event of an emergency stop or an accident. It is important that you use a stable and thick divider net that cannot slip.

A Dog Transporting Crate
The safest option, especially for large or medium-sized dogs, is a transporting crate or box in the trunk. A dog crate is a good option since your canine passenger already gets used to a crate from home. Of course, it depends on your dog and your car which type of box you can use: does a regular one fit, or do you need a custom-made one? In addition to safety, another advantage is that your dog cannot look out when the box is closed. This can be very useful if your dog is scared. It is best to begin crate training first before you take him on a road trip with you.

dog crate in the trunk of a car
A dog crate in the trunk is the safest option, especially for large dogs.

Transport Your Dog In The Back Seat

Just like being in the trunk, your dog must be secured when it is riding in the back seat of your car, not only for yours but also for his protection. You can do this either with a transport box or a seat belt. Which of the two options you prefer will depend on your dog’s size and preferences. Small dogs fit in a transport box in the back seat of your car, while large dogs can only be strapped in. Some dogs prefer to ride in a box so that they don’t see much of their surroundings, and others get car sick and they have to look outside.

If you want to buckle up your canine passenger while driving, you need a special car harness to which you can attach the normal seat belt, or you can use a well-fitting and stable car harness and a special safety belt for dogs. In the meantime, there are car seat covers for the back seat to keep your upholstery clean and for more comfort for your dog.

non-slip Dog Seat Cover
There are car seat covers to protect the back seat and makes it comfortable for your dog.

Transport Your Dog In The Passenger Seat

The disadvantage of being transported in the passenger seat is that your dog is certainly the most restricted in his freedom of movement. After all, you have to especially prevent your pet dog from jumping into the steering wheel and causing an accident.

In addition, the size of your pup is also the determining factor on whether to ride in the passenger seat. After all, it has to either fit in its transporting box or strapped onto the seat. If this is the case, you have options similar to those in the back seat. There are also protective blankets for the front passenger seat, which are shaped like small boxes and in which you can easily strap your dog and transport it safely.

Secure the Dog In The Motorhome

The considerations for driving a car with your dog also apply to a road trip with the motorhome. Again, you have to think about how to secure your dog. You can also customize the motorhome and have it expanded in a dog-friendly manner. The possibilities range from a ventilated transport box in the rear area to a doghouse under the table. Other options are a transport box, which you protect against slipping in the motorhome with straps, or a safety harness to which you attach the belt.

What is right depends, among other things, on the size of your dog and your travel companion, but of course also on your wallet.

attach the dog harness to the safety belt
Not every dog ​​likes to be buckled up.

Driving A Car With Your Dog – This Is How It Works

Some dog owners may worry about the safety of traveling with their pet in their car, but they do not bother to train their dog to get used to it beforehand. Open the door, put the dog in the transport box in the trunk, and off you go. For many dogs, that works without any problems. But some problems would not have arisen in the first place if dog owners had taken a little more time in advance.

The earlier you start getting your dog used to driving in the car, the better it is. As puppies, dogs are particularly capable of learning, but also very sensitive. It is therefore important that your puppy can get to familiarize himself with a road trip in peace and does not have any bad experiences. Even an older dog can still get used to a road trip in a car. The training is the same as a young dog, but it may take a little longer.

Step 1: Cars Are Not Dangerous.

The most important thing is to show your dog that the car is not dangerous to him. Let him explore the vehicle. If your dog is still too small to jump onto the car on its own, give it a helping hand.

It depends on how quickly your dog gets used to the car. Some dogs are curious and look at everything immediately. It takes some dogs a little longer to get used to this strange object. Always remember: a car certainly smells strange to our dogs than it does to us.

Now it’s about making your dog’s stay in the car pleasant. Give him treats or feed him from his bowl so he can associate the car with something positive. You can also put the dog blanket on the car because the familiar smell gives him security.

Note:
If your dog doesn’t want to stay in the car yet, don’t force him to do so. Give him time to slowly approach the unfamiliar object. Only when he is no longer shy of the car can you take the next step.

Step 2: Get to Know Engine Noise and Vibrations.

Now you can start the engine so that your dog gets used to the new engine noise. It’s much louder for your dog than it is for us and he will certainly feel the vibrations of the engine much more intensely. So you shouldn’t be driving your car at this stage. Just let the engine running and reward your dog with treats that build a positive association with the running engine.

Step 3: The First Few Meters

Then it’s time for the first road trip. However, you shouldn’t drive a long distance, but a few meters. After a very short distance, you stop and let your dog get out. As a reward, you can play a chase game with him or go for a short walk. You can find out how you can identify the right reward depending on the situation here: Dog-friendly rewards

If that works well, you increase the duration in small stages. Make sure your dog is doing well and not getting too upset. Your goal should always be to keep your dog relaxed while driving. With this step-by-step approach, there is little risk that your dog will be overwhelmed or have bad experiences. So it takes patience and time to get your dog adapted to riding on the car and rewards at this stage are still necessary.

By the way, dogs are good at making connections. If your first short car journey goes to the vet, he will certainly not want to jump into the car pretty quickly.

Step 4: The First Long Car Trip with Your Dog

If your dog is relaxed on short car trips, you can now plan the first long road trip. Plan out enough water and bathroom stops on your route so as not to overwhelm your dog.

Tips:
Make sure from the beginning that your dog does not get out until you allow him to. It can be very dangerous for him to jump out of the car.

If you follow all of these steps and take enough time, you and your dog both should be able to enjoy the journey.

two dogs in the trunk for a road trip
Your dog should associate driving with relaxation and fun.

Help, My dog ​​Is Having Trouble On the Trip

For some dogs, a long journey by car is stressful because they had negative experiences.

The stress can be that your dog howls or barks because he is extremely antsy and panting heavily or even vomits. If your dog suffers from restlessness during driving and manifests one or more of the symptoms mentioned, then you should take a step back with the training or start all over again. Sometimes it may even be necessary to just bring him near the car and do pleasant things there.

If your dog vomits while driving

If your dog gets sick while driving, there can be two reasons:

  • either he gets upset so much that he vomits
  • or he may suffer from travel sickness

The reasons for this are the same as for humans: your dog is sensitive to the movements and cannot process them. Symptoms range from profuse salivation to vomiting.

To find a solution to this, you need to find out the reasons. The fast-moving pictures are difficult for him to process, so he shouldn’t be able to look out the window. If he gets sick while driving, you should avoid feeding him before the drive, or just feed him a small meal.

Sometimes it also helps to change your dog’s position. As with humans, there are dogs who get sick if they cannot look ahead. My dog Milla sits buckled in the back seat. If she can look outside, everything is ok, if her view is blocked by a high car seat cover, she has to vomit.

If that doesn’t help either and if you don’t make any progress despite regular training, then you should seek advice from an animal health practitioner or veterinarian. There are both herbal remedies and medication from the veterinarian against travel sickness in dogs.

Driving With Your Dog

You can see that driving a car with your dog is a complex issue. In addition to gradually getting used to the strange vehicle, your dog must also be adequately secured – for your and his own protection. If you don’t know your dog passenger very well, choosing the right place in the car is not that easy.

But if you take enough time to teach your dog to ride along and find the right spot, it will pay off in the long run. Because this not only makes it easier for you to get through everyday life together, but you and your dog can also go on many beautiful excursions together.

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