As the holiday season approaches and you're planning a road trip with your family, be sure to include your trusty four-legged friend. With careful planning and the right safety equipment, hitting the road with your companion can be fun and hassle-free.
More often than not, pets make for willing and eager travel companions.
Before You Leave
Before you hit the road in your Toyota, make sure that you have everything you’ll need to keep your dog happy and healthy
Lead, collar and ID tag. If your dog were to get loose far from home – that’s bad. If your dog were to get loose far from home without any form of ID – that’s really bad.
Food, water, bowls. Bring along a sufficient supply of the food your dog is accustomed to eating. Bring along plenty of water. You can even invest in a collapsable water bowl if space is a challenge.
Blankets and disposable bags. Bring blankets for bedding, and in cold weather, for warmth. Bring waste disposal bags for parking lot rest stops (You wouldn’t want to accidentally step in that, would you?).
Old washcloths. Handy to have on hand for wiping muddy paws that have just bounded through roadside puddles.
Besides making it comfortable and enjoyable to travel with Fido, it's also important to ensure the safety aspects of travelling are covered. NSW legislation stipulates that motorists must not drive a vehicle with an animal on their lap or preventing them from having proper control of the car, failure to do so carries a penalty of three demerit points and $338. Ouch!
If an animal is injured as a result of being unrestrained, owners also face up to six months' jail and fines of up to $5500 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The RSPCA managing inspector, Matthew French, said that even the Australian tradition of conveying dogs untethered on the back of utes could land drivers with on-the-spot fines of $500 under the Act.
Some dogs love to get in a car, hang their heads out the window, and revel in the experience, jowls and ears flapping in the breeze. But that’s not a good idea.
Dog crates are great for car travel, assuming that the size of your dog isn’t a limiting factor.
When choosing a crate for your dog, it should be large enough to permit the dog to stand up completely inside and turn around, but there shouldn’t be so much room that the dog can slide around inside in response to the car’s movements. It should be well-ventilated, and structurally sound.
If a crate won’t work for your dog, there are other options.
A harness that is fastened to a seat safety belt is a great alternative. It provides the dog some freedom, but restrains the dog in an accident. Be sure to buy a harness that’s specifically designed to be used with safety belts.
Barriers can also be effective restraints, and are great for securing a dog in an open area, such as in a van, or in the back of a wagon or SUV.
With so many harness options on the market, where do you even start? Check out this video for the run down on harness testing.
Make It Fun
Road trips can be great fun, with plenty of new sights and exploring to be had. Don't be in a rush to get to your destination, you'll be sure to miss plenty of beauty along the way.
Plan on making frequent stops, just as you would if small children were along for the trip. Frequent breaks and opportunities to burn-off a bit of pent-up energy will help to make your dog a happy traveler. Just be careful not to have an escapee on your hands when you let your dog out of the car!
And when you do stop, be sure to never leave your dog in the car in the hot sun – even if you do crack the windows. Temperatures can climb to levels that aren’t dog-friendly very quickly.
Happy Holidays! Be careful, be safe – and have fun!