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Top 10 Things You Should Know Before You Hit the Road with Your Pet

The open road stretches wide before you, and with your favorite furry friend along for the ride, there’s no limit to the horizons you can explore. Sadly, not all automakers designed their vehicles with pets in mind. If you and your faithful companion really want to uncover new adventures, you’ll heed the following ten road safety tips for animals.

Getting Ready to Hit the Road

You wouldn’t set out on a cross-country excursion without bringing snacks and a few changes of clothing for yourself, right? Before anything else, you’ll need to modify your travel packing list and itinerary to accommodate your dog.

Give Your Dog the Gift of Tags

Don’t leave small details to chance. Dogs that get excited by the prospect of new environments love exploring, and if yours runs off, it can’t tell people where it lives. Tags are an easy way to make sure you can be reunited with your animal pal should you happen to get separated along the way.

Try a Microchip for a More Rugged Solution

One step above the standard address dog tag, microchips are a popular alternative means of pet identification. Although you’ll have to take a trip to the veterinarian to get a microchip injected in your dog, these devices can be scanned to reveal your home address, they don’t come off like collar tags might, and the procedure is extremely easy.

Training for Trips: Practice Makes Perfect

Animals react poorly to stress, and for many, new experiences are seriously stressful. Instead of expecting your pet to learn the rules the instant you hit the road together, begin training it for extended trips.

Helping your animal learn to enjoy car rides early will ensure you get to share a more fun experience. This step is especially critical for those whose pets have only ridden short distances or exhibit frightened behavior around cars.

True, you may need to overcome your animal’s tendency to associate car rides with going to the vet. Simply allow yourself enough time to gradually take it on more local trips, rewarding good behavior as you see fit afterwards.

Change Your Own Habits: Learn Pet Road Safety

You may have to take additional measures to keep your animal safe. Fortunately, you have plenty of options.

Many travelers simply secure a pet crate to the floor of their vehicle. These may be wedged between rear seats, affixed with special attachment harnesses or even placed on bench seats. Pet carriers generally keep animals in a single location, but they can still be harmed inside the crate if the car comes to a sudden halt. Other alternatives include using safety belts and specialty harnesses made specifically for pets.

Never let your dog ride up front with you, no matter how fun it looks. The front seat is one of the worst places for animals to be in accidents. Even if your pet is small, it could easily push buttons, bump into shift knobs or decide to explore what’s under the brake pedals.

Train your dog to sit in a safe place, get used to its harness, crate or belt, and stay still when the doors open. Make sure you’re in control before your journey begins.

Plan Your Trip Appropriately

Not all hotels, rentals or other accommodations welcome furry guests. While such policies are often listed online, it’s best to call ahead to confirm them first; you may need to follow special rules or pay fees. Make sure any hotel that advertises itself as being pet-friendly isn’t just referring to service animals.

An Entertained Dog Equals an Enjoyable Journey

Even with a healthy break schedule, it’s natural that your dog may develop some nervous energy during the trip. Keep it occupied by bringing along its favorite chew toy or other fun, self-contained distraction. Most travelers advise against trying to pacify excited animals with food, as the combination of factors may make them carsick.

Remain Relaxed so You Don’t Transfer Stress to Your Pet

Your pet watches you for behavioral cues. If you seem worried or anxious, it might feel the same way. Stay calm. Always allow ample time for getting your pet into the car and starting your trip on schedule so that the animal doesn’t feel rushed or agitated.

Dog Ears Flapping in the Wind: It May Look like Fun, but…

Never let your dog convince you to let it stick its head out the window. No matter how much it whines, remember that flying road debris can cause serious injury by hitting a dog in the snout or eye.

While this practice is common at low speeds, it’s highly unsafe. At highway speeds, it’s even more of a bad idea, especially when an animal could try to jump out of a moving vehicle.

Everyone Needs a Break: Stop Often and Schedule Flexibly

Your dog needs its exercise. Plan periodic travel breaks so you can get out and stretch your legs together. Many state highways and turnpikes have dog areas at rest stops for this exact purpose. If you do your research and find scenic overlooks on your route, these stops could double as great photo opportunities!

You might not reach your destination as fast, but if your dog suddenly gets agitated, it’s best to stop for an impromptu break. You could very well avoid a messy bathroom accident, so never ignore the signs your dog gives you.

Keep Your Dog Close to You at All Time

Always put your dog’s leash on before opening the car door. When you get out, stay together at all times; never trust your animal to not explore the exciting new things it sees. Finally, remember that if you get out of the car, your pet should too. Animals can overheat quickly, and being left alone in an unfamiliar place will only stress them out.

Ready, Steady, Go!

Aching to hit the road? Of course, there are plenty of other important things you need to do before traveling with a pet, like packing extra towels, food and water. Although we’ll have to save those tips for an upcoming blog, these basics should definitely ensure you get on the road safely and with minimal hassle. Get ready for an awesome trip!

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