Tuesday, April 7, 2015

What's The Best Way To Travel With Your Dogs?

My husband and I travel with our dogs a lot. We visit family, take little vacations and do sightseeing together. We’ve had Mocha four years now, and we’ve learned a lot about taking trips with our dogs.

When we first got Mocha, we tried putting him in the crate in the car. Well, he didn’t like that very much and would just bark at me from inside the crate. That’s a little unsettling when you need to drive six hours!

We realized that we couldn’t just leave him out on the seat to fend for himself while we were driving. The interstate speed limit is 70mph (can you imagine what would happen to him if we got in an accident?), and he’d thump face first off the seat at just about every stoplight. Plus, if we ever got pulled over or in an accident, I wanted him secured down so he couldn’t just run right out of the car.

The hovering car seat thing. It hooked into his harness. Mocha was really good at throwing up over the edge onto the seat...
Yes, that's the same dog...
We started out with this hovering car seat thing. I think he liked it, for the most part. Problem was, since he was up high and could see out the windows, he would throw up. A lot. Like, every time. And sometimes he’d throw up when we got to our destination too.

Then one time we left him hooked in there while we went in a restaurant to eat. (It wasn’t too hot or cold out, I promise, and he could see us through the back window the whole time.) Well, it got dark and he completely freaked out. From that point forward, any time we hooked him in that car seat he shook so hard his teeth chattered. (He’s a little sensitive…)

Then we got Ninja. Now there were two! They couldn’t both fit in the carseat, so we got them harnesses that clipped into the seatbelts. Mocha figured out how to slip out of that in about five minutes and Ninja would twist around so many times he couldn’t move, so that didn’t work.

Here’s our solution: We got a bigger crate and put them in it together while we travel in the backseat. It’s secured by bungee cords and has a blanket in it.

Mocha is calmer when they’re together. We tried separate crates and Mocha had a panic attack: panting, shaking, and drooling. It was bad.

See? Room for both plus a cozy blanky.

Why crate your dogs in the car?

An airbag will kill a small dog, just like it could injure or kill a small child. If you drive with your doggie on your lap or in the passenger seat, you risk them getting really hurt or even killed if that airbag goes off.

The crate keeps them safer if we get in an accident. It’s protection for them and peace of mind for us. They have a little bit of protection in the crate, and they also can’t be ejected out the window or thrown off the seat. Also, if we get stopped by the police or open a car door, we don’t have to worry about them bounding out.

What if my dog freaks out?

Start with small trips to somewhere fun. If the only time you put your dog in the crate in the car is to go to the vet, they’re going to be upset. Go across town with your dog to see friends or to hike.

Also, make sure you’ve exercised your dog first. Here is a video of my former foster dog Fozzie. I took him on a 20 minute car ride to go on a super fun hike. About 10 minutes in he started singing to me:

Believe it or not, on the way home he was sound asleep. The hike wore him out! And I didn’t give in to or patronize his panic attack. There was nothing to worry about, we went somewhere fun, he had a good time and we came home. Next time I take him somewhere, he’ll probably handle it a little better.

I’ve found that the best thing to do when your dog is singing or crying in the crate is to ignore it. If you try to coddle them or pet them you’ll just positively reinforce the behavior. Start with short, fun trips where they don’t have enough time to stress out, and eventually you’ll be able to drive for hours without a peep.

Another idea (some people won’t agree with this) is to give your dog a calming herbal remedy or a wee bit of Benadryl. Some dogs do actually have an anxiety problem and that could help keep them calm if they really need it. We gave Mocha Benadryl when he was a puppy but it didn’t really seem to help so we stopped.

However you choose to travel with your pup, remember a few things:

Don’t leave them in the car when it’s hot out (like above 70), especially if it’s sunny. Dogs can’t sweat. They’ll overheat and die.

If you don’t secure your dog in a crate or with a harness, beware of loose leashes and collars. I saw a terrible story on Facebook where this lady went into a store and her dog hanged himself with his leash from the clothes hook in the backseat. OMG, I can’t even imagine…

Bring water if it’s a long trip, over 2 hours, and a dish to pour it in.

Let them out to stretch their legs every 2 or 3 hours. You think your butt hurts from sitting in the car? So does theirs. Our dogs start to sing us the song of their people when they need to stretch their legs. At first we think it’s the radio…

Have some poop bags in your car and a towel too. Nothing like visiting a friend and leaving your dog’s crap on their yard. Or you take them out in the rain and they get your backseat sopping wet.

Don’t obsess.

Now, I’m not saying you should crate your dog that every single time you get in the car. I definitely take them to the park or the pet store and let them hang out on the back seat. But if you’re on the highway with your doggie, please consider crating them for their own protection.

How do you travel with your dog?

Do you crate your dog in the car? Do you board your dog instead so you don’t have to worry about it? Or do you have one of those little doggies that lays in the back window? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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