5 Ways to Take a Responsible Road Trip with Your Dog
Does your family holiday feel incomplete without your pooch? Mark Barclay — from the car experts at My Motor World — shares five simple ways you can keep your four-legged friend safe, secure, and happy when you bring them along for the ride.
We’re a nation of pet lovers. In fact, one recent survey found that by 2022, 62% of UK households owned a pet — a rise partly influenced by increased time spent at home during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also estimated that within these households, there are approximately 13 million dogs and 12 million cats nationwide (Statista). So, it’s no surprise that when it’s time to pack up the car and head off on a family road trip, many of us are reluctant to leave our furry friends behind.
The good news is, you don’t have to — many pets love coming along for the ride, and with a few simple yet important safety tips, you can ensure that they stay safe and content on the road to your staycation destination. Read on to find out more!
Before heading out on any road trip, it’s crucial that the driver carries out some routine vehicle safety checks. This is particularly important if you’re going to be travelling with a car full of luggage, kids, and pets! You won’t want to deal with any breakdowns or even accidents en route to your hotel, Airbnb, or campsite, so make sure that essential components such as your tyre pressure, engine oil, brake fluid, and washer fluid are all freshly replenished. You can easily check and top up your tyre pressure at most petrol stations, and having the correct tyre pressure will help improve your vehicle’s steering, grip, and stopping distance.
It's also wise to get any minor repairs done before a road trip, as while you may not notice them on short journeys, they can rear their head when driving long distances. This can range from being a distraction in your field of vision to something much more serious. Once you feel satisfied with the condition of your car, the final step is of course filling up with plenty of fuel. You may even choose to do this the night before you travel, giving you time to take your pooch for a morning walk and burn off some energy.
Create a comfortable environment
Us humans are well-accustomed to car journeys by now, and even we can get uncomfortable on long drives! So, to help things run as smoothly as possible for the whole family, take time to think about the environment your pet will be travelling in. Consider things like their size, age, and whether you’ll be travelling with multiple pets, as it’s important that they have enough room and don’t feel cramped or stressed during your journey. This might mean getting creative with how and where you pack your luggage to allow your four-legged friend more space, as well as strapping items down to ensure that nothing topples over and injures them.
Finding the right travel accessories is crucial when travelling with animals, as these are the main things that keep them safe. There are a huge variety of cat carriers, dog crates, and travel beds on the market, but it’s important that you do some research and find the best fit for their size and needs. Make sure your pet carrier is crash tested, as many aren't.
Be sure to pack plenty of treats in their travel bag so that you can reward them for good behaviour throughout the drive, or encourage them to get back into their crate after a toilet break. You could also add their favourite blanket, pillow, or toy to the dog bed or cat carrier, as this can provide a comforting scent in an otherwise unfamiliar environment. If your pet is prone to stress, you may even consider remedies like essential oil diffusers or treats with calming ingredients to help soothe them.
Adapt to the weather
We’re all aware of the threat hot temperatures can pose to animals in cars, so you should always take the weather into consideration when travelling with your pets. When taking a summer road trip, always make sure you have some windows open in your vehicle to allow for sufficient airflow. If you can’t have your windows open at any point, be sure to turn the air conditioning up high and make sure your animals are positioned near a vent. They’ll also need access to plenty of water, so always pack a cooler filled with water bottles, allowing you and your pooch to enjoy a refreshing drink while you travel.
However, if you’re heading out on a winter staycation, it’s equally important to make provisions for your pet. For example, small, short-haired dogs — such as whippets, lurchers, dachshunds, or corgis — may need an extra layer to keep warm, especially if your car has a draught or little insulation. Be sure to provide a thick blanket in their crate that they can get cosy with, too.
Schedule regular breaks
When travelling with animals, it’s always wise to schedule more breaks than you normally would. As well as giving them ample opportunities to relieve themselves, eat, and drink, this also lets your furry friend stretch their legs and get some fresh air. This should prevent them from getting too restless and pent-up during your road trip. Then, when you arrive your destination, you can take your pup on a proper walk or have a lengthy play session with your cat, so they still get their usual amount of exercise. You’ll also feel the benefit of some physical movement after a long day behind the wheel!
Use the tips above and give your dog or cat the safest, most comfortable journey to your holiday destination. Check out the rest of our expert articles for more pet enrichment ideas and training tips.