How To Make Your Car More Travel-Friendly For Dogs

Getting on the road with your favorite four-legged furry friend will likely be one of the highlights of your trip. But it is important to make your car safe and comfortable for your canine passenger. Dogs can also get carsick, stressed out, or get sick. Making the necessary arrangements to prepare for the road ahead can make a world of difference for your loved one.

On your next trip, make sure to follow these tips to make your time on the road fun and safe:

  1. See the Vet

It’s understandable that your dog may not be thrilled to see their vet but it’s important to take your dog to see them weeks prior to the trip. Have them check your dog if they’re fit to travel and ask for a prescription of sedatives if it gets anxious during the trip. Also, make sure to have their immunization up-to-date and get a copy of their medical records. Hotels and restaurants may require you to present some documents when you stop. Lastly, if your dog has not been planted with a microchip, then it’s probably the best time to do it so that it’ll be easier to get them back in case they got lost in an unfamiliar environment. 

2. Buy Equipment

When you buy things for yourself for the trip, don’t forget about your dog’s needs especially for equipment in the car, since you’ll be spending most of the time there. It’s not safe and it’s illegal in some states to let your dog roam loose in the back of your car. Buy a seat-belt that is designed for them that attaches to the car’s seatbelt. When you set them at the rear passenger of your car, have some comfortable blankets, pillows, or a dog bed for them to sit on during the trip. You may also want to put rear seat covers or a backseat hammock to protect your car’s upholstery from scratches and make cleaning easy. This can lessen their anxiety and keep them from getting thrown around which will make them carsick.

  3. Food and Essentials

You may also want to bring a couple of their toys and their favorite food that can last the entire trip. It’s important to give them familiar food so that you’ll be able to keep track of their digestive system. 

Have some clean water, an extra collar, a leash, paper towels, deodorizing sprays, and some waste bags, along with the medication you got from the vet. Remember that not all tap water is the same, so you may want to bring your own supply for your dog in order to avoid having them get sick. It is recommended to give your dog some food three to four hours before you hit the road. 

  4. Barriers

If you have the seat covers, it’s time to prevent your canine companion from jumping into the front seat. While it’s easier to keep bigger dogs to stay at the back of the car, little dogs have a tendency to squeeze through between seats to get into the front. A little anxiety is enough motivation for them to push the issue just to get near you. There are some aftermarket barriers that allow you to keep cargoes from moving around at the back compartment of your SUV. This will also serve the purpose of keeping your pet secured and safe in their designated seat.

  5. Teach Them To Be Comfortable With The Car

If you rarely take your dog when you drive out to get some groceries or visit some friends, chances are the only experience of car ride they have is just to and fro the vet. They will soon associate cars with painful shots and bad-tasting medicine, which will make your trip unsavory for your dog from the get-go. So it’s important that you train your dog to get hop into your car at your command.

What’s wrong with just pulling them into the car? First off, you want to share a pleasant trip with your best friend, and forcing them in won’t help, seeing that they are scared and uncomfortable. Second, it doesn’t change their perspective even if you’ve successfully forced them to get inside, they are still stressed. Imagine learning how to swim and your instructor just shoves you into the pool, you won’t love the water more than when you’re out of it. Slowly teach them that it’s okay to get into the car. Lastly, pulling them in would likely be met with some resistance, which could cause an injury.

Well, how do you teach them to get into the car? Just like with everything else you’ve taught them – through a process. Here’s how to go about it:

    1. Use a blanket as a prize or a target for them to get to. Put it on the floor and reward them when they approach it at your command. It’s effective if you place the blanket in an empty room to make it a salient piece for them to notice.
    2. Next, place the blanket on a small stack of books, and reward them if they walk on it at your command.
    3. Then, place the blanket on larger pillows, and give the command, reward them if they walk on it.
    4. If you let your dog on the couch, you can place the blanket and have it jump on the couch. Give them a reward for jumping on and jumping off. This will teach them to incorporate jumping when the target is at an elevated position and help them get over their fear of heights.
    5. Add a long sturdy box in front of the couch to represent the step on your SUV or truck. This will encourage them to make a longer jump to get onto the couch and get the blanket. Also, you can say “come up” or “up” as a cue for them to jump. It’s important that you spend time to practice this part as your dog will have to develop the skills and strength needed to make that jump.
    6. Using the same blanket place it on your car and say “come up”. This will help your dog generalize the environment and only focus on the goal and the instruction.
    7. Sit on the driver seat and give the instruction for your dog to jump in. If he or she successfully does it, make sure you reward it and recognize the achievement.

Some dogs may jump onto the floor of the car rather than the seat, use the legroom of the front seat of the car to teach them to hop on the actual seat. While it’s true that the slow and steady gets the price, you’ll be surprised as to how fast your dog will learn using a reward-based method.

  6. Safety

It is the responsibility of the dog owners – you to keep your pet and the people around you safe when traveling. Remember that during the trip your dog will get bombarded with audio and visual stimuli that induce a variety of behavior that can be unpredictable at times. It is best to address those behaviors before you get behind the wheel as distracted drivers are dangerous drivers. Here are some safety tips for you and your charges when traveling:

  1. Leash them before they get out of the car. Many dogs who get injured or lost during a trip are due to their uncontrollable excitement as they dart out of your vehicle.
  2. Although the front seat makes for a cool spot to have your dog sit as you’re hitting the road, the backseat is the safest place for them. Setting them up in the backseat will reduce the risk of any untoward events as opposed to having them beside you or on your lap while you drive.
  3. DON’T LEAVE THEM ALONE. It’s important to emphasize that you shouldn’t leave your dog alone in the car regardless of the weather.
  4. Keep their heads and limbs inside the vehicle. Don’t open a window too wide that they’ll be able to jump out of the vehicle accidentally. If you want to let some breeze into the car, crack your window 2 or 3 inches wide.

   7. Be Attentive and Plan Your Route

Your dog generates heat a lot faster than you so make sure they get some airconditioning when you travel in the summer. Have the vents pointed towards them at the back and if you feel cold, just wear a sweater. 

Your dog would want to stretch their legs and walk around so plan your route so that you’ll be able to give them some time to roam around every two hours. This will also allow you to clean your car and sanitize to get the smell out and check for supplies. Also, prior to the trip highlight some pet-friendly attractions along the way for you and your dog to enjoy.

Getting your dog to get adjusted to traveling with you is simple and easy. Dogs like us love to explore and discover new things so taking them with you is a great way to share the experience with someone else. Also, the more you travel with them the easier it gets, and your dog will learn to associate cars with you as something to look forward to.

Tim Hanson

Tim Hanson (32)

Contributing writer at Preferable Pups!