Happy Road Trip with your Favorite Pup
I recently received a list of tips for making road trips with your favorite four-legged friend more enjoyable from Andrea Servadio, co-owner of Fitdog Sports Club in Santa Monica, California. As we talk about in Fit As Fido, your dog is often Nature’s perfect teacher for healthy human behaviors and these tips for successful travels with your dog will also make the humans in the car have a happier, healthier journey:
Tip 1: exercise before you go
Andrea advises, “Long road trips means prolonged time without activity for your dog. Depending on the breed of dog, this could be a big problem. Lack of proper exercise and stimulation can cause stress, anxiety, and destructive and disruptive behavior.” She advises taking your dog on a big outing the day before your trip, like a rigorous hike or day at the beach, and a longer than usual walk before starting the trip. Getting in a walk before you start a road trip will also get humans energized for the drive and help passengers prepare to relax.
Tip 2: buckle up humans and dogs
When I was a kid, there were no seatbelts, car seats, etc., and we routinely entertained ourselves and annoyed drivers by rolling from front to back seats in the car. Everyone knows that seatbelts and car seats for children save lives and we now can’t imagine driving without them. Our four-legged friends also need to be secured in a crate in the car or in a car seat using a dog seat belt. Even a dog who sits politely in a car can be tossed and thrown if the car stops short or veers out of the way of something in the road. It’s important that everyone in the car–dog and human–is secure.
Tip 3: stay hydrated
Your body is mainly made up of water. So staying well hydrated is essential to the good health. An average rule of how much we need to drink each day is about 2–2½ liters for women and 3 liters for men. Andrea suggests that dogs require ½–1 ounce of water per day per pound. The larger the dog, the more water needed. Try to give your dog water every 2 hours.
Tip 4: schedule breaks
When you’re staying hydrated, you’re going to need to stop, stretch, and take potty breaks. For drivers, it’s recommended to take a 15-minute break every 2 hours on a long trip to help stay alert. Taking breaks helps with the circulation in your legs and will keep you feeling fresh.
Andrea suggests doggie potty breaks at least every 4–6 hours, with puppies needing more frequent stops. You can determine how many hours puppies can hold their bladder by their age: 4 month equals 4 hours, 5 months equals 5 hours, and so on until they reach 8 hours, which is the maximum amount of time an adult dog should wait to urinate. Since you’ll be stopping more frequently to give the driver and humans a break, make sure you also take out Fido for a stretch and opportunity for potty each time you stop.
Tip 5: stay entertained
Sing-a-longs, license plate spotting, audio books, etc. can be fun ways to keep your ride more entertaining. Some dogs also enjoy having games available during trips. Andrea suggests packing toys, chew treats, and food puzzles, like a Kong, to keep your dog from getting bored.
Tip 6: get your food to go
When you stop for food, opt for takeout to have a picnic outside rather than eating in a restaurant. Andrea reminds us that it’s not safe to leave your dog in the car on a hot summer day. Cars act like greenhouses and trap heat. Even with cracked windows, internal car temperatures can rise over 20 degrees above the outside temperature. That means an outside temperature of 80 degrees will result in 100 degrees inside the car, which is dangerous for your dog. Taking out a bagged meal at a rest stop’s shaded picnic table will give both you and your dog time to decompress out of the car in cooler temperatures.