Hitting the open road with your canine best friend can be one of the best ways to spend time together and experience new things. However, it is important to remember that while the journey may be the destination for us humans, arriving at the destination is what makes the journey fun for our dogs. In this blog post, we will discuss 5 bad travel habits that drive your dogs crazy and that can give your dog car anxiety. We will also share some dog travel ideas about how to make your dog happy on your next road trip.
1. Not stopping for enough outdoor breaks
For many humans, the ability to take a long road trip without stopping is a badge of honor. We can caffeinate ourselves, listen to music or podcasts, play car games, and rally on long drives. Dogs prefer to take frequent stops to empty their bladders and stretch their legs. Even the happiest, most relaxed dog can become a restless dog when stuck in a car for too long.
Frequent breaks are essential to keep the drive fun for your dog. When you remember that our dogs think differently than we do, you realize that each stop has the potential to be a new and exciting destination. When you stop, the first order of business is to allow your dog sufficient time to eliminate its bowels and bladder. You can also provide a bowl of fresh water and take a walk through the grassy areas of the rest area where you have stopped.
No matter where you are, your dog examines the world through scent. Your dog will be happy when you allow him/her to sniff and thoroughly use their brain and powerful nose. Even a 15-minute break can be fun and engaging from your dog’s point of view. You will probably find that you also enjoyed being able to stop and simply watch your dog enjoying life for that time before getting back on the road.
2. Playing loud music
Jamming out to loud music is a hallmark of taking a road trip. While studies show that dogs do pay attention to music, their sense of hearing is much stronger than ours. They also hear at different frequencies. As a result, they do not like it when we blast Sweet Home Alabama from our speakers or sing that song about walking 500 miles at the top of our lungs. In fact, not only do they not like it, but they can experience hearing loss as a result of spending too much time in a loud environment.
Of course, that does not mean you have to turn off the stereo. It simply means that your dog will be happier and more relaxed if you keep the volume at an average level. Aim for a volume that you would be able to talk over if you had another human in the car with you.
3. Keeping the Car Too Warm and Stuffy
Nobody likes being in a car that is too warm and stuffy, breathing in the same air for hours at a time, especially your dog. In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, maintaining a cool temperature inside your car and allowing fresh air into the car or RV can help reduce the possibility of your pet developing motion sickness.
Maintaining a cool temperature with plenty of fresh air will also be healthier for you and the other human passengers. In a study about the most efficient way to cool the inside of a vehicle, researchers said, “Comfortable thermal environment can alleviate fatigue and improve the mood of irritability, improve work efficiency and driving safety.” By using your air conditioning (or a low heat setting during winter) and allowing the windows to be open slightly, you can create optimal conditions for both you and your dog.
4. Not providing anything for your dog to do
Many dogs will happily curl up in the car and nap while you are driving. This is particularly true when you follow our first guideline, which is to incorporate plenty of breaks. However, some dogs may enjoy having something to do while in the car or your motorhome for a long journey.
Since dogs cannot play the license plate game or roadside bingo, you are limited on ways to entertain your dog in the car. However, you can give them a new antler or bone for the trip. You can also plan by preparing Kongs stuffed with pet-safe foods and then freezing them the night before you leave.
You can also stash one Kong for each day in your cooler if you are on the road for multiple days at a time. Just remember to use stuffing that will not upset your dog’s stomach. A banana mixed with a tablespoon of peanut butter and some canned pumpkin is a popular Kong stuffing. Just remember that too much peanut butter can result in loose stools or diarrhea.
5. Giving them a substandard seat in the car
The best seat in the car for your dog is one that is both safe and comfortable for you and your dog. Experts still differ in whether it is safer for a dog to travel inside a travel crate or on the seat wearing a crash-tested pet harness and seatbelt. Pet Helpful offers a third option: To use a dog guard that keeps your dog contained in the back seat or the back of your RV. The concept of a dog guard is like that of a crate in that you are minimizing the area in which your dog can bounce around in the event of an accident.
Regardless of which method of containment you use, you can make your pet more comfortable by adding their favorite blanket, kennel pad, or cooling mat. Not only will this provide physical comfort and padding, but it will also provide mental comfort because of the familiar scents of home. It would be best if you also made sure that there is plenty of airflow in your pet’s area and that they are not in the direct sunlight streaming through the windows. You can purchase window UV protection and sunshades in the baby section of most retail stores that you can use to keep the sun off your dog on road trips.
Dogs should never be allowed to sit in the front seat of a vehicle with front passenger airbags. The force at which airbags deploy in an accident is strong enough to cause substantial injury or accidental death to your dog. Small dogs should not be placed on the front seat in crates or carriers, as the airbag can damage the actual crate and cause injury to the dog inside.
Conclusion: Keeping Your Dog Happy on Your Next Road Trip
Dog car travel does not have to be a source of anxiety for you or your dog. If your dog is restless and can’t get comfortable for even short drives, you can consult your veterinarian. You will likely need a long-term solution above and beyond the everyday driving tips we have listed in this blog post.
A dog hyperventilating over car travel is not normal and may require medication or work with a veterinary behaviorist to diminish the dog’s car anxiety. If the dog has had a negative experience with car travel, you will want to start with very short trips and increase them gradually until your dog is comfortable in the car.