Last week we took a quick trip down to Nashville to visit family, and we brought Louie the Wonder Pup with us. It’s roughly a nine-hour trip in our not-flashy-but-highly-sensible minivan, and it can be a long time in the car — for people and puppies alike.
With a working DVD system integrated in the van, I didn’t worry about the kids. Besides, they are seasoned road-trip veterans who, having outgrown the confines of the old booster seats, can arrange little nests in the car with their books, pillows, and stuff.
But Louie? We’ve only taken him on a few car rides that are longer than about 30 minutes. He’s ridden to Nashville a couple times last year and once to Traverse City on vacation in June.
Traveling with a dog is like taking a trip with infants or young children: it requires pre-planning and patience. Here are some of our tips for road-tripping with a pup:
Walk first, ride later. If at all possible, take your dog on a good long walk before you hit the road. In our case, we’ve noticed that Lou can work out a lot of energy which calms him down and allows him to settle in for a good stretch. And bonus: if the kids walk him, they too can get a little exercise before hitting the highway. Personally, I think it helps him deal with the frenetic vibe that comes with packing the car and setting off for vacation.
Feed him lightly before travel. Some dogs are prone to car sickness; others, like Louie, seem to travel for long distances better without a full stomach.
Check out restaurants’ policies on eating with pups on the patio. Just be sure to ask first. I was amazed that some fast-food places with outdoor seating are more than happy to allow your (well-trained and leashed) pet to sit with you as you eat. We really took advantage of this along the way.
Rest stops are important. Like a child cooped up in a car seat, a pup needs to get out and stretch his legs. Stopping at rest areas along the highways every two or so hours helped us break up the trip. We let him out to sniff and stroll around on his leash, and we gave him water at these stops as well.
Have a comfortable place in the car for him to rest. We let him settle down in a travel crate with his favorite blanket and a chew toy. The ceiling of the crate lifts off – similar to a car’s sunroof — and whoever was sitting back with him could pet him, talk to him, and generally make sure he was okay.
Take his stuff along. We brought along Louie’s wire kennel where he usually sleeps at night. We also make sure to take along some of his toys, his water and food dishes, and his own brand of food and treats.
The next time we travel with Lou, I’m going to remember to bring his favorite pillow.
He usually hangs out here throughout the day — lounging, snoozing, and chewing apart his favorite toy of the moment. I didn’t pack it when we went to Nashville, but I think he really missed his little puffy perch. It defines his day-time space the same way that the kennel stakes out his nighttime bed.
And don’t forget a copy of his medical records. When we adopted Louie, the volunteer helping us through all the paperwork said that having a hard copy of her dog’s medical records was so helpful during an emergency visit to an animal hospital on the road. I know some vets offer electronic versions of their records, but I just keep Louie’s papers in the van for safekeeping. Better safe than sorry.
Do you travel with your pets? Have any tips for how to travel with them in all different seasons/weather?