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6 tips for taking road trips with your dog

dog in car MGN _ Donald Lee Pardue _ CC BY 2.0.jpg
Tip No. 6: Don't leave your dog in the car. Even if it's 70 degrees outside, interior temperatures can top 100 degrees within a half hour. (Image courtesy of MGN / Donald Lee Pardue / CC BY 2.0)

Putting a cat in a pet carrier is like playing a high-voltage game of Operation: It's not for the faint of heart. Some animals just don't travel well.

Dogs are a different story. In our experience, dogs love to go for rides as much as their humans do.

Unfortunately, we humans often do a terrible job of keeping our pups safe on road trips. With summer just around the corner, it's probably a good time for a refresher on the dos and don'ts of traveling with pets.

1. Don't let Lucky hang his head out of the car window. Yes, yes, we know: some dogs like nothing better than to ride with the wind in their face. It's fun for them, and it seems cute to us, too.


But insects, road debris, tree limbs, and other objects can hurt our four-legged friends. And of course, if your dog has a strong prey drive (greyhound owners, you know what we're talking about), there's a chance he might make a run for it if he sees a squirrel or rabbit on the side of the highway.

Our advice? Put your pup near an A/C vent, if you can. He'll have the wind in his face but no risk of jumping out.

2. Don't let Lucy lounge on the front seat. You wouldn't put a baby in the front seat. You shouldn't be doing it with your dog, either.

3. Restrain Rover with a harness or crate. Unless you live in New Hampshire, you're legally obligated to buckle up when you get behind the wheel, and in most states, front and rear seat riders are, too. Think of your dog like any other passenger.


Basically, you have two options for restraining your dog in the car: a harness or a crate. Crates are generally safer, but they're pricier, and obviously, they take up more room. Harnesses work well for smaller vehicles, though they don't offer as much protection in crashes.

You can find crash test results for a range of harnesses and crates here, and if you opt for a harness, we've got some handy tips for making sure your dog is comfortable in it.

4. Give Gracie plenty of water. You probably chug bottled water or Red Bull on the road, and your dog needs to stay hydrated, too--especially if your car is on the warm side. Sadly, many travel bowls aren't designed for the bumps and lumps of road trips, meaning that your car could be soaked by the time you reach your destination. Look for a spill-proof water bowl to keep you, your dog, and your upholstery dry.


5. Stop for Sammy every few hours. On long trips, you likely need a pit stop every few hours, even if it's just to stretch your legs. You might not think that your dog needs a break that often, especially if she's older and well housebroken, but it's not a bad idea to give her the chance to sniff around a bit. It'll break up the monotony of the trip, and it'll also help you with tip number six....

6. Don't leave Daisy in the car. We shouldn't have to explain this, and yet, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention it. We understand that when you're traveling by yourself, it can be hard to avoid leaving your dog in the car every now and then, but we have faith in you. Just don't do it. If you do, you might come back to a broken window and a missing pup--or worse.

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