Be prepared: Driving with dogs can be a lot of fun, but challenging at the same time. Hopefully, you’re establishing pack leadership with your dog(s) and practicing obedience training on a daily basis. Your dog should know when he’s doing something appropriate or not, based on consistent cues and his ongoing dog training schedule. If your dog keeps getting up while in a long down, jumping or barking inappropriately, he needs more formal dog training sessions, and 10 to 15 minutes of daily practice.
Dog safety should be your top priority. While riding with dogs, they should never be your co-pilots, sit in your lap, or ride in an open truck bed. It’s “distracted driving” at the very least, and unsafe for you and your dogs, especially if the dogs can freely move about the car. A good car crate that separates the dog from the driver is your safest bet to prevents your dog from becoming a projectile (and get hurt) if you have to slam on your breaks. Dog seat belts, dog safety harnesses, dog hammocks, barriers, and dog booster seats are helpful, but dog crates and carriers are safer for your dog. Dogs can get car sick. It’s easier to hose down a dog crate than to scrub and deodorize your car’s upholstery and rugs.
Feeding:Since dogs can be prone to motion sickness, it’s a good idea not to feed your dog immediately before a road trip, or while the car is moving.
Set the tone for your car trip: Exercise your dog before your road trip so he can relieve himself and burn off excess energy so he’s able to relax and rest during the ride. Then, practice several dog obedience drills before you leave the house.
Entering the car: As you approach your vehicle, put your dog in a sit, down and stay. Then, recall him and have him sit as you open the car door. Allow your dog to enter the car only after he’s able to sit calmly and not jump up into the car the second you open the door. Allow him to enter only after you’ve given him the OK to do so.
Dog travel crates: Before your dog gets into his crate or car carrier, make sure there’s nothing inside that can harm him, like a leash that could pose a risk of strangulation or a bone that could cause a choking hazard. Open the crate and let your dog look inside. If possible, let him enter on his own and give him tons of praise so he doesn’t see the crate or the car ride as punishment. Stay upbeat and talk to your dog as you close the crate and car door.
Rest stops: Before your dog exits the vehicle, put him in a down/stay before you open the door. Put on his leash, but have him wait for your cue before exiting. Once on the ground, have your dog sit/stay. This way, you communicate to your dog that obedience and behavior rules still apply throughout the duration of your trip.
Keep your dog leashed: Since your dog will be in a strange place and probably near a road or highway, keep him leashed at all times, unless he’s been very well-trained off leash in a wide variety of distracting situations. Take some time to let him walk around and relieve himself, then provide fresh cool water and a high-protein snack. Carry clean collapsible bowls and an insulated jug of cool water. Allow enough time to walk and play with your dog so he can stretch out, release some pent-up energy, and relieve himself a few more times.
Dog safety and health warning: Driving with dogs on a warm day can be a challenge, so plan carefully. Never leave your dog in a parked car, even for a short time. On a mild 70-degree day, even when parked in the shade with the windows cracked a few inches, your car’s interior can quickly become an oven. Your dog can become severely dehydrated and could even die.