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As creatures of habit who crave their creature comforts, most dogs don’t always make the best road trip companions. But by mapping out your dog’s trip along with your own, you can curtail his bad “backseat driver” behaviors, and turn a potentially negative experience into a paws-itive one. Consider the following suggestions to smooth the way for everyone – humans and canines alike, to enjoy carefree dog road trips for years to come.

Remain calm. Since dogs are adept at sensing their owners’ stress, don’t raise your voices or display any overt signs of your own pre-trip jitters and concerns.

Be certain to make reservations ahead of time and ONLY at pet-friendly motels or hotels along your route.

Put together a doggy travel bag equipped with a first aid kit and any essential medications, food and bottles of water (more can be purchased along the way), food and water bowls, grooming brushes, disposable pee pads, poop bags and small plastic trash bags, treats and toys, towels and blankets. And for you: disposable plastic gloves, hand sanitizers, liquid dish soap and disinfectant.

Never medicate an overly anxious dog without first consulting your vet. Many OTC calming agents are dangerous for pets, and if you do use a medication prescribed by your vet, always try it out on your dog at home first to test for any reactions and/or side effects. Pet health is of utmost importance before any new experience. Please schedule a wellness check with your vet and ensure that your dog is up-to-date with all his vaccinations before travel.

If your dog tends to get car sick, avoid feeding him between two and three hours prior to your departure. But if he travels well and has an appetite, feed him the same food that he eats at home during the trip and keep his water bowl only partially filled to avoid spilling.

Have your dog travel comfortably by keeping him in a large carrier or traveling crate (if you’re traveling with more than one dog, each should ideally have his own carrier or crate) with full contact information attached. Set the carrier/crate in a well-ventilated part of the car, out of excessive drafts and away from direct sunlight. Place a familiar blanket or a worn T-shirt with your scent on it inside the carrier/crate. Rotate various toys throughout the trip to keep your pup mentally stimulated and happily occupied.

Carry photocopies or a USB stick of your dog’s medical records in a flat plastic zippered pouch showing, at the very least, that he’s up to date on all of his essential vaccinations. Make certain that his collar carries a nametag with all pertinent ID (microchips are, of course, the best and only permanent form of identification), and that his leash is attached to it whenever you remove him from his carrier/crate or from the car itself.

Never allow your dog to get out of the car at “rest stops” unaccompanied. Always keep him safely leashed while walking him about for both exercise and potty breaks. And above all, never leave him in the car unattended — on either hot or cold days.

As they say, forewarned is forearmed. Hopefully then, armed with these suggestions, you can share a carefree dog road trip with your best friend and make it one to remember – fondly.

By Nomi Berger

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