Memorial Day means warm weather, a weekend getaway and, of course, plenty of driving. If you plan on making the weekend trek with your dog, here are a few important tips to ensure everyone has a safe and happy vacation:
Keep your dog secure. You wouldn’t let a person ride unrestrained in your car, and you shouldn’t let your dog, either. Dogs should ride in the backseat, away from the dashboard and safe from airbags, and there are a few options for keeping them secure: Use a full-body safety harness that attaches to your car’s seatbelt to keep your dog buckled into the backseat. (Do not use a restraint that attaches only to your dog’s collar.) Keep your dog in a well-ventilated crate or carrier—one that’s large enough for your dog to stand up, sit and lie down in. Or use a secured barrier to keep your dog safe in the cargo area—provided that cargo area isn’t an enclosed trunk. Also, if your dog has to ride in the bed of your truck, a crate securely fastened to the bed is your safest option.
Keep heads and ears inside the vehicle. Your pup may love the sensation of wind whipping through her ears. What she won’t love is a piece of gravel hitting her face at 40 mph. Those little bits of road debris can turn into dangerous projectiles at high speeds. Make sure your dog can’t poke her head out the window, and keep those rear windows locked so she can’t lower them by accident.
Bring her ID. Make sure that your dog wears her collar and tags at all times. In addition to a tag with your home contact information, make her a travel tag with your cell phone number, destination phone number and any other relevant contact information, and keep a recent photo of your dog on hand. Also, if you are planning to have your dog microchipped, now would be a good time to do it.
Pack a first aid kit. Cuts and scrapes can happen as easily on vacation as they can in the home. Pack a first aid kit—some companies sell pre-made kits, or you can make your own based on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s checklist—and be sure to keep it somewhere readily accessible (not at the bottom of your suitcase!). Also include any medications that your dog might need on the road, and remember that human medications like ibuprofen can be toxic to dogs. Don’t give your dog any medication without first consulting a veterinarian.
Don’t leave your dog in the car. Never, ever leave your dog unattended in the car. Even with the windows cracked, a car can quickly turn into a furnace on warm days or an icebox on cool days.
Remember to hydrate. Keep water with you on those long car trips (as well as on any hikes or long walks) and make sure your dog takes regular drink breaks. Unfamiliar water may upset your pup’s stomach; bring water from home—or fill up on filtered water at a restaurant—to help prevent tummy troubles.
Bring her vet records. Hotel and campground managers—and even the authorities—may want to see proof of your pup’s vaccinations. Plus, if your dog is injured or falls ill far from home, it will be easier on you and an unfamiliar veterinarian if you have all her records on hand.
Stay leashed. When she’s not in the car, the leash goes on. Remember, your dog is in a strange place with lots of scary and exciting sounds and smells. Even the most well behaved dog can run off and become lost. Staying leashed is a small precaution that ensures you and your dog will be able to enjoy your vacation together.
Photographer John L Tramble Jr.