Now that summer is here, it is time for those great summer road trips! A bag of clothes and a toothbrush in the boot, the open road ahead, radio blaring out your favourite songs, countryside whisking past like a green blur….well, that’s the dream. Reality is probably more like a 5 hour traffic jam on the A303, listening to someone tunelessly droning through “The Wheels on the Bus” for the umpteenth time (or worse, the FROZEN soundtrack!) and the kids in the back fighting over a bag of wine gums…
Whatever your road trip may look like, whether it is a quick scoot up the A1 to visit Gran, or a long, winding drive to St Ives for a beach break; we hope that it also includes your dog. And, if it does, we are here for some tip top tips for combining car journeys and dogs, to make the whole thing go brilliantly – well, as brilliantly as it can!
As we are sure you know, drivers now face fines of up to £2,500 for having an unrestrained pet in the vehicle. (That’s a lot of holiday ice cream money.) To quote Rule 57 of the Highway Code: “When in a vehicle, make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you , or themselves, if you stop quickly”. In short: use a good quality harness, or a crate or guard, to keep your dog safe. There are many on the market so do your research online for your particular dog breed, or seek advice from your vet.
Where to put your dog
As well as the legal obligation for dogs to travel safely, we also advise that you do not put your dog in the front passenger seat, nor in the seat behind the driver in case they grab hold of anything – clothing etc. and cause the driver to lose control. When travelling in the boot, dogs need to be secured in with a guard in place to block access to the passenger interior, or in a secured crate or cage within the boot itself.
If you are forced to put your dog in the front passenger seat, please do not forget to switch off the passenger-side airbag.
Cars can be hot in the summer, even during travel with the aircon on max! Fur is hot. Dogs often get dehydrated on long trips. Make sure you take travel water bowls, and make sure drinks are always available or regularly offered.
Stop! In the name of dog-love!
Make a good few stops en route. We at NHHQ suggest planning your journey in advance to work out the best places to halt for your hound. They will appreciate the opportunity to stretch all their lovely furry legs, breathe in some fresh air, do their business and have a break from your music choices.
Sick as a dog…
Puppies often suffer from motion sickness in the car. While they usually grow out of it, even the most well-travelled dog can occasionally suffer from a bit of travel tummy. If you are at all worried about it, visit your vet who may prescribe medication. It is also worth bearing in mind that dogs – like us – travel better facing forwards and when the driver is driving carefully and not taking corners like a lunatic. If you find your dog is an anxious traveller, do what you can to ease their concern – perhaps pack a favourite toy, or provide lots of verbal reassurance and occasional physical reassurance (if you are the passenger. NHHQ does not advise the driver reaching to the rear of the car for a pat and a stroke. Can we make that clear?)
As a final point – and this goes for kiddos too – probably best not to feed your dog/child a huge meal just before setting out as that can make motion sickness worse.
How much in peril is that doggy out the window?
It looks adorable – tongue waggling in the wind – but letting your dog hang out of the car window is highly dangerous. Just ask any vet who has treated a dog who has been allowed to lean out the window – the injuries they may suffer aren’t worth the cute-picture-factor.
Dogs must have a microchip by 8 weeks. Is the law. Also, make sure your dog wears a collar with your name and address on it. This is especially important when you are travelling away from home.
Don’t leave your dog in the car
We all know the dangers of leaving dogs in cars, but it is always worth a reminder…particularly in summer. Dogs can overheat within a matter of minutes, and heat stroke (even in the UK summer) is sadly a common cause of admissions to pet emergency clinics and animal hospitals.
It’s certainly worth taking some of your dog’s usual food on any long car journey, just in case you break down or get stuck in heavy traffic. Same goes for children. And adults, to be honest. Take something scrumptious for all of you. We recommend for your dog you take Nature’s Harvest Air-Dried Cod Treats:
And for children – cereal bars. And for adults. Well, it’s pickled onion Monstermunch for us and strawberry Chewits. Feel free to argue with us vociferously in the comments!
Enjoy your road trippin’!