Summer is fully here, and even though this year is a little different, it still means socially distanced barbecues and picnics — and maybe even some road trips. For some this means a beach vacation or some social-distanced camping, but even if you’re just going on a day trip to the lake, everyone knows the best part is taking your pet along for the ride. To find out how to make our pets comfortable and happy on the road, we reached out to Dr. Amy Pike of the Animal Behavior Wellness Center for some summer travel tips.
Most dogs are psyched to hop in the car, but cats and more couch-inclined dogs may need to be eased into traveling in a vehicle. To get your pet accustomed to long car rides, start small by gradually introducing them to the car with short rides. If you’re traveling for a longer period of time with cats, and you have the cargo space for it, “You can set up a large dog crate with their bed, food & water bowls and a litter box so they can have all their needs met along the way,” Pike told The Dodo. Seat belt harnesses are an option as well, so your puppy isn’t jumping around the car. Make sure their favorite toy is within reach, too.
The “great outdoors” are great — as long as you have a way to deal with bugs. DEET may be your go-to, but it’s toxic for dogs, so ditch it and seek out pet-friendly bug sprays. “Look into the area [where you’re traveling] and see if there are any regionally specific diseases of concern, like Valley Fever in Arizona or Lyme disease in the Northeast,” Pike said. In some cases, there may be vaccines available. For others, prevention may come down to not letting your pet drink from streams or dig in the dirt, so make sure you research your destination before hitting the road.
When you’re in unfamiliar territory, bringing your pet’s normal food will keep them comforted — just don’t overfeed them when traveling by car, since it can lead to motion sickness. Pike also recommended bringing favorite snacks to help with getting pets into carriers or back in the car after a pitstop. And of course, keep them hydrated. Bringing along a collapsible bowl makes it easy to ensure they’re getting enough water.
First, let’s state the obvious: Never leave your pet in a car unattended. While hiking, take frequent breaks in the shade to cool off, and on extra-sunny days, consider bringing along a cooling bandana to chill them out. If you’re walking on sand or other hot surfaces, your pet may need booties to walk safely. “Take the back of your hand and touch the ground,” Pike said. “If you can’t comfortably keep your hand on it for five seconds, it’s too hot for them to be walking on it.”
There are plenty of great destinations that are happy to have your pet. Airbnb has a “pets allowed” filter, and many large resorts, like Disney properties, have designated dog-friendly hotels. If you’re looking for a little more wilderness, the majority of national parks allow dogs in campgrounds and picnic areas, and you can usually bet on dog beaches for a fun afternoon. Wherever you go, call ahead to see about any pet rules, and if you’re bringing them to a busy area, make sure your pet is comfortable in crowds.
It’s always good to be prepared. Before setting out, look for a good pet first-aid kit, and life jackets are a must if you’re spending time out on the water. And you never know what your pup will be suddenly fascinated by in the wilderness, so find a good leash — or if you’re prone to taking a lot of photos on your adventures, a hands-free lead.
Now that you have everything you need for a great adventure, get out there!
Stephen is an editorial producer for The Dodo. He’s a huge fan of disposable cameras, calories, and flush draws. You can find him on twitter at @shrubino or telling jokes around NYC.