Thursday, 13 August 2015

The dos and don’ts of road travel with your dog

We all tend to think that nothing bad will happen on that quick trip into town, or to the park to walk our dog, but that’s why accidents are called that!

Don’t carry your dog on your lap, as she could up end being thrown through the windscreen. Likewise, if your dog is sitting in the rear of your vehicle without restraint, an accident or emergency stop could propel her forward at speed.

Although an airbag may save your life, the force and speed at which the bag deploys can actually cause severe injury, particularly if the driver or pasenger is not sitting upright and centred in the seat. Consider, then, the likely injuries to your dog as a result of airbag deployment, be that in the front or back seat.
     The front seat is not an ideal place for your dog to sit for the same reason that it is not recommended for children under a certain weight and height, as airbags are designed for adult humans.
     An unrestrained dog, or one who is allowed to move about within a vehicle, is also a common sight. This is unfortunate, as a dog who is leaping about can easily distract the driver and cause an accident.

Pickup beds
The most dangerous way for your dog to travel, however, is in the back of a Pickup. Fitting Camper or Pickup shells offers no additional protection, it seems, and may even cause further injury.
     If your dog is properly secured via a professionally-designed travel harness to a centre seatbelt restraint, or well secured in a crate, her chances of avoiding major injury in the event of an accident or emergency stop are greatly increased.

Dogs are commonly seen enjoying the ride with their heads stuck out the window, but this is a very dangerous practice, as apart from the possibility of a head or neck injury, there’s also a risk of contracting eye and ear infections.
     In addition to having their heads out the window, many dogs will also have their feet up on the window ledge, which puts them at risk of ejection in the case of a sudden stop. Dogs can also be crushed, potentially fatally, by a window that is accidentally or suddenly raised by a child or forgetful owner.
     A good general rule of thumb is to apply the same safety considerations to your dog as you would a child.

If travelling to cold or snowy areas ensure your dog does not suffer from frostbite and/or hypothermia.
To avoid your dog suffering heat stress or heatstroke when travelling, never, ever leave her in the car on her own – even if all of the windows are open and the car is in the shade.
     Your dog can also suffer heat stress whilst the vehicle is moving, if the temperature should rise rapidly. Despite what may be considered adequate ventilation by us, an older, overweight, or short-nosed dog is more prone to heat stress. Dogs literally cook in hot cars – a horrible, excruciatingly painful death. Make sure it doesn’t happen to yours.

Start early
If you plan to take your dog with you in your vehicle on a regular basis, start the trips early in her life. If your dog has grown up used to travelling in a vehicle. it will be a much more comfortable experience for all concerned, and a building block in her socialisation process.

It helps immensely if you begin crate training at home as well as when travelling, and, if you prefer to use a harness, begin getting her used to wearing it around the house before trying it in the car.

You should feed your dog well in advance of setting off in your vehicle, or plan on feeding her when you stop for the day. A dog who suffers from motion sickness should not be fed for at least eight hours before travelling. You should also exercise your dog in the usual way before leaving, to allow her to empty her bladder and bowels.
     It’s important that your dog has access to fresh water during journeys, particularly if they are long ones. If you are driving in warm weather your dog will pant more in an effort to stay cool, increasing her evaporation rate. Ensure you make frequent stops to offer your dog fresh water so that she is comfortable and not at risk of dehydration.

Ensure that your dog always wears an identity tag on her collar with at least two contact numbers on it (not her name, though, as this could assist would-be dog thieves). It’s strongly recommended that you also have her microchipped. In the event that she should become lost, there’s every chance you can be reunited.

If you are travelling away from home for a period of time, always carry your dog’s vaccination record and any health certificates as a precautionary measure.
     If travelling abroad, note that different rules and regulations apply in different countries, so thoroughly check these out before departure to prevent delays or being refused entry. All medications that your dog may need should be purchased ahead of time in sufficient supplies. it’s good practice to take your dog to the vet before setting off on a lengthy trip or holiday: your vet knows your dog and has all her records, and can identify any health changes or concerns.

Restraint system
As a rule, a crate should be roomy enough for your dog to comfortably stand up, turn around and lie down in. The crate should be secured to the floor or wall of your vehicle to prevent it sliding around, or being thrown about in the event of an accident.
     The alternative would be a barrier that separates the seating area from the crate, although your dog would still need to be secured to prevent her from being thrown about.

Have your dog’s lead readily to hand for rest breaks, and in the event of an emergency. Travelling with two leads is not a bad idea as this allows you to keep one in the passenger glovebox and another in a door or seat pocket for convenience.
     Don’t keep a lead on your dog when actually travelling, though, as this can become tangled or caught on something, which can also prove dangerous.

Depending on your destination, taking extra bottled water for you dog may be something to consider: if you have concerns regarding the local water and the effects it may have on your health, these concerns apply equally to your dog.
     Make sure you have an ample supply of bags to pick up after your dog.

Comfort and interaction
If your dog is properly restrained in the back seat, consider asking one of your passengers to sit with her. A dog is a very sociable animal, and may feel rather isolated alone in the back.
If you usually talk to your dog, be sure to include her in your conversation when travelling, mentioning her name to let her know you are talking to her.
     Crack a side window or the sunroof to allow fresh air into the vehicle. Although we may only notice the strongest smells that permeate the car, your dog will register and enjoy them all.
     Comfortable, safe and enjoyable travel with your dog should be as automatic as fastening your seatbelt, and sitting back to enjoy the ride.

The text & images from this article are taken from the RAC handbook Dogs on Wheels – travelling with your canine companion by Norm Mort.
• Combines personal insight and well-researched information
• Expert advice from experienced veterinarians
• Input and opinion from a former professor in animal behaviour
• Looks at various types of vehicles, and the benefits and drawbacks of each
• Critique of various accessories/fittings available for transporting your dog
• Simple activities to break up your journey and keep your dog happy
• Dos and don’ts for animal travel
• A look into the mind of a dog

Click here for more information about the book

Also available! Walking the dog – Motorway walks for drivers and dogs (eBook) by Lezli Rees.

Anyone who drives on motorways will benefit from this guide to walks within 5 miles of motorway exits. All of the UK is covered, from Exeter to Perth and Swansea to Canterbury. Use this book to get more fun for your petrol, see more of the countryside, take a healthy break, or enjoy a relaxing pub lunch.

Each page features a 30 to 45 minute walk, with a selected pub or café on the walk. Activities for children are included, from bouncy castles to nature trails.

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