Tips for Road Trips with Your Dog

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More than 41.9 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home this Independence Day, according to the American Automobile Association. Many of them will take along their favorite friends: their dogs.

To ensure that your road trip with your 4-pawed companion remains fun and safe, follow these tips.

In the Car
• Get your pup comfortable with long car rides by taking him for 1-2 hour drives several times before your trip.
• Make sure your dog doesn’t eat for several hours before a ride in order to minimize carsickness.
• Stop every 2-3 hours for walks and water but always keep your dog on a leash.
• Pack a bowl, bottles of water and favorite toys.
• Never leave your pets alone in the car. They get nervous and temperatures rise quickly to dangerous levels in warm weather even when the windows are cracked.
• Dogs should sit in the backseat, not the front, to avoid injury from air bags in case of a crash.
• Use a dog carrier or crate for small dogs. For larger dogs, use a pet safety harness.

On the Street
• Acclimate your dog ahead of time to buses, blaring horns, and noisy hordes by walking him on well-trafficked streets.
• Make sure that your cell phone number—not your home phone—is on your dog’s collar just in case he gets scared and runs away or gets loose.
• Always take pet bags for scooping the poop.
• Be patient. Dogs accustomed to tree-lined, grassy streets may require longer-than-normal walks along city sidewalks. Ask your hotel’s concierge to point you in the direction of the nearest park.

Handy Dog Gear
Good gear makes any city or country outing easier.

First-Aid Kit: “Be prepared,” the Boy Scout motto, applies to pet owners too. In case your curious pup pokes his muzzle into something sharp, clean the cut with sterile wipes, cover it with a gauze pad and tape. Tweezers come in handy to remove splinters and ticks and an extra lead is always a necessity, just in case yours is lost, torn, or chewed up.

Kurgo’s first-aid kit, sold by Orvis, contains those essentials as well as scissors, hand wipes, plastic gloves, an instant ice pack, tongue depressors and a Mylar blanket that keeps your dog warm, and if necessary, doubles as a stretcher strong enough to carry a small-to-medium size pooch. The kit fits into a car’s glove compartment. Since anti-bacterial ointments and splints are not included, consider adding these. $35

Car Seat Protector: Seat covers keep muddy paws, loose dog hair and who-knows-what-else off your car’s upholstery, lessening the need for wipe downs before your non-canine friends ride in the backseat. The problem with most such protectors is that an active dog or a big one can dislodge the seat cover, scratching the upholstery and leaving it dotted in dog drool and dirt.

Ruffwear’s Dirtbag Seat Cover has a non-slip fabric backing and “stuffer cleats” to anchor the seat protector, keeping it in place. $79.95

Insect repellent vest: Don’t let bugs ruin your hike in the woods or cut short a game of backyard ball with your four-pawed catcher. Dogs also dislike things that sting, bite and burn. L.L. Bean’s No Fly Zone Dog Vest uses permethrin to repel mosquitoes, ticks, ants, and flies. The reflective strip adds visibility and the double Velcro closure keeps the vest on the dog instead of repeatedly falling off.

Available for dogs with a girth (largest chest size) of 32 inches to 42 inches, or a weight of 30 to 120 pounds, the vest seems to run a bit small, at least for our Labrador. A vest 2 inches bigger than my dog’s chest fit best. $49.

Liberty Wristband: Holding a leash in one hand, can make sipping coffee, dialing a cell phone, carrying a bag, or taking a photo a juggling act. But not with the Liberty Wristband. Invented by 2 Navy veterans, Bill Feldman and Drew Leeson, the item secures around your wrist with Velcro, enabling you to stroll hands-free with your dog.

The band has ample padding for comfort and a stainless steel shackle that holds the leash firmly in place plus a quick release pin that severs the connection, just in case your dog starts running and you don’t want to. A new product, the Liberty Wristband is part of an Indiegogo campaign. Part 1 raised $6,000 of the $20,000 goal; Part 2 starts right away. You can purchase the Liberty Wristband for $40.