So you have a dog and want to go on a road trip. But do you have the car for it? Abroad, a lot of carmakers advertise their cars as “dog-friendly”. But in India, if our cars were people friendly itself, we would be happy, wouldn’t we? Truth be told, there is no car that is really dog-friendly as such – but you can make your car a dog friendly one.
Just make sure the size of car and size of dog you have are compatible – it wouldn’t be fun trying to stuff a St. Bernard or Great Dane into a Maruti Alto now, would it? Or having your little Chihuahua run laps of the interiors of your SUV and wedge itself between the pedals. No sir, not something you would want.
If you love travelling with your pets, however, you can make your car pet friendly. And we mean this both ways, pets would love the car and you wouldn’t have your car chewed up or covered in hair and drool.
Here are some ways in which you can make your car pet-friendly.
Type of car
Just make sure you have the appropriate car to carry your pet. Small and medium sized dogs would do well in most cars. But large dogs would be distinctly unhappy in a small hatchback – in which they don’t have room to turn around as well. Never let a dog travel in the front seat. It should always be in either the rear seat or in the boot area if you have an SUV or van. And it should be properly restrained at all times so as not to cause distraction to the driver or get injured during sudden braking or changes in direction.
Before you take your dog for a drive in the car for the first time, make sure it is accustomed to the car first. The dog should look at the car as a source of pleasure and not a vehicle of doom. Those who only take their dogs out in their cars for trips to the vet will notice that the dog is never happy to get in one. But those who take them on joy rides and throw in treats afterwards would notice how excited dogs get at the prospect of a drive.
Training your dog
To acclimatize your dog to the car, first have it get in and rest in a parked car, multiple times. Reward good behaviour with treats.
Always ensure the dog is used to getting in and sitting on the rear seat only. Don’t encourage or let it come to the front. Have a helper with a leash sit at the rear with the dog if necessary to get it accustomed to being in the car.
If you have a problem with dog hair on your car’s upholstery, make sure you first cover the seats with an old bedsheet and firmly tie it down. Throw in your dog’s favourite cushion or mattress for comfort.
Travelling with the dog
Ensure your dog lies down on the rear seat. Secure the leash on the dog and loosely tie it to a door handle or seat frame – as dogs can’t use seat belts of course! This is to prevent the dog from lunging towards the front seats. Give enough allowance for the dog to move about on the seat though. Place thick cushions behind the front seats if possible – to prevent injury in case the dog falls over during braking.
Take the dog on short drives at first to help it calm down and get used to travelling. See a vet and get a prescription for motion sickness in case your dog is car sick. On longer journeys, carry the dog’s water bowl and some treats (not heavy food) and break journey every couple of hours for the dog to rehydrate and stretch its legs a bit.
There are accessories such as dog “car seats” that are available online. This is basically a hammock-like barrier that prevents the dog from crawling over to the front seat. As much as possible, even if you have an SUV, let the dog ride in the rear seat only – the boot area can be uncomfortably bouncy and it also risks getting knocked about if there’s some luggage there.
Share any travel experiences you have had with your pets in the comments below.