I’ve been carting my dog Victor – an 11- year-old poodle/schnauzer cross – around since I got him four years ago, and I’ve been figuring it out as I go. I own a Kia Soul (bought before I got Victor) that turned out to be a great dog car because putting the back seat down allows for a lot of doggie space and an hatchback makes in and out easy.
Victor and I hit the road frequently, usually for short trips.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Exercise before you get in the car – The dog not you, unless you need a good jog. Shaking off some excess energy keeps Victor calmer in the car. Also, having a calm positive energy yourself, rather than a stress-filled last minute errand run, helps (whether you’re a Cesar Millan fan or not). Organize most stuff, and even pack the car, the night before
2. Pack dry food he usually eats – I do this and pack some easy to transport pre-portioned wet food like Cesar packs or Beneful tubs. Those make for easy serving; the containers act as a bowl and, in the case of Beneful, if Victor doesn’t eat it all I can put the lid back on. This is especially handy, camping, hiking and on the beach.
3. Take bottled water in the car, of course – But here’s an idea I’ll soon try: freeze water in a plastic bowl with a lid (or not) then place it frozen in the car. It’s less likely to spill and should melt by the first stop on the trip (or soon after).
4. Bring a favourite toy or blanket along for familiarity – Remember, smells are important to dogs and his stuff on a hotel bed or sleeping bag make it feel like his.
5. Have a photo of him in case he goes missing – This suggestion appears on many lists. But tags (not only microchips) with my cell number on it have worked well for me. Thanks to advice from a Petsmart employee, I’ve also put my address on Victor’s tag, so if he’s found in our neighbourhood, people know he’s close to home. But if he’s found while travelling, they’ll know he’s far from home.
6. Travel with two kinds of leashes – This is for when I absolutely have to use a leash (which is unfortunately often when travelling). One is a retractable leash that allows Victor to sniff and stray a little (until we get wrapped around something or someone). The second is my new life (well, shoulder) saver: a Kurgo Quantum hiking leash that wraps around my waist leaving my hands free and keeping Victor close by, especially on trails or at festivals. Attaching the leash to a harness, rather than his collar, helps too.
7. Keep him looking pretty – A groomed dog looks well kept (and well behaved), so people are more likely to respond positively even when he’s not perfectly mannered. Optics are everything. Adorning Victor with a bandana, bow tie or cute sweater in the winter gets him a lot of forgiveness too … because you can’t always be perfect, but if you’re a schnoodle, you can always be cute.
Interested in other dog travel ideas and advice? Check out this article.