Wisdom > Hack

A road trip guide for dog owners

What a car lover has learned about bringing a pooch along

Do you love dogs as much as you do cars? PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

I’m a relatively new dog owner, and I’ve surely taken notice of how Filipinos are such dog lovers in general. Although you don’t have to be a pet owner to notice just how dog-friendly it is everywhere in the metro, as you’re sure to find majority of our malls, restaurants and other establishments to be full of adorable foot traffic—four-legged foot traffic, that is.

Speaking of traffic, while pet owners are responsible for how their furry friends should behave in public, getting them to enjoy the car ride on the way is a whole other training session in itself.

In my case, Ralph, my two-year-old Pomeranian, is generally a happy camper. He’s a pandemic pup that generally prefers to stay inside. As long as the AC is directed at him, he’s relaxed and happy. The longer the road trip, the longer he sleeps. It has reached the point where we sometimes forget he’s even in the car with us.

Dog owners need to teach their pets how to ride cars. PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

There’s just one tiny catch: He hates motorcycles. My family and I think he suffered some kind of trauma with motorbikes since he was transported to us in one when he was a two-month-old puppy. So let’s say Kuya Grab rider were to be next to our car at the stoplight, Kuya Grab rider is sure to enjoy hearing an aggressive (but tiny) wolf growling and barking at him until the light turns green.

Although with the help of treats and extra attention, we’ve learned to minimize these sudden hostilities (well, most of the time). We’re still working on it.

If you’re thinking of getting yourself a furry canine friend, and are wondering if you can handle taking him/her on car rides with you, here are some simple tips that I picked up as a newbie dog mom.

Better to start bringing the dog along while it is still young. PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

1. Start them young. Just like us, dogs can easily get carsick. But all it takes is a little getting used to. Ease them in slowly by starting with shorter distances at a time. Get them used to staying put in your car without the need to feed them, except if you’re training them with treats. Instead, feed them their main meal before the trip or after.

Your dog needs to know which parts of the car cannot be messed with. PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

2. Teach your dog proper boundaries. It’s extremely important that your dog knows its limits very early on. You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks. It’s a road safety hazard if they get used to hopping on the lap of the driver or walking all over the shifter while the car is in motion. Rewarding your puppy with treats is a language they readily and happily understand, so keep calling them away from the urge to go to the driver’s seat. They need to understand that a no is a no, and then reward them with treats once they obey.

Take note of the places that your dog particularly likes. PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

3. Drive them to the same spot/s until they become familiar spaces. This will surely keep your dog’s anxiety at low levels when you start taking them on road trips. My dog has a favorite pet supply shop at a mall we regularly visit. We make sure to stop there even when we don’t have to buy anything. He noticeably shows excitement every time, and he enjoys seeing the familiar faces of the sales attendants. It’s also an opportunity to get your fur baby accustomed to fellow fur babies.

The dog also needs to take a pee/poo break, you know. PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

4. Make a few pit stops. Dogs will naturally try to hold it in for as long as they can while in transit. But they’ll need to relieve themselves eventually. For trips out of town, everyone takes a bathroom break—your pet included. In our case, Ralph lets us know when he needs to go potty. He turns restless and lets out a whimper. It’s helpful to read and understand these little cues in order to avoid a smelly accident.

Let the dog enjoy the wind outside. Just be sure to leash and hold it. PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

5. Let them stick their head out the window every once in a while. Dogs love to take it all in. As highly sensory beings, enjoying the different scents and the feeling of the wind and the sun on their faces is in itself such a treat for them. Ralph surely loves to do this—that is, of course, until Kuya Grab rider drives by next to us and the light turns red.

If you own a compact car, stick to smaller breeds. PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

6. Size matters. Your Doberman will grow in size. Your compact hatchback won’t, unfortunately. If you don’t have your car in mind when you decide on the breed (and vice versa), you’ll be setting yourself and your dog up for a lot of discomfort. If you’re a barely experienced dog owner like me, I highly suggest choosing smaller indoor breeds.

It is the responsibility of owners to keep their dog tick-free. PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

7. Schedule regular grooming sessions. It’s a chief priority to make sure your car stays clean and tidy. Within such a confined space, maintaining a more or less shed-free and, more importantly, a tick-free interior is a 100% must. We were the unfortunate ones who found a tick inside our car after one trip out of town. If you have kids in the car with you like we do, it can be dangerous because ticks carry many diseases that they can pass on to humans through their bites. I still shudder at the thought. Let’s just say we had to learn the hard way.

A car seat could help pacify your dog during the trip. PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

8. When all else fails, doggie car seats. We didn’t need one for our pooch, but it wouldn’t hurt to check out the suitable amenities available in the market that will help your dog and your passengers enjoy a smooth and safe ride. Every dog’s personality is unique and at times quirky. It’s up to us doggie parents to determine what’s best for each one. Do some ample research and read reviews about car seats for pets and what specific features they have if you want to buy one. If possible, it would be better to test them out first with your dog. There are cushioned carriers, and there are simple crates as well. Harnesses are also available, which you can attach to the back seat.

One important reason aside from your dog’s comfort is driver safety. So do keep in mind that if you need to strap your dog to avoid impediments to the driver, I highly recommend buying one.

Nothing is more delightful than a dog that knows how to behave throughout the trip. PHOTO FROM PATTY MORATO-ROA

That’s all for now, but I would love to hear more road trip tips from more experienced pet owners out there. Give a few in the comments section, and share the knowledge.

Patty Morato-Roa

Patty had an early career as a TV and print model. She was also immersed in the motoring world at a young age having spent her childhood around annual car shows. She has worked as an editorial assistant, and dabbles in photography as well. She’s a wife of an avid motorcycle rider and a mom of two.