Commuting with your Pup
When you live in Southern California, it's near impossible to get around with a car. Everything is far and there is constant traffic no matter what time of day. Commuting has become a necessity for us. We introduced our own dog Eggy to commuting in a car since he was a little puppy. It was easy as a puppy because he slept a ton and once we placed him in his little puppy bed, he would knock out for the entire trip. Here are a few tips on how to handle car rides with your dog.
MAKE IT A COMFORTABLE HABIT
If there is something you're training your dog to get accustomed to, for instance riding in a car, you have to get him used to it. Make it a comfortable habit. The more you get your dog comfortable in that situation, the more likely he will understand how to behave. Once you get him in that familiar environment, then it is up to you to guide him to sit still.
GIVE HIM HIS FAVORITE COMMUTING BED
When he was a puppy, he never left without his favorite bed. It was light enough that we could just carry it to the car, have him lay in it, and then take his bed back into the house when done. This works well up until the commute becomes daily - then we decided to permanently leave that same bed in the car. We would have to get him a separate bed at home later.
By leaving the same bed in the car, Eggy got comfortable and knew it was his safe space. He would lay down immediately upon command and would not get up until we arrived at our destination. Laying in the back without any support is not only unfamiliar to your pup, but it is also dangerous. If the car comes to a halt, there is nothing to support your dog and he could go flying. With the bed, he is able to find a little grip.
BATHROOM STOPS BEFORE THE LONG HAUL
My occupation required me to commute at minimum one and a half hour each way daily. It was definitely not a commute for the weak. Because my line of work accommodated me to be able to bring my dog with me to work, Eggy learned to endure the long ride into the office. He would have to sit for over an hour, sometimes two hours if we were unlucky in rush hour.
To prepare for the long haul, I always take Eggy out to pee prior to departure. In the mornings he tends to go poop as well, so I would just take care of that as well. This way, when he is inside the car, even if you do get stuck in two hour traffic, he is able to hold his bowel movements.
PREPPING THE CAR BED
As added precaution, I always layered a fresh towel, blanket, or bed sheet on top of his bed. This way in case he did have an accident, it wouldn't stain or get all over the car seats. This is a must. Sometimes dogs may get nauseous, upset stomach or have indigestion and feel the need to vomit while on the car ride. If this is the case, the towel also comes in handy. Needless to say, always keep bags and a roll of papertowels in the car. The towel is recommended to be washed on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This way any trapped dirt or dog fur gets cleaned and you can eliminate any chance for odors to develop inside your vehicle.
GET RID OF ANY FLOOR GAPS
When Eggy was a puppy, as an extra safety measure we got rid of the open gap between the passenger seat and the back seat. Normally humans will put their feet down there. But if a dog is travelling in the back, you want to get rid of that gap so the dog won't wander, fall, or slide into that area. We bought a little storage bench that fits perfectly behind the seat. Alternatively, you could also purchase a car seat cover that basically wraps from the back seat and over that floor area and attach to the passenger seat.
BRING EMERGENCY TREATS AND WATER
Just as humans should have some water in the car in case of emergencies, you should also have a little snack bag available for your dog. Luckily in Los Angeles, we don't get any hazardous weather like snow that would get us stuck on the road. However, there can always be unforeseen circumstances that you don't want to be left on the road for hours without replenishment.
SET THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE
Remember dogs have a coat of fur so they can heat up far more quickly than we can. The most important thing on long car rides is to ensure the temperature is comfortable and cool. French bulldogs in particular tend to overheat. In Los Angeles, air conditioning is a must in the summers. On other days, I would leave the windows down for plenty of air, a crack large enough to let good breezes in but never large enough for a dog to jump out. While some people brave opening their windows all the way, I don't personally recommend it. If a dog sees something or gets the sudden urge to exit, they may hop out or try to anyways, which could lead to injuries or even more freaky, death.
TALK TO YOUR DOG EVERY NOW AND THEN
To give your dog additional comfort, hearing your voice may help calm him down from any unnecessary anxiety. Our dog Eggy tends to get high excitement inside a car and will pant heavily. I've made it a point to reward him verbally with
"Good Boy" when he sits or lays down, and to ask him questions such as "Do you see the trees outside, Eggy?" By using trigger words and phrases he recognizes, he is less likely to freak out. I also remind him when we're almost home so that he understands what "HOME" means.
Reminder, you are always the Alpha, not your dog. So you set the commands and make sure he listens to you. If I say, "Sit down," he will sit back down and then driving together becomes a coordinated effort.
HELP PREVENT MOTION SICKNESS
Dogs naturally can experience motion sickness. This is completely common and dogs should never be punished for something they cannot control. It's up to you to help minimize motion sickness by maximizing their comfort. A few keys to keep your dog comfy include:
- Cool cabin temperature either with windows cracked open or air conditioning (A/C) turned on.
- Plenty of fresh air. If you smell something smokey or chemically in the air outside, then you should know best to close the windows and keep the cabin air circulated fresh and clean.
- Heightened Seat. It may help if your dog is short or cannot see, to use a heightened car bucket seat or bed. By giving them the ability to see what's going on outside they may be able to combat nausea.
CARRY HIM AND USE A LEASH REGULARLY
If you have a large dog they may be able to successfully jump in and out of a car themselves. Our dog is quite athletic and can jump however, we don't want excessive jumping to cause him any hip/leg trauma over time. I make sure to carry my dog and place him in his bed and also carry him out of the car. You never want to drop your dog so make sure you get a good routine of placing his little front paws and arms over one arm and support his back end with your other arm.
I always make it a habit to clip his leash on the minute we exit the car. This way he is used to being on leash in public places and wherever we go. It also prevents him from running off, especially if you park in a street or parking lot where cars can be flying by haphazardly. He actually knows to wait for the leash to clip in before we go about our business.
NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR ALONE
Animals should not be left in a stuffy car alone unsupervised. Leaving your dog unattended in a locked car could result in heat stroke or worse, death. It is foolish to think it is only for a few minutes, he'll be fine - the sun doesn't forgive and leaving them inside a hot car is as cruel as letting them bake. Please treat your fur pups like your children - bring them inside with you or don't stop anywhere that requires you to leave your dog unattended.
I have found convenience in drive through restaurants, drive thru coffee, drive thru pharmacies, drive thru anything. When you have a dog in the car, going about basic tasks that have drive thru's gives you the flexibility to accomplish things without having to desert your dog in the car by themselves. When you know you cannot bring your dog indoors, do yourself a favor and leave your dog comfortably at home. Don't be one of those people who try to bring your dog into a food establishment. It's unsanitary, and in most places not allowed.
DON'T DRIVE WITH A DOG IN YOUR LAP
This is absolute nonsense. I have witnessed someone on the 60 freeway driving with a puppy in his lap and not only was he crawling at 35 mph, he literally almost swerved off of a curved ramp. Please do not be a douchebag and attempt to drive with a dog in your lap. This is highly dangerous. We always recommend placing your dog in the back seat in their dog seat or dog bed so that they're always safe and out of your way. Your duty is to focus on driving and your dog's duty is to be a pleasant travel companion. You'll both get the hang of it in no time.
DRIVE WITH CAUTION
Remember when you have a dog in the car, they are not seat belted like you are. There is little to protect them if there ever was an abrupt accident. Keeping that in mind, always drive at safe speeds under the speed limit, refrain from being aggressive, and take turns just a touch slower than usual. Keep your eyes on the road and enjoy that road trip with your pup!