Top Gear Philippines

Safe tips: Dogs in cars

Our dogs may shed too much hair in our car's cabin, scratch the leather seats, or have quirky in-vehicle habits, but we love them to bits. They're good buddies through thick and thin. Yes, they're pretty much like a spouse, but they don't nag you when you mismanage gas money and car-repair expenses.

In fact, in troubling times of endless car woes, your dog can sense your anxiety and keep you company to comfort you. Thanks to the 300 million receptors in their noses, they can smell hormones and emotions, and know exactly what to do to lift up your spirits. (Cue pet hug.)

Because they are close to our hearts, we want to share adventures with them, too. If you have a vehicle big enough to carry your pet's crate and other road-trip needs, consider taking them for a ride and creating memories with them, as you would with people you love.

But how do you safely drive to your destination with Bantay in tow? How do you make sure it's going to be a fun--rather than disastrous--road trip? Unlike fellow humans, our pets do not understand the perils of rowdy behavior inside a moving car.

Thankfully, American carmakers seem to understand the lifestyle of dog lovers. Ford once shared with us tips for a safe road trip with our canine friends. Now, Chevrolet Philippines takes a step further (not mocking Ford's slogan) by partnering with BetterDog Canine Behavior Center to conduct a pet-friendly event called "Travel Tails" and to teach dog lovers how to take care of their beloved pets' well-being while on the road.

Easily the best reminder from BetterDog's president Jojo Isorena is this: Our dogs are like infants that need guidance. So as a dog's human buddy, take the lead in ensuring a stress-free and fun road trip with these pointers from the canine behavior center's dog whisperers as well as additional notes from Chevrolet Philippines:

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* Find out if your dog has motion sickness. Before you embark on a five-hour drive with your canine buddy, take short drives (either to the vet or around the village) to discover how your dog would behave inside a moving vehicle. "If your dog has motion sickness, feed him at least three hours before your trip," Isorena advised.

According to Chevrolet Philippines, the Trailblazer and the Captiva are its most pet-friendly vehicles because of their low NVH and foldable seats. In addition, the Captiva--being a crossover--drives like a car, but has a spacious cabin for a pet carrier or crate.

* Plan potty pit stops. Just like when traveling with kids, pit stops for potty sessions are necessary. Isorena recommends a break every two or three hours.

* Make sure your destination and planned pit stops are dog-friendly. The biggest letdown upon arrival at your destination is finding out that you won't get to share the experience with your canine friend. Do your research before you hit the road. Make a call to the establishment beforehand. Does the place welcome dogs?

* Take care of them as you would take care of children. This means never leaving them alone inside a car--your dog might accidentally lock you out of the car, for one. Some dogs may have anxiety issues and may start barking, similar to how babies would just start crying, so you should be able to calm them down.

For dogs, chewing and licking are comforting, so don't forget to bring treats that are safe for their consumption. Also, don't give your dog access to food or nibbles that are unsafe for them.

* Train your dog to travel in a box. Emphasis on the word train. Do not just lock up your dog in a pet crate and go on a joy ride. Some dogs may be uncomfortable inside enclosed places.

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"Teach them that the crate or carrier is safe," Isorena instructed. To give your dog peace of mind while being inside a carrier, always feed him inside one. Place your pet's food at the far end of a crate until your canine friend becomes comfortable being in it. Before you know it, your dog would associate being inside a box with a pleasurable experience.

Another trick is to train your dog to know when to get out of the crate. This would come handy so your pet won't jump out of the crate the moment the door opens. A verbal command of "outside" or a cue of putting on the leash would be a good indicator for your dog that it's time to step out of the crate.

* If necessary, place a rubber mat underneath the crate to minimize its repositioning when driving through twisties. At the Travel Tails session, a crate was placed inside a Trailblazer, which has enough space for a large crate and some toys. If you had too much space, though, the carrier might freely move around. The use of a rubber mat solves the problem.

* Invest in a pet safety belt, if your dog doesn't fit inside a carrier or if you're driving a smaller car. Let your dog take the back seat, which is a safer spot, and latch the pet safety belt into a harness. Do not attach the belt to the leash, as you might accidentally strangle your dog.

* Bring a recent photo of your dog when traveling. Should your dog accidentally get separated from you, you can ask around by showing people the picture. It would also help if the dog had a collar or an ID tag.

So, are you and your canine best bud ready for a road trip? If you think your dog is too old to be trained for an epic escapade, don't lose hope. "There is no truth to the adage that old dogs cannot learn new tricks," Isorena told us when asked about the popular axiom. "One of our dogs is seven years old. That's considered old in dog years, but he has been learning new tricks. It may take longer for them to be trained, but they can still learn."

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Photos by Tracy Carpena


Safe tips: Dogs in cars

Safe tips: Dogs in cars

Safe tips: Dogs in cars

Safe tips: Dogs in cars

Safe tips: Dogs in cars

Safe tips: Dogs in cars

Safe tips: Dogs in cars

Tracy Carpena
Online Managing Editor
Tracy belongs to a family who loves wheels. Take it literally. The clan digs cars, bicycles and yes, even strollers.
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