Picture this: You’re dashing through the snow with your new squeeze, pumpkin-spiced-whatever in hand. Destination: Grandma’s house. Y’all are grooving to your preferred sounds of the season, your pup or pups are tucked in behind you, happily dozing or window surfing. Over the fields you go in your Subaru, laughing all the way…
Okay, reality check. Traveling with pets can be stressful at the best of times. If you’re driving with pets for the holidays, especially as a new couple, here are some tips to keep in mind to head off any conflict.
1. Always, always, always consider your pup’s temperament and health first. Maybe your dog is great when you and Rover are a dynamic duo, but maybe your new honey is nervous about meeting your folks and your dog gets skittish when things are tense. Not to say that you can’t work it out, but really consider all possible dynamics before assuming the meet-and-greet with family will be more relaxed with your pooch on hand.
2. Make a puppy survival kit – a spare leash, poop bags, multiple water and food bowls, and familiar blanket at the least. Keep a multiple-day supply of everyone’s meds in a little hidey-hole somewhere in the car in case of packing mishaps. Take a picture of the medication details and take a picture of your dog’s food bag in case you have to find that exact brand of New Zealand lamb chow in a hurry. Always travel with extra water.
3. Negotiate bathroom break protocol – frequent bathroom breaks or power through? What are your agreed-upon standards for a safe stop? Talk through spontaneous roadside relief vs. plotting out the exits that have well-lit Taco Bells. Is it ok to leave the dog in the car alone or does someone have a strong preference about not locking the dog in by itself? What are the signs that the dog needs a break? Nature is going to happen, so why not plan for it in advance so that everyone is comfortable and safe?
4. Set some ground rules before you turn on the ignition – Is the dog best in the back seat only, or will there be passenger side cuddles? What’s the safest way for the pup to exit the vehicle, and who will be in charge of that? How are you going to handle it if the dog decides it wants to drive, and what tolerance do you each have for warm stinky dog breath down your neck when you are the driver?
5. Finally, food – Cracker Barrel or a stash of vegan snacks? People food or not for Fido? Talk through your dog’s feeding schedule in advance, and work your activities around those times. Minimize your chances of doggie intestinal distress, as these can be deadly in a small-enclosed space.
Talking about these things before starting out is healthy for your relationship and enables the driver to completely focus on the road. It ensures that your dog’s needs will be taken into account. You’ll avoid misunderstandings and let the spirit of the season rock on.