Whether it's a vacation, visiting family or moving, sometimes long journeys in the car are unavoidable. Since it can be stressful for dogs and their owners alike, we would like to give you some tips and tricks to make these trips together as pleasant as possible.
In this post, we'll look at various aspects of a long car trip with a dog, such as proper preparation, appropriate equipment, safety, break planning and activities to make the time in the car as pleasant as possible for your furry companion.
Table of contents
About our trip
We are going to Sweden for a workation. Our destination is Swedish Lapland, more precisely Kiruna. This is right on the Arctic Circle and with a bit of luck and good weather conditions you can observe the Northern Lights between September and March.
From Basel to Kiruna it is over 3000 km, which means a 46 hour drive. So that it stays pleasant for us and the dogs, we plan several stops: Hamburg, Malmö and Stockholm. After Stockholm there are 1-2 more spontaneous stops. When traveling from Switzerland to Sweden, we travel through Germany, Denmark and finally enter Sweden.
With a dog, this means that you have to comply with the entry regulations or transit regulations of the respective countries for traveling with a dog. Special entry requirements often apply to so-called list dogs. Each country defines which breed is defined as a listed dog differently. The Rottweiler can be considered a listed dog in some countries, but not in others. The best and most random information can be found either on the customs website of the respective country or mainly on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture. Find out in good time about the entry requirements for your holiday destination and the countries you will be passing through with your dog.
Our packing list
Traveling with your dog means equipping yourself for all eventualities. Often you don't even know what situation you will encounter abroad in terms of veterinary care, zoological products such as dog food or even smaller accessories such as poop bags. We always travel according to the motto: “It’s better to be carried along than needed”. For distant travel destinations, it is also useful to have sufficient provisions for food and a first aid kit, as well as equipment that you will need on site. Of course, many things are individual or dependent on the respective holiday destination.
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Preparation for the long journey
Are you planning to go on vacation with your dog? Then you will hardly be able to avoid the idea of planning a car trip with your dog. Taking your dog with you in the car to your holiday destination has many advantages. Unlike a plane, your dog can travel close to you and doesn't have to travel in a crate in the luggage compartment. Dog owners of smaller dogs weighing up to 6 kg can sometimes even take their dog with them into the passenger compartment of the aircraft. This option is not available for dogs over 6 kg body weight and can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Listed dogs are either not allowed on the plane at all or are only allowed under special conditions. The train is also not always an option and so the car is the best and most flexible option for long journeys. Personally, we consciously decided to get a bus so that we had enough storage space and also enough space for the dogs. You can snuggle up in your seat and, if necessary, get up and stretch properly. By car you can plan the stages and breaks or adapt them spontaneously, depending on how you and your dog are feeling. Otherwise, you are free to decide what and how much luggage you take with you. With dogs and depending on the travel destination, this can sometimes mean more, sometimes less, additional luggage.
Visit to the vet
Before you head out on a long car ride, it's important to have your dog checked out by a veterinarian. Make sure all vaccinations are up to date and your dog is in good health. If necessary, discuss possible solutions to motion sickness or stress with the vet. Don't forget to take your dog's vaccination certificate and all important medical documents with you.
In Europe there are some country-specific diseases that can affect dogs. Here is a list of some countries and their respective diseases to watch out for:
Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Southern France:
- Leishmaniasis: A parasitic infection transmitted by sand flies that can cause skin changes, weight loss, and organ failure.
- Babesiosis: A tick-borne disease that can cause fever, loss of appetite and anemia.
- Dirofilariasis (heartworm): A mosquito-borne disease that can cause heart and lung problems.
Eastern Europe (e.g. Poland, Hungary, Romania):
- Canine Ehrlichiosis: A tick-borne disease that can cause fever, lethargy and a tendency to bleed.
Scandinavia (e.g. Sweden, Norway, Finland):
- Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE): A viral disease that can cause neurological symptoms such as incoordination, paralysis and seizures.
- Canine Lyme Disease (Lyme Disease): A tick-borne bacterial infection that can cause joint pain, fever, and lethargy.
- Alabama Red: A rare but potentially fatal disease that causes skin lesions and kidney failure.
Germany, Austria, Switzerland:
- Canine Lyme disease (Lyme disease): As in the UK, this tick-borne bacterial infection can cause joint pain, fever and lethargy.
safety in the car
In road traffic, the dog is considered a load and it is mandatory for loads to be adequately secured to prevent slipping, falling over, rolling back and forth and falling - especially in the event of an emergency braking or a sudden evasive movement. If this is not the case, it may result in a fine.
There are several ways to protect a dog in the car:
- seat belt: A dog seat belt can be attached to the back seat or back seat to keep the dog safe while driving.
- Pet crate: A transport box can be used to transport the dog safely and comfortably in the car. There are different types of transport boxes, some suitable for the trunk and others for the back seat.
- Dog fence: A dog guard can be used to secure the dog in the trunk and prevent it from coming forward.
- dog seat: A special car dog seat can be used to transport the dog in the car safely and comfortably.
It is important to note that the choice of protection option depends on the size and weight of the dog as well as the space available in the car.
- Car window protection and sun protection: Car window guards are so that your dog can enjoy fresh air while driving without the risk of jumping out or getting injured a practical solution. They allow the window to be partially opened without your dog being able to stick out. In addition, one can Sun protection on the side windows Help keep the temperature in the car comfortable and protect your dog from direct sunlight.
Also think about other helpful utensils such as a foldable water bowl to offer your dog water on the go, or a cooling mat to keep him cool on hot days. A well-packed travel bag with food, treats, toys, poop bags and any necessary medication completes the equipment for a long car journey with your dog.
Tips for long car journeys with a dog
Before the car ride
Even before the car ride even begins, some dogs unconsciously experience stress. This may be due to preparation and inadequate or inappropriate exercise, which results in dogs having difficulty resting during the journey. Fortunately, you can provide the right impulses in advance of the trip and by keeping your dog busy to ensure that your car journey together is as pleasant as possible.
Packing, loading the car and planning: dogs notice the increasing excitement. While some dogs are simply excited about what's coming up, other dogs can get completely excited. So if you notice your dog is in an overexcited and stressed mood, you can offer him something that calms him down or keeps him busy. This can be a stuffed food toy or a lick mat.
Before a long drive, your dog should if possible Don't eat anything for 4 hours, so he doesn't get sick while driving. For particularly early departures, we plan several smaller portions throughout the day. For example, if we leave at 6 a.m., then of course we don't set the alarm at 2 a.m. to feed the dogs. In such a case, we divide the daily ration into 4-5 portions and the dogs receive one portion before departure and the small “bites” are distributed again and again as a search game during a break at the rest stop or just like that.
Employment & Utilization
Before driving, we recommend one long walk with your dog. You shouldn't exhaust your dog or let him get excited by playing ball games. Sit down sooner Movement in the sense of skill, balance or climbing. This allows your dog to be physically active and prevents the release of unnecessary endorphins. At the same time, your dog needs to concentrate during exercises and movements that require concentration. The mental workload means that your dog can calm down better during the car ride. In addition, you can take your dog through intensive nose work in the form of a dummy search or scattering of feed.
Your dog should always be transported in the car safely and in accordance with the regulations. It is very helpful to make the dog area a little more cozy. Many dogs find it helpful to snuggle up comfortably while driving. Bring your favorite blanket or place to support your dog. In our experience, it is more pleasant for our dogs to have a small, cozy dog area than a lot of space to move around. Dog crates are safe for your dog transport, but can create more anxiety for many dogs. Specially made transport cushions with a belt system can be a good alternative.
Management also includes travel time. If you travel in the summer, depending on the car, it can be very strenuous for your dog. For example, early evening rides are more pleasant for many dogs in summer. In addition, every dog has its own “active time”. Use what you know about your dog to use the active time for the walk and only set off when your dog would be dozing anyway.
Not every dog can tolerate long car journeys. For some dogs, the car ride upsets them, for others the car is generally stressful, or the noise of the car scares your dog.
Scheduled feeding before the car ride can help prevent unnecessary nausea in the dog. If that doesn't help, you can seek help from a veterinarian. There are different natural and chemical remedies that can help your dog with this. We recommend that you always test active ingredients a few times on short journeys beforehand. It doesn't always have to be something prescription, but sometimes natural remedies are enough. In other cases, however, the natural remedy doesn't work and your dog just needs something else. Support your dog by giving as much as necessary and as little as possible. That is individual.
If you are stressed or afraid of noise, a consultation with a vet can also help you find out which remedy can help your dog when traveling in the car. Natural remedies like CBD, Zyklene, Adaptil or valerian can be enough to give your dog a relaxing trip. Something like this should always be administered days to weeks in advance. The reports are very different. If none of this helps, your vet should advise you on finding the right remedy for your dog. Danger! Please make sure that your dog does not receive any sedatives (e.g. acepromazine) from the vet. Typical sedatives are Vetranquil, Sedalin, Calmivet and Prequillan. They have strong side effects and cause your dog to remain mentally frightened but unable to react physically. Maybe you've had a nightmare where you were terrified but just couldn't move. Horror idea, right? Yes, and that's exactly how your dog feels with a sedative. So anything but helpful, because you stress your dog even more and increase his fear.
During the car ride
Vacation means relaxation – it should! We therefore recommend that you plan your route carefully so that you plan enough stops. This helps you not to get hectic and offers your dog sufficient balance. We plan daily trips of 5 to 6 hours for ourselves. It's comfortable for us to drive and it's not too long for the dogs. We either plan the route to the destination in advance, with hotels, or we make spontaneous stops in our van and sleep in the car.
Breaks are very individual. Dogs who snuggle up in the car and sleep comfortably don't need to take a pee break every 2 hours. Dogs who don't enjoy driving need a short stop every 2-3 hours. It doesn't have to be long walks. 10-minute stops are enough. Your dog will be able to easily cope with the lack of exercise in one day. Danger! At the rest area you should only keep your dog on a leash. This is respectful of other people and dogs and safer for your dog. The hustle and bustle at a rest stop can quickly lead to an unexpected situation. While dogs can easily go without food for a few hours, they need enough fluids. Use every break to offer your dog some water. More common in summer than in winter.
Planning and executing a long car ride with your dog may seem like a challenge at first. But if you take the right steps and pay attention to your dog's needs, the trip can be a memorable and enjoyable experience that strengthens the bond between the two of you.
Proper preparation is the key to success. Make sure your dog is physically and mentally balanced before you get into the car. A suitable exercise session and mental activity help to release excess energy and reduce stress. Create a travel plan that takes both your and your dog's needs into account, including appropriate breaks and rest periods.
During the journey, it is important that your dog feels safe and secure. The right equipment, such as safety harnesses, dog belts or carriers, will help keep your dog comfortable and safe throughout the journey. Otherwise, provide appropriate activities to keep your dog mentally stimulated and help him stay relaxed during the journey.
Don't forget to be aware of possible health risks that may lurk in different countries in Europe and consult a veterinarian before traveling to ensure that your dog is protected against country-specific diseases.
By following these tips and paying attention to your dog's well-being, you will create the basis for a successful and relaxed car journey. You will explore new places together, create unforgettable memories and further strengthen your special bond with each other. Have a safe trip and have fun on your adventures together!
Do I have to take my dog to the vet before driving?
It is recommended to consult a veterinarian before a long car trip to ensure your dog is healthy and fit to travel. The vet can also check that all vaccinations are up to date and make travel recommendations if necessary.
How do I get my dog used to driving?
Getting used to driving is best done gradually. Start with short rides and gradually increase the duration. Reward your dog with positive reinforcement and create a comfortable environment in the car. Make sure your dog feels safe and comfortable
What equipment do I need for a safe car ride?
To drive safely with your dog, you will need safety harnesses or dog belts, a transport box or car blanket, car window protection and sun protection. It is important that the equipment fits properly and provides your dog with sufficient safety and comfort.
How often should breaks be taken?
Breaks should be taken regularly to give your dog exercise and relief. It's recommended to take a short break every two to three hours to allow your dog to stretch his legs and relieve himself. If your dog sleeps the entire car ride or, a break is not necessary. Pay attention to your dog and his individual break needs.
What should I give my dog to eat and drink while driving?
It's important to offer your dog plenty of water while driving to keep him hydrated. However, solid meals should be avoided before the trip as this can potentially lead to motion sickness. Light snacks and small portions are a good choice while driving.
How can I keep my dog busy while driving?
You can keep your dog entertained with various activities such as chew toys, intelligence toys or treat balls while you drive. These provide mental stimulation and help keep your dog calm and relaxed.
What can I do if my dog suffers from motion sickness?
If your dog is prone to motion sickness, there are some steps you can take. You can't feed your dog before driving or offer him enough fresh air in the car. However, it's best to talk to your vet first about possible solutions.
How can I protect my dog from stress while driving?
To reduce stress while driving, create a calm and relaxed atmosphere in the car. Avoid loud noises and hectic movements. Distraction and positive reinforcement through toys, treats, and gentle voices can also help calm your dog.
Are there any special regulations for traveling with a dog abroad?
Yes, every country has specific regulations for traveling with a dog. Find out in advance about the entry requirements of the destination country, including required documents such as EU pet passport, vaccination certificate and possible quarantine requirements. Don't forget that certain rules for the import and export of animals may also apply when traveling across borders within the EU.