From time to time, dog owners need to take their canine friends for road trips. Most dogs enjoy car rides, though others may be generally unhappy about riding in the car. No matter what reaction your dog has, here are some ways to make the trip go smoothly and safely.

Can I leave my dog unattended in the car?
No matter what the weather, never leave your dog unattended in the car. In warm weather, the temperature of your car can quickly reach over 110 F. In a very short period of time your dog could suffer heatstroke — a serious and sometimes fatal condition. The symptoms of heatstroke are:

Panting
Rapid pulse
Drooling
Fever
If you think your dog suffers from heatstroke, immerse him in cool water and call your vet. If you absolutely must leave your dog in the car for a few minutes — and this should only be considered in the most severe emergencies when no other option is possible — make sure you:

Park your car in the shade.
Lower the windows a bit to allow air flow, but don’t provide an escape route for him.
Leave some water where your dog can access it.
Return to your car as soon as possible.
Most experts and canine organizations firmly oppose leaving your dog in the car under any circumstances, so only consider doing this when you have no alternative.

How do I choose a carrier?
You may have visions of your dog curled up in the passenger seat on the way to the vet, but this is the most dangerous way for your dog to travel. Loose pets run the risk of getting under the driver’s feet, wreaking havoc in the car or getting into an area that you can’t get her out of — like under the seat.
Look for the following feature when buying a dog carrier:

Airline-approved: This carrier can serve you in a variety of situations.

Soft-sided: These are more comfortable, though if you travel by air with your dog in the cargo hold, you’ll need to have a hard-sided carrier as well.

Wheels: These will help you lug around your large dog.

Metal front panel: Make sure it opens and closes with a locking mechanism, and that the latch secures well so your dog can’t get out until you release him.

Top door: This can be a big help in getting a skittish dog in or out.
If your dog is well-behaved and you’re only going for a short trip, put your dog on a leash and have another person control him in the car. Dog seatbelts are also available to keep your dog safely restrained during car travel.

How do I cope with an unhappy dog?
Some dogs simply despise riding in the car. Most commonly, unhappy dogs will breathe heavily and display nervousness and hyperactivity during the ride. Try the following ideas to calm your dog:

Cover the carrier with a light towel. This privacy can send a message to your dog to settle down.

Bring a water bottle that squirts water. Every time your dog cries, give him a light mist. Use your best judgment for your own dog.

Ask your vet about tranquilizers. Tranquilizers can keep your dog calm for about six to 10 hours.

Let your dog stretch. If your trip will be a long one, make sure your dog has an opportunity to stretch his legs outside the car. Make sure to put your dog on a leash or harness anytime he’s removed from his cage.
If your dog doesn’t respond well to travel, it may be best to take him only on necessary trips. To help your dog learn to be a more amiable travel companion, take a lot of short trips to get him used to his carrier and the motion of the car. Not all dogs can be trained to accept extensive travel.

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