Many of us are preparing for our long-awaited and much-needed December break. We’re packing cars, planning routes, and making arrangements for our pets. But what about those of us who are taking our dogs with us?
Many people who need service dogs need them by their side no matter what. In this article we focus specifically on service dogs*, but remember that assistance animals come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you know how to travel in a way that suits both you and your service animal.
Service dogs, just like people, need to be safe in a vehicle at all times. We’ve all seen drivers travelling with their dogs on their lap hanging out of the window, or running across and over the car seats. As cute as it is to see a happy pup with its ears flapping in the wind, travelling without taking safety into consideration is a danger to everyone, not just your dog.
A dog sitting in the passenger seat can be severely and often fatally injured if the airbag deploys in an accident. Your dog also becomes a danger to you and your passengers during a collision – being hit by an upwards of 10kg mass at high speeds could definitely injure someone. There are countless horror stories of car accidents, so we don’t need to remind you of that. Make sure to keep your family (including the furrier members of it) safe while you travel.
The safest way to transport your dog is by using a secured, high quality travel-crate. If you do not have one, you can also use a harness. A simple dog-harness (not a collar) is perfect for travelling short distances. Simply attach a leash, fold it double, and thread the seatbelt through the gap. This will allow your dog to sit and stand, but not move around in the car.
Have supplies at hand
A doggy first aid kit can literally be a lifesaver in an emergency. Your supplies can include anti-nausea tablets, a light tranquilizer for anxious dogs, bandages, and much more. Whatever you think you might need at home during an emergency, make sure to have it at hand while you travel.
Have a clean blanket to keep your dog warm, or to protect your upholstery from sharp nails and hair.
A food bowl can be used for more than just kibble. Keep it for water when you make a pit-stop to keep your dog hydrated.
Make sure your dog is comfortable and safe
Make sure there’s nothing that could fall on your dog (even if your dog is in a crate) if you were to brake or turn sharply.
Keep your dog’s service vest (if you have one) nearby for pit stops. Do not leave it on your dog during long car rides because it could be too warm or uncomfortable.
Keep the windows partially open or have the AC running to make sure your dog is comfortable despite the heat. Likewise, if you’re travelling during the rainy season, make sure your windows don’t leak and that your dog has somewhere dry to lay down.
Keep the music at a reasonable volume. Some dogs are anxious passengers despite being extremely well-trained, and adding loud sounds to the mix is a recipe for an anxious animal.
Do not have your dog travel on the bed of a bakkie or van. Even if there is a canopy for shelter, your dog could be fatally injured in an accident.
Make frequent stops. Not only will this save you on clean-up duty for when nature calls, but it will also give you and your dog a much-needed break.
The last tip of this article, is to always be patient with your dog. Despite the fact that service dogs are calm and obedient, they don’t enjoy countless hours on the road either. Understand that your dog has specific needs and try to be as accommodating as you can. The Mobility Team would like to wish you and your loved ones a happy festive season and safe travels. Please share this article for those who might be travelling with dogs this holiday and to create awareness of service dog safety.
*Most of this article can also be applied to those travelling with dogs in general, not just service dogs.