Joan Merriam: On the road with your dog |

Joan Merriam: On the road with your dog

Now that we’re not under strict mandates to stay at home and winter’s still a ways off, this is the perfect time for traveling — and today, you can easily include your furry companion in your travel plans.

Before you go, however, determine whether or not your pup actually likes car rides. Some dogs are head-over-paws happy to head out on the road with their humans, but others pant, pace, drool, and even become physically ill when facing a car ride. If your dog would rather be anywhere other than in the car, it’s probably best to leave her at home with a pet-sitter. (There are ways to help your dog ease her fear of car travel or lessen her car sickness — I’ll cover that in a future column.)

As with most things, planning ahead is the key to a successful road trip. Make sure your dog has a collar with an ID tag, but remember that collars can come off, so make copies of vaccination certificates and anything related to specific health conditions. Pack medications, a dog first-aid kit, and your veterinarian’s contact information.

Other essentials are food, treats, water, toys, a leash, poop bags, and perhaps a travel-sized dog bed. Bring along a current photo of your pup, just in case the worst happens and you become separated. For even more foolproof identification, get your dog microchipped. If she’s already chipped, double-check your contact information.

Travel can be fun for everyone, including your furry best friend — so hit the road!

Many dogs love to ride with their heads out the window, so if this is true for yours, invest in a pair of dog goggles. Take a look at your windshield, and imagine those same bugs and debris flying into your dog’s unprotected eyes.

It’s always a good idea for your dog to wear a crash-tested car harness every time he’s in the car. Why? If you’re traveling down the highway at 65 miles an hour and have to slam on the brakes, your dog is a guided missile on a collision course with and through the front windshield, a deadly scenario. You could also have him ride in a crate or carrier; just secure it so it won’t slide in the event of an abrupt stop.

And never let your dog ride in the front passenger seat unless you’ve disabled the airbag, which can be fatal to a dog in an accident. If you opt to have your pup in the back of a pickup, California law requires that they be either crated or cross-tied. Just be aware that even then, it’s not terribly safe: the Humane Society estimates that 100,000 dogs are killed each year in accidents while riding in truck beds.

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again here: NEVER leave your dog in a car in hot weather. When the outside temp is a tolerable 85 degrees, your car’s interior can reach 120 degrees in just 30 minutes.

A great option to leaving your dog in the car is bringing her inside: more and more stores today allow well-behaved, leashed dogs. There’s just one obligation: tell a clerk — and clean it up yourself — if your pup has an “accident.” Being a responsible pet owner will help ensure that businesses continue to welcome dogs!

On the subject of dogs being welcome, make sure that your lodging is dog-friendly. (In other words, don’t try to sneak Fido or Fifi in under the cover of darkness.) There are many websites that tell you who does and doesn’t allow dogs: some examples include,, and Most hotels, motels, campgrounds, and RV parks also state their pet policy on their websites.

Along the way or when you reach your destination, the same guidelines apply: know where dogs are and aren’t allowed. While most national parks disallow dogs on any trails, leashed dogs are permitted in the many state parks. You’ll find dozens of dog-friendly beaches along the western coast, and some allow your dog to run free.

If you’re heading for a city, many are renowned for being exceptionally dog-friendly: Carmel comes to mind immediately. Other dog-friendly cities include San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Las Vegas, Austin, Boulder and Denver. Again, do your homework before you plan your trip to make sure you and your dog will be truly welcome.

Travel can be fun for everyone, including your furry best friend — so hit the road!

Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her Golden Retriever Joey, her Maine Coon cat Indy, and the abiding spirit of her beloved Golden Retriever Casey in whose memory this column is named. You can reach Joan at And if you’re looking for a Golden, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.

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