“The key is to start with a good vehicle,” Autotrader executive editor Brian Moody said. “Then, look for brands that support dog owners” with accessories like fitted seat covers, steps or ramps for entry and exit, even built-in crates.
“Manufacturer support for pet-friendly features makes a difference. Just like with performance accessories, you can get aftermarket dog gear, but going to the manufacturer always works better.”
Volvo and Subaru both offer an array of accessories for pets. Subaru has built whole advertising campaigns around the idea that its vehicles are dog friendly
The Chrysler Pacifica also has a wide range of dog accessories, for canines who, like their humans, appreciate the room and practicality of a good minivan.
Nissan got lots of attention with the “Rogue Dogue,” a one-off SUV it made for the New York auto show. It featured built-in water and food dishes, a ramp to the cargo area, custom dog bed and even a 360-degree “hoop and hose” dog shower with a 10-gallon water tank. Nissan isn’t likely to build the Dogue, but Moody says some of its features will be available for production vehicles.
Big dogs needn’t equal big vehicles, though. “You’d be surprised how large a dog can get in and out of a Honda Fit” because of the subcompact’s low ride height and wide-opening doors and hatch, Moody said.
All those vehicles provide space for a dog to lie down and shift around in the cargo compartment. Nets or grilles to separate the rear from the passenger compartment are important to keep dogs from flying into the windshield in the event of an accident. Restraints for dogs that ride in the passenger compartment are also important so dogs don’t distract the driver or get thrown out of the vehicle in a crash.
Please, for your sake and your dog’s, never let a pet ride on your lap as you drive. It distracts you and virtually guarantees your pet won’t survive even a mild accident that triggers the air bags.
The Michigan Humane Society has other tips for traveling with dogs:
- All dogs should wear a collar and ID tag in case an accident occurs or they get away from you at a rest stop. Microchips are a permanent form of ID that cannot be lost.
- Keep the temperature inside the car cool and comfortable. Dogs can't perspire, so cool fresh air is essential.
- Plan ahead for overnight trips by checking hotel and motel websites for pet-friendly accommodations.
- Never leave your pet in the car unattended!
A dog can be great company on a road trip, but only if humans do their part.
Never leave your pet unattended and loose in a motel room. If a maid or anyone else opens the door, your dog could slip out and be lost hundreds of miles from home.
Plan stops to walk around and for water at least every three of four hours. My German shepherd-Labrador mix Ace has made friends out of humans who wished they had their dogs at every stop from Detroit to the gulf coast.
Also, start early: Teach your dog to look forward to rides in the car. I make a point of driving new puppies to the park around the corner from my house, and other quick trips to a place they enjoy. My German and Australian shepherd mix Nicky was terrified of cars because she’d been locked in a cage and driven eight hours from a shelter in southern Ohio that euthanizes puppies before I adopted her. My vet prescribed meds that kept her from vomiting, but didn’t make her sleepy, to calm her.
Now she’s delighted to hop into the car to visit my nephew Cormac, who likes to play fetch almost as much as she does.