Tips for taking your field dog on a road trip, including need for travel crate

Two golden retrievers, both field dogs, take a break from picking up ducks.
Two golden retrievers, both field dogs, take a break from picking up ducks.

Field dogs do their part on a road trip by being good listeners, taking the blame for occasional foul odors in the cab and being eager for any hiking, hunting, fishing or camping situation we drive them to regardless of the weather or time of day.

Our job as owners of active dogs is to take care of them.

A little preparation can make a big difference in the pleasure of the trip. It can also help assure that your favorite traveling companion returns home with you if something goes wrong.

Get off on the right foot with your phone number engraved on the dog’s properly fitted collar – and with the dog in a travel crate.

“Dog boxes save dogs,” said Dan Hoke, a professional bird dog trainer who travels with dogs nearly every day.

Dr. Joseph Harari, veterinary orthopedic surgeon in Spokane, said he commonly treats dogs with injuries related to being in vehicles.

“Dogs launching or jumping out an open window while the vehicle is moving is not uncommon, especially with Labs and terriers, it seems,” he said.

“I used to say dogs being thrown out of the back of pickups was common, but that’s been overshadowed by hunting and working dogs flying off ATVs and side-by-sides. Those injuries have increased dramatically over the past seven years.”

In a State Farm Insurance commercial, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is featured driving down the highway with his blue heeler. The dog happily has its head out the open window, tongue flapping in the breeze. While that practice subjects a dog to eye injury from flying insects or road grit, Harari noticed one good thing.

“If you look closely, you’ll see for a split second that the dog is wearing a harness,” he said. “More and more people are using them in their vehicles.”

Hoke said a dog crate, especially one that’s strapped down or secured, can prevent injuries a dog might sustain from being slammed against the dashboard even in a simple hard-braking incident. A crate also protects a dog from hurling objects or a deployed air bag.

Other considerations for driving with your dog include loading and unloading. Jumping up into a rig is generally OK for a dog, but allowing a dog to jump out is needless exposure to joint, ligament or tendon damage.

Hoke feeds his dogs less than normal and avoids giving them treats, especially new treats, when traveling. He learned that the hard way, he said.

“With cover on a crate, dogs can be comfortable in pretty cold weather even if they’re outside of the cab,” he said. “But they always need ventilation, and you can never leave them in a vehicle when the temperature is hot or even warm and sunny.”

In addition to water, bowl, food, burr brush, a few towels and spare bedding, Hoke carries a full first-aid kit for his dogs.

“The main thing is to have gauze and bandaging to keep blood from going everywhere until you can get an injured dog to a vet,” he said.

He also carries Quik Clot bandages in case of extreme bleeding.

Most road trips for hunting or hiking end with everyone happy and fulfilled and the dog happily exhausted and ready for food and hours of snoozing.

“Dogs are great to travel with,” Hoke said.

Dogs can be icebreakers in meeting other people and more tolerant than friends or even spouses of really bad travel decisions, such as being too stubborn to get a weather report or ask directions.

“A dog with its own credit card and a willingness to use it would be the best travel companion ever,” Hoke said.