I’m going to focus this post on if you really need to crate the dog and if not, what are the options. The first thing you must decide is safety vs stuff. If you are in a serious car accident and the dogs are not crated because you decided to bring a lot of gear, there is a high chance of them not surviving. You have to decide the risk vs the reward. Sometimes we travel with the dogs free. Most of the time I put two airline crates in the back of my van like this:
Those blue crate fans are cheap to buy and work for hours and hours. They provide enough circulation to keep the dog comfortable in those airline crates that don’t have a lot of air flow. If you use airline crates, you need crate fans.
I built this platform for the crates to set up on using 2×6′s and a 4 x 4 sheet of plywood. I left enough room on one side that a normal exercise pen, grooming table, or medal / mesh large folding crates can fit on left and the other side is just right for a tent canopy and / or folding chairs. It was not hard to build and saves me so much space. I had one of these for my Suburban years ago, but put off making one for the van because I wasn’t really showing that much with the kids keeping me busy. Now that I have one again, I really regret not building it sooner. It is such a space saver. These platforms are cheap to make and only takes a few hours if you are even mildly handy. You can even ask Home Depot to make all the cuts for you. I know most people are not as dog focused as me, but if you have a few dogs and wondered how the dog show people carry so much stuff, this is the secret. This is how my car is loaded 90% of the time. When vacationing and house hunting I stick on our Thule car top carrier for most of our human gear and luggage. We purchased our Thule Excursion about 15 years ago and let me tell you this thing was worth every single penny. It works just like it did when we bought it and it has been used 2-3 times a year. If you road trip at all, you should get one.
This is the one I have. They no longer make this version, but there are other options or maybe you can find one used. Love it, we will use it until it breaks.
What if you don’t have a nice platform or car top carrier or own to many dogs to crate and travel with the entire crew? Well, that is when you have to decide the risk vs reward. I’ve traveled many times with my dogs loose in the car. Yep, I admit it. One specific event was not the norm, but it shows how you can make it work if you are open to other options. We were going to Tucson, AZ to pick up Rain’s first litter that Stacey had whelped and raised. We were co-breeders and she wanted me to place the pups because of my experience level with the breed and interviewing owners. At that time we were living in Colorado and I had Merlot, Flash, Cami, and Indigo. Flash, Cami, and Merlot were all entered in Agility that weekend in Tucson. I felt like a superstar for booking both a puppy pickup AND a dog show in the same weekend! We get on the road and make it about an hour into our trip and the transmission blows on my Suburban. We were pulling our camper, had a car full of dogs, and on a great road trip when the car just up and decides it isn’t going to go any farther. Eventually, we make it home after having our camper towed to storage and the truck taken to a repair shop. The only other vehicle we had at that time was our Subaru outback. The size difference between the Suburban and the Subaru is substantial. I called Stacey to explain the situation, that we were not likely going to be able to bring the camper, and she said they had a place for us to stay, don’t worry. We just had to decide if we should try to get a renal van for the trip or make the Subaru work. We decided to use the Subaru. Needless to say, once we picked up the entire litter of pups, plus my 4 adult dogs, our car looked like a clown car. There was no room to crate everyone. The pups were crated in the very back area. Merlot, Flash, and Cami got the middle and were not crated. We placed our luggage in the floor boards behind our seats to provided a platform to curl upon. The exercise pens and extra fold up crates “just in case” we needed to contain all the dogs were placed in the Thule on top of the car. Indigo, my Shiba Inu girl, got to lay between Keith and I on a pillow. Let me tell you, she loved that. The perfect car trip in her little mind. So sometimes, you just make it work and take the risk. By the way, all three of the dogs qualified in Agility that weekend and the trip has become a great memory for me and Keith. Again, this wasn’t a normal situation.
Whatever you decide, own that decision. There are no perfect choices in the world, you can only weigh the options and decide what you want for your pup and go with it. There will be nay sayers no matter what you select, but if you go into it with an educated view you can stand behind your choice. With that said, there are great car seat belt restraints you can use if you are tight on space and have a well mannered dog who isn’t going to eat your car or vomit in sickness. The harness is comfortable for the dog and while not nearly as safe as an airline crate, it does offer a lot more protection than nothing at all. This restraint will keep the dog from becoming ejected from the car, which is the main risk to their life in an accident. My research has determined that the SleepyPod Clickit harness is the best option. You can read the full crash test information here: http://centerforpetsafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2013_cps_harness_study_summary_final.pdf.
I’ve never used these, but I might pick up a few to have on hand ‘just in case’.
You can also use a barrier in the rear of your car to keep the dogs contained. Again, this will offer no safety to the dog during an accident, but again I’ve used these before and they worked well for us during that time in our life.
We used one just like this for years in the Subaru. There just wasn’t room for many crates.
If your dog is well trained, doesn’t get car sick, will not snack on your food when you go inside to go potty during stops… then you can take the risk and allow them to roam free in the car. You need a well trained and obedient animal for this to work, otherwise you will create training issues using this method. Sadie was our foundation female and she was a sweet and gentle soul who did very few things wrong. The only issue Miss Sadie had was her inability to control her snack surfing during car trips. I had to keep her behind a barrier or in a crate because there was no stopping her if she was left in the car without human supervision for even 5 minutes. She never counter surfed at home, this was only an issue in the car. So, know your dog! They can be sneaky bugs!
Next post will cover what to pack as far as food, supplements, water, gear, etc.