Going for a ride is a favorite canine activity. But teach your Lab car manners so trips will be fun and safe. Car manners include waiting to get in the car until you give the okay, sitting politely in the seat, restrained by a doggie seatbelt; riding in a crate without complaint; and not hanging his head out the window and barking at other dogs.
A dog seatbelt keeps your Lab from roaming the car, or jumping on you while you're driving. It can also save his life by preventing him from being thrown from the car in the event of an accident. And depending on where you live, state law may require that your dog be secured in the car. Look for a dog seatbelt that has padding to prevent chafing, adjustable straps for a snug fit, and that allows the dog to sit, stand, or lie down. It should attach to your car's seatbelt, which locks into place when you stop suddenly, ensuring that the dog stays on the seat. If possible, the dog should ride in the back seat, so he's not injured by an inflating airbag. Some cars have a switch to turn off the passenger-side airbag, which should be done if your dog is riding in the front seat.
When going on a road trip with your Lab, simply pack his duffle bag, cover your backseat with a blanket or beach towel to catch dog hair, load a crate into the back of your car, and you're good to go. Well, there's a little more to it than that, but not much.
It's unusual these days not to be able to find a hotel or motel that accepts dogs. Some limit the size or number of dogs, but in most cases well-behaved dogs are welcome everywhere — from Motel 6 to the most upscale luxury palaces.
Start your search at Web sites that list pet-friendly hotels (see Appendix A). You can also check a specific hotel's Web site, or look in one of the many books written for people who travel with pets (see Appendix A). Be aware that listings, especially in books, are often out of date. Call to confirm a hotel or motel's pet policy before trying to make a reservation. When you find the right place and make a reservation, request a room on the first floor or a low floor so that potty trips don't involve a long wait for the elevator.
Help your Lab be a good hotel guest. Don't let him on the bed, or cover the bed with a blanket so he doesn't get hair on it. Crate him when you're not there to supervise so he doesn't destroy anything. If he's prone to lifting his leg, put a belly band on him, and if he barks, take him with you so he doesn't disturb other guests.
Belly bands work by wrapping around the midsection of a male dog, across the end of the penis, serving as a gentle reminder not to lift his leg indoors. They're also useful for older male dogs that are incontinent. Some belly bands have an absorbent center to help contain any accidents, or a sanitary napkin can be enclosed to soak up urine.
What to Pack
Choose a duffle or tote bag that will hold grooming tools, plastic bags for poop pickup, food and water dishes, a measuring cup for scooping out kibble, a bag of treats, a couple of toys, and an extra leash. Stash a copy of your Lab's vaccination records in a side pocket in case you need to board him somewhere for the day or are asked to show them at a border crossing. If you're planning to do some day hikes, bring along a daypack that will hold a couple of water bottles and your Lab's folding nylon water dish (a great travel accessory). Don't forget a blanket or fleece mat for lining the crate or laying on a hotel room floor.
You'll also need a supply of dog food. Dry food is the most convenient form for traveling, and if you feed a national brand, you probably won't have any trouble finding supplies of it on the road. If you feed a more obscure brand, go to the company's Web site to see if it lists stores that carry it where you'll be traveling. Get directions to the stores, or map them from your computer before you leave.
On the Road
After checking to make sure you have everything, load your Lab into the car. Depending on the length of the trip, plan rest stops every two or three hours so your Lab can work the kinks out of his legs, go potty, and enjoy a few minutes sniffing around a new area. The break will be good for you, too.
To accustom your Lab to riding in the car, take him on brief errands. Picking up the dry cleaning, going to the drive-through bank teller, or stopping off at Taco Bell are all great practice rides for your dog.
Make it a rule that your dog must always be restrained in some manner. No wandering loose in the car where he can distract you while you're driving or be thrown through the windshield in the event of a sudden stop or accident. You can get him a doggie seatbelt or confine him to his crate.
Teach your dog to wait at the car door until you give him the signal to jump in. This gives you time to get his crate arranged or set up his seatbelt if necessary. Use the “Wait” command that you learned in Chapter 12. Have a leash available when you arrive at your destination. Tell your Lab to wait, and snap on the leash before you let him out of the car.
Dealing with Carsickness
Sometimes dogs get motion sickness, just like people do. Signs of carsickness are yawning, whining, drooling, and vomiting. To help your dog recover from a bout of carsickness, roll the window down to let in some fresh air. It can also help if the dog is able to see out the window. If your Lab gets carsick in the crate, try restraining him with a doggie seatbelt so he can sit up and see the view.
With behavioral modification, you can help your Lab overcome carsickness and learn to love car rides. This can take several weeks and — like all dog training — requires patience and practice. Start by just sitting in the car with your dog. If he doesn't show any signs of carsickness just sitting in the car, praise him and give him a treat. Do this for several days.
After your dog has gone for at least three days without being carsick in a motionless car, get in the car with him and start the engine. Don't go anywhere, just sit in the driveway for a few minutes. Again, praise and treat your dog if he's able to sit in the car without getting sick. Practice this for several days.
If he's doing well with the practice sessions, start the car and back down the driveway. Then drive back in. Continue praising and treating your dog for riding calmly without getting sick. Gradually increase the length of the rides until your Lab no longer gets sick in the car.
If your Lab gets carsick, ask your veterinarian for medication. Whether your veterinarian recommends a natural concoction, such as Rescue Remedy, tabacum (a homeopathic medication), or a pharmaceutical product, test its effectiveness a few days before you leave to make sure that it works. Give the drug an hour to an hour and a half before the trip begins.