When Your Best Friend Asks, “Can I Come Too?”


By Anna Burke 

Are you looking forward to your summer vacation? Hitting the road to visit Grandma? The lake? The summer house by the ocean? You are not alone. Waiting anxiously by your bags is your eager Retriever.

You’ve driven him to new depths of despair with all this packing. He awaits the moment of truth when his bed joins your duffel bags in the back seat.

He holds his breath as you drive past the turn off for the kennel. Could it be true?

Is your Retriever really coming with you on summer vacation? Traveling with your dog is rewarding and, admittedly, challenging. Don’t let making his day ruin yours. Read these rules for Retrievers before letting your dog leap into the SUV.

Your Labrador Retriever or Golden Retriever may have stolen your heart. Don’t let him steal the wheel. Dogs make much better copilots than pilots. Follow these rules to ensure you and your dog arrive at your destination in one piece.

10 Rules For Retrievers

Rule One. Dogs stay in the back seat. Contrary to popular Retriever belief, Retrievers are not lap dogs. Excited and nervous dogs want to be close to you. This is dangerous when you are driving. Does your dog try to wiggle to the front? Do you find yourself driving with one arm thrown out to prevent Fido rom frolicking up front? Is there a cold nose and hot breath against your ear the entire road trip? Invest in a mesh net or metal grate that keeps your dog in the back. Your nerves will thank you. So will the french fries you get to enjoy in peace.

Is your Retriever crate trained? Traveling in a crate is the safest place for your dog. She will be safer in the event of an accident. She cannot chew anything she is not supposed to, including underwear, all your road snacks, and the back seat.

Best of all, she cannot escape the vehicle in a fit of excitement over a passing squirrel. In short, a crate trained dog is the easiest dog to travel with. Not crate trained? Keep your eyes peeled for squirrels, rabbits and other appealing wildlife while making sure your dog has enough room to stand up and lie down in the back. Pack carefully to prevent luggage from squishing her while on the highway. Nothing is more pathetic than the sight of two brown eyes peeping out from a pile of bags with no place to pull over for miles.

Rule Two. Don’t let your Retriever stick her head out the window. Highway speeds create wind and debris that can damage your dog’s eyes, nose, and ears. Save the breeze sniffing for the back roads. Don’t believe that wind is a problem? Try sticking your own head out the window at 65 mph and see what happens. Make sure to leave your mouth open for optimal effect.

An open window is an invitation. If your dog’s head can fit, she believes the rest of her can too. This puts your family and your dog at risk. The sight of your Retriever hanging halfway out the window is a bit distracting for you and other drivers. Don’t be the cause of a ten car pile up.

Rule Three. Get an identification tag with your dog’s name, your name, and a contact number. This is your best hope of a happy reunion in the event your dog gets lost while on vacation.

Rule Four. Leash, leash, leash. Your leash is the best way to keep your dog safe while on the road. Attach a leash before letting your dog out of the car. Keep your dog on a leash until he is safely back inside the vehicle. Does your dog try to lunge out of the car? Your dog is not a weapon. He can control his explosive force. Work on sitting and staying before exiting the vehicle. This makes your life easier and teaches him good manners.

If your dog does escape, don’t panic. Would you come to someone who is angrily screaming your name and shouting dire threats of beatings and no food for weeks?

Imagine now this angry person running towards you waving his arms and looking like he is about to have an apoplectic fit.

Don’t chase your dog and don’t scream at him. All it accomplishes is making you look ridiculous. Instead, sit down and call your dog in a friendly voice. Bring a few treats and a favorite toy. Sitting piques his curiosity and is a nonthreatening posture. He is more likely to come to you in this position. If sitting fails, try lying down. Your pride and clothing might suffer. Lying down is irresistible to canines concerned about you.

Rule Five. Never leave your dog alone in the car. Take turns going to the rest room so that someone is always with him. Cars heat up very quickly. Even a few minutes in a hot car is damaging to your dog. The only hot dog you want on your vacation is the kind that comes with a bun.

Rule Six. Don’t forget to take your dog out when you stop at a rest stop. Th is is especially important for senior dogs and puppies. They do not have control of dogs in their prime. Pick up after your dog. You know you judge other dog owners for not picking up. Don’t poop and run. Avoid the hypocrisy by traveling with doggy bags.

Hydration is very important for traveling Retrievers. Offer your dog water at each stop. Traveling makes your pup nervous. Nervous dogs are thirsty.

Consider purchasing a collapsible travel bowl that stores easily when not in use. Bring a gallon of water along – it is a good idea to have anyway.

Rule Seven. Avoid carsickness. Does your dog throw up on long rides? Try giving him a small meal or waiting until you get to your destination before feeding him. He won’t thank you, but your car will.

Be careful about skipping meals if your dog is on medication or has special dietary needs. Consult your vet about the best course of action. Your vet can prescribe your dog a medication to help with his upset stomach. Your veterinarian is the best\ source for an anti-nausea solution. Delaying a meal is different than depriving your dog of water. Refer to number six.

Rule Eight. Give your dog a breeze. Double check that the AC or the breeze from the window reaches your dog in the back. Adjust the vents to keep your dog cool. Have a family member reach a hand back to test the air.

Watch out for signs of heat stress like excessive panting, lethargy, or an inability to stand. If you notice any of these signs, call your vet or locate a veterinary emergency center near you. Heat stress leads to heat stroke, which can kill your Retriever.

Rule Nine. Vaccinate. Talk to your vet about any vaccines your dog needs to stay safe while traveling.

New England is currently experiencing an outbreak of canine influenza. This is due to the number of unvaccinated dogs traveling with their families. Diseases are not the souvenirs you want to bring back with you.

Rule Ten. Make car rides fun. Does your dog dread the word “ride?” Do you have to pry his feet off of the ground and avoid his betrayed gaze while you forcibly place him in the vehicle? Th is is probably your fault. Where do you usually take your dog in the car? If the answer is the vet, the kennel or the groomer, then you can’t blame your dog for dreading the trip. The best way to train your Retriever to be a good traveling companion is to practice. Let him chase a few squirrels. Make car rides a positive experience before you take your pooch on a long trip.

These rules for Retrievers won’t save you from the embarrassment of your dog delivering your dirty underwear to you proudly in front of a room full of guests. They won’t stop your dog from jumping into the lake right before bed time, forcing you to towel him off while mosquitoes devour your ankles and your children leap back out of bed despite strict orders to the contrary. They won’t even stop your in-laws from arriving a day earlier than expected. They will keep your family and your dog safe on your travels.

Bonus Rule: Include your Retriever in your family photos, spontaneous selfi es, and any and all delicious barbecues

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