Travelling with a dog of any size can be fun and adventurous. Nonetheless, with either big or small dogs, you have to consider the size-appropriate safety and comfort needs. Keep in mind that dogs of all sizes can get nervous, anxious, restless, and even aggressive if they don’t like where they are.
There are three main differences in taking a road trip with a small dog vs a large dog. Bigger dogs need bigger cars with wider doors. Small dogs can comfortably travel in small cars. Small dogs need carriers while large dogs need full-body harnesses. Big dogs need more breaks along the route.
To find out how these differences come about, let’s get into detail with the planning and the road trip experience.
How Long Can a Large Dog Travel in A Car?
Big dogs will more often than smaller dogs suffer a bit of cabin fever when driven for long periods. To ease the feeling of being constrained, you will need to make more rest stops.
Let your big dog stretch their muscles, relieve themselves, and get away from the tight space of the car after every two to three hours. A smaller dog will need rest stops and time to stretch, but not as much. For a small dog, it is possible to stretch within the confines of the car so they don’t feel as much of cabin fever as bigger dogs.
When planning a road trip with a big dog, look for good places for those stretching breaks. Mark your map for areas such as dog-friendly rest stops and public parks.
How Do You Road Trip a Small Dog?
To road trip with a small dog, you need to make the following preparations:
Before going on a road trip with any size of dog, first take your dog to your regular vet. The vet is likely familiar with your dog’s medical history and behavioral issues.
Additionally, the vet might be aware of disease outbreaks or other issues affecting animals in your area, along your route, and at your destination.
Your vet is also likely to provide:
- Medication for car sickness, anxiety, and appetite.
- Advice on spaying or neutering and how to manage recovery while on the drive.
- Suggestions on routes, vets, pet hospitals, pet hotels, dog parks, and dog food.
- Information on how to use the microchip data in case you lose the dog.
Prepare a Carrier
Just like you have to wear your seatbelt, you’ll need to restrain your small dog too. A free-moving dog in the car can be a distraction and an accident hazard. Some jurisdictions legally require dogs to be strapped in securely. Even if your area laws don’t require this, it’s the right thing to do.
The carrier should be of strong construction. It should also allow plenty of ventilation. No matter the size of your dog, the carrier should be of a size where your dog can stand, turn around, stretch, and sleep comfortably.
To secure your small dog in its carrier, place the carrier in one of the seats behind the driver and next to the door. Don’t use the center seat. Secure the carrier using the seatbelts by tying the straps around the safety features of the carrier.
Food and Water
Carry enough food to last the whole road trip and a few days after. The extra food is to sustain the dog when you reach your destination and are still settling in.
Buy all your food in advance because other places along your route may lack your regular brand of dog food. A new type of food may distress the dog, especially combined with the prolonged confinement and new environment.
Dogs get stressed when experiencing changes in home, arrival of new family members, or extended periods in cramped spaces. The stress and anxiety may lead to behavioral problems such as excessive barking, marking and urinating in the car, and destructiveness.
One way to calm your dog during a road trip is by using pheromones. Pheromone products are synthetics that mimic dog scents and work to calm and settle distressed dogs.
Pheromone products can help traveling dogs cope with interactions with strangers, feeling claustrophobic, separation anxiety, and to cope with engine noise.
It’s always important for your dog to have proper identification on them, more so when travelling away from home. Microchip your dog and attach a well-labelled name tag to their leash and collar.
On your vet trip, ask the vet to make sure the microchip is in its proper place and working. If the microchip has migrated to other parts of the body, the vet should relocate the chip to its proper place.
Difference Between Large and Small Dog on A Road Trip
While there are many similarities in traveling with a small and big dog, there are some differences too. Some of the main differences that stand out include:
1. Car Choice
With a small dog, you can use just about any type of car. All you have to do is strap in the carrier with the dog inside and you’re good to go. However, with big dog breeds, the size of car and type of features matter.
For giant breeds such as St. Bernards and Great Danes it would be inconceivable to transport them in a typical sedan. You would need at least a minivan with movable seats to create space.
For middle-sized and certain large-sized dogs, you’d want a vehicle made with pet-friendly features. Manufacturers such as Subaru, Volvo, and Chrysler have specific SUVs with an array of pet accessories.
For example, Nissan’s “Rogue Dogue” was a show car featured in the New York auto show. The car had built-in food and water bowls, a ramp for pets to board the car, a dog shower, and a 10-gallon water tank.
Even with a smaller car, a large dog would need wide-opening doors and probably a hatch. Wide door features wouldn’t be necessary for a road trip with a small dog.
2. Safety Gadgets
When driving with a small dog, all you may need is a strong crate or carrier and your car’s seat belts. For a midsize or large dog, a crate might be impractical. Instead, you might have to use other ways to fasten and secure your dog.
One way is to use dog car harnesses. You want a harness that attaches the dog’s full body to your car’s seat belt system. Find a safety harness that’s crash-tested and approved by the Department of Transport (DOT-approved) or certified by the Center for Pet Safety (CPS-Certified).
Your bigger dog might need more breaks out of the car to stretch, take potty breaks, and get away from the hum of your engine. Smaller dogs often have adequate space to stretch inside the car.