We pup owners love the ‘welcome home’ that we get from our dogs as soon as we walk in the door; the tail wags, doggie grins and wet kisses are a balm to our hearts and minds after a busy day away from our pets! One unique group of dog owners, however, rarely need to leave their best furry friends behind – more than 40 percent of truck drivers travel with their dogs by their side, and home simply means being together, wherever that may be.
Truckers with dogs will often say that there are many benefits to a canine travelling companion. A dog is someone to talk to, share experiences with, and having another soul in the passenger seat keeps the driver from being lonely or depressed. Having to get out and exercise their pups also helps otherwise sedentary truckers keep fit, too, since most dogs need a break to stretch their legs and burn off energy on a daily basis.
The idea of having a mutt friend on the move has become so popular, in fact, that some truckers have taken the concept of caring for canines to the next step. Operation Roger and Pawsome Truckers and Transport are two organizations that provide a network of trucker transport for homeless rescue dogs that need to travel to their forever homes. These doggie ‘underground railroad’ operations have carried hundreds of canines across the country so far, and will continue to run as long as they have volunteer drivers. When Sue Wiese, the founder of Operation Roger, was asked what’s it’s like to have a dog companion in her truck, her reply spoke volumes about the bond between truckers and their four-legged travel buddies. “It’s actually safer. It’s wonderful…you have someone to talk to, someone to care for. They really become a person to you…they know you just as well as anybody can.”
Living the nomadic dog owner’s lifestyle can take a little more planning and preparation when it comes to long haul travelling, though. If you’re a driver that’s looking to ‘go to the dogs’, so to speak, there’s a few things that you should know before hitting the road with Rover.
Pick the Perfect Pooch
First, remember that most of your pup’s day is going to be spent in the small area of your cab, so think carefully about the size, breed and age of dog that you choose for your travelling companion – high octane doggie athletes like Weimeraners may not make the best choice for long trips, as you might find them literally ‘bouncing off the walls’ if they’re too bored! Young pups can adjust well to travel, but usually need more frequent pit stops to pee or poop, of course, and heavy shedders can transform your cozy cab into hairy chaos.
On the other paw, your choice in canine company may be limited by trucking company rules and regulations, too. Some companies limit the size and weight of pets travelling in driver cabs, while others prefer no pets at all. It’s also a good idea to think about your dog’s potential poor habits as well – will their tendency to chew stuff mean that they can’t be left alone, for instance?
Get Your Canine a Cautionary Check-Up
Your pup may be a fearless wandering woof-warrior, but there are health hazards that your pooch may be exposed to on the road, like contagious diseases and pesky parasites. Before you make a long run away from home, make a vet appointment to make sure your furry friend is fit for travel, and keep them up to date on vaccinations, too. Many areas can be risky in regards to fleas and heartworm – keeping your pup on monthly parasite prevention will make sure that no extra, unexpected travellers return home with you and your dog.
Review Your Dog’s Rations
If you’re travelling by truck with your mutt by your side, it’s essential to make sure that you have access to food and fresh, clean water for them – which can sometimes be more of a challenge than you realize! Most truck stops will carry pet food, but it’s often not fantastic quality (besides being more expensive!), so pack enough of your own pup’s chow when you’re on the road. As for hitting up the H2O, some stops have free water at the fuel pumps, but be sure to ask if it’s actually drinkable so that your dog doesn’t get sick. Bottled water is your best bet on the road.
Common Sense Canine Care
Don’t forget that that roads, highways and parking lots can be dangerous places to play! It’s easy to lose track of your pup if you don’t pay close attention to their security. A leash is the best tool to keep your pooch safe by your side at rest areas and stops to stretch your legs, and you should also consider micro-chipping your pup – if they do happen to get away, then they can be easily identified and returned quickly to you.
Taking a furry family member on a truck run can add time to your travel, too. Stops for feeding, watering, walks and potty breaks are par for the course while travelling with your pooch, and you might find that some truck shops aren’t very welcoming of your tail-wagging companion, meaning that you’ll have to find somewhere else for them to hang out while your rig is being fixed up.
A driver’s safety is a top concern as well. Dogs are hairy distractions, and a dog roaming around the cab can be a recipe for disaster! Secure your pup in place with a dog seatbelt while the wheels are turning, and give them something good to chomp on so they don’t get bored.
Finally, remember that it’s a huge no-no to leave your canine companion unattended in your truck for any amount of time. While breeds like Bulldogs and Boxers have far more trouble handling the heat, any dog can get too hot in a matter of minutes with the right weather conditions. Make sure that your pup feels at home too, though, because being on the go with you is really your dog’s whole world. Now grab your pup and get trucking!