Did you know that surveys indicate around 40% of America’s 3.54 million truck drivers travel with their dogs? Many trucking companies are dog-friendly and allow their drivers to bring a furry companion with them as their co-pilot to keep them company during the long hours on the road. Plus, dogs love exploring their surroundings, and seeing the country from their owner’s truck cab isn’t a bad way to do it.
Before you hit the open road with your pup, there are a few things you should do to prepare and make it a smooth and fun experience for you and your dog. We’ve laid out everything you need to know about trucking with a dog.
Benefits of Driving with a Dog
Truckers spend most of their time isolated on the road and may begin to feel lonely, so it’s no wonder that many choose to bring their beloved pets on the road with them for added companionship. In addition to serving as a driving buddy, dogs can provide many benefits to truckers who live their life on the road, including:
- Better physical health – Studies suggest that owning and interacting with pets can lead to improved physical health in the form of a lower heart rate and blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglycerides levels, and a boosted immune system. Plus, taking your furry friend for walks provides added exercise to your day.
- Better mental health – Pet ownership is also linked to reduced instances of stress, anxiety, and depression and elevated levels of the happy hormones oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin.
- Reduced driver fatigue – Because dogs require more frequent breaks, they can help reduce driver fatigue by getting their owners up and moving around outside of the truck more often. This ultimately promotes safer trucking practices.
- Extra security – Dogs can offer a greater sense of security by warning you of people approaching the truck while you’re sleeping or averting attempted break-ins while you’re away.
Restrictions and Paperwork To Be Aware Of
Before you take your pup on the road, you’ll want to make sure you have the correct permissions and paperwork squared away.
The first thing on your list should be making sure the trucking company you drive for allows pets. Many companies have pet policies that allow their drivers to take their dog with them, but it’s not a universal perk. If your company does allow dogs, it may have restrictions on weight or breed and will most likely require you pay a damage deposit or fee so it’s covered in the off chance any damage occurs. TruckingTruck.com provides a nifty list of trucking companies that allow drivers to have pets as well as any known restrictions and associated fees.
As far as federal regulations go, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) does not expressly provide guidance for truck drivers with pets as long as a safe driving environment is maintained. Most companies and states will require that you always keep current health and vaccination records for your dog with you, especially proof of an up-to-date rabies vaccine. If you’re traveling across state lines, you will most likely need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) or Health Certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian in your home state attesting that your dog is healthy. These rules vary by state, so make sure to check before starting your route.
In terms of where your dog is allowed when it’s time to make a stop, keep in mind that your customers may not allow animals on their premises or will require them to be restrained inside the truck while you’re there. Most truck stops are accommodating to pets and will have a grassy area to walk or play on, but highway rest areas may have a little bit less traffic and more space for your furry friend to run around. If you need to stop at a hotel during your travels, check to make sure it is dog-friendly, if it has any breed restrictions and whether it charges a pet fee on top of your regular room rate.
How to Train Your Dog to Ride in a Truck
Is your dog used to riding in a vehicle? Especially for long periods of time? If not, they may need a little bit of training before they become a truck dog.
Start out by getting them comfortable and familiar with any restraints, such as a crate, harness or pet barrier, you’ll be using before you put it in the truck. Let your pup investigate and offer treats and praise for approaching or sniffing the equipment. If you’re able, take them for a ride without a planned trip in mind so that you aren’t in a hurry and can stop when needed, especially if you know your dog gets excited or stressed while driving. Offer praise and treats for calm and relaxed behaviors, such as laying down, not barking, etc. As your dog becomes more accustomed to riding with you, you can adjust the number of treats and the length of the drives.
If your dog loves to chew, make sure you have plenty of bones or toys on hand to avoid damage to your truck’s interior. If they’re prone to barking, stay calm when correcting them and be consistent with training by telling them “quiet” in a commanding voice each time they bark unnecessarily.
Exiting the Truck
To keep your dog out of harm’s way in busy parking lots, it’s important that they don’t immediately try to exit the truck the minute the door opens. To help them hone their impulse control, take a moment before getting out of the truck to get a leash and treats ready. Praise and reward calm behavior as you clip on their leash and begin letting them out, but pause what you’re doing if they start getting overly excited so that you’re not rewarding unwanted behaviors. Give a verbal cue as you let your dog exit the truck or as you lift them out and offer more praise and treats for standing or sitting calmly next to you as you close the door and get ready to go. This will help them build habits and understand that they need to remain calm and next to you when exiting your vehicle.
If you have a new puppy, you may need to potty train them on the road. Start by having your puppy ride in a crate for a few hours a day and stop every few hours to let them out for a walk on a leash. In case of an accident, line your seats and other areas of your truck with old newspapers or puppy pads until you’re confident that they’re fully potty trained.
Safety Tips for Truck Dogs
Just like safety should be your no. 1 priority while driving, you should also make sure your dog is safe if they’re going to be on the road with you. Below are a few tips to keep them safe and happy.
- Make a space just for them – Invest in a dog bed and toys and start introducing them to the area they’ll be riding in several days before departure so that they feel comfortable.
- Keep them secure – Use a crate, seat belt harness or pet barrier that keeps your pup secure so that they can’t wander freely or get near the driver’s seat. When possible, situate them on the floor or in the back so they’re outside of the airbag’s trajectory.
- Keep a collar on them at all times – Make sure the information on their tag is up to date with their name and a working phone number so you can be reunited quickly in case you and your dog get separated. It’s also a good idea to look into a pet microchip if your dog doesn’t already have one.
- Use a leash outside of the truck – Always use a leash during stops to prevent your dog from getting away from you.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for exercise – Stop frequently to allow your dog to get some exercise and have a potty break. Dogs typically behave better and are calmer if they can get plenty of exercise.
- Don’t leave your dog in a hot truck – Never leave your dog unattended in your truck in the heat as it can quickly become a deadly situation. Auxiliary power units (APUs) or idle management systems can keep your truck at a safe temperature while you’re busy outside of the truck.
- Provide plenty of water – Keep a bowl of water available at all times to keep your dog hydrated on the road.
- Schedule regular vet visits – Make sure to stay on top of vet visits for your pup to keep them healthy and to stay compliant with any company or state guidelines for your pet’s health and vaccines.
- Keep windows closed – While dogs love poking their heads out the window, it can be dangerous, especially while driving on the highway. Objects could hit them in the head or they could easily get ejected from the truck if you hit a large enough bump or pothole.
- Use pet stairs or ramps – If your truck’s door is high off the ground, consider purchasing pet stairs or a ramp to help them get in and out of the vehicle so they don’t have to jump and potentially injure themselves. Many models are foldable and can easily be stored away while not in use.
Best Dog Breeds for Truckers
Because many of the trucking companies that allow dogs also have weight restrictions and your truck’s cab isn’t necessarily the most spacious place, the best dog breeds for truckers tend to be small- or medium-sized dogs that can easily adapt to the confined space. You’ll also want a breed that’s known for being calm and even-tempered. While older dogs make great driving companions due to their lower energy levels, a grown dog may have a harder time adapting to life on the road. Raising a puppy can be challenging, but training them in your truck from the beginning can make adapting much easier for them.
Other things to keep in mind when selecting a dog to ride with you in your truck are how much they shed, how prone they are to barking, how easy they are to train, how much energy they have, grooming needs and their adaptability. That being said, some of the best breeds for truckers include:
General Tips and Things to Bring with You for Your Pup
- Locate vets, emergency pet hospitals and pet supply stores – If you’re traveling the same routes often, look up vet clinics and pet hospitals and keep a list in case something happens to your pup during your travels. It’s also a good idea to look up pet supply stores along the way so you can restock the essentials when you run out.
- Bring preventive medications with you – Keep the medications your dog has to take on a regular basis, such as heartworm and flea and tick medications, with you in your truck.
- Bring plenty of extra water and food – Make sure to keep a supply of safe drinking water and extra dog food on hand. You don’t want to risk giving your dog unsafe or contaminated water.
- Provide blankets or a bed – Keep your dog comfortable during the ride by providing blankets or a dog bed for them to cuddle up in.
- Bring cleaning supplies – Accidents happen, so be prepared with air fresheners, cleaning sprays, brushes and paper towels to clean up messes. Lint rollers and pet waste bags are also good to have on hand.
- Have a copy of all necessary paperwork – Keep a copy of all necessary paperwork with you in your truck at all times, including vaccination records, a CVI or Health Certificate (if needed), medication records, ownership papers, pet microchip documentation, etc.
- Keep loose items secured in the cab – You don’t want your dog getting into anything important or accidentally getting injured from items rolling around in your truck.
Rush Truck Centers Is Your Total Solutions Provider
Rush Truck Centers has everything you need to make your truck the perfect environment for driving with your dog. We provide our customers a one-stop-shop for new and used heavy- and medium-duty truck sales, all-makes parts and service, and collision repair. And our RushCare Customer Support Team is on-call 24/7 to answer questions, help you find the nearest Rush Truck Centers dealership, dispatch roadside assistance or schedule a service appointment.
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