Since I’ve been traveling with Mowgli – and that’s been quite a few years now – I’ve accumulated a number of experiences that I’d like to share with you. The unique situation on our trips is usually that I am solely responsible for my dog, which creates issues at some points that require a creative solution.
On the journey
There are dogs who are quite excited when they are allowed to ride in the car. Others can’t stand it. As for Mowgli, he is neither enthusiastic nor reluctant to jump on his doggy mattress in the car. He knows that we will do something together and that motivates him enough. Since he keeps a close eye on everything I do, he knows when it’s going to be a long trip.
Routinely, he is strapped in, once with a special safety belt that is latched into the restraint system of one of the rear seats and routed to the rear between the seats, and two dog leashes that are attached with carabiners to the lashing eyes in the trunk. All lines and the harness are attached to his safety harness, from which he can not break out. This gives him a certain freedom of movement, but he cannot climb around in the car at will and is secured during braking maneuvers. Most of the time he lies down after buckling up.
Especially in the summer, it is important to keep an eye on the temperature in the car so that the dog is comfortable and does not suffer any damage. As is well known, dogs do not sweat like we do. Too high temperatures, which we still endure, can become life-threatening for him. Therefore, air conditioning in the car is not a luxury, but necessary when traveling with a dog.
On the last trip to France, however, the air conditioning in my Kangoo also came to its limits (at 40 ° outside temperature) and therefore I have additionally used a small fan with battery operation for Mowgli.
In addition, you can offer the dog a cooling mat to lie on. Mowgli, however, does not care. Instead, he persistently lays aside….
Something that you must NEVER do, that is to leave the dog in the car in warm and hot weather, not even short. Take a look at this table:
Even at an outside temperature of only 20°, there is danger to life after one hour at the latest!
This is also important to consider when using a ferry that requires the dog to stay in the car during the crossing (to England, for example). Unfortunately, in my experience, ferry companies do not take pets in the car into consideration when placing the vehicle, despite registration. Therefore, on my trips to England, I always booked ferry appointments in the early morning or late afternoon, and better yet, in the evening. Even if you open the windows in the car, it can get stuffy on the car deck. I was always happy when I could finally return to my car and find Mowgli reasonably well again.
Even if the dog is comfortable, it is still important to take regular breaks, like every two hours. Then we always stroll a little together through the parking lot to stimulate the blood circulation. Mowgli shakes off the stress of driving and relieves himself on a tree, then sniffs around a bit and keeps his spirits up this way. Unfortunately, people often throw food scraps on the floor, which Mowgli as a former street dog thinks is great, but I do not…
But what if it’s so hot outside that the dog can burn his paws on the asphalt? What if you can’t leave it in the car because of the heat, but you urgently need to go to the bathroom? Some rest stops are exemplary and at least have some shaded areas and you can take your dog inside. But how often do you have to tie him up outside and hope he’s still there when you get back! I am very relieved every time my well-behaved dog looks at me wagging his tail joyfully, and I wish that more consideration was given to our four-legged passengers. Is it really that hard to think about the dogs and their safety and well-being?
Some of the circumstances already mentioned above (heat, leaving the dog alone, security), also apply to staying at the campsite.
Basically, the campsite operators require that dogs be leashed, and that’s the right thing to do. In the south of France, however, some dog owners unfortunately did not adhere to this, which then led to stress when their dogs approached our tent, because Mowgli naturally defends his territory. It is especially annoying when you then also find dog poo from another dog in front of the tent!
Walk the dog
In general, I find it natural to walk the dog outside the campsite. You can not always stop a male dog from marking fast enough, but especially dog excrement has no place on the campsite! And I find it just as natural to bag up and dispose of the leftovers. Small rules that make life on the campsite more pleasant for everyone, and quite easy to follow!
Can I leave my dog alone?
As for Mowgli, the answer to the question is “yes”: yes, but not for too long. Long enough, however, to be able to take a shower or wash the dishes. Ideally, the supply house is nearby so Mowgli can watch it.
If it’s still early in the morning and cool, I leave him in the car until then. Otherwise, he is pegged to a ground anchor that can be turned in the meadow with a long leash or the line is attached to the lashing eye in the trunk. He gets the command “Stay!” when I walk away and knows what to do. So he guards the tent and the car and there are actually no problems. However, sometimes I hear my dog barking while standing in the shower and I hurry… There were no serious incidents yet – except… well, there was this cat that once dared to walk past the tent while I was busy cooking. I had Mowgli’s leash attached to the car with a carabiner. Unbelievable what power such a dog can develop! The lashing eye held, the car didn’t fall apart either, but the carabiner, which was previously shaped like a figure eight, was torn off and bent straight! Nothing happened to the cat and Mowgli was also relatively easy to collect again, because the long leash got tangled in the bushes, but the fright was great. A residual risk therefore remains.
As soon as the temperature moves towards zero, which can also be the case in summer at night on a mountain campsite, for example, the dog can also freeze despite its fur coat. From 5° it becomes uncomfortable for us in the car. However, this is not a binding temperature threshold that applies to everyone, because everyone may feel it differently.
I have to admit, I haven’t tried a real winter camping yet. My experience stops at about -1°. Since the Kangoo doesn’t have a parking heater, the topic is on my mind of course and I’m thinking about heating options in the car. A gas camping heater that consumes oxygen and produces carbon monoxide in return is as bad an idea in a closed vehicle as a tea light heater. The latter can cause a fire if handled incorrectly (for example, if you leave the tea lights too close to each other). Especially if you want to sleep while doing so, such heating methods are taboo. What I do want to try, though, is a firebrick heated on the camp stove. After you turn off the stove, the stone releases the stored heat, which may be enough for such a small camper with low-budget equipment as I have. On a trip last winter, I had the firebrick with me in the shape and size of a pizza, but I forgot the camp stove. Stupid run… 🙁 So the test is still pending.
If you are on a campsite, you can use a suitable fan heater (energy-saving, anti-tilt, overheating protection!). Even better I find a mini oil radiator, which keeps the heat longer, being content with 500 watts. Here, too, the test is still pending.
So far we had to cope with the cold without heating. One of the best purchases for this was Outchair’s warming blanket, which runs on a powerbank and provides up to 5 hours of warmth depending on the level. They are available in different sizes for humans and dogs. Also, of course, help a good sleeping bag, warm blankets, a hat and the appropriate clothing. Mowgli has a winter coat and is also covered with a blanket, from which, however, he usually stomps free to then snuggle closer to me. (There is no better heating stove!).
I’m looking forward to some real winter camping with oil radiator and firebrick and will report back then….
When hiking or doing strenuous activities in the summer, two things are especially important:
- Much water
- Avoid heat
I always carry at least one liter of water each for me and for Mowgli, but actually that is too little, especially if the trip lasts longer. Sometimes Mowgli has to carry some of his own water in his cool dog backpack, which also has room for treats, poop bags, tick tongs and so on. But here it is essential to pay attention to the weight, because the load should not exceed 5% of the body weight, which in Mowgli’s case is about 1.4 kg. So, such a backpack is only useful for dogs of medium size and above. The weight must be evenly distributed on both sides and the backpack should also be taken off once in between so that the dog can recover. Also, it makes sense to carry an already half-empty water bottle yourself and put another item from your own backpack in the dog’s backpack for it, because the gurgling of the half-full bottle can be quite annoying.
A collapsible water bowl should also be on every outing.
Strenuous activities in blazing sun are taboo! Again and again you meet people who let their dog run alongside their bike in the midday heat. You can’t do that! At the latest from 25° a heat collapse threatens. Even for strenuous hikes, avoid heat and prefer to be out and about in the cooler morning and evening hours or in the cool forest. A mountain hike in blazing sun quickly brings the dog to its limits.
Let’s not fool ourselves: Not only for us humans travel with long car journeys and climate change, foreign impressions and changed daily routines can be exhausting, but for our dogs, who are also creatures of habit, even more so. On the one hand, Mowgli loves our ventures and is always very excited about them, but on the other hand, he is also sensitive to change.
So it has happened now on several trips that we had to go to the vet. Sometimes he had gotten sand in his eye, which had then become infected, sometimes mosquitoes had affected him so badly that he licked himself bare.
You can prepare for minor problems. For example, tea tree oil, hair scissors and tick pliers are a must in your luggage. I also take saline with me to flush his eyes. Likewise, it has proven useful for us to have a neck brace with us. You should consider what problems may occur with your own dog and adjust accordingly.
If you do need to see a doctor, it is important to have your pet passport with you. When traveling abroad, you have to carry it with you anyway.
Mowgli puts a lot of things away and doesn’t let on. But over time, you get a feel for how the dog is doing. And then you shouldn’t wait too long if a serious problem is brewing. I have learned that in the meantime. At the latest when he runs back and forth erratically and would prefer to hide, it is high time to do something.
Language problems can be easily solved when visiting the vet, because there are now very good translation apps. I prefer to use DeepL.
Traveling alone with a four-legged friend is very nice, but in some respects also a bit more complicated than when you can divide the supervision and responsibility among several people. However, with good preparation and well-rehearsed communication with the dog, such trips are a wonderful time for both dog and human, bringing both even closer together. In any case, Mowgli and I are a well-established team, especially because of our travels together.