Travel animals

Steering You Right with Sharon Peters

Q: You write about trends in vehicle features and equipment sometimes, and like you I have noticed that most carmakers are trying to cram as many cup holders as possible into vehicles. I know such things proliferate because of consumer demand. So why can’t carmakers do anything to meet the needs of the massive population of dog owners that cart their furry friends around with them?

A: The Honda Odyssey features the HondaVAC, a built-in vacuum that is ideal for cleaning up pet hair. Some car makers, including Volvo, make a steel barrier for sport utility vehicles and wagons that you can have installed between the cargo area and the backseat to restrain the dog and keep him from being hurled into the front seat during an abrupt stop or in a collision.

If you have an SUV or wagon, a must-have — as far as I’m concerned — is a cargo-area liner that protects it from the mud, muck and other undesirable substances that sometimes accompany dogs.

If you have a sedan, you can get what are called rear-seat covers — protective covers that fit your particular vehicle’s back seat and attach so you don’t wind up with a big wad of fabric when Rufus shifts around. A lot of companies make and sell them; I’m partial to the ones sold by Doctors Foster & Smith, as they are substantial, fit perfectly and easy to clean.

Now that I’m on a roll, I am thinking of a couple of things that car makers could include in SUVs for me and my mutts: I wouldn’t mind having a built-in water bowl (you listening out there, croakers?) that wouldn’t be so prone to tipping. In the absence of such a thing, I’ve found that a collapsible fabric bowl (intended for hiking trips) only about one-third full is less inclined to tipping than anything else I’ve tried. I also would appreciate a small, built-in latched storage compartment in the rear for leashes and treats.

Most people who travel with dogs a lot prefer lower-to-the-ground vehicles so getting in and out isn’t so tough for the canine. But if the dog needs a little assistance and you don’t want to do the job, you can buy a ramp — some are designed for SUVs, some for sedans, and all are solidly constructed and provide decent traction surface for the animal. Both types fold up so you can carry them with you and help the animal out when you get to your destination.

There’s mixed opinion about leather versus fabric seats. Some vote for leather so fur cleanup is simple (though a dog’s toenails must be kept pretty short to prevent damage).

As for the — ummm — doggie smell, I’m a big believer in aromatherapy diffusers. They’re about the size of cigarette lighters, have removable tabs you can sprinkle with the aroma oil of your choice, and the scent is released with heat — which comes from your removing the cigarette lighter and sticking the diffuser into that aperture. Good health-food stores carry these gadgets. Lavender, tea tree and eucalyptus are good scent choices, not too florally.

Anyone else got any ideas about good products for traveling canines? If so, please e-mail and let me know.

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email


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