Dogs and trucks: for many, it’s a match made in heaven. Drivers with canine companions can’t imagine life on the road without their best buddies.
If you’re thinking you might like to have a dog in your passenger seat, you’ll be happy to know that travelling with a dog doesn’t just make you feel good—it’s actually good for you. Research studies show that companion animals provide a number of health benefits.
People with pets have lower blood pressure and decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also exercise more. There’s nothing like the pleading eyes of your dog telling you she has to “go” to make you pull over and take a walk. She gets relief and you get a health-boosting stroll.
Planning for your dog’s meals may also make you more conscious of your own eating habits; if Rocky chows down at exactly 8 am and 4 pm each day, you’re probably more likely to eat regular meals, too.
Research on pets in the workplace also indicate that taking your dog to work will reduce your stress, improve your morale, and lead to more and better interactions with people. Nobel-winning author John Steinbeck, who travelled across the continent in a truck with his dog Charley, wrote: “A dog…like Charley is a bond between strangers.” Steinbeck didn’t have to deal with customers and officials, but drivers who do may find that a furry partner helps to break the ice and make all kinds of interactions friendlier.
Many dogs act as an excellent alarm system, letting their sleeping owners know when strangers approach their truck and warning off potential thieves. Criminals report that a barking dog will make them think twice about targeting your property, because they always prefer the easiest victim.
Of course, companionship is the number one reason for teaming up with a dog.
• When there’s no one else around, you can talk to your dog. She won’t talk back, but she will listen.
• Just petting a dog is proven to reduce stress.
• Pet ownership makes you think about the needs of someone other than yourself.
• Dogs make you smile and laugh.
On top of all that, Rocky will never argue with you about which radio station to have on in the cab!
More and more trucking companies are coming to appreciate the many advantages of allowing drivers to bring their pets, especially as a prime benefit to attract employees. LTI Trucking, a U.S. company, has a pet program called Two Heartbeats to a Truck. They state: “Nearly 40% of our driving force brings a pet along for each route.” Another large U.S. company, Roehl, promotes their pet-positive policy, Pawsitively Roehl, with a series of video profiles on drivers and their pets, while Dart has rolled out a heart-warming ad with an adorable but sad left-at-home dog who convinces his owner to “Start rolling furry!”
In Canada, Bison Transport also understands the value of animal companionship for their drivers, following a policy of allowing dogs and cats (plus other animals upon approval).
“Our pet policy is definitely an attractor for drivers. It provides companionship for drivers as it can be a lonely time on the road for 5 to 7 days,” says Naomi Henry, manager of Driver Services at Bison.
Dogs and trucks can be a winning combo, but before you invite Rocky to ride along, remember you are responsible for making this team work.
• Make sure your employer welcomes pets and check out their pet policy so you can follow it.
• Be sensitive of customers’ policies—they may not allow your dog in their yards, facilities, or offices.
• Always clean up after your dog.
• Be aware of requirements for border crossings with your pet and always have the correct documents with you.
• Train your dog to be a good passenger and an ambassador for trucking professionalism. A pet should never be a distraction from safe driving or a hazard at stopovers.
Bison’s pet policy does include some safety requirements, according to Henry.
“All drivers travelling with a pet are required to take the ‘Distractions and Fatigue’ online course prior to taking their pet with them,” she says. “We do not have huge safety concerns but need to ensure that the pet is well behaved and approachable at the border and at customer locations.”
Like any good partner, you will need to put your dog’s safety and health right up beside your own in importance.
• If you drive in areas of extreme weather, plan ahead for your dog’s comfort. You cannot keep your dog shut in a truck without heat or air conditioning when the temperature is below or above moderate.
• Ensure your dog has fresh water at all times. To minimize mess, you might want to buy a no-spill water dish.
• Accept that you will need to make more frequent stops to exercise your dog. This will cost you time, but it will also improve your own health.
• Jumping in and out of a high cab many times each day will eventually injure your dog’s shoulders. Consider buying a set of folding stairs for her safety and comfort.
Having the companionship and the health benefits of a furry friend at your side on the long road is possible under the right circumstances and with the right planning, but it involves a big commitment and should not be taken lightly. Make sure you, your company, and your dog are ready.