How to bring your dog along in your UTV

One of the many great things about side-by-sides is that you can share the experience with a friend. What better friend does man have than his faithful companion, the dog? It’s no secret that dogs love going for rides in cars and trucks, so it should come as no surprise that they may enjoy a trip out in the UTV just as much. 

Hitting the trails with man’s best friend is a little different than going for a ride in the car. There are a few things to consider before heading out with Fido, to ensure a fun and enjoyable trip for everyone. What do you need to take with you and what preparations do you need to make for your dog? Keep reading below for some tips and tricks to make sure you and your pup have a blast out on the trails!

Start Slow with New Pups

For puppies or dogs not used to UTVs, it’s a good idea to take things slow. Give your dog a chance to get used to the vehicle while it’s just sitting in the yard or garage. Be sure to give them plenty of time to sniff things out and get accustomed to the vehicle without all of the accompanying noises. This is especially important for nervous dogs. If you have a nervous dog, you can give them treats when they get near or in the UTV. This will help them associate the UTV with something positive. This will also give you the chance to see where the dog will ride comfortably. Some love to ride in the bed of the UTV, while others do better riding in the cab. 

Jackson supervising while we work on the RZR.

Once your pup has warmed up to the side-by-side, start with short trips to give them an opportunity to get used to the vehicle moving. This is like getting your dog adjusted to riding in the car. Some dogs will immediately love it, while others will have to get used it. How many short trips you have to take will depend on your dog, but once you’re both comfortable, you can start lengthening the trips to the point of going for full day rides out on the trails. 

Water and Food

If you’re going for more than a short ride, it’s imperative to bring plenty of water for you and the doggo. Warmer climates will, obviously, require more water, but you should make sure you have enough on hand for the excursion, whether short or long. UTVs can get pretty warm and dogs can overheat quickly, so having water to keep them cool and hydrated is very important. You can find travel bowls very easily that will fold down out of the way when not in use. Most are small enough to keep in the glove compartment on most UTVs. 

For those all day trail rides, you’ll want to bring along some kibble for your furry navigator. You can also bring some food for yourself. Chances are, your pup will happily eat his food and help you finish off yours as well. It also doesn’t hurt to have some treats on hand to reward good behavior out on the trail. That type of positive reinforcement is especially important for the nervous or anxious dogs out there. 

Cooling Mat

UTVs can get pretty warm during the summer months and while the air blowing past you helps keep you cool, your dog may need a bit more. That fur coat does a great job of protecting them from the elements, but also makes them prone to heat illness. UTVs generate quite a bit of heat on their own, but add in summer temperatures and your pup could overheat quickly. 

Fortunately, there are some options to help keep your dog cool. Plenty of water has already been mentioned, but can’t be stressed enough. The other option is a cooling mat. These look like a dog-sized yoga mat, but have a gel material inside that stays cool to the touch. You dog can relax on one of these and it will help keep them from getting too hot. It’s not a miracle solution to keep your dog cool, but it will help unless you are dealing with very high temperatures. 

If your dog normally rides in the bed of the UTV, it may be less effective, as some UTV beds get very hot. You’ll want to ensure that the bed isn’t too hot for your dog’s paws. If so, an elevated platform may be needed to provide a cooler surface. 

Harness and Tether

If your dog is riding shotgun, you may want to consider getting a harness and a short tether to keep them from ending up in the floor every time you brake for something. This will help keep your dog safe as well as prevent them from exiting the vehicle at an inopportune time. Some dogs are perfectly fine to sit there until told to get out, but others may be tempted go sniff out another dog or chase off one of those pesky squirrels. The tether will prevent them from doing that. In addition, it can be used to keep your dog in their own seat, rather than climbing into your lap while your wheeling over some technical terrain.

You may be wondering why connecting the tether to your dogs collar hasn’t been mentioned. One of the primary benefits of the harness is that it wraps around your dogs chest and shoulders. Should you be involved in a collision or even sudden braking, the dog will continue moving forward. When the tether stops it, the force will be more evenly distributed across a larger and stronger section of your dog’s body. If the tether is connected to a collar in a similar situation, it can severely injure your dog or worse. 

There are quite a few options out there for a harness, so depending on your preferences for style, functionality, and price, you should be able to find something that fits your criteria. There are fewer tethers available, but still plenty to choose from. There are even quite a few that connect via the seat belt latch. Just make sure if will fit your vehicles latches. 

Check Regulations and Clean Up After Your Pet

Lastly, if you’re taking your dog with you on a trip to a new riding location, make sure you check the rules and regulations for that area. Most allow dogs out on the trails, but some areas may have certain restrictions. Sensitive areas may be off limits to dogs, as well as hiking trails to visit things like overlooks, waterfalls, etc. Most people know to check on lodging options that are pet friendly, but it’s also a good idea to inquire about bringing your dog to new trails before making the trip.

In addition, being able to bring your dog with you is a privilege that should be protected. Make sure to clean up after your dog no matter where you are and make sure they remain calm so as not to disturb others. Just like with people destroying stuff out on the trails, bad behavior from dogs and their owners can lead to restricted or even no access for the pooch. Just be responsible with your dog and you’ll be good to go. 

4 Paws and 4 Wheels is the Perfect Combo!

 A little prep goes a long way when taking your dog with you on rides. It’ll make for an easier and more enjoyable trip and you’ll be prepared for any surprises that might pop up along the way. Today, it’s easier than ever to ensure that you’re prepared and have the gear you need. From travel food bowls and water bottles to cooling mats, harnesses, tethers, and everything in between. You can even get goggles for the pup for those dusty days on the trail. 

Once your dog discovers the joys of riding along in the UTV, you’ll have a faithful trail companion that’ll be ready at a moments notice. Whether it’s just a trip to the end of the driveway or an all day trail ride, you can bet your dog will happily join you. UTVs are already a blast by themselves, but throw in man’s best friend and you have the perfect combo!

Are UTVs safe?

Having ridden motorcycles and ATVs since I was a kid and never being seriously injured, my immediate answer would be…