Even the best canine travellers can emit a “doggy” smell that lingers in your vehicle after you’ve returned home. Here’s how to combat it.
Everyone loves road trips, including the family dog! But wet, muddy feet, fur and long claws can wreak havoc with your vehicle’s upholstery, and if he suffers from motion sickness, you may also find yourself dealing with accidents. In short, if you have a dog, your vehicle may harbor some unpleasant odours and unsightly marks.
Start with prevention
- If your dog has a strong smell, schedule a visit to your veterinarian. He or she will look for any medical reasons your dog may exude a foul odour. There are many reasons a pet may produce a bad smell, including dental problems, infections, coat conditions, or yeast in the ears.
- Bathe your dog regularly, or take him to a groomer. Dirt and feces can get trapped in many dogs’ coats, especially if the hair is long. Bathing your dog before a road trip will ensure he won’t bring any outside odours into your vehicle. Just make sure he’s well dried before he jumps in the back seat.
- Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed will help prevent them from scratching or making holes in your car seats.
- If you’re bringing your dog’s bedding along for the ride, clean it before you put in the car. Lavender oil or sachets between the bed and its cover are good ways to keep your pup’s bedding smelling clean and fresh.
- Put a car seat cover over your upholstery. Designed especially for dogs, many are waterproof and help protect fabrics from accidents as well as hair and dirt. You could also use towels to help protect your car’s upholstery from dirt, hair and stains; they’re easy to remove and can be tossed in the washing machine.
- Maintain proper aeration in the vehicle. Ensuring continuous airfl ow will not only help disperse odours but will make your dog more comfortable, reducing nausea or anxiety-induced vomiting. Turn on the ventilation system or air conditioning, or crack open the windows – but not far enough for your pooch to stick his head out.
- To further help prevent motion sickness, avoid giving your dog a meal prior to going out in the car.
- If you’re travelling a long distance, reduce the likelihood of accidents by stopping for frequent washroom breaks.
In case of accidents
Despite your best efforts, accidents aren’t always avoidable. The key is to deal with them promptly to reduce the risk of staining, and use the right products to get rid of odour.
Clean up messes immediately, using a non-toxic upholstery or leather cleaner. This will help prevent stains from damaging your car’s interior. Start by soaking up a urine or vomit stain with a cloth, paper towel or newspaper, then use a non-toxic odour eliminating product.
Avoid air fresheners. Your dog (and human passengers) may find the fragrance overwhelming and irritating. As well, an air freshener might disguise the odour for awhile, but eventually it fades away and the doggy smell returns. This is because these products don’t actually eliminate the source of the smell. Look for an odour elimination product rather than something that will merely cover up the odours.
Many products only attack the odour molecules but don’t treat the source of the problem – the residue (urine or vomit) that the odour-causing bacteria feed from. They may work temporarily, but over time, the bacteria multiply and produce more odour molecules, meaning you will have to frequently re-apply the product to keep the smell at bay. To permanently eliminate odours, you need to look for products that actually attack the source of the odour.
What about hair & dirt?
The best way to avoid smears of mud and shed hair in your vehicle is to cover your seats before your dog gets in. If this isn’t possible, deal with any mud stains on upholstery by letting them dry first; trying to remove wet mud from fabric will only spread the dirt particles and grind them deeper into the weave. Once the mud is dry, you can brush or vacuum up the dirt. For leather seats, rub mud or dirt off using a cloth moistened with a mixture of water and vinegar.
Dog hair is more challenging to cope with. It can be vacuumed up from leather seats, but can be very hard to remove from upholstery. A range of methods exist, but none are perfect. Some people use tape to help pick up the hairs, while others use a lint brush or a pair of wet rubber gloves (the type for washing dishes, with textured fingertips). Whichever method you use, it’ll take patience and persistence. The best way to avoid a lot of dog hair in your car is to keep him properly groomed, and cover the seats.
By taking a few preventative steps and arming yourself with the right products for odour elimination, cleanup and upholstery protection, you and your dog can enjoy carefree car rides!
Lisa Evans is a freelance health, beauty, fitness, lifestyle and travel writer. Her work has appeared in Alive, Canadian Living, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star and other publications.