There are few things as fun and relaxing as taking a road trip with your friends, and no friend group could be complete without your dog.
While there’s no doubt that your dog will enjoy the adventure and the chance of spending more time with you, it’s important to remember that road trips get significantly harder with a dog in tow. There are many things you need to plan for before you even think of leaving your driveway, and while doing so may seem like a hassle, it’s the best way to guarantee your dog’s enjoyment and well-being.
We’ve compiled a detailed list of tips that will help you prepare for a canine road trip so you and your best friend enjoy the experience as much as possible.
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When it comes to road trips, planning is everything and that goes twice when your furry best friend joins the fun.
Make sure to include plenty of breaks, as this will allow your dog to stretch its legs, go potty, drink water and satisfy its needs. Make sure the stops last enough for your dog to entertain itself, as long stretches on the road can get boring and, unlike you, your dog probably won’t get the same enjoyment from music and road games.
If you can fit a dog park or two into the trip, do it. Your dog will LOVE the opportunity for some safe off the leash exploring and the chance to make new friends! While you’re at it, make sure to make new friends too. Locals may give you recommendations for good places to take your dog to.
We highly recommend you check out our friend Joybeth’s guide on dog road trip essentials. This will save you time and money.
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If your road trip includes spending the night at hotels, finding a pet-friendly place is already on your plans, but there’s no need to limit yourself to only that.
When researching pet-friendly hotels, make sure to include pet-friendly restaurants as well, or else your dog will have to wait back at the hotel.
Want to go the extra mile? Make sure to research pet-friendly roadside attractions. Not only will this make the trip much more memorable, but it will also ensure you can visit the attraction in question. After all, the biggest ball of yarn this side of the Mississippi may be amazing, but it’s not worth leaving your dog locked in your car for.
Websites such as Bring Fido and Dog-Friendly will make things much, much easier for you as they’ll help you find pet-friendly accommodations and attractions based on the areas you’ll visit.
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Be Thorough with your Packing
Making sure you’ve packed all the essentials is a vital part of traveling but it becomes twice as important when it comes to traveling with your dog.
While you may be able to get by buying stuff at gas station stores, the same can’t be said for your furry friend so triple check you’ve packed everything you need before even leaving your driveway.
Here are some of the things you should make sure to pack:
Water Bowl: Travel water bowls and dog water bottles will make things easier, but make sure your dog is comfortable drinking from them before starting your trip. If your dog doesn’t want to drink from a travel bowl, pack its usual one, even if it’s a little more cumbersome.
Dog Food: Make sure to pack enough dog food so that you don’t run out during your trip. No matter how fun, the change of scenery and routine will be stressful for your dog and you don’t want to add on to that stress by also changing their food.
Medications: If your dog has a medical condition, make sure to pack its medications. You should also consider doing this if your dog frequently gets sick of something if stressed.
Updated Tags: When it comes to traveling with your dog, it pays to plan for the worst. Make sure your dog’s tags are updated and don’t go for the cheap stuff.
Medical Records: Ask your vet for a copy of your dog’s medical records at hand, including their recent vaccinations. This not only will help your dog get better medical attention if needed but it will also ensure your dog is allowed into any park or pet-friendly attraction you find along the way.
Crate / Kennel: If you plan on sleeping in hotels, make sure to bring a dog crate or a kennel. Some hotels will let your dog roam freely in the room but some won’t, and it’s better to be prepared with a kennel and not use it than need it and not have it at hand.
Remember to keep things as organized was possible through the trip, both for convenience and sanity sake.
Some stores actually sell dog-travel kits specifically designed to make road trips easy. Consider purchasing one of those or at least using them as an example in order to pack things as efficiently as possible.
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Road trips are long, and while you may be used to them, your dog may find them a bit more stressful.
Whether your dog is traveling on a dog car seat or in its carrier, make sure they’re comfortable enough to stay there hours on end.
Their favorite blanket will go a long way towards their comfort, but go the extra mile by providing a comfortable place to lay on, like its bed.
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Giving your dog its favorite toy can also keep it relaxed, but avoid balls or any other toy that can roll under the seats and get stuck under your pedals. Your dog’s comfort is important but safety goes first.
Your choice of music is also very important. You may find that blasting music keeps you awake and aware through the trip, but it may do your dog more harm than good.
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Safety Safety Safety
Safety comes in many shapes and forms when it comes to dogs and road trips, but here are some things to consider:
- Don’t let your dog roam freely while in the car. Establish a designated area and keep your dog there. If your dog is used to roaming freely in your car, do some trial runs to show them the new rules. Don’t attempt to keep your dog in a single area if they’re not used to that.
- Consider the purchase of safety car accessories for your dog, such as doggy seats belts.
- Pack updated photographies of your dog, as well as its medical records. We’ve already covered the need too keep updated tags, but consider getting your dog microchipped as well.
- Always leash your dog before letting it out of the car. Rest stops are a wonderful place to let your dog stretch its legs but they’re also dangerous, as your dog can run into the highway or get run over by a fellow traveler if you’re not careful.
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Prepare Your Dog
A spur of the moment road trip may sound fun, but it’s never a good idea for your dog unless Fido is already used to those.
If your dog isn’t used to long road trips, make sure to slowly work your way up to that by allowing your dog time to get used to being in a moving car.
Minimizing the risk of car sickness by feeding your dog a couple of hours before the trip starts and make sure to take them on a long, long walk to their favorite areas before getting in the car.
If you’re thinking about staying in a hotel that requires your dog to be crate trained, train your dog beforehand. Don’t expect your dog to suddenly be okay with it. Doing so will result in sleepless nights and very angry neighbors. (And it may also get you kicked out of the hotel.)
Pack a First Aid Kit
First aid kits are important additions to any road trip so you should always make sure to include one for you and for your dog.
You can find dog specific kits in big pets stores, but if you can’t find one you can make your own by including:
- Something to clean wounds with
- Vet wraps
- Sterile pads
- Styptic powder
- Pet first-aid book
If your dog tends to eat all it finds, include meds for an upset stomach.
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Find a Vet (Or Several)
Talk to your vet beforehand and enlist their help for the trip.
Ask them for vet recommendations in the cities you’ll be visiting and, if your vet doesn’t know any, look through online forums.
Make sure to keep a list of phones and addresses of different vets at hand. Don’t rely on the internet once you’re on the road, and, if you can, keep a list on paper at hand.
If you’re going off the grid or camping, look for popular destinations for dogs, as the park rangers are more likely to be equipped to help your furry friend in case of an emergency.
Your vet may also provide insightful tips on how to make the road trip more enjoyable, so make sure to ask them for their suggestions.
Prepare for Different Weathers
This is a must for road trips but it’s important for your dog as well, particularly if your dog is sensitive to weather changes.
If you’re traveling with a cold sensitive breed, like chihuahuas or greyhounds, make sure to pack some clothes for your dog in case the weather gets cold or if it gets rainy. For the later, consider packing a towel or two.
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If you’re traveling with a heat sensitive breed, make sure to avoid situations where your dog may overheat. Use the A/C inside your car as often as possible and let your dog rest in the shade whenever you’re in a rest stop. Make sure to always provide fresh water.
If you’ve arrived to a destination that’s too hot or too cold for your dog, skip it. Whatever you do, don’t let your dog inside the car while you have your fun.
Going Off Grid?
If your road trip includes going camping, don’t treat it like any other destination. Camping includes its own set of considerations that you should really keep in mind.
A whole other article could be written about this very subject and, in fact, many articles have been written. However, we’ll give you the footnotes for you to know what you should keep in mind:
- Make sure your dog’s vaccines are up to date. Ask your vet if they suggest any extra shots before your trip.
- Give your dog flea and tick medication before the trip.
- Always make sure the area you plan to camp in is dog friendly. For your own comfort and everyone else’s.
- Let your vet know where you’re camping in case there are any risks in the area. Sometimes vets are aware of disease outbreaks that only affect animals.
- Research the camping grounds throughly. Focus on animals commonly found in the area that may pose a threat to your dog, such as bears or snakes.
- Also make sure to research common flora that your dog may eat.
- Always supervise your dog, as it can encounter dangerous situations or may get lost amongst all the excitement.
- Check your dog for ticks, scratches, thorns and things like that every few hours.
Above all things, be patient.
Dogs thrive on an established routine and on the safety of their environment. No matter how fun it will be, a road trip will turn their world upside down and you should be as patient and supportive of your dog as possible.
They may get clingy, cranky, nervous or too excitable; They may get car sick, complicate travel plans in some completely unexpected way and even alter things entirely, but it will all be worth it because not only will they enjoy every second of the trip, but they will also make it memorable in ways only a dog can.
- Tammy Hunter, DVM, Road Trips and Car Travel With Your Dog, VCA Hospitals
- Car Travel With Pets: 10 Tips for Safety and Security, WebMD