12 Tips For Road Trips With Your Dog

The idea of a road trip can seem daunting to some…especially if you are traveling with your pup for the first time. Don’t freak out! With just a little bit of extra planning, the trip can be fun and stress-free for everyone.

Give them a safe way to ride

Most everyone would agree that it’s not safe to allow kids to roam around in the car while driving…so don’t let your pup! Putting them in an assigned safe spot will ease their car anxieties; your pup will know what is expected from them and will be able to ride happy.

Some options for car safety include putting them in their crate, doggie booster seats, backseat barriers, or harness and seatbelt systems. When choosing which method will work best, just try to think about your dog’s comfort.

For example: if you have a small dog, a harness system may not allow them to see out the window; a booster seat would be a better option. If your dog has anxiety and loves their cage, bring the cage so they have a safe space and can relax. If you don’t want your seats to get muddy and scratched, a backseat barrier allows dogs (especially the big ones) freedom to enjoy the outdoor stops without making them a menace.

Pack a doggie bag

Dog Travel Bag Checklist Graphic

Having all of their stuff in the same place saves a lot of stress when on the road. Pack a bag for your pup just like you would pack one for yourself. It should include:

  • Food & Water with travel-friendly dishes
  • Collar & Leash with ID tags!
  • Small Treats to use for positive reinforcement and training along the way
  • Blankets & Favorite Toys to give them a sense of security while away from home
  • Poop Bags because, c’mon, don’t be that person
  • Wipes & Paper Towels since messes don’t just stop when you leave home
  • Car Activities to keep them entertained
  • First Aid Kit especially if you are doing outdoor activities
  • Vet Records just in case

Take your pup on a few mini-trips before the long-haul

A lot of dogs get anxiety in cars because they associate car rides with the vet or the groomer. Make sure your pup knows that cars don’t only lead to scary places! Take them to visit friends, go to a park, or even just give them a treat and drive around for a bit.

One of those trips should be to the vet though

Before traveling, make sure your pup is up-to-date on all of their shots and vaccines. Exploring new environments and being around new animals can be dangerous, even more so if your dog isn’t prepared. A lot of vet clinics have records available online, but it is always nice to have a hard copy.

Make sure to include pet-friendly stops along your route

The key to an enjoyable trip is to make it enjoyable for all. Include a couple of dog parks or nature walks that you can explore together. Make sure to check ahead of time for nature walk regulations; anything that is labeled a nature preserve will not be dog-friendly. There are also plenty of dog-friendly restaurants that will allow you both to take a nice break from the car.

Playing Fetch With Dog On Beach

Let them drink; let them pee!

Don’t restrict your dog’s water to try and cut down on bathroom breaks. If you don’t want to leave a water dish out while driving (which is totally understandable…it’s hard to find one that doesn’t splash) have an easy and safe way to offer them water while you are on the road. A good ‘rule’ to go by: if you are thirsty, they are thirsty.

Your pup may actually need more water than normal if you notice them panting a lot, if it is hot outside, or if they are doing more physical activity than usual. Restricting water can quickly dehydrate your dog, leading to more stress and anxiety during their trip.

Give them an activity to do while riding

There are a lot of toys that are specifically designed to keep dogs entertained, and for good reason! Dogs are on their best behavior when they are mentally stimulated. Most people don’t like to sit in a car for hours or days on end; if we didn’t have music or phones to entertain us we would go mad. Don’t lock your pup up and expect them to be fine because you have three books-on-tape to listen to.

Give your dog light meals

If you are doing a long trip, at some point it will most likely clash with your pup’s feeding schedule. Instead of doing the normal 1-2 full meals a day, feed them 3-4 light meals. A full belly on the road tends to lead to some unwanted smells in the car.

Let your pup out EVERY SINGLE TIME you stop

Even if you have to wake them up…let them out. Even if you don’t think they have to potty…let them out. It gives your dog a chance to stretch, to sniff around in a new area (which is a dog’s favorite thing to do), and it could also save you from stopping in another two hours when they wake up.

Always put your dog on a leash before letting them out of the car

Not only is this a safety precaution for your pup, but a lot of cities have leash laws. Even the most well-behaved dogs can get spooked in new environments, don’t take the chance!

Allow some flexibility in your plans

Having a plan is great, but make sure it is not packed so tightly that any little bump could throw it off. Leave enough time to enjoy the journey, not just the final destination. Give yourself extra time at rest stops in case there is a nice, grassy area nearby. Walking around with your pup, even just 10 minutes, will make a huge difference in their trip experience.

Have a way to distract them at hotels

Even pet-friendly hotels don’t like to put up with a noisy dog. Having a special “hotel treat” and putting on some background noise can make all the difference. Give your pup something they are not used to – antler bones work great – so they are distracted. If you are someone who doesn’t like the TV on while you sleep, use your phone for white noise or meditation music. Blocking out the sounds from the hotel will give you both a much better night.

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