Going on a road trip with your dog is one of the best adventures you and your buddy can share.
Unless your dog is a seasoned road tripper, some simple preparations can go a long way to ensuring a safe and fun trip for you all.
Things to Consider When Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip
There are a few things to consider when planning a dog road trip.
- Not all dogs automatically take to car travel, especially long journeys. Some dogs get terribly car sick – which is avoidable.
- Some don’t take well to a break in their routine or get bored in the car – again, avoidable.
- Some destinations take some planning to ensure your dog has as good a time as you.
- Dogs need to get used to the constant change and stimulation that travel brings. Your normally well-behaved dog may not behave as they do at home.
These simple tips will help ease any unnecessary stress for you and your hound on your big adventure so every bit of your road trip is safe and enjoyable.
How to Plan The Best Dog Road Trip
Plan A Dog-Friendly Itinerary
As with any vacation, the destination is everything. Although, the planned destinations on your road trip need to be dog friendly. A little prior research can make your trip so much more enjoyable.
There’s no point taking a road trip to a national park that doesn’t allow dogs or a beach destination that isn’t dog friendly. There would be nothing worse than spending a long day in the car only to find the campsite you booked doesn’t allow dogs. You get the gist.
Destination Doggy Day Care
If there is a destination you are set on visiting that isn’t dog friendly or, have an event or activity that isn’t hound appropriate, look into doggy daycare at your destination.
There are lots of highly professional dog daycare services, even in off the beaten track destinations such as national parks, ski resorts, or beach destinations.
Being left alone in strange surrounds can make your buddy quite anxious. Even in spacious accommodation. Whereas, doggy daycare is like a fun school camp for your pooch.
Your hound will come home as pooped and enriched as you after a day out playing and meeting like-minded hounds.
Check with your accommodation provider, local tourism board, or friends at your destination. Local Facebook groups are also an excellent source for first-hand recommendations.
More and more hotels are realising people like to travel with their pets and are catering accordingly. Although, never assume it will be ok to bring your dog.
Whether staying in a hotel, Airbnb apartment or even a campsite, always check in advance if your hound is welcome.
It also pays to double-check what the accommodation pet policy is to avoid any surprises.
Some hotels, serviced apartments, and campsite will have breed or size restrictions, and some will charge an additional cleaning fee. If you can’t see this information on their website, contact the accommodation to confirm.
Plan a Dog-Friendly Route
Plan Regular Breaks
It’s too easy to hit the road and want to make as much ground as possible. Try to plan a route that will incorporate enough stops to allow your dog to take a toilet break, and stretch their legs, especially big dogs.
Time to get out of the car to sniff and run also eases your dog into the unfamiliar experiences of the trip ahead.
It also pays to try to limit the number of super long driving days you have on your trip.
Plan Meal Times
Departure and travel times can often interfere with your dog’s regular meal times. Try not to feed your dog a big meal before jumping in the car for a long drive.
Aim for a light meal a few hours before departure and follow up with a planned pit stop for another light meal around their normal eating time.
Always make sure there is plenty of water on hand to keep your dog sufficiently hydrated in the car, especially in hot weather. A travel water bottle or collapsible bowl is perfect for the car. It’s also a great addition to the packing list if you are planning hiking with your dog on your road trip.
Prepare Your Dog For the Car Trip
Plan Your Dog’s Meals
While meal timing will be important, so will the meals you serve your dog on a road trip. Depending on your dog’s regular diet, you may have to make some adjustments.
If your dog eats a BARF diet, or homemade food, you will have to plan with refrigeration and storage.
If you plan to change your dog’s diet for ease and food safety on the road trip, it is best to do this a few days before you leave. The day you leave on a road trip is not the time to switch up your dog’s diet or snacks.
Car travel can give some dogs an upset tummy, so a change in diet can get messy for you and your dog on the road.
Take Some Test Drives
If your dog is not used to travelling in the car, or only used to short trips, it may pay to take some longer than normal drives in the lead up to your road trip. Doing this will also give you an indication if your dog will get car sick on different routes such as windy roads or long drives.
If your dog is anxious in the car, try rewarding being in the car with a snack or ending a car journey with a fun destination like the dog park or a long walk.
If Your Dog Continues to be Anxious in the Car
If your dog continues to be anxious or stressed in the car (which may be due to car sickness), there are other stress-reducing remedies you can try. Thundershirts or other pressure shirts are a great way to calm your dogs nerves or even calm an overexcited dog. Soft and breathable, the shirt applies constant and gentle pressure – just like a hug to calm your dog.
Note: As with car sickness remedies, we always advise checking with your vet first before using any natural remedies.
If Your Dog Gets Car Sick
Dogs with motion sickness don’t always vomit. Your dog may just feel nausea and be very unhappy. Be on the lookout for other symptoms such as:
- Shaking or trembling
- Excessive drooling
- Unusual lethargy
- A hunched posture of trying to hide on the floor of the car
If your dog does get car sick there are a few ways to overcome it. We found with our poodle cross who doesn’t like windy roads, it was as simple as using a dog car booster seat.
He can now see out all the windows and hasn’t been car sick once since we got it. It’s also very comfortable so he can sleep on long trips.
Other ways to improve your dog’s car sickness include:
- Don’t feed your dog a big meal before the trip
- Make sure there is some air in the car. Crack the windows slightly or run the aircon.
- Build your dogs tolerance to the car over time with shorter trips as above.
- Alternate vehicles before the trip if possible, so the unpleasant experience isn’t associated with your main car.
- Use a safety harness or crate to keep your dog in the best position and safe.
- Use motion sickness medications.
If you feel you need to resort to motion sickness medications, consult your vet first. There are many natural and over the counter medications to treat your dog’s motion sickness, but it is best to check the dosage and any other possible side effects with your vet.
Run off Excess Energy
Take your dog for a good run or frolic in the dog park before you head off. A tired puppy is a happy puppy, so if your dog is pooped, they will probably sleep for the first part of the trip.
Keep Your Dog Entertained in the Car
Is your dog is prone to getting restless or needs constant attention or amusement? Pack a favourite toy, chew, stuffed Kong or dog puzzle to keep them busy on long drives. It will keep them entertained and mentally stimulated.
Prepare Your Car for a Dog Road Trip
Create a Dedicated Dog Space
Make sure you always leave a dedicated space for your dog on every road trip. No one wants to be squished between bags with no room to stretch out.
If your dog has a dedicated space, they will feel more comfortable in the car knowing that’s their spot. Routine is important to dogs. It’s also safer as you will be able to secure them in with a harness or crate.
Keep Your Dog Safe in The Car
Always make sure your dog is restrained with a pet seat belt or in a car crate while you are driving. You wouldn’t travel in a car without a seatbelt, neither should your dog.
A dog roaming freely in the vehicle can be a distraction to the driver and a danger to themselves.
Prevent Your Dog From Hanging Out The Window
Also ensure, if you give them a bit of length to move around, paws and heads should stay inside the window. High-speed winds can harm a dog’s eyes or ears, and even when restrained, a dog may try to escape out the window when it sees something of interest.
Use a Doggie Car Organiser
Keep all your dog’s stuff in one place for easy access and to keep your car tidy. An over the seat organiser such as the High Road Dog Travel Bag is perfect for all travel, not just road trips.
Leads, water bottles and bowls, snacks and toys are always readily on hand. You don’t have to rummage around for a leash while your impatient pup is dying for a pee.
Check Your Dogs Vaccinations/Medications Are Current
Contact Your Vet Before Departure
Contact your vet to make sure no check-ups or vaccinations are due while you are away. Also, check if there are any vaccinations required for your destination. Your dog may encounter different risks than at home, such as ticks and Lyme disease.
If your dog is on any medication, make sure you have sufficient for the trip plus more in case of any delays.
Bring a Copy of Your Dogs Vaccination Book/Passport
Take a copy of your dog’s paperwork, such as vaccination records (or passport if travelling to a different country). If your dog becomes sick, or you choose to use doggy daycare while away, you will need those records.
Check ID Tags and Microchip Information Are Current
Every registered dog should be microchipped. If you have moved or changed phone number, make sure the information is up to date on the database.
Even if your dog doesn’t usually wear dog tags, it’s probably a good idea to have a tag with your phone number when travelling to unfamiliar places. If your dog gets lost, someone will be able to contact you quickly without having to have the microchip scanned.
Pack the Doggy Essentials
It is much easier to pack your dog’s things in a separate bag for easy access. Also, keep car essentials in the car in your organiser. This way you won’t get caught short on day trips if you leave something behind in the hotel.
We love the dedicated dog travel bags on the market such as the Overland Week Away Tote or Weekender Backpack. They keep all of your dog’s things together in neatly organised compartments and have handy lined food containers and fold-out feeding stations. They are also designed with air travel in mind so slip nicely over a suitcase handle.
Dog Road Trip Packing List Suggestions
- Food & Water Bowls
- Your dog’s regular food
- Travel bed (you can also use your car dog crate if suitable)
- Spare towel
- Vet records
- poo bags
- Collar with up to date tags
- Tick collar and tick comb or remover
- Protective jacket – Rain or warmth
Things to Consider at Your Destination
There is no doubt when you travel, your routine will be different. However, if you can maintain some of your normal routines, your dog will feel more comfortable.
Simple things such as maintaining feed and walk times will ease any anxiety caused by strange places. Wearing your dog out with longer walks or playtimes will also help your dog enjoy the trip more.
Find the Local Dog Park or Beach
At each destination, ask your hotel or tourist information where there is a dog park or dog-friendly beach or walking area.
Long travel days will have your dog feeling restless, so it will do them good to run off some energy. It’s also an excellent social outing for them.
DogFriendly.com has a reasonably accurate listing of dog parks in the US and Canada.
Be A Responsible Dog Owner at your Destination
Pick up your dog’s poop no matter where you are
Watch for wildlife for the sake of the local animals and your dog. You don’t want your dog attacking or barking at the local fauna, and you certainly don’t want your dog getting hurt.
Keep your dog on a lead in public. Your dog may be well behaved, but other people don’t know that. It’s also for your dog’s safety.
Be Respectful in Hotels and Restaurants
Hotels and restaurants may be dog friendly but it doesn’t mean your dog can do what it does at home.
Small things that perhaps you don’t notice can cause issues in hotels or restaurants and may even incur additional charges or worse, get you thrown out.
- If your dog tends to bark at strange noises at night, consider a white noise app or download to limit the outside hotel noises your dog might hear at night. It might also help you sleep.
- Bring your dogs own travel bed rather than sleeping on hotel beds or furniture.
- Be mindful of scratching or chewing on furnishings; the hotel may charge you for this later.
- Make sure if your dog is dirty after a day out, you wipe them down before returning to the hotel. Carry pet grooming wipes, a towel and brush for this.
- Don’t assume your dog can sit on the chair in a restaurant and don’t allow it to wander off to other tables. Other patrons may not appreciate your dining companion as much as you do.
- Always ask restaurants if it is ok to bring your dog inside. Some restaurants only allow dogs at outdoor seating areas.
A road trip with your dog can be one of the most enjoyable activities you do together as long as you plan a little. Start planning your next dog road trip now.