Top Tips for a Road Trip with Dogs

Got dogs? Love dogs? Then you've probably considered a road trip with dogs.

In some ways, a road trip with dogs is easier than road trips with kids. And most dog owners know their “babies” as well as people know their human babies. So don’t let the concept scare you. 

We’ve got some tips to help make your journey much, much easier.

First, Some Obvious Tips for a Road Trip with Dogs

Let’s get the big stuff out of the way first. Is your dog even a good traveler to begin with? If it’s sheer torture just getting to the vet, then a multi-day road trip with dogs probably isn’t your best bet. Consider leaving your friend with human friends, or look into a highly rated kennel service. You’ll be much happier and less stressed out, and you’ll return to find your pup loves you more than ever. 

Assuming your dog is up for a long car trip, there are some pretty obvious steps to take next. You’ll want to think about supplies, with a mind for not forgetting anything. It’s not as if your furry friend can remind you, right? 

I highly recommend keeping a dog journal for at least a few days before you leave on your trip. It’s pretty simple: you grab a notebook and jot down all the dog supplies you think you’ll need on your trip. Then, over the next few days, you jot down anything you use for your dog that you forgot to write down in your initial brainstorm. For example, evening comes and you give your dog his heartworm medication. Oh yeah….forgot about that! Write it down. Keep this up for a few days, and you’ll greatly decrease the chance of leaving without any critical dog supplies. 

Be sure to include food in your dog journal—and please stop to consider how available this food will be on the road. If you’re going to be driving from city to city, you may find it convenient to stop and buy most of your dog’s food along the way. If you’re going to be traveling through long stretches of country, then you’ll want to have a plan for carrying food with you (add “can opener” to your dog journal right now). 

Also, where and how will your dog sleep? If you’re planning on staying at friends’ houses along the way, you may be able to emulate your current sleeping conditions. If you’re staying at campgrounds, your dog may love it even more than home!

But hotels can present challenges. For one thing, many don’t accept pets—or they’ll say they do, but then they’ll get squeamish about dogs of a certain size or breed. The best tactic is to call ahead to each hotel you’re considering and confirm that they’ll accept your specific dogs before you make that reservation.

One last really obvious tip: you’ll have to plan lots of stops to let your dog eat, drink, frolic, and relieve herself. It’s common sense, but it’s worth saying. Figure on stopping about every two hours (which isn’t a bad guideline for humans, either).

**In the Road Trip Planning Guide, we recommend planning six hours of driving per day for maximum enjoyment. Get the guide for complete tips on how to plan your driving vacation.** 

Want to find dog-friendly hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, and attractions along the route of your road trip with dogs? You should absolutely start by visiting the road trip planner at GoPetFriendly.com

And Now, Some Ideas You May Not Have Considered

Here’s a great one from our friends at Road Trip America: 

"Always carry a complete set of medical records for your animal companion, along with a current statement from your veterinarian saying that your pet is in good health. Vaccination records are particularly important if your trip involves crossing state or national borders, and in an emergency your pet might need to stay in a kennel or other animal care facility."

They provide a whole host of tips for a road trip with dogs.

They make a good point here. If you’re on the road and something bad happens to your little friend, you may not be thinking clearly enough to remember which health problems he's had, and when. Better to keep that stuff written down in a safe place. The glove compartment of your car would be a good place to keep copies of these records neatly folded in an envelope. 

Also, what about doggy tags? This idea may seem like it should have gone under “obvious tips,” but it’s surprising how many loving pet owners don’t even think about tags because their dogs wear them every day. Before leaving on your road trip, check to make sure your dog’s tags are up to date. And make sure the tag lists your cell phone number, not your land line (if you even still have one).

Did you know dogs can get carsick, too? This may not be a phenomenon you’ve noticed if you’ve only ever driven your dog around town. The folks at Edmunds.com make this suggestion: 

"Some people get car sick; so do some animals. If this sounds like your pet, give him a light meal a few hours before you leave and feed him minimally during the drive. Offer him small amounts of water periodically in the hours before the trip. If you can, take along ice cubes, which are easier on your pet than gulping down large amounts of water. (They'll also keep him busy.) If your dog isn't accustomed to car travel or to a carrier, break him in gradually, well in advance of the trip, by taking short trips and using lots of praise."

Driving solo on a road trip with dogs? You’ve got your work cut out for you, but your trip can still be safe and fun for everyone.

Most of what we’ve written here will still apply to you. Just be sure you think ahead to all the times you’ll need to do something without the dogs during your trip. For example, you’ll want to be able to use a restroom, run into a store, or pick up your takeout order from a restaurant. Will your dogs be OK in the car without you for a few minutes? Or do you need a way to tie them up outside a front entrance? Will there be any times you’ll need to be alone for several hours at a time—and if so, do you have any help lined up in the areas you’ll be visiting? 

One final tip, at the risk of being unpopular: don’t let your dog stick her head out the window. There’s nothing more iconic than the image of smiling human at the wheel and happy dog sticking her head out the passenger-side window. But you know those annoying rocks that fly up and crack your windshield? What if one of them hit your dog in the eye? Or suppose you were to go around a bend and encounter some overgrown vegetation? Don’t turn your road trip into a tragedy. Keep doggy’s head inside the car at all times. 

These are just a few tips to get you started. In the comments section below, we’d like to hear your tips for taking a road trip with dogs. 

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