Guide to Taking a Road Trip With Your Dog

Road trips are fun and bringing your furry best friend along means extra fun. But, if you aren’t used to road-trippin’ with your pup in tow, you might like some tips to keeping them healthy, happy and safe. There are plenty of useful tips to know about taking a road trip with your dog, including how to make the journey smooth for everyone, how to get your pooch used to riding in the car for long periods, what to pack, and how to find pet-friendly pitstops. Your doggy copilot will then be ready to set off with you for an epic open road adventure, so stock up on treats, grab the leash and food bowl, and hit the highway with your tail-wagging best buddy.

The whole family is driving for the weekend. Mom and Dad with their daughter and a Labrador dog are sitting in the car.

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Preparing Your Dog for the Road

Taking a road trip with your furry friend can be an exciting adventure, but some preparation is vital to ensuring your dog’s comfort and safety. Proper training, health checks, and supplies can help make the trip run smoothly for you and your pup.

Get Your Dog Used to the Car

If your dog is not accustomed to car travel, it’s essential to take some time before the trip to get them comfortable with being in a moving vehicle. Start by taking them on short drives around the neighborhood and work up to longer rides. Bring treats and toys to make it a positive experience. If your dog experiences motion sickness, ask your veterinarian about anti-nausea medications or calming supplements that can help.

Training for the Road

Well before the trip, work on basic obedience training like sit, stay and come. These commands will be invaluable when stopping at rest areas. If your dog is incredibly rambunctious, consider crate training them. Crates in the car can help restrict your dog’s movement while driving and provide a safe place for them at stops.  Consult with professional dog trainers for additional tips on travel training.

Health Checkups

Schedule a veterinarian visit 4-6 weeks before departure to confirm your dog is healthy enough for the journey. Ask about medications for motion sickness if needed. Ensure vaccinations are current and get copies of all records to carry. Discuss your route and camping plans with your vet and follow their expert guidance.

Proper preparations will help make a road trip with your dog a great bonding experience. Starting training and planning well in advance is critical to ensuring a smooth, enjoyable drive for you both. With some planning, your furry friend can be the perfect travel companion.

Packing Essentials for Your Dog

When embarking on a road trip with your dog, having the right gear can make all the difference in keeping your pup safe, comfortable and entertained. Here are some road-tested essentials for your canine companion.

Road trip with pet. Stylish young woman caressing cute white dog in car trunk at sunny autumn road. Happy female traveling with swiss shepherd puppy and exploring world together. Space for text
Photo credit: Bogdan Sonjachnyj/Shutterstock.

Food and Water Supplies

Bring more food and water than you think you’ll need in case of delays. Pack a collapsible bowl, a spill-proof container for water, and towels to clean up messes. Canned or dehydrated foods avoid spoilage. Consider bringing bottled water en route if you’re unsure of water quality.

Medications and Health Records

Pack medications, supplements, a pet first-aid kit, and health records in a dedicated bag. List emergency vet contacts along your route. Bring pee pads, paper towels, and carpet cleaner in case of accidents.

Leash, Collar, or Harness

A sturdy leash and collar or harness keep your dog secure when out of the vehicle. Use a back-clip harness to discourage pulling. Add a second leash as a backup.

Comfort Items from Home

Familiar toys and blankets provide comfort in new environments. Pack a few special items your dog loves to ease anxiety.

Dog Waste Bags

Stock up on poop bags and bring a travel-size trash can. Properly disposing of waste keeps rest stops clean for all.

Dog Treats and Chews

Treats entertain anxious pups and reward good behavior. Long-lasting chews like bully sticks occupy them while driving.

With the doggy essentials covered, you can hit the road knowing you have everything needed to keep your furry co-pilot healthy, safe, and ready for adventure. Focus on the fun of the trip ahead, knowing your four-legged friend is prepared for the journey.

Choosing Dog-Friendly Destinations

A road trip with your dog can be excellent as long as you carefully choose accommodations and activities that welcome canine travelers. You can find dog-friendly lodging, eateries, attractions, and more with some savvy planning.

Golden Retriever Dog on a road trip
Photo credit: MPH Photos/Shutterstock.

Seek Out Pet-Friendly Hotels

Call ahead to ensure hotels accept pets and clarify any size limits or fees. Opt for ground-floor rooms with easy potty access. Ask about pet beds, bowls, treats, and cleanup bags to make your pup feel at home. Lean toward chains like La Quinta, Motel 6, and Red Roof Inn, catering to dog owners. Here is a list of things to consider when staying in a hotel with your dog

Book Campsites That Allow Dogs

Reserve sites at pet-friendly state/national parks and privately owned campgrounds for camping trips. Ask about leash rules, cleanup policies, and any restrictions. Avoid tent camping in Bear Country and opt for an RV instead. Look into doggy daycare options if you’ll be away from the site for long periods.

Research Dog Parks Along the Way

Plan route stops near dog parks to let your pup stretch their legs and socialize. Apps like BringFido show parks along your drive where your dog can play off-leash. Avoid visiting dog parks in the morning and evening when most dogs are present to prevent scuffles.

Seek Out Dog-Friendly Activities

Call ahead to confirm outdoor restaurants have pet-friendly patios. Seek hiking trails, beaches, breweries, outdoor malls, and other attractions allowing leashed dogs. Chat with hotel staff and check pet travel blogs for the best local spots to bring your pup.

Safety Tips for Traveling with Dogs

When road-tripping with your pup, safety should be the top priority. Take precautions to avoid hazards and keep your dog secure in the car and at stops.

Use a Secured Dog Crate

A sturdy crate strapped into the car with a seatbelt keeps your dog safe while driving. It prevents them from roaming around or bolting when you open doors. Purchase a crate designed for car travel that will withstand impact. Avoid rolling down windows more than a few inches so your dog can’t jump out.

Leash Your Dog at All Times

Keep your dog leashed at roadside stops even if they’re generally off-leash at home. Bring an extra-long leash to give them more room to sniff and potty while maintaining control. Ensure their collar or harness fits snugly, and the leash won’t slip off. If they get loose, keep an ID tag on your dog’s collar with your phone number.

Never Leave Your Dog Alone in the Car

Even with cracked windows, leaving your dog unattended in a vehicle is dangerous. The temperature can quickly skyrocket, putting your dog at risk of heatstroke and death. Always take them with you or leave someone with them when exiting the vehicle.

Carefully Plan Stops

Research rest areas along your route to pick safe places to take potty breaks. Opt for grassy areas away from traffic. Have your dog relieve themselves before returning to the car to reduce accidents. bring cleaning supplies in case of messes.

Staying vigilant and taking preventative measures will help make your dog’s road trip adventure safe and fun. Pay attention to their needs and never take risks that could jeopardize their well-being.

Handling Emergencies on the Road

Even with the best preparations, unexpected emergencies can arise when traveling with your dog. Having contingency plans and supplies will allow you to handle any road trip crisis calmly and efficiently.

Pack a Pet First Aid Kit

Bring a pet first aid kit with bandages, gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment, latex gloves, scissors, tweezers, activated charcoal (for ingesting toxins), and a first aid guide. Know the basics of canine CPR and first aid treatment. Having supplies on hand lets you treat minor injuries promptly. Here is how to check if your dog has a fever

Know the Nearest Emergency Vets

Research 24-hour emergency veterinary hospitals along your route before you leave. Save these locations in your phone so you can urgently get help if your dog becomes ill or injured. Some pet insurance plans cover emergency vet visits anywhere in the US.

Handle Overheating Quickly

If your dog overheats, move them into the shade and pour cool (not cold) water over them. Point a fan on low directly at them and elevate their hind legs. Cover their paws with cool, wet towels. Rush them to a vet immediately – heatstroke can be fatal.

Have Contingency Housing Plans

If you need to overnight somewhere other than planned due to an emergency, know pet-friendly hotel chains like La Quinta, Motel 6, and Red Roof Inn that accept pets if you need last-minute accommodations. Having backup lodging options reduces stress if the unexpected occurs.

Staying calm in a crisis will help you respond rationally, getting your dog prompt medical attention and keeping them safe. With the proper emergency preparations, you can manage any road trip mishap. Your pet’s well-being should be the top priority.

Feeding Your Dog on the Road

Proper nutrition is essential for your dog, even during a road trip. With some planning and care, you can keep your traveling pup well-fed and hydrated.

Bring Their Regular Food

Pack enough of your dog’s regular food to last the whole trip. Sudden food changes can cause indigestion, diarrhea, or upset stomach. If you run low, call pet stores ahead to check food availability at your destination. Canned food or resealable bags work better than kibble, which can go stale.

Follow the Normal Feeding Schedule

Feed your dog at their usual times as much as possible to avoid gastric issues. For example, if you always feed at 7 am and 5 pm at home, do the same during travel. Keep a collapsible bowl handy and provide them at rest stops versus in motion to prevent car sickness. Here is how long it takes dogs to digest food.

Make Sure They Are Well-Hydrated

Dehydration is a risk during travel. Always have fresh water available. Freeze water in bottles for the cooler, or bring bottled water. Avoid ice cubes, which can cause throat irritation if gulped. Stop regularly to allow your dog to drink up. Watch for signs of dehydration like lethargy or skin elasticity loss.

Offer Healthy Treats and Chews

Bring treats like boiled chicken, dried liver, or fresh fruits to hydrate your dog. Long-lasting chews also entertain them. Just introduce new treats slowly to avoid stomach upset. Limit decadent treats that may cause diarrhea.

Monitoring your dog’s food and water intake will keep them nourished and healthy on the open road. With simple planning, you can prevent issues and support their nutritional needs.

Activities for Dogs on Road Trips

Road trips can get boring for dogs, so bringing engaging toys and having activities planned will make travel more fun for your pup. Mental stimulation and physical exercise will help them arrive happy and content.

Interactive Chew Toys

Pack puzzle toys like treat-dispensing balls and rubber chews. Let your dog work the puzzles and gnaw on chews during long drive stretches to occupy themself. Avoid messy eats like rawhide in the car. Bring a favorite fetch toy for pit stops.

Take Regular Breaks for Exercise

Schedule stops every 2-3 hours at dog parks or trails so your pup can stretch their legs, play fetch, socialize, and relieve themselves. Apps like BringFido pinpoints pet-friendly pit stops. Supervise off-leash play and be mindful of overexertion in hot weather.

Play Learning Games

Keep your dog mentally engaged with training games like “Find it” where you hide treats around the car for them to discover. Practice basic obedience cues they already know and teach new simple tricks. Food puzzles also stimulate their mind.

Provide Comfort Items from Home

Pack your dog’s favorite toys or bedding items with familiar scents to reduce stress. Offer special chews or frozen Kongs only given in the car as something to look forward to. Soothing music, windows cracked for smells and stops to explore help, too.

Trying to entertain your dog and meet their needs will ensure they enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Don’t let travel days be downtime—keep your furry friend happily occupied along the way.

Ready to Pack and Travel with Your Dog?

Hitting the open road with your furry co-pilot by your side can lead to an unforgettable trip filled with bonding and adventure. This guide outlines everything you need to know to prepare your pup for a smooth, fun, safe journey.

The key is starting preparations early with vet visits, car training, and packing the essential gear you’ll need. Finding pet-friendly stops to stay and play along your route ensures your dog will enjoy the trip as much as you do. Staying vigilant about safety, nutrition, and health along the way reduces stress, letting you focus on creating meaningful memories together.

While the destination may be exciting, the road trip is an opportunity. Following this advice for road trip readiness, emergency preparedness, and dog-friendly trip planning will prepare you and your dog for an epic adventure. The time spent traveling side-by-side will only strengthen your bond. So embrace every minute of the journey, create lasting memories, and get ready to hit the road for the dog trip of a lifetime.

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Bella Bucchiotti

Bella Bucchiotti of xoxoBella is a storyteller, food lover, dog mom and adventure seeker living on the Pacific coast. She shares her passion for recipes, dogs, sustainability, adventures, travel and philanthropy, in hopes of encouraging followers to run the extra mile, try new recipes, visit unfamiliar places and stand for a cause. Bella lives with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.

Bella Bucchiotti is a freelance food, travel, and lifestyle writer for MSN and the Associated Press Wire.

Welcome to xoxoBella! I am Bella Bucchiotti and I am a recipe developer, content creator and writer. Here you will find delicious recipes, travel inspiration, crafts, pet tips and more.

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