8 STRESS-FREE ROAD TRIP TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH YOUR DOG

Traveling with your dog makes life so much sweeter. Especially on long road trips.

I love road trips with my dogs because my travels usually involve plane rides and being gone most of the time for over a week. My boxer dogs have never been on the plane with me, mostly because I do not feel the need to subject them to stress.

Although I love to travel, I do miss my pups immensely when away.

Whenever I am traveling by car, I try to bring them along and try to make it a stress-free road trip.

Traveling with you dog on long trips
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BEFORE THE TRIP

A good starting point for traveling with my dogs to be more paw-fect than stressful, I start with advance planning. I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks through trial and error to make traveling a positive experience. Here are my 8 road trip tips for dog lovers to have a great road trip with their canine companion!

“I think the reason we were born with two hands is so we can pet two dogs at once.”

doggydailynz

Health and Safety Tips for the Road

Always travel with a copy of your dog’s health records, especially if little Fido has health issues. Make sure your dog is current on rabies and that you have proof. Dogs are required to have rabies vaccinations by law, but if you plan to kennel or use day care facilities at your destination, they may require your dog to be current on other particular vaccinations and require copies of vaccination certificates. Some hotels require this too.

Be sure to pack any medications, including motion sickness treatment if your dog happens to get sick on long drives. Car travel on short trips may be just fine, but long trips may cause your best friend to experience car sickness. And that will just be paw-ful.

A great place for an epic road trip with your best travel companion is to national parks. Glacier National Park, National Bison Range, and White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire are all Fido travel approved. Although there are some off limit areas, these usually have plenty of great walking trails for you both.

TRAVELER’S TIP: For epic road trips to take with your dog in and around New England, the south and the pacific northwest, check out my post on how to see stunning fall foliage.

Speaking of the outdoors, these are places where your dog can easily attract such bugs as fleas and ticks, which can not only cause Fido to become ill, but can also be fatal. The black-legged tick is found all throughout the United States and carries a bacteria that can lead to the deadly lyme disease.

It’s a good idea a to take pack plenty of preventive treatment. And plan to pack enough for the duration of the trip plus extra, in case you hit a ruff pooch and experience unforeseen delays.  

Be sure your dog is wearing a collar with ID tag AND microchipped. The ID tag should have your cell phone number, especially since you are traveling. And the microchip should have your most recent contact information, especially phone numbers.

When my Laila was younger, she loved to bolt when not on a leash. She loved the game “chase me,” and I would trot after her EMBARRASSED. In an unfamiliar environment, the escape artists, the bolters, the free spirits, can easily get lost.

More often than not, this has been the only way lost pups have found their way home.

Prepare for the Road Trip

Make sure that your dog is comfortable riding in cars. If he’s constantly stressed, you may feel the need to keep an eye on him instead of the road. Or permit him to be in a dangerous place, such as your lap, the front seat or standing between the front seats, while driving.

It’s hazardous for all dogs, but even more so for larger dogs like mine. Not to mention stressed dogs may pace, whine and drool, all of which can add stress to you and you’ll find yourself driving in an agitated state.

If this is your first time hitting the open road with Fido for a long road trip, its a good option to prepare with short drives around town or shorter trips to get him comfortable for being in a moving vehicle for the big trip.

The important thing is to make sure Fido has positive association with the long car ride. This will keep your dog safe and lay the foundation for the perfect road trip.

But if they are comfortable, crank up the Bark Side of the Moon, munch on some Pup-eroni and you’re ready to enjoy your scenic drive into the sunset.

Prepare the Car for the Road Trip

Just as it’s safer for humans to wear seatbelts when traveling, the same laws of physics apply to your dog.  In many states, the law requires that pets also be restrained when traveling in vehicles.

There are many safe options. My boxers are large dogs. They travel in a car harness or seat belt. It’s not too loose, nor too tight, and they each have travel beds to relax/sleep in.

For smaller dogs, a seat belt along with a pet-booster car seat or basket seems sufficient as well. Others are more comfortable in travel crates.  A dog crate feels like a den and can make some dogs feel more safe and secure having their own space. Don’t forget though, that just as car seats need to be properly secured, so do travel crates.

My Laila, though, would rather murder me than be forced into a crate…she would never fur-give me.

TRAVELER’S TIP: Be aware of airbag locations as it can seriously injure or even kill your dog. The safest way to travel is to manually turn off airbags around your pet if you can. Also be aware of the sun’s position when traveling. Regardless of how comfortable cabin temperature is, the hot sun beating directly down on your dog can easily overheat them quickly. Investing in some window shades will go a long way in the safety and comfort of your dog.

Book Accommodations

There are a number of pet-friendly hotels in the United States. Make sure you book pet-friendly accommodations ahead of time, including finding out about any additional pet surcharges and pet policies (including if they have any breed restrictions) for the places you plan to stay.

A good rule is to know your pets behavior too. My boxers are fine being left home alone, but being left alone in a new place stresses one of my boxers. So we plan around this behavior – one of us is always in the hotel room or we do our research and only go to pet friendly places for all our activities.

We also make sure there are plenty of safe places and familiar items in the room. We travel with a favorite toy and their dog blankets. Make sure they have easy access to water bowls, even have used white noise to drown out any activities that can be heard in the hall or other rooms.

If you plan on using kennel or day care facilities while on your trip, make sure you know about their vaccination and pet policies too (as some breeds are fur-bidden).

TRAVELER’S TIP: BringFido is an app that helps you to find dog-friendly hotels, re-tail shopping, the local park, restaurants (with dog-friendly patios) and other attractions. You can read thousands of reviews from dog owners all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

Plan Your Road Trip Route

Planning your route not only involves getting to your destination, but also knowing where are viable rest stops for stretching your dog’s legs and potty breaks every couple of hours. I try to also include a longer stop at a at dog-friendly location, such as a state park or dog park.

My boxers are pretty energetic and after hours in the car, they NEED a long walk, run, sniff stimulation, and play time or they will soon get restless. If the car trip is longer than 4 hours, I try and plan at least an hour of fresh air and exercise.

Dog park at rest stop when traveling with your dog
Samson goes mutts when we’re able to stop for some play time

At this stage, I also check for vets and emergency vets en-route and at my destination. It was actually something I never considered until my dogs became geriatric, and even more so when my Laila was diagnosed with cancer. The reality is that anything is paw-sible and dogs can get into anything at any time or can get injured, thus needing a trip to the vet.

I’ve been to some places where the closest vet would be at least an hour away, so I’ve also asked my own vet that if I’m in the doghouse, to call him in an emergency even if all he can do is give me some instructions to keep my dog stable until we do reach help.  

Another great option is to find a vet that’s part of the American Veterinary Medical Association as they can provide curbside assistance and telehealth services.

DURING THE TRIP

Don’t Leave Your Dog in the Car

It can be easy or convenient to leave your dog in the car. We all know that it takes only a few minutes for a car’s interior temperature to climb to a fatal level, and even the opposite, in some areas the temperatures are freezing and the car can act as a refrigerator which can lead to returning to a pup-sicle.

Many cars now are equipped with a Rear Seat Reminder system. If you use the back door to load your pet into the car, you’ll get a reminder to check the back seat the next time you turn the engine off.

But something else to think about is that road trips take you through different areas that can be unfamiliar. Just as a laptop or purse can be luring for thieves, so can the oppawtunity for pet thieves to snatch your full bred, or rare breed, or young pup. I don’t chance losing paw-session of my beloved family members.

Keep all Limbs Inside the Car

Dogs in seat belts and dog beds when traveling with your dog

Pups who are allowed to stick their heads out the open window can be injured by road debris or get sick from cold air rushing into their lungs. Because my pups aren’t in crates, I also turn off the power windows so they don’t accidentally hit them.

Also equally dangerous is traveling with your dog in the open bed of a pickup truck. Some states even have laws prohibiting this and can be very dog-matic about it. 

PET TRAVEL CHECKLISTS

Packing Checklist

  • Food and treats with lid locking containers
  • Bottled water as water is different in different areas and can upset your pup’s stomach
  • Food/water bowls
  • Dog towels, sheets and blankets
  • Medication if applicable
  • Proof of vaccination, rabies and microchip
  • Pet bedding and/or crate
  • Leashes
  • Toys
  • Poop bags
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Insect repellent spray or wipes
  • Baby wipes for cleaning your dog and yourself
  • Cleaning wipes and paper towels for cleaning the car

Pet First Aid kit

  • Roll of gauze
  • Bandage tape
  • Blunt-tip bandage scissors
  • Dog bandages
  • Pain reliever such as Carprofen
  • Hydrogen peroxide for cleaning wounds and for inducing vomiting
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Tweezers for possible tick or splinter removal
  • Eye flush/saline
  • Cotton balls and cotton tip swabs
  • Benadryl for unexpected allergies at 1 mg per LB of body weight
  • Muzzle: here’s how to make a leash or gauze into a muzzle 
  • Blanket or beach towel large enough to wrap around your pet if it needs to be constrained

TRAVELER’S TIP: Some dogs with separation anxiety or travel stress react well to a calming, pressure vest or wrap. Thundershirt is the most popular vest for calming dogs as it applies constant gentle pressure as if giving your dog a hug to calm him down and make him feel better. This may be a useful tool for car rides. 

Pet Travel Etiquette or “Petiquette”

  • Make sure your pet is welcome. Ask about pet policies when you make travel and hotel reservations and make sure the lodging knows you will be traveling with a dog, even if you have stayed at the same place before. Rules change. Planning ahead and following the rules can prevent pet-tential problems.
  • Clean up after your pet. The single biggest complaint people make about pet owners is not cleaning their pet’s waste. If your dog poops, Scoop! Even if no one is watching. It’s the leash you can do.
  • Physically prepare your pet before you go. If you plan to spend hours out without your dog, use a day care facility or find a good pet-sitter on Rover. If you must briefly leave your dog alone in the room, make sure the hotel polices allow for it and follow the guidelines.
  • Do not use hotel amenities for your dog. If your dog has an accident in the room, clean it up with paper towels or let the staff know, but please don’t use the hotel’s bath towels. Same goes for if you dog needs a bath. Better yet, you can always be prepared and bring your own.
  • Always keep your pet leashed or in a carrier in public.
  • Respect the leash rules. I know your dogs are better than mine and always listen to you, and are great off-leash, but sticking to hotel policy makes “non-dog people” more comfortable and they will be less likely to complain.
  • Don’t allow your pet to jump up on people. See above point.
  • Bring your own blankets to cover seats or furniture. The cleaning staff will thank you!
  • Set your dog up for success. Regardless of how well behaved your dog is, a strange environment to call home, even for a short while is bound to cause some stress barking. Give your dog plenty of exercise and explore the grounds with him to help him get familiar with the environment. Also feel free to look up tips about behavior from a professional dog trainer.
Traveling with your dog at national parks
Traveling with your dog on the open road
Traveling with your dog at national parks

FINAL THOUGHTS ON TRAVELING WITH DOGS

Planning a successful road trip with my dogs can take loads of time and energy and advanced planning for pet safety. But it’s so much fun to share at least some of my adventures and travels with them which makes it all worth it. I always look forward to my next road trip with them. I’m sure you feel the same. Thanks fur reading!

What are some of your dog-friendly vacation spots? Here are some other paw-some posts:

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RIP Boxer Samson Herrera
R.I.P. “Old Man” Samson, October 17, 2019

“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is life diminished.”

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Dan
Dan
2 years ago

I was driving with the doggie once and she ended up rolling down the window since I forgot to lock it! Definitely a good reminder. I appreciate the link on dog muzzling. I never like the thought of it, but as dogs age and/or may not be feeling well, I can see it becoming a potential issue for even the best behaved fur babies.

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