Dogs are part of our families, so of course we want to take them on our road trips with us. Pups can make perfect road buddies, but if you’ve never traveled long distances with your furry friend it can become more frustrating than fun.
Taking a road trip with a dog is all about preparation to make sure your four-legged family member is comfortable and safe. To help you get ready, we’ve created this list of tips for road trips with dogs so that you’re completely prepared to bring along a canine travel companion.
#1 - Take Shorter Practice Trips in the Car With Your Dog
If your dog doesn’t travel around with you by car often, it’s a good idea to take a few shorter trips with them to the park or just driving around the neighborhood. If they are scared of the car, start by just getting them into the car and giving them a treat to reward them for the good behavior. Work up to going somewhere fun, like the dog park. Practice often until your dog is more comfortable, and if they are still showing signs of anxiety, you can try some calming treats, or in extreme cases, some prescription meds from the vet.
#2 - Choose the Safe Way to Travel With a Dog in the Car - Seat Belt Harness or Crate
Your dog should always be restrained in the vehicle, either with a seat belt harness or in a crate because it’s the only safe way to travel with a dog in the car. You wouldn’t allow a child to be in a moving vehicle without a car seat or seat belt, so don’t let your dog do it either.
This doesn’t just protect your dog, it protects everyone else in and around the car as well. According to experts, a 60-pound dog traveling at just 35 miles per hour can turn into the equivalent of a 2,700-pound projectile during an accident, which can severely injure or kill both the dog and anyone nearby. Not to mention, a dog that’s loose in the vehicle can be a major driving distraction.
#3 - Pack a Bag of Essentials When You Road Trip With a Dog
Your dog needs all of the comforts of home to feel safe and entertained during the drive, which also helps keep them out of trouble. They’ll need:
Water and water bowl
Variety of treats
Their favorite toys
A leash and harness
Any necessary medications
Sweater or jacket (if you’re traveling to a colder climate)
Worried about chewing or your dog getting bored? Keep them entertained in the car for a while and prevent unwanted chewing on the upholstery by bringing along a few long-lasting bones or chews like bully sticks.
#4 - Take Frequent Potty Breaks
Your dog is going to need plenty of breaks to relieve themselves, stretch their legs and work off some of the pent-up energy that builds up from sitting in the car. Check out your route ahead of time so you know where rest stops or parks are along the way. This is a safer option than letting them out at a gas station. Just don’t forget to always clean up after your pooch!
#5 - Get Microchips, Tags and Shot Records in Advance
It is so important to take all precautions with your dog, and that includes preparing for the possibility that you could get separated. Losing your dog while away from home is a horrible scenario for any pet owner. Make sure your dog is microchipped before you leave in case your dog gets away from you. Microchipping is a universal system so no matter where you are in the country animal control should be able to pull up your contact information.
Your dog should also wear a collar with rabies tags and your contact information at all times. Also verify with your vet that your dog is completely up to date on all shots, just in case they come into contact with sick animals. It doesn’t hurt to ask your vet if they know of highly-rated veterinarian offices in the area you’ll be traveling to in case there’s an emergency.
#6 - Research Dog-Friendly Spots at Your Destination
If you’re doing a road trip with a dog, you’ll need to know about lots of dog-friendly places along the way and at your destination city. There are many hotels that will let your dog stay with you, but some have weight restrictions and/or charge a hefty fee, so make sure you do your research.
There are also lots of restaurants that allow dogs on patios, along with parks and other outdoor areas where dogs can be on or off leash. Do your research to find a few places to add to the itinerary where you can bring your dog and let them join in on all of the fun.
#7 - NEVER Leave Your Dog in the Car Alone
Even if it doesn’t feel too hot or cold outside, the temperature in the car can rise or fall to extremes very quickly. For example, in just an hour on a sunny 80-degree day, the temperature inside the vehicle can get up to almost 120 degrees.
It is never safe to leave your dog in the car. Temperature aside, the dog could cause damage that leads to an accident or even possibly disengage the parking brake. Play it safe and make sure your dog has somewhere secure to stay when you’re out and about on your own.
There you have it - seven foolproof tips for road trips with dogs. Follow the tips and you’ll be fully prepared for a safe road trip with your dog no matter where you’re headed.
*This article was updated on 5/27/21.