11 Tips For Planning A Stress-Free Road Trip With Your Dog

11 Tips For Planning A Stress-Free Road Trip With Your Dog

There’s nothing quite like the freedom of hitting the wide, open road — especially when that freedom includes bringing your canine companion along for the ride. With a little bit of planning and a big sense of adventure, you can enjoy the ultimate stress-free road trip with your dog.

1. Look For Dog-Friendly Accommodations

Whether you plan on camping or staying in a 5-star hotel, it’s important to make sure your four-legged friend is allowed to stay with you. Websites such as BringFido.com or petswelcome.com are great resources for finding pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, and activities across the country.

The following hotel chains do not charge pet fees: Motel 6, Red Roof Inn, Aloft (Marriott), and Kimpton (IHG). It’s always a good idea to check with individual properties before booking for pet fees, pet-friendly room availability, and breed or weight restrictions.

2. Check The Weather Forecast Ahead of Time

Few things can ruin a trip as quickly as bad weather, which is why it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast for your route as well as for any stops you might make. If you’re heading somewhere hot, be mindful of protecting your dog’s paws from burning on asphalt during walks. Alternatively, if your destination is rainy or snowy, consider packing a doggy raincoat or sweater for an added layer of comfort.

3. Pack a Bag For Your Dog

  • Here is a list of the essentials:
  • Food
  • Water for the car ride (reusable gallon jugs work great)
  • Collapsable or travel-friendly food and water bowls
  • Collar or harness with up-to-date tags and a leash
  • Poop bags
  • Dog bed and/or blanket
  • Toys and treats
  • Towel or grooming wipes
  • Pet first-aid kit

Pro tip: keep the bag somewhere easily accessible. Having the leash, poop bags, treats and water handy will cut down the stress and time of each pit stop you make.

4. Don’t Forget Vaccination Records And Medications

Most U.S. hotels do not require vaccination records; however, it’s always a good idea to bring a current copy with you, especially if you’re traveling through different states. They may come in handy if you need to make an unexpected visit to the groomers,a boarding facility, or — god forbid — even a vet during your travels.

If your dog takes any regular medications or tick and flea treatments, be sure to refill their prescription in advance so you don’t run out on your trip.

5. Give Your Dog Their Own Seat

Having a designated area set up for your dog will make them comfortable, but more importantly, it will keep them safe. Keeping your pet restrained with a dog car seat (yes, that’s a thing!), a travel kennel or a hammock seat cover with a harness will prevent your dog from roaming all over the car or falling out of a window.

If you’re concerned about protecting your seats from slobber, fur, or other doggy elements, there are a variety of waterproof seat covers made specifically for pets — though an extra blanket or towel can also do the trick.

6. Take Some Practice Rides

If your dog isn’t used to riding in the car, be sure to acclimate them with several practice rides before taking your trip. Set up your dog’s seat the way you would on the trip, so your dog gets familiar with their mobile digs. The goal is for you and your dog to feel calm and comfortable while cruising around together, which will make your vacation that much more enjoyable.

Looking for some guidance? AKC has expert advice on teaching your dog how to enjoy car rides.

7. Exercise Your Pup Before You Leave

Have you ever heard the adage, “A tired dog is a well-behaved dog”? Taking your dog on a long walk or to the park for playtime before hitting the road will help to exert their mental and physical energy. It will also give them the opportunity to work off their last meal and empty their bladder one more time before your big adventure.

8. Bring A Form Of Entertainment

Road trips inherently mean long stretches of road without much to do for your dog (unless they’re really talented at karaoke). It’s completely natural for some dogs to develop anxiety or pent-up energy from being cooped up, so be sure to provide treats and a few of their favorite toys - especially chew toys like a Nylabone or a stuffed Kong. This can help to keep your pup entertained during the drive and prevent destructive and undesirable behavior.

9. Be Sure To Take Plenty Of Breaks

It is essential to plan for extra breaks for your dog throughout the trip. You know your dog’s potty needs best, but it’s a good idea to stop every 2-3 hours to let them empty their bladder, refuel on water, stretch their legs, and get some fresh air to avoid car sickness. Don’t forget to check on your dog between stops — if you notice that they’re excessively panting, whining, pacing or standing up, it could be a sign that they need to relieve themselves.

10. Stay Alert And Stay Safe

When stopping to fill up the gas tank, it may be tempting to let your dog out while you refuel — however, gas stations contain many elements that can be dangerous for your dog. The groundss are covered with gasoline overflow, motor oil, and other toxic chemicals that are unsafe for your dog’s paws and can be fatal if ingested. Keep your dog safe by taking them to a grassy or paved area on the perimeter of the gas station, or by finding a rest stop.

Any time you make a stop, be sure to keep an eye out for traffic. Being in an unfamiliar environment can make your dog’s behavior unpredictable, so always keep your dog on a leash whenever they’re out of the car. Also, remember to NEVER leave your dog unattended in a parked car, under any circumstance. ASPCA outlines the dangers of this practice here

11. Take Note Of Nearby Animal Hospitals

Unfortunately, accidents and emergencies do happen. Gathering the contact information for nearby veterinary clinics and 24-hour animal hospitals ahead of time can bring peace of mind and potentially save your dog’s life if something happens to them during your trip.