Traveling with a dog involves a little more planning than simply tossing a few things in the car and driving away. There are several things you have to prepare for well advance before deciding that a road trip with your dog is a good idea. Humans know what they’re getting into when traveling by car; you understand how much time you’ll spend in the car, the changing climates and the new noises and smells that you’ll encounter. Your dog lives at the moment, they don’t think ahead, so he can’t anticipate that it will be a long ride. From packing some form of potty pads to where you’ll stay, here are a few tips to help you prepare for and have a safe, fun road trip with your dog.
If your dog isn’t familiar with traveling for long distances by car, it will be beneficial for both of you to do a few practice runs before the day you’re scheduled to leave. Start small and build up your dog’s tolerance to being in a car for several hours. Start with daily short car rides to the dog park or to visit family. Then gradually build up to hour long car rides to fun places such as a different park or a lake. About one week before your road trip, take a day trip, a destination that takes a couple of hours to get to. During all practice runs, have a few of the items available that will be used on the road trip. This will help your dog adjust to having access to certain necessities, such as placing a wee wee pad in the floor of the car for emergencies or a bowl of water to get him used to drinking while in the car.
Packing separate luggage for your dog will allow you to have everything he will need in one place and it will make it easier for you to find what you need much quicker than if you simply toss a few things in the trunk. When packing your dog be sure to include:
- Leash and collar with identification tags
- Water and food bowl
- Food for each day on the road
- Favorite toys
- Waste bags
- Pee pads
- Blanket or pad for sleeping
- Any medications your dog is taking
- Proof of vaccinations
- Information about microchip registration
- Pet insurance information
Ensure a Safe Ride
If your dog will be in a crate while in the car, be sure to use one that is going to be comfortable for long periods of time and don’t forget to secure the crate in the back seat. Most crates can be easily secured by using the seatbelt or luggage straps. If you’ll be buying a crate specifically for the road trip, consider a soft crate, which can be easily opened or folded close. If you aren’t going to crate your dog while he’s in the car, use a dog approved seat belt to keep him safe while traveling.
Bonus tip-for those times when you can’t stop right away for a bathroom break, it’s going to give him the same feeling as real grass, if you place a small patch of real grass for dogs, like a DoggieLawn, in or near the crate (leaving the door open) your dog may feel more comfortable using the bathroom in the car.
Where to Stay
Before leaving your house, be sure to map out the locations that have dog approved hotels. When making your reservations be sure to alert the hotel that you are traveling with a pet and keep in mind that hotels vary on their pet policies. While some may allow only pets that have been potty trained, others may only allow pets in the room if they are in a crate, so be sure to ask about the specific pet policies. Be sure to place a couple of potty pads or better yet, a DoggieLawn in the room in case of accidents and take your dog outside for bathroom breaks as often as possible.
Take Frequent Breaks
Just like you, your dog may become uncomfortable and restless when they are stuck in a car for hours. Taking breaks about every 2-3 hours will allow you to stretch your legs and allow your dog to get out and run in fresh grass. Don’t deny your dog water while he’s in the car, but try to limit the amount; it’s not healthy or comfortable for your dog to “hold it” for long periods of time, so limiting the water will help to avoid having to stop every few minutes, but it will still help him stay hydrated.
Even though you both are excited about your road trip, it is important to keep your safety and your dog’s safety in mind while traveling. You should never let your dog sit in your lap while you are driving and avoid letting your dog put his head out the window while you are traveling on the interstate or other types of busy roadways. Be sure to maintain a comfortable temperature in the car and if you have to make stops along the way, never leave the dog in a hot car; either take him in with you or secure him to a post near the car where you can see him.