Traveling or taking road trips with dogs can be extremely stressful – or it can be fun and carefree. Which description best fits your trip will largely depend on the amount of planning you do beforehand. In many cases, the more planning and setup you do, the better the trip will go.
However, there are a lot of potential places to mess up when you’re traveling with your dog. To help ensure that you don’t miss anything, we’ve covered five essential life hacks when taking road trips with dogs.
These steps can make your trip much easier.
1. Don’t Forget All Your Dog’s Stuff
When you’re traveling with your dog, you often need another whole backpack just for their stuff. Dogs need quite a bit of gear while traveling, so it can be pretty easy to miss some stuff.
Most importantly, be sure to bring your dog’s collar, leash and food, as well as a place to put their food. If you’re going to be particularly active on this trip, be sure that you bring extra food. When active, dogs burn more calories just like we do!
You should also bring some fresh water, though you can also stock up on water at gas stations. Of course, don’t forget some sort of travel water bowl as well. They also make travel water bottles for dogs, but these have a bit of a learning curve.
If your dog takes medication, don’t forget to pack it. If you need it refilled to have enough for your trip, be sure to talk to your vet sooner rather than later. Often, they will accommodate these requests, but they need plenty of time to do so.
Don’t forget your dog’s papers and vaccination information as well. If you get stopped or pulled over, their information may be requested depending on your location. Furthermore, pet-friendly hotels often require up-to-date vaccinations.
2. Keep Your Dog Restrained – and Practice with It
You should always keep your dog restrained in the car. In many cases, this is required by law. Otherwise, you can get charged with distracted driving, especially if your dog is obviously not riding in the car very well.
For this reason, you should purchase some restraint for your dog in the car. They make car seats for smaller dogs, as well as leashes and other attachments for larger dogs. Which one you choose will depend largely on your car setup and your dog’s size.
Once you purchase an option for your dog, be sure to practice with it a lot before you go on your long trip. Your dog will likely find the restraint difficult to use at first, especially if they aren’t used to being restrained in the car at all.
The last thing you want is for your dog to struggle against the restraint the whole time you’re traveling. Therefore, it is essential that you provide them with a chance to practice before you head out.
3. Check for Motion Sickness
Some dogs are more prone to motion sickness than others. If your dog happens to fall into the prone category, there is actually quite a bit you can do to prevent them from becoming sick in the car. For instance, your vet can prescribe one of many medications that can calm their stomach.
You can also stop feeding them some time before the trip, as they are less likely to get car sick on an empty stomach. Sometimes, the type of food you feed matters too. Obviously, you shouldn’t feed them rich “people” food or treats while in the car.
Practice is often quite helpful as well. Sometimes, dogs just need practice being in the car to stop becoming car sick.
Of course, you can’t help your dog at all if you don’t know that they are prone to motion sickness, to begin with. Therefore, you should consider taking them on a decently long car ride beforehand to test the waters. If they do fine, then they likely aren’t terribly prone to motion sickness. However, if they do get sick, you’ll need to take some extra steps to make the trip a bit more comfortable for them.
4. Prepare Your Car Appropriately
On top of investing in some sort of restraint system, you should also consider protecting your car thoroughly from your dog. In practice, this often means purchasing seat and floor protectors. If your dog is larger and riding in the back of the car, you can invest in a larger cover to protect your floors and seats.
For smaller dogs, you may be tempted to skip this step. However, it is essential that you protect your car from them as well. You never know when they’re going to have an accident or something of that sort – which could potentially rack up a rather large bill.
Obviously, you want to invest in high-quality products for this step. You don’t want a floor protector that isn’t actually going to do much to protect your floor. However, if you’re just traveling with your dog once, you probably don’t want to purchase the most expensive options out there.
In the end, it mostly depends on your budget and how often you ride with your dog in the car.
5. Don’t Forget the Health Check
If your dog already gets routine vet visits, it may seem like a bit much to have them checked again right before the trip. However, getting a health check is essential before going on any long trip. The last thing you want to do is take a sick dog on a long trip across the country.
In many cases, dogs are very good at hiding their symptoms. They will often not show symptoms of underlying illnesses until they get quite serious. The stress of traveling can often make their underlying conditions worse before it makes them better. Therefore, it isn’t odd for dogs to suddenly go downhill once they get on the road.
For this reason, we highly recommend taking your dog for a quick vet check before hitting the road. You don’t want to find yourself stuck at a random, unknown vet in a town far away from home with a sick dog.
A quick vet check is often inexpensive, but it can save you plenty of money before your trip.
Before embarking on roads trip with dogs, there are several essential steps you should take. You’ll likely need to purchase new gear for your dog if this is their first extended trip. Don’t forget to pack their food and medications as well.
For safety purposes, a restraint for your car is a must. Whether this is a crate or doggie seatbelt, it doesn’t matter – as long as it works for you! While you’re at it, be sure to purchase protective gear for your car as well.
Most importantly, don’t forget to take your dog on a practice ride and visit the vet for a check-up. Both of these steps are essential to preventing health issues on your trip. After all, you don’t want your dog to suddenly get sick or develop motion sickness without the correct preparations.
In the end, taking road trips with dogs may require more planning and setup. However, if you plan properly, your trip will go much smoother.
Guest Writer: Steffi Trott
Steffi Trott is the owner and founder of SpiritDog Training. Originally training dogs in-person, she added online training in 2018 to her business. Steffi strives to provide game-based, positive training solutions for owners and their dogs.
When she is not training other owners’ dogs, she competes in dog agility or hikes in the New Mexico and Colorado wilderness with her own 4 dogs.