There are two things that we love more than almost anything in the world: road trips, and dogs. Honestly, who doesn’t love those two things? Road trips are one of the most enjoyable ways to spend time. You get out on the open road, alone with the scenery, your thoughts, and perhaps a loved one or two. It’s the best part of being in a car, and you get a vacation out of driving, which is just perfect.
As for dogs, well, they don’t need the advertisement. Everyone knows how great pups are. And that’s why one of our favorite things to do is take a road trip with our dogs. Many people avoid road trips because they have dogs, or they get their dogs boarded when they go on a road trip.
To that we say: why?! Just take your dog on a road trip! Don’t worry if the thought scares you: we’ve got all the information you need to make it work flawlessly.
The benefits of bringing your dog on a road trip
Pardon us if we sound a little overly excited, but the first benefit of bringing a dog on a road trip is pretty obvious: you get to spend time with your dog! How could that possibly be a bad thing?
But, more seriously, there are a lot of other great reasons for bringing your pup with you on a road trip. The biggest one is finances. The main alternative to bringing a dog on a road trip is to have the dog boarded while you’re gone. Unfortunately, boarding your dog is usually very pricey; a lot more pricey than simply bringing your pup with you, so you can save a lot of money.
It also contributes to your dog’s health and happiness. Bringing your four-legged friend with you will make your dog happy, because they’re with you, in a fun new place. And it will ensure that they’re still able to play and get exercise, instead of being stuck in a smaller space.
But above all else, it’s a way to get the most out of your road trip. You get the joy of bringing your whole family with you, and you get to keep an eye on your pup to ensure that they’re in good health the whole way.
So, how can you plan for a road trip with a dog? We’ve got everything you need to know.
Pack the essentials
Let’s start with the basics. When you’re traveling with your dog, you need to bring everything they would need if they were at home. That starts with food. Not only do you need to bring your dog for the road, but food for the trip as well. Many people make the mistake of only packing food for the road, and planning on buying food wherever they’re staying. If you do that, however, you run the risk of not being able to find the exact food that your pooch is accustomed to. Even a slight change in diet can upset a dog’s digestive system, and it can take a while to recover.
You’ll also need to bring bowls for both the dog food and water, so that the dog has a way of eating and drinking when you stop along the way. While you’re at it, remember to pack water bottles, in case you’re unable to find running water at rest stops.
Of course, you also need to pack doggy bags for whenever you stop, as you’ll need to clean up after your pup. And leashes and maybe a tennis ball or frisbee are a necessity as well!
We find it handy to have a doggy travel bag, that carries all of the pup’s regulars. That way, you’re always ready and prepared, and never leave anything behind.
Always bring a seat belt
Every time you get in your car, you buckle up your seat belt. So why wouldn’t you also buckle up your furry friend? Seat belts are important for your dog, just like they’re important for you.
A dog seat belt can save your dog’s life. When you slam on your brakes, or are involved in an accident, your dog will go flying forwards, with no way of stopping themselves. They can collide with the back of the front seats, the dashboard, or even the windshield. This can cause serious damage, and even death.
Furthermore, a dog seat belt can help protect you. A dog flying forward from the back seat can hit you at a high speed. That may not mean much if you have a chihuahua, but if you have a labrador, husky, or other large dog, that can be very dangerous for you.
Dog seat belts are very cheap, and very easy to install. They only take a few bucks and a few seconds to increase your odds of staying safe, and your dog’s odds of staying alive. Plus, they’re completely comfortable for your pooch, who will be happy to feel secure and safe. That’s more than worth it.
Pack all the necessary safety and health equipment
Keeping your pup safe extends beyond a seat belt. It also means bringing the proper safety equipment so that you’re prepared to take care of your dog should they not be in the best of shape.
For starters, always bring any medication that your dog take with you on your road trip. Even if the medication is only for special occasions, such as when they get sick, or have an allergic reaction, you want to bring them with you. That way you’re prepared for whatever strikes, and don’t have to find a vet or a pharmacy if your dog falls ill. When in doubt, you can never prepare for too much. Pack a bag with every medication you use on your dog, and you’ll be in good shape.
If you’re driving through an area with extreme temperatures, make sure to bring proper comfort for your dog. Dogs don’t cool down as easily as humans, so if it’s really hot out, the air conditioner may not be quite enough. Bring or purchase some ice packs, bags of ice, or frozen goods. Leave these on the seat next to the dog, so the pup has the opportunity to snuggle up against something cold if the heat is unbearable.
If it’s freezing out, your body may absorb the air from the heater more quickly than the dog does. So bring a blanket or dog bed that your pup can use to help stay warm if they’re feeling a little chilly.
It’s also a good idea to buy some canine motion sickness medication, in case your dog gets sick from being in the car for so long. This medication is cheap, and you can get it at the vet or at many pharmacies. It can make the difference between a miserable dog vomiting in your car, and a happy dog with a clean car.
That’s pretty important in our eyes.
Don’t forget the fun stuff!
Taking care of your dog during a road trip isn’t just about making sure they’re safe, warm, and well fed. It’s also about making sure that they’re happy! A happy dog makes for a happy owner, and a happy road trip.
So be sure to bring your dog fun things for the ride. Bones, stuffed animals, toys, and anything else that will keep them engaged during the drive. Also remember to bring treats for when you make bathroom and walk breaks. And if you really want your dog to love you, bring a frisbee, tennis ball, or football. Many rest stops have a grass area for dogs to play (and go to the bathroom), and you can use that to get your dog some physical exercise. Not only will your dog be happy, but they’ll be a little worn out when they get back in the car, which can be nice for the humans in the vehicle!
Bringing fun things for your dog on a road trip isn’t just about keeping the dog happy. It’s about reassuring them that they’re doing nothing wrong. A long road trip can be confusing to a dog, who might not understand what’s going on, or why they’re in a confined space. Toys and treats go a long way towards affirming their behavior and making them know that everything is okay.
Drive and park in a way that is safe for your dog
It goes without saying that you should drive safely. You should always do that, whether your dog is in the car or not. But there are a few areas that you can be extra careful of when your dog is in the car.
Keep in mind that your dog is not able to stay upright and balanced in the car as easily as you are. Even if the dog has a seat belt or harness, they’re susceptible to strong movements. When possible avoid turning sharply, and slamming on your brakes. These types of movements can fling the dog around in their seat. Having a dog seat belt will keep them safe in these occasions, but it won’t keep them from being uncomfortable. Your dog will be very uncomfortable if you aren’t trying to drive smoothly. And, for your own benefit, an uncomfortable dog may get motion sickness and leave a mess in your vehicle.
It’s also important to not leave your dog alone in the car for long stretches. If you do need to keep your dog in your car while you run into the convenience store or the bathroom, be sure to crack the windows (or leave the car running with air). Leaving your dog alone in your car with the windows up and the car off can be incredibly dangerous, and can also make your pup panic.
Also, try to avoid scary things while driving, like honking your horn excessively or shouting at other drivers in a fit of road rage. All of this will make the drive safer and happier for your furry friend.
Keeping your dog happy while you’re driving
In addition to the tips listed above for driving safely, you can also drive in a way that make your dog happy. One of the best things you can do is roll the windows down occasionally. Dogs rely on scent as their primary sense, and the opportunity to use their noses brings them great joy. Rolling down the windows brings a whole bevy of new scents into the car, from the local surroundings, to other cars, to nearby dogs and humans. Roll your windows down and chances are you’ll notice your dog’s tail starts wagging pretty intensely.
It’s also a good idea to not feed your dog immediately before starting a road trip. Now, this can’t always be avoided, so it’s not a big deal if you have to feed them. But if you can avoid it, it greatly decreases the odds of the pup feeling sick, or getting a strong case of motion sickness.
Another good thing to do is keep your music down. It doesn’t need to be down at a whisper; a normal volume is just fine. But now is not the time to relive your college frat party days by blasting music as loud as your speakers will allow. Dogs have ears that are more sensitive than those on humans, so you need to be aware of that and not hurt them.
Finally, it’s a great idea to talk to your dog on your road trip. Occasionally say their name, say something about them, tell them they’re a good boy or girl. This keeps them engaged, comforted, and happy.
Protect your car
Now that you’ve learned how to keep your dog safe, it’s time to take care of your car. Dogs aren’t always the cleanest things around, and if you want to keep your car clean on a canine road trip, there are a few things you must do.
Start by laying a towel down on the seat where the dog will be sitting. This will catch most of the dog hairs, but more importantly, it will keep the dog grease from being absorbed by the leather or fabric in your vehicle. It’s also a good idea to put a towel on the floor in front of the dog, as well. That will catch a lot of the dog hair that’s floating around, and will help protect your vehicle should your dog have to vomit.
In case your dog does get sick and vomit (or have an accident), you’ll want to bring paper towels and a spray cleaner so you can take care of it. You’ll also want to bring a spray to freshen the air, but make sure that it’s a dog friendly spray, so you don’t hurt your pup.
If possible, have your dog’s nails trimmed before your road trip. That way they won’t accidentally scratch your nice interior, which would be a major bummer.
As you can see, it’s not hard to prep your car for a canine road trip. And the rewards far outweigh the work that needs to be done. Having a dog with you on a road trip is a blast, and it’s one of our favorite elements of taking a road trip.
Just make sure your car is protected, your driving is safe, and your dog has everything they need to be happy and healthy, and you’ll be good to go. You’ll have a great road trip, your dog will have a blast, and you’ll be itching to get back on the road as soon as possible.