Do you love to take road trips? Here is what I do to take my dogs and make it fun and enjoyable for all of us. Betty has been on many multi-day road trips with me and she is a great traveling companion. Here are some things that I did with Betty from the beginning that helped ensure that she loved car rides.
I will also post the gear that I use on my resources page.
Make car rides fun and safe. I started by taking Betty on shorter trips. I took her hiking, Home Depot, dog friendly restaurants, and to visit family and friends whenever possible. This helped get her accustomed to riding in the car and she looked forward to going places with me. Most dogs love to go wherever you go so this is pretty easy. I have a special seat belt for her to keep her safe and she always rode in the backseat where she was safest away from airbags. I also have a waterproof pet cover for my rear seat to keep my car nice. I also recommend rubber washable floor mats and a silicone detail brush to clean hair. The one I keep in my car has a pointed edge and reaches in all kinds of places. It comes in really handy to swipe up dog hair.
We started with shorter rides to make sure she wouldn’t get car sick as some dogs get car sick just like some people do. I keep a water bowl and a large jug of water in the car so if its hot or we have been out for a while, I can offer water. I also keep poo bags on hand for potty breaks and I even have a poo vault for when I have full bags and no trash can handy. It seals in the stickiness so your car won’t smell like poo. I’m a pro though so I take poo very seriously.
Obedience training and socializing your dog ahead of time help make them much more enjoyable around other people and other dogs too. Before traveling with a dog, having them understand basic commands like sit, down, stay, leave it, and good walking leash manners will make the trip a lot more successful.
Check with your vet if your dog is due to get their regular check up or vaccinations are due. If you have a dog that gets car sick, check with your vet for recommendations. Bring a copy of their vaccination records with you. If your pet is a service dog or emotional support animal, bring the documentation for this as well.
Practice with longer trips once you know your dog is comfortable with shorter trips. There are a few things that I take on longer or overnight trips. I will bring dog bowls and their current food. I never switch food unnecessarily as this is a recipe for stomach upset. I bring their dog bed. Whenever I need a potty break, I stop somewhere that I can take the dog out for a potty break as well. Plan your trip so that you never leave the dog in the car alone.
Pack a bag for your dog. Include things they will need. This is what I pack for my dogs:
Pick points of interest that are dog friendly. Hiking and camping are wonderful things to do with dogs. Just check ahead of time to make sure that the location is dog friendly. Many restaurants that have outdoor patios are dog friendly on the patios. Many retailers are also dog friendly. I try to support places like this as much as possible.
Many hotels have become dog friendly over the years. Check ahead of time to make sure that where you stay will allow dogs. Here is a list of options to start with in a variety of price points:
Don’t be alarmed if your dog doesn’t want to eat when you check into a hotel. Traveling can be a little scary for your dog and they often will not want to eat when they are anxious. This is pretty normal and it will pass after a few days. Don’t change their diet if they don’t want to eat unless you want to deal with diarrhea while traveling. If they do get an upset stomach while traveling, white rice can be added to their food to help settle their tummies. Another favorite tummy remedy is adding a little bit of canned pumpkin to their food (1 Tablespoon for most dogs). Packing a can of pumpkin and a couple containers of microwaveable white rice can come in really handy. There are new sounds and smells and it can be pretty overwhelming to them. Do not leave them alone in the room as they may cry or bark while you are gone and the hotel will not appreciate this. Scared dogs can also become destructive or urinate in ways that they would not normally . So, you really don’t want to leave them unsupervised in a strange location.
Having your dog chipped and making sure the dog tags are up to date with current phone numbers before you take a trip is also a good idea in the unthinkable event that they get lost.You also don’t want to risk housekeeping opening the door and letting your pet escape. Your dog will have a much better time exploring with you. Make sure the information registered with the chip company is up to date. Have you moved or changed phone numbers since your dog was chipped? Make sure they have the right number to call.
Bring a crate if you are visiting family or friends and will be leaving your dog at home or if they have pets that your dog hasn’t met. Better to have the crate and not use it than to need it and not have it.
Bring a chuck it and ball in your car and an extra long training leash (25’ - 50’). That way, you can throw the ball and keep them on leash. This will help them get some much needed exercise and burn off a little bit of travel anxiety.
Betty, my Border Collie, has crisscrossed the US with me several times. She is happy to drive for about 8 hours per day with potty breaks. After about 8 hours of driving though, she will usually give me a warning bark. I know it is time to find a place to stop for the night once she gives that bark. She is a really easy dog to take on trips. When she has had enough for the day, we stop though. I don’t blame her either. Eight hours of driving is usually enough for me too! I find that finding places for her potty breaks and not pushing too hard to cover more than eight hours in a day makes a nicer trip for me too. She reminds me to stop and enjoy the views and to smell the grass every few hours. Traveling with her makes it a better trip. I prefer patio dining at restaurants and simple travel. For me, life is just always better with a dog.