How Often Should You Stop on a Road Trip with a Dog?
Taking road trips with my dogs is one of my favorite things to do with them.
We’ve driven over 4,000 miles from Seattle to Arizona, Driven 3,00 miles to southern California, driven to Colorado to hike some 14ers, gone on multi-day road trips in Washington State, and taken hundreds of other short trips.
Taking a road trip with your dog can be really fun but it has it challenges, especially if it is a long road trip.
One of the most important parts of planning a road trip is deciding how often you need to stop and where you will stop.
Why It’s Important to Stop for Frequent Breaks
I know what it’s like to get in the zone on a road trip – to just drive and drive with the desire to reach your destination quicker.
But it’s important for your dog (and you, really) to stop for breaks frequently.
If you wait too long in between rest stops, it could lead to:
Dogs need to go potty at regular intervals, and if they’re not able to relieve themselves, they may develop bladder or bowel problems, such as urinary tract infections or constipation.
Potty accidents in the car
Just like at home, if you don’t give your dog sufficient potty breaks, they may not be able to hold it and relieve themselves in the car.
Some dogs can only tolerate the motion of the car so long before becoming car sick.
By stopping frequently enough, you may be able to interrupt the process.
If they’re not given the opportunity to get out of the car and stretch their legs, the symptoms may worsen.
Since a dog is likely to vomit in the car, or develop anxiety and not want to ride with you again, you want to prevent this as much as possible.
Restlessness and boredom
Dogs, just like humans, can get restless and bored during long car rides.
If they’re not given the opportunity to stretch their legs and have a little playtime, they may become agitated and anxious.
How Often to Stop When Traveling With a Dog
It’s recommended to stop every 2-3 hours on a road trip with a dog to give them a chance go potty, have a drink of water, and go on a short walk to stretch their legs.
Some dogs may also appreciate a chance to play a quick game of fetch or run around during the stops.
The needed frequency of your stops may vary depending on the size and breed of your dog, as well as their age and fitness level.
For example, a large dog may be able to go longer without a break, while a small or senior dog may need more frequent rest stops.
It’s always best to consult with your veterinarian regarding your dog’s specific needs, to ensure that your road trip is safe and comfortable for them.
So how do you remember to stop often enough for your dog?
How to Remember to Stop Every 2-3 Hours
When I drive in the car with my dogs, they are super quiet.
If they are not both sleeping (which they do most of the time), Summit is watching out the window.
They sit behind the drivers seat in a car seat so, for the most part, I can’t see them if they get restless.
It’s easy for me to zone out and drive a long distance before remembering to stop for a break.
I have a few tricks to remind myself.
Driving with Dogs: The 100-Mile Road Trip Game
To help me remember that I need to stop, I like to play what I call the 100-mile road trip game.
I challenge myself to stop every 100 miles for a break and to find something “cool” in the area to check out.
Sometimes our breaks coincided with a planned stop along the way, like a scenic area or short trail.
Other times I’ve discovered something I had no idea existed, like the landmarks below.
If the average vehicle speed on the trip is 45 mph, a stop every 100 miles would mean about 2 hours and 10 minutes between breaks.
There are some times I’ve had to fudge a little with the 100 miles because that put us in the middle of nowhere on the side of the freeway, but at around 90 miles I start looking for a place to stop.
We never went more than about 3.5 hours without pulling over somewhere.
Set a timer
This sounds like a no-brainer, right?
But it’s easy to get caught up in the freedom of a road trip, get complacent, and forget to set an alarm for the next pit stop.
By setting an alarm or timer, you won’t forget to stop and give your dog a break.
Plan your route in advance
Before you hit the road, plan your route and identify pet-friendly rest stops, parks, landmarks, or other areas where you can stop and let your dog out.
You can use Google maps to space these stops out to be as frequent as you need to stop for your dog.
Keep an eye on your dog
Pay attention to your dog’s behavior and body language.
If they seem restless, anxious, or uncomfortable, it’s probably time for a break.
Taking a road trip with your dog is fun and a great way to strengthen your bond.
However, not stopping enough to let your dog go potty, get a drink of water, and stretch their legs can cause medical complications, behavior issues, or result in a mess in the car.
The best ways to make sure you remember to stop include playing a game with yourself, pre-planning, and setting a reminder.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
Hi furriends! We’re glad to see that you made it home safely. We think that sounds like a good game for all animals. We kittehz cannot imagine going that far in the car, though. MOL!
Have a great Thursday!
I’ve seen some Kittehs that like to ride for hours and hours in cars…like an RV cat. I can see how constant movement and jiggling could get annoying though.
Leeloo loves roadtrips! I the longest one we’ve done with our little chihuahua was a round-about trip from Arizona to North Carolina (and then on to Germany…but obviously that wasn’t by car!) that lasted about a month with stops in Nevada, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, Missouri, etc etc. We drove no more than 6-8 hours per day and stopped at least every 2 hours, with lots of stops involving hikes (and lots of destinations involving hiking and camping, too). I like the idea of finding something interesting every 100 miles! If we move back to the US and have a car again, we will certainly think about doing it that way!
I took a solo road trip in college once that was over a month. I didn’t own Chester then. I did stop a lot but also drove for LONG hours without stopping (didn’t have a dog I had to look out for) and I know that was not good for me.
You are over in Germany for school or work? I forget. Is there a possibility of moving back to the US someday. It sure would be fun to meet 🙂
We’re in Germany for work – I’m a biologist conducting postdoctoral research on reef fish (fieldwork in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea) and teaching several courses at the University of Tuebingen. We hope to move back when I get a professorship in the US (which is a big if these days – lots of competition, not a lot of funding)! Yes, it would be very fun to meet! Definitely contact us if you are in Europe in the meantime – we just did a small 3-day roadtrip with Leeloo here (in Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland)! We don’t have a car (soooo nice not to need one) but rented one for a couple of the days we had family in town. Usually Leeloo enjoys riding the bus and train here!
I thought I remembered something about work AND school 🙂 It must be kind of nice to not own a car. I am not sure I could survive without one but my step-Dad doesn’t have one. He has a pretty stress-free life.
I can only imagine driving that far with my three huskies! Ha!
The longest road trips we have been on with the dogs are a total of one hour. And by the end of that trip, they are already getting restless! But we still even stop halfway between just to let them stretch their legs and go potty.
Hope you had a great time at blog paws!
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
An hour? Pfft…that’s nothing 🙂 Chester has driven 4 or 5 hours with me at a time since he was a wee pup. When Gretel joined our family, that was one concern of mine – that she be ok with long car rides. I can’t imagine traveling with 4 big dogs tough. I imagine it being like driving with 4 young kids in the back seat….”I have to pee”, “He’s touching me”, “are we there yet”. Ha, ha.
We take the dogs on lots of road trips, but generally we are focused on getting to the destination and only make gas stops. Boring, but it keeps the day in a car from getting too long.
We were more rushed on the way back home so that is kind of what it turned into. I tried to stick with the 100 mile rule but I skipped over one more than once. However, I still think I stopped more often than I would have if it was me alone. Driving with the dogs is good for me because, I too, have a tendency to push on and go too long between potty stops….which has led to some health issues later 🙁
That sounds like a great game. You got some great pictures there and I’m going to look up that Jackson house as I have no idea what that is. We don’t do road trips – they are called “moves across country” which sadly require us to drive for more than 6+ hours on some days. Your game sounds like something we should adapt into our time spent on the road.
OH…our days were over 6 hours of drive time. The “day” was actually more like 10 hours on the road if you counted breaks. We were on more of a deadline on the way back – which I am sure you are when you move – so I fudged and took less breaks. I didn’t like it much though 🙂
Great plan, we never make it very far without having to stop for a break too. Except we are the old ones, not the dogs. LOL
Well, the game is a reminder mostly for me to stop and pee 🙂 I have a habit of pushing on….
We drive Silas back to see my parents a few times a year. It’s about 14 hours in the car, depending on traffic. My husband and I drive in two hour shifts. I am so relieved that he’ll finally get out of the car at gas stations, which means he’s out for at least five minutes every two hours. We also have a few “favorite” rest areas along the way, where we really let him run and play for 15 minutes or so. It would be nice to let him have more time out of the car, but if we drag out the drive too much we can’t make it in one day.
It sounds like you make a lot of stops. A lot of our little side breaks aren’t more than 15 minutes….although they may be more exciting than a rest area or gas station 🙂 I sure understand driving on a deadline though!
Barkly started going on long road-trips with (OTRB-Dannyboy) from TN to KS when he was 5 mths old. Dannyboy didn’t start RV-traveling with his companion (OTRB-Sharkly) until he was 8 yrs old. Now we’ve got Vlad and he began his road-trips to KS, with Barkly, when he was 4 mths old. Ever since their first trips, all of our dogs have gotten overly excited when they figure out we’re packing the RV. Dannyboy would go as far as sneaking out of the house behind one of us, when our arms were full, to jump into the RV and lay on the sofa until we left. Now when we’re finally leaving, Vlad will drag you to the RV. We don’t really go by miles, but we go by every 2 to 2.5 hours using the GPS info to plan where to stop to see new things, and we don’t drive longer than 8 hrs a day. Despite having all that room to move around in, no matter how young, we ALL find ourselves needing a stretch fairly often. If you’ve never taken your dogs on a long road-trip with you, we highly recommend it. Dogs really seem to love new scenery just as much as humans.
LOVE your photos! Would really like to see more, so I can put them in my “When-He-Retires-Trip-Plans” folder.
I’ll have more photos coming in the next two weeks. I am going to write about one particular place we stopped and share a set of random photos too.
Traveling around in an RV has always sounded fun to me. We have a couple of friends that do it.
Jessica, I love the 100-Mile game! (It sure beats my see-how-far-I-can-drive-before-our-bladders-burst-and-we-go-insane game). Good to see you made it home safe and sound. I am glad we had time to meet and chat last week!
That was my old game 🙂
This is precisely what we do! Moses and Alma are great travellers – they sleep or look out the window, but we try to make sure we stop about every 3 hours on long days of driving. It’s good for everyone to get some fresh air and stretch. And I definitely plan ahead looking for cool roadside attractions to check out! Looks like you found some pretty cool spots!
Really, Chester and Gretel would probably just sleep for hours with no problem. I am stubborn and hate to stop so “doing it for them” makes me actually do it 🙂 Looking ahead for cool spots is good but part of the fun was finding random things we wouldn’t have found otherwise. In the case of the reservoir, it took a 30-minute detour to find though. I don’t always have that kind of time to explore.
I mentioned this to you before, but HAVE to mention it again, you ARE AMAZING! I bet that had to be a most rewarding trip for all of you and I LOVE the idea of stopping every 100 miles. If I ever drive a long distance with Dakota, I will certainly heed that advice!
Ha, ha. Thanks Caren. I have another friend that’s in awe of how full my schedule always is yet how little it stresses me out. One person’s normal can be a real reach for someone else. It was great to see you at BllogPaws!
Our longest road trip was 100 miles. We stopped twice along the way at rest stops to stretch our legs and for a potty break for me. No potty break for Mom because she couldn’t bring me in and she never leaves me in the car.
Love and licks,
100 miles? Pfft! 🙂 We drive that long for a hike or mountain bike ride a dozen or so times a year. A road trip of any length is fun though.
Wish we could have taken our time and made more fun stops, but we had about 3600 miles round trip and did it in two days each way. Bailie and I ride well, but it is still quite boring. Katie does have issues on long rides now that she is older which is one reason she stayed home this trip. Our biggest challenge was getting Bailie to go to the bathroom as she would only go on grass and that was limited for a large part of our trip. The weather was terrible as well, but we made it and have no regrets.
Holy cow. That is a ton of driving! We had about 1,400 miles to cover on our way home. We did it in two days but they were LONG. However, we did leave the Valley of Fire State Park near Vegas around 2 pm on Sunday and got back around 6 pm Monday. Even though we only drove about 8 hours on Sunday, it felt really long since our morning actually started around 8 am. Glad you guys made it back safe!
Those are great ideas! We never stopped anywhere fun (dad) but we did stop a lot mostly rest areas. Some had fenced in dog parks even. We logged in over 4,000 miles in 10 days don’t think we would do it again! Love Dolly
A rest area with a fenced dog park? That sounds amazing. Hey, at least you tried the drive once. I loved our experience but it was exhausting and made me think twice too. I had never been gone from my Hubby for 10 days before either. Next time we’ll have to bring him to split the driving 🙂
What a great way to take a break and discover new places.
I know we didn’t have much time to talk, but glad I got to meet you and your wiener dogs!
–Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats
There never seems like enough time to talk at those conferences. Glad to meet you too…even if it was brief.
A rescue friend, now deceased, adopted several dogs to truck drivers as companions. Don’t know what tricks they used but they were very happy.
Drove from Sioux Falls, SD to Great Falls, MT, and then, 4 years later, here to Cape Girardeau, MO – multiple hundred miles at least; cats in SD did not quiet till 50 miles from Rapid City, my first real stop. On the way to MO, a friend drove and would not wake me after someone peed in her crate….I was exhausted. I then got the joy of cleaning them up in a service station bathroom.
But I love to drive and am looking forward to using the 100 mile marker in my next trip – even if it’s just to St.Louis or Chicago!
Maybe they taught the dogs to pee in a bottle like they do. He, he. I’ve never driven with a cat in the car except to the vet. Kitteh was NOT happy about it 🙂
We take our dogs to Cape Cod where we have a vacation home. It’s 3 hours each direction. Unfortunately, I am almost always traveling alone, so it is a huge challenge when I need to use a restroom as I don’t want to leave them in the car, and can’t take them in with me! And how would I hold onto them both on leash while I’m trying to…. I still haven’t mastered that part. Sometimes I just hold it for 3 hours and then run into the house as soon as I get there!! Would love to hear tips on traveling alone and what to do? Wear an adult diaper!? LOL!
My “dream” has been to buy an RV and drive across the U.S. with my dogs. I hope some day to really do it. I loved seeing/hearing about your trip! Amazing!
Do you not leave the dogs alone in the car because you are afraid someone will steal them? I don’t worry with the car I have now but my ex has a soft top Jeep and we NEVER left Chester in the car alone. I do take the dogs with me into rest stop bathrooms a lot of the time. It’s not because I don’t want to leave them in the car (unless it is super hot…then it is) but usually because I have just pottied them and I’m too lazy to put them back before I go myself. Plus it gives them an extra couple minutes to stretch their legs.
No, not really. We live out in the countryside, and a very remote area of Cape Cod is where we vacation, so both towns are very small towns, not a lot of crime and “everybody knows everybody”. I travel at odd times, too, both to keep the dogs out of the mid-day heat and also because I can’t stand the tourist traffic. I have never seen any news reports of dogs being stolen in our state. Plus, my dogs are insane… if someone approached the car they would probably eat him/her!! Charlie goes absolutely bonkers if anyone comes near the car. !!!
When we do travel long distances with the dogs we generally stop every two hours or so, to let them get out, stretch, walk around and grab a drink. But we are usually on major roads and plan it around rest stops. Of course, if someone indicates they need to ‘go’ we will pull over wherever we have to.
I commend you for making such a trip by yourself!
Thanks. I don’t ever research rest stops ahead of time. I just figure they will appear at some point…or we’ll just use the side of the road 🙂
this is such a great idea because you’re right- it’s easy to forget that other than potty or food stops all of us, two legged or four, need to stretch and walk around! Will have to keep this in mind next time Olivia and I go on a long journey (may not be until our first blog paws next year)!
I have taken several long car trips with my dogs (up to 3 days). I find dog parks on-line along the route we are taking and near the hotel we will be staying. I take them over to the park in the morning before we leave, stop at one mid afternoon (when I get my lunch too) and then at the new hotel the next night I take them to the park before we turn in for the night. The park visits wear them out enough that they will sleep a good part of the travel time.
I did a 6,000 mile, 3 week road trip with Abby and Murphy when they were younger. Just the 3 of us. I used them to help me stop more regularly, just like you have done. It’s a great way to go, and better for the humans as well as the dogs. We drove from Seattle to Nebraska, to Baltimore, to Philadelphia, to Atlanta, to Savannah, to Memphis, back through Nebraska and home. Epic trip, and the dogs were awesome!
I have once a quarter “hot date with my camera” and take my pup (Mini Longhaired Doxie) Jayne with me. We typically cruse around the state (New Mexico) and stop plenty of times to look at something cool, interesting, or I don’t think the car can make it off road and lets see what’s down this dirt road. He is only 8 months and has been on two dates and so far he’s adapting great to them. I have kept them shorter day trip or one overnight. Our rules are no interstates, or 4 lane roads, get off the beaten path, if you see a sign stating local interest we stop and check it our. We sometimes stay in a hotel over night of sleep in the car (some small towns don’t have dog friendly hotels or we are to far out in the desert) This fall we are going to New Orleans and the trip is 14 hr drive each way, the 100 mile idea sounds great, I always stop at the first rest stop in each state and walk around as much for me as for the pup this up coming trip will be a long drive through Texas.
That sounds like a lot of fun and like you have a good plan. May you two have many interesting discoveries in the future!