Going on a road trip with your dog is definitely an awesome and unforgettable memory. Gretel and I just finished up a nine-day, almost 4,000 mile road trip with some friends. We had a lot of adventures and made a lot of memories. Some of the adventure was unplanned, but because we were prepared, we felt like there wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle.
To make sure the trip with your furry sidekick is an enjoyable one, keep these tips in mind:
1. Remember, not all dogs like riding in the car
Just like humans, some dogs have tummy issues due to the motion of the car. Signs your dog may be car sick include constantly licking their lips, excessive drooling, constant yawning and panting, nonstop whining or crying out in distress and vomiting or regurgitation. If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs, don’t lose hope. There are some things you can do to minimize your dog’s motion sickness. With a little help, they may start to feel more comfortable riding in the car.
2. Plan feeding schedules ahead of time
When traveling, your pup’s normal feeding routine can be disrupted. Have a plan in place a few days before you leave. Plan your stops around your dog’s normal feeding times to help maintain as regular of a schedule as you can. Although minimizing your dog’s water intake can help prevent accidents in the car on short trips, when you will be traveling for days you don’t want them to get dehydrated. Instead, make sure to always have water available and plan for plenty of potty breaks. Also, right before you leave is not the time to switch your dog’s food or treats. Traveling can be tummy-disrupting so stick with what they are used to until they get back.
3. Plan for regular breaks
It’s easy to get in the zone while driving and forget to take breaks. That’s especially true if you’re really excited to get somewhere or you are in a hurry, but not taking regular breaks is bad for your dog and you. Both of you can get stiff and develop cramps from being in one position too long. Also, having your dog “hold it in” for long periods can lead to a urinary tract infection or worse. I help remind myself to stop, and make it fun, by playing the 100-mile road trip game.
4. Restrain your dog for safety
You put a seatbelt on. Your furry family member should put one on, too. A dog roaming freely around the car can be a distraction and it’s possible they could startle you by trying to jump into your lap. Keep them in their own seat with a safety tether, put them in a doggy car seat, or confine them to a kennel if you can. Remember though restraining them is only the first level of safety. Most “dog safety” products on the market have not been tested for performance in a crash test. The “safety” comes from reducing the chance you’ll get in a car wreck in the first place. If you want to give them a better chance of escaping a crash uninjured, check out this list of products that have been crash tested by The Center for Pet Safety, and are considered “top performers.” Using a crash-tested restraint system is the best chance you have of keeping your pup safe in a crash. Realistically though, once you get all of your gear in the car, you may not have room for a car seat or crate. While I don’t advise leaving your dog loose in the car, if you must, at least give them a designated and comfortable spot to lay. An uncomfortable dog is more likely to be a distraction to the driver.
5. Don’t forget to pack the necessities
Taking a road trip with your dog can be very exciting. Exciting and pleasant are two different things though (exciting doesn’t always mean positive). To make your road trip easier and more comfortable, consider bringing these things: a car seat cover to protect your seats from wear, extra towels to clean off your dog before they get in the car, a pet first aid kit to help handle life’s little emergencies, and a travel water dish to keep your pet hydrated on the go. Check out my full list of must-have essentials for a safe and happy road trip with your dog.
6. Keep your dog busy
Some dogs like to sleep a lot in the car and only periodically wake up looking for something to do. Others are busy-bodies during the entire drive. A bored dog will find his or her own way to busy themselves and they may not do it in a way that pleases you. To avoid any unwanted behavior, bring something like a food puzzle or treat toy that will keep them busy while they are awake.
After you’ve taken a few road trips with your dog – and I suggest you do because it’s a lot of fun! – you’ll find what works best for you and settle into a routine. Your dog will likely even grow to love it. When I take Chester and Gretel out for a walk, we always pass our car. Every time, they pull toward it like they’re excited to go.