We’ve always loved traveling and taking road trips with our dogs. We’ve taken our dogs with us on every vacation we’ve ever been on together, except for our trip to Myrtle Beach. They went with us on our trip to Pittsburgh earlier this year and they’ve been to at least 12-15 other states in the last 7 years. Not to mention, we’ve moved and lived in 5 different states. This past weekend, we loaded up the dogs for another road trip and headed west to Colorado. At this point, it’s pretty safe to say we’ve mastered the art of taking a road trip with your dog (or dogs) in tow.
I know a lot of people prefer to board their animals but truly, there’s nothing quite like traveling with your furry best friend tagging along. It requires some extra planning but if you give yourself time to plan ahead and heed our advice you’ll have a really great time on a road trip with your dog.
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If you’re going to road trip with your dog, plan ahead and…
- Do a test trip before hitting the road
- Scope out dog-friendly locations ahead of time
- Protect your car from muddy paws
- Secure your dog’s safety (and your own)
- Verify or update microchip records
- Snap a current photo (or ten)
- Bring your vet and vaccination records
- Download the Pet First Aid app
- Pack a pet first aid kit
- Bring a collapsible crate
- Remember to pack the other basic essentials
- Pack a stake tie out
- Plan and regulate meal times
- Bring travel bowls, bottled water, and safe storage for dog food
- Schedule potty breaks for everyone, including your dogs
- Don’t forget the dog waste bags
Do a test trip before hitting the road
Wilkins used to suffer from pretty severe travel anxiety which we eventually got over thanks to a lot of mini trips and test trips. I started taking him for 10 minute drives, then 30 minutes, then an hour. When we got to our destination I’d reward him with play time and a small treat. Eventually, he learned that drives are a good thing. Now he loves hitting the road with us. Before you head off on a road trip with your dog, go out on a test trip and check to see how he responds. We also found that CBD treats for dogs worked better for his anxiety than the xanax we tried.
Scope out dog-friendly locations
Use a site like bringfido.com to scope out dog-friendly restaurants, hotels, and attractions before you arrive. Arriving at a destination along the way only to find you can’t take your dog isn’t any fun for anyone. BringFido lets you locate the places where your dog is welcome so you can avoid showing up just to be told you have to leave him in the car.
Protect your car from muddy paws
Taking a road trip with your dog means muddy paws, dirt, grass, leaves, and more right into your car. We use this car seat cover from Kurgo to protect our backseat from heavy wear or damage. It’s even waterproof so we can keep a small bowl of water back there for the pups without stressing about it spilling all over the car.
Secure your dog’s safety
It’s tempting to let your dogs roam free in the car while you’re driving but that’s also extremely dangerous. If you hit your brakes too hard or are in an accident, your dog can easily be injured or become a projectile injuring you or others. Keep your dog secured in your car by harnessing him with a dog seat belt. The Kurgo car seat cover I mentioned earlier has flaps over your regular seat belt buckles which makes strapping your dog in easier than ever.
Verify or update microchip records
Both of our dogs are microchipped with microchips from PetLink and before we left for our road trip I logged in to check their record and make sure our contact information was current. We’ve moved so frequently that I was sure it was probably out of date (it was) so I updated everything and updated their photos as well. I also added additional contacts just in case we couldn’t be reached if something happened.
Snap a current photo
Before you take off on
Bring vet and vaccination records
Make copies of your dog’s vital vet and vaccination records and keep them in a folder in your car. Store the originals at home but take copies with you just in case you find yourselves needing to take your dog to the vet or if there is a request to see your vaccination records (this could happen at a dog park where current vaccinations are required).
Download the Pet First Aid app
Pet First Aid is an app available from the Red Cross that offers first aid tips and advice for a variety of pet (dog and cat) injuries and illnesses like
Pack a pet first aid kit
To go along with your pet first aid app, pack up a pet first aid kit and keep it in your trunk. You should already have an emergency car care kit so what’s one more kit back there? This Pet First Aid Kit is my favorite, it’s fully vet-approved, and the bandages are specifically designed to not stick to dog hair. If you’d prefer to build your own Martha Stewart has great suggestions for what should be included.
Bring a collapsible crate
Depending on where you stay, a collapsible crate may be a requirement rather than just a suggestion. Some hotels require that your dog
Pack other basic essentials
Taking a road trip with your dog or doing any kind of traveling puts a lot of stress on all of you so you’ll want to be sure to pack other basic essentials to make your dog as comfortable as possible. Other essentials to consider include
- Updated tags, collar, and leash
- Grooming supplies
- Dog bed and/or blankets
- Favorite toys
Pack a stake tie out
While traveling, we all need to stretch our legs and move around but a dog park isn’t always readily available. Packing a stake tie out and cable allows you to hook up your dog for a bit of roaming and exploration even if you’re at a regular park or rest area. Just make sure that you’re far enough away to allow others their privacy, screw the stake in the ground, and let your dog have some room to run and play.
Plan and regulate meal times
To keep your dog from getting sick on the road, feed him 3 – 4 hours before you start your drive and feed smaller meals every 3 – 4 hours during the trip. It keeps them from over-eating or having full bellies which can be upset by the moving vehicle. If you can, feed them at the beginning of a stop or rest so they have time to let their food digest a little before you start moving again.
Bring travel bowls, water, and food
Naturally, you have to remember to pack your dog’s bowls, food and enough bottled water to provide them with clean water while you’re traveling. When you’re packing dog food, be sure to buy dog food with a resealable bag or pack it in a airtight container to avoid ants or other bugs from getting in it.
Schedule potty breaks
An adult dog should poop at least once a day but many dogs will go more often than that sometimes up to 5 times per day. Dogs should urinate every 8 – 12 hours although while they are on the road it’s possible they will need to go more frequently. Try to schedule your road trip so that you and your dogs are stopping for potty breaks at the same time, ideally every 4 – 6 hours.
Don’t forget dog waste bags
Make sure you pack those doggie poop bags for your road trip! It’s always encouraged to pick up after your dog and in some places it’s downright illegal to leave it behind. Don’t rely on parks and public spaces to provide bags for you, pack your own supply and be sure to keep them on hand for those potty breaks.