Logo: health

5 Tips for Taking a Road Trip with Your Dog

5 Tips for Taking a Road Trip with Your Dog

Road Tripping with Your Dog: 5 Tips for Traveling with Your Best Friend

Long summer days mean more time to spend with your favorite pup. So, when it’s time to plan your summer vacation, bring your dog along for the ride. Whether you go to the beach, a campground or a new city, slobbery kisses and tail wags make everything better. Check out these tips and tricks for going on a dog-friendly road trip.

1. Prep for Traveling with a Dog in Your Car

You probably can’t wait to take pictures with your pup on the boardwalk or play a game of fetch by the river. But before you take off across the country, make sure your dog is safe and comfortable in the car. A short test drive to a fun place like the park will let you see how your dog will behave and get him or her excited about traveling.

Practice Pet Travel Safety

A travel crate or carrier is a safe way to travel with your dog and can reduce injuries during an accident. Make sure the crate is tied down to either the floor or the seat. If you have a larger dog or more than one dog, and a carrier isn’t an option, look for a travel harness that’s been crash-tested.

Get a Nose-to-Tail Check Up

Test drives will let you know if your dog gets motion sickness or anxiety from traveling in the car – and that’s not something you want to find out on the road. If you see symptoms like gagging, drooling, excessive panting or discomfort, visit the vet to discuss treatment options for your dog’s motion sickness or anxiety during car rides. The vet may provide medication or recommendations for meal plans. While you’re at the vet, ask about any interstate travel certificates you may need, as well as any vaccinations or parasite prevention specific to where you are traveling.

Practice and Reinforce Training

New places and experiences may spook your pup or cause them to forget their training. During test drives, reinforce good behavior with rewards, like safely exiting the vehicle and returning when you call. These behaviors can help prevent your dog from getting lost or harmed while traveling.

2. Plan Ahead: Research before Road Tripping with Your Dog

A spontaneous game of tug-of-war or last-minute visit to the pet store can be a fun surprise for your pup, but proper planning is key for a stress-free road trip. Take some time to think about everything — where you’ll stop, where you’ll stay and what activities you’ll do — and be prepared in case of an emergency.

Plan the Stops

Map out the best places for potty breaks. State-run rest stops are often a good place to take a break and sometimes have pet-friendly areas for your pup to stretch his legs. It’s a good idea to stop every couple of hours, but senior dogs and puppies may need more frequent potty breaks. Make sure that your pet is up to date on vaccines and other preventive care to decrease the risk of disease transmission while your dog is visiting new places.

Plan the Stays

Make reservations for pet-friendly hotels and campgrounds ahead of time, so you don’t get in a bind. Read the hotel’s pet policies for clarity on the requirements. Many hotels have a limit on the number, size and breed of dogs allowed.

Plan the Extras

Know which activities you want to do on your trip and if these activities are pet-friendly. If not, you can research pet sitters and daycares, and be prepared to board your dog. Also look up dog-friendly restaurants, parks and trails, so that you can spend as much time as possible with your furry friend.

Plan for Emergencies

While traveling, it’s smart to carry a pet first aid kit and know where the closest vet clinic or pet hospital is located. If you have any questions while you’re on the road, Banfield’s Vet Chat™ is available to Optimum Wellness Plan® members 24/7 to triage pet concerns and recommend the best next steps. Connect with real vets anytime day or night with the Banfield app, giving you peace of mind while you travel.

3. Pack All Your Dog’s Road Trip Essentials

While preparing for your road trip, don’t forget to pack for your pet! Packing a separate bag with all your dog’s supplies will make it easier to find what you need. Plus, having your pup’s favorite toys and blankets can bring comfort in an unfamiliar environment.  Use this handy packing checklist.

Your Dog’s Road Trip Packing List:

  • Travel carrier or safety harness for traveling
  • Crate or bed for sleeping
  • Extra leash, collar and/or harness
  • Food and water bowls (portable and anti-spill make great travel options)
  • Food for entire trip plus extra (plus a can opener if needed)
  • Medications
  • First aid kit
  • Health certificate and proof of vaccinations
  • Up-to-date identification tags
  • Favorite toys and blankets
  • Safe bones or other chews
  • Treats
  • Poop bags
  • Old towel and carpet cleaner (for messes)

​4. Traveling with Dogs in the Car for Long Distances

Nothing says “road trip” like having the windows down, music up and your furry friend along for the ride. While you’re traveling, consider these tips for making the ride more comfortable — and fun — for your dog.

First, be sensitive to your dog’s ears by keeping the music or podcast volume low. Second, bring along their favorite chew toys or new, fun treats to keep him entertained. Third, do not let your dog stick his head out of the window. They may enjoy it, but it can be dangerous if there is flying debris.
 
Finally, create an action plan for any weather changes. Don’t leave your dog in the car, especially during summer when temperatures can rise quickly. Bring along a fan or window shade to keep them comfortable during the ride. If your dog is vulnerable to low temperatures, pack a dog sweater or blanket to keep them warm during potty breaks and rest stops. For rainy days, have an old towel ready to clean off muddy paws and seat covers to protect your car from messes.

5. Tips for Pet-Friendly Destinations

When you finally make it to your destination, help keep your dog happy and comfortable by quickly establishing ground rules and maintaining a routine. Identify the best place for them to go potty, set up their bed or crate and closely watch your pup for any signs of distress or unwanted behaviors. Also, consider these tips for each place of lodging:

Tips for Staying at Dog-Friendly Hotels

  • When you make a reservation for your hotel, request a room near an exit or — if staying on the ground floor makes you uncomfortable — a stairwell, so that you have easy access to the outdoors for walks and potty breaks.
  • Some hotels will require you to crate your dog if you leave them alone in the room. Make sure to leave a light on, turn the TV on to distract from outside noise, close the curtains and put the “Do Not Disturb” sign out for the cleaning crew.
  • If outside noises cause your dog to bark, consider downloading a white noise app on your phone for nighttime so you don’t disturb your neighbors or receive complaints. 

Tips for Staying with a Dog at a Campsite

  • Before you plan a camping trip with your dog, make an appointment with your vet to get a clean bill of health and to confirm that their preventive care is up to date.
  • Most campsites require your dog to be secured at your campsite. Bring a long leash, tether and stake so that you don’t have to constantly hold the leash. It’s also important to keep your dog on a leash while hiking, for both your dog’s safety and the safety of other hikers.
  • Decide ahead of time on sleeping arrangements and know if your tent is big enough to hold a crate or dog bed. Also determine if your dog will be loose or if there is a way to secure them inside the tent.
  • Portable, collapsible food and water bowls make camping and hiking easier. Be sure to pack plenty of water for both you and your pup. You might also consider bringing along grooming supplies if the campsite or trail is dusty or muddy. 

Tips for Staying at a Friend’s House with Your Dog

  • No one wants to be a bad friend. If you plan on swinging by a friend’s house during your trip, don’t assume your dog is invited. Be sure to confirm with everyone that it’s okay for your dog to stay and clarify what the house rules will be, such as where the dog will sleep and if she is allowed on the furniture.
  • As soon as you arrive, check the home and yard for potential hazards, such as other pets, candy dishes, toxic plants, fireplaces and grills. Always keep your dog close to watch their behavior.
  • Be sure to clean up after your pet and bring along some cleaning supplies in case of an accident. If your dog breaks or chews anything, offer to replace it. 

Don’t Forget: Have Fun!

Taking a summer road trip doesn’t mean you have to leave your dog behind. With a little planning and the right supplies, you and your pup are ready for your next adventure. Plus, you’ll have peace of mind knowing there are more than 1,000 Banfield hospitals around the U.S., and 24/7 access to triage any issues with a real vet anytime, anywhere using Vet Chat (available to Optimum Wellness Plan members). Taking your pet cat on a roadtrip? Get great tips to make your trip a success for both you and your cat in our road tripping with your cat article.