Dogs and cars aren’t natural friends. A lot of dogs are afraid of cars (for good reason) and a lot of dog owners are afraid of dealing with their dogs in cars. If the thought of taking a road trip with your dog fills you with panic, read on. A successful road trip with dog-in-tow is all about preparation. Whether you’ve got a Great Dane or a Chihuahua mix, there’s a way to take a roadtrip with your dog that won’t have you both flopping to the ground in exasperation by the time you arrive. Here are our best 9 tips for surviving a roadtrip with your dog (and living to post the Instagrams.)
1. Pack Well
Save your dog some room. Depending on how long you’re staying, you want to bring food, water, bowls, medications, leash, collar and ID tags, poop bags, dog bed, and your dog’s favorite toys.
2. Consider a Kennel
Vets agree that the safest place for your dog to ride is in a kennel or a crate. If you’ve got the room and you think your dog will tolerate it, set up and secure his crate before you hit the road.
3. Strap In
If you don’t want to bring your dog’s kennel, you need to keep him secure during the ride. It’s unsafe - and super annoying! - if your dog is roaming throughout the vehicle while you drive. Order a pet seat belt or harness restraint online for less than $20. Your dog should have his own seat and it’s not in someone’s lap.
4. Do Your Homework
Sites like BringFido.com and DogFriendly.com are great for figuring out which restaurants and hotels on your route can accommodate dogs, which can give you both a breather.
5. Hit the Vet
Before you go on a trip of any duration, it’s always smart to have your dog checked by a vet. It’s particularly important to have your dog microchipped before a road trip...you never know when your dog will scamper away at a rest stop! (Cross your fingers that won’t happen.)
6. Plan Your Feeding
Don’t plan to feed your dog breakfast then hop in the car. Ideally, he’ll eat 3-4 hours before the drive (a relatively light meal - no table scraps!) and drink just a normal amount of water. There’s nothing worse than a gassy passenger.
7. Stop Every Few Hours
You really don’t want to take a dog who isn’t house trained on a road trip but if you must, stop at least once an hour to allow him to eliminate. Older dogs can stretch 3-4 hours at a time, but be sure to stop in a safe, confined area - never pull over on the side of the road!
8. Give Him an Activity
Your dog isn’t going to be able to play Road Bingo with you but you can’t expect him not to be bored on a multi-hour road trip. A chew toy or a dog-safe bone are enough to get started with. It’s also smart to give your dog a 10-minute leash walk every time you stop.
9. Plan for Nausea
A surprising number of dogs get car sick! Talk to your vet about over the counter medications for car sickness, and learn to spot the signs. Gagging and drooling are obvious, but some dogs become sick after getting particularly sleeping or just from facing backwards in their seats. When they feel comfortable and safe, road trips can actually be a lot of fun for your dog! The more you do to prepare, the less your dog (and you!) will dread an impending adventure. Don’t forget to stop along the way to take in new sights and chase after new squirrels. It’s all about the memories.