The freedom of the open road is calling, and you don’t have to answer the phone alone! As many as 75% of dog owners take their pets along for the ride when traveling by car. Sharing a road-trip with your furry friend can be a bonding opportunity, but it isn’t without its challenges.
For many people, road trips are about living in the moment. If you’re bringing your dog along for the ride, however, you may need to think a little further ahead. These simple tips are the key to keeping both you and your pup safe, and for making your next road trip the adventure of a lifetime.
1. Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations.
As you start planning for your road trip, you should make a trip to the vet. It’s important to take your dog in for his annual checkup anyway, but it might be a good idea to schedule it a few weeks ahead of your departure. Ask your vet whether any vaccinations might be needed for the areas you plan to visit and get a copy of your dog’s medical records before you leave.
2. Pack all the essentials (for both of you).
When it comes time to pack the car, make sure you have all the essentials you’ll need for the both of you. Pack your dog’s food, water, treats, toys, and medicine along with any other supplies you may need along the way. Don’t forget the doggie waste bags!
3. Have your dog microchipped and carry a recent photo.
If your dog isn’t already microchipped, it’s not a bad idea to get it done before you leave. Should the worst happen and your dog gets lost, anyone who finds him will be able to take him to a local shelter to scan the microchip to find your contact info. You may want to carry a recent photo as well, just in case.
4. Plan a pet-friendly route with plenty of stops.
As you start planning your route, websites like BringFido and DogFriendly.com may come in handy. Use these resources to find dog-friendly rest stops and accommodations along the way.
5. Keep your dog safely secured.
When you’re taking a quick trip by car you may not think it necessary to restrain your dog, but safety is essential on a long road trip. Depending on how big your dog is, you might consider a dog sling, hammock, or booster seat to keep him comfy. Don’t forget to use a harness or tether to keep him from wandering.
6. Take a few test trips before the big day.
If your dog isn’t used to making long trips in the car, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do a few test trips before the big day. If your dog is anxious or fearful of riding in the car, talk to your vet about the possibility of using a mild sedative to keep him calm and comfortable.
7. Wear your dog out before you hit the road.
When departure day finally arrives and you’ve packed up the car, there’s one more thing you need to do before you hit the road: wear out your dog. Avoid feeding your pup for the few hours before you head out, and give him a chance to work off his energy before putting him in the car.
8. Teach your pup to potty on cue.
With your dog in the passenger seat, you’ll need to make more frequent stops than you might if you were riding solo. Teaching your pup to potty on cue in the weeks or months leading up to your trip will help you keep those stops short and sweet.
9. Pack interactive toys to keep your pup busy.
While your dog may spend a significant portion of the trip sleeping, you’ll want to have a plan to keep him busy while he’s awake. Food puzzles and Kong toys are a great option – certainly better than finding out your dog has been chewing on the arm rest for amusement.
10. Put together a doggie first-aid kit.
As careful as you are with your dog, accidents can happen, and it pays to be prepared. Pack a doggie first-aid kit and download the American Red Cross Pet First Aid App before you hit the road.
11. Research vet clinics along your route.
Though you may be able to handle minor bumps and bruises yourself, you don’t want to find yourself scrambling in an emergency situation. Research vet clinics and after-hours emergency clinics along your route, just to be safe.
12. Make sure your dog has access to water in the car.
Don’t make your dog wait for the next rest stop to get a drink of water. Keep a small portable dog bowl in the car and place it somewhere your dog can reach it throughout the trip.
13. Be prepared to deal with a little mess.
Dogs have a penchant for getting into trouble, so you should be prepared to deal with some messy situations. Car seat covers are a great way to protect your car and it never hurts to have a portable vacuum on hand. Keep some quick-dry towels handy too in case your dog gets wet.
14. Always clean up after your dog.
Whether you’re at a designated rest stop or pulled over on the side of the highway, it’s your responsibility to clean up after your dog. Bring plenty of poop bags and make sure they’re always on hand.
15. Make your dog’s safety your number-1 priority.
Your dog’s safety should always be your top priority. Make sure your pup has access to fresh water and keep your first-aid kit fully stocked. Never leave your dog in the car on a hot day and don’t let him engage in unsafe behaviors like wandering around the car or hanging his head out the window.