Going on a road trip with your dog can be a special bonding experience and a fun adventure, but it also requires special planning and preparation. Without preparing your car and your dog, your road trip will quickly become stressful for both yourself and your pup. Here are five tips for a safe and comfortable road trip with your dog:
Have a Vet Check-Up
Scheduling a vet check-up before you leave on your road trip will give you peace of mind, knowing your dog is in good health, up-to-date on shots, and doesn't have any illnesses or conditions that will make him uncomfortable on the road. If you already know your dog is prone to anxiety or motion sickness, you can ask your vet about medication options as well as natural remedies for the road. If your dog is older and has any joint discomfort, your vet can provide guidance on how to keep him comfortable during your trip.
Give Your Dog a Comfortable Seat
Just like people, dogs' joints and muscles can become stiff and uncomfortable after long stretches of time on the road. Spending some time and money ensuring your dog has a comfortable bed or seat will make the road trip much more pleasant for him, and make it more likely that he will sleep most of the way instead of barking, roaming around the car, or otherwise misbehaving.
A plush, soft dog bed in the backseat is a great option. For smaller dogs, you can actually buy dog car seats for your front passenger seat, allowing them to rest comfortably while remaining close to you. In either case, adding a dog seatbelt, which can be purchased online or at many larger pet supply stores, will keep them safely in their seat and protected if you get into a fender bender.
Map Out Dog-Friendly Stops
Your dog will need plenty of breaks to get fresh air, drink water, use the bathroom, and walk around. While stopping every few hours will lengthen your road trip a bit, it will make things more enjoyable for both of you. Spend some time looking at online guides to dog-friendly rest stops, hotels, and restaurants when mapping out your itinerary, and program the addresses of as many dog-friendly stops as possible into your phone.
When booking accommodations, you may want to call the hotels directly to ensure your room is dog-friendly and to find out if they have a grassy area like a courtyard for your pup.
Bring the Right Supplies
Packing the right items is critical to a successful dog-friendly road trip. In addition to dog bowls and plenty of bottled water and dog food, you will want to pack any vet-prescribed medication, poop bags, treats, toys (especially new and exciting toys that will keep your pup occupied in the car and your hotel room), a securely fitting harness and leash, and a kennel if you have space. A favorite soft blanket and grooming supplies like extra towels, dog shampoo, and a brush are also great to bring along.
Practice with Shorter Trips
If your dog hasn't spent much time in the car, it's a good idea to practice ahead of time with shorter trips instead of diving right into a long road trip. This will help your dog become more comfortable in the car and also help you identify any potential issues, such as your dog experiencing motion sickness before you get too far from home. Start by bringing your dog for rides around the neighborhood, then to destinations an hour or so away, gradually increasing the length of the trips.
By the time you leave on your road trip, your dog will be very used to being in the car and less likely to become anxious. If your dog is still quite anxious in the car after these shorter trips, consult with a veterinarian and consider working with a dog trainer or behavioral specialist.
By following these tips, you and your dog will get to enjoy the ultimate bonding road trip, with maximum safety and comfort.