7 Simple Steps for a Successful Road Trip with Your Dog

Summer, with its long hot days, is a season that tends to bring out the adventurer in us. For dog owners going camping, sight-seeing, and memory-making, it’s important to make sure that Fido stays safe and has fun. To ensure your summer journeys with your special K9 are stress free, here are seven steps to getting your pooch ready to hit the road as your summer side kick.

1. Documents, ID, and immunity

One of the most important parts of getting your dog ready is ensuring that their immunity to common diseases is up to date. For trips that involve crossing boarders (state, provincial, or country), you will likely be required to show proof (through titer tests or vaccine records) of your dog’s immunity to common diseases – especially rabies.

Additionally, you should ensure that your dog is wearing a collar with a tag including your name and phone number. Finally, you should ensure that your dog is microchipped and that the database information is up to date before you leave. Although no one wants to imagine their dog getting lost, it’s still a possibility and by making sure that they have a microchip you drastically increase the chances (by 238%!) that your furry friend will be safely reunited with you.

2. Take a practice run first – and know the energy level of your dog in advance

Much like you would with a child, it’s a good idea to set your dog up for success by showing them what extended car travel will be like so that they don’t become restless or anxious. Taking your dog on a few car trips of about 2-4 hours will give you a good idea if they are ready for a longer trip or not.

Part of how smoothly the trip goes is also your recognition of how much energy your dog has and how often they’ll need a break. For puppies, elderly dogs, and very active breeds, more frequent stops will be necessary to give them a chance to burn off some energy and/or use the bathroom. To avoid feeling rushed on the road, make sure you account for the time needed for these extra stops.

3. Groom your dog before you leave

Although your dog might get dirty while travelling, it’s still a good idea to start with a clean slate. By grooming your dog ahead of time – including clipping their nails, cleaning their ears, de-matting them, and clipping their coat short (for breeds that need it) – you will make both their journey and yours a more comfortable (and better smelling!) one.

By making the time to do this, you will avoid long nails scratching people and seats, streamline the de-mudding and drying process, and lessen the time your dog spends chewing, licking, and scratching themselves – all of which can get pretty annoying on long road trips!

4. Ensure you and your pooch stay safe in the car

It is very dangerous for both you and your dog for them to be loose in the car - if you get in an accident, your dog is very likely to be badly injured or killed if they are not restrained in some way. To make matters worse, a loose dog is also a major distraction as they often pace the car, bark at things out the window, search for dropped food, or become scared and try to squeeze into the foot space of car seats.

To ensure that both of you stay safe, you need to restrain your dog. Since the make up and size of every family, vehicle, and dog is different, you’ll need to consider the pro’s and con’s of both a dog seatbelt harness and a dog crate to decide which is best for you. For more information on this topic, click here.

5. Plan ahead for potential motion sickness

Some dogs, like some people, get motion sickness if they are in a car on a long trip – and a practice run will quickly tell you if your dog is likely to get queasy while driving. If you discover that they do, there are medications you can get from a vet (and natural solutions from holistic pet stores) that can reduce or eliminate this problem – so make sure you travel prepared!

6. Find Pet-friendly accommodation in advance

Spontaneous trips are challenging with a dog – even more so if you have a bully breed dog, a very large dog, or several dogs. Not all hotels accept dogs, and even those that do may have restrictions. You will save yourself a lot of stress by planning out your route and finding several pet-friendly hotels for each night of your trip so that you know where you and Fido can stay – and so that you have a back-up plan in case the hotel you picked is full when you arrive.

7. Use this packing list to ensure you’ve brought the essentials

  1. Two large clean towels in different colours. One can be for drying your dog when he is wet, and the other can be for wiping off mud and dirt.
  2. Two easy-to-clean and non-breakable water and food bowls.
  3. Enough food to last for your trip and an extra 2-3 days, just in case you are delayed or decide you want to stay a bit longer.
  4. Treats, both high and low value.
  5. A puzzle toy or a bullystick to keep him busy at the hotel or in the car.
  6. A ball to play fetch (ideally one that floats!) and your dog’s favourite toys.
  7. Two leashes, in case you lose one.
  8. A gallon of water – sometimes water is unavailable in some areas.
  9. A brush and/or comb for longer haired dogs.
  10. A dog bed that is both washable and portable.
  11. Lots of dog poop bags!
  12. Dog first aid kit and any medications your dog takes. 

Hopefully after reading this article you have a better idea of what to do to make sure that you and your dog have a safe, fun, and stress-free holiday together. Happy travels!

– Carly Piatocha, Only One Treats Contributor