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Planning the Perfect Road Trip with Your Dog

a woman and her dog sitting on the street

What sounds better than travelling the country with your dog by your side? Not much, if you ask us. In order to have an amazing dog road trip you need to get you, your car, and your dog ready. In this post, we’ll cover:

  • What to put in your dog’s suitcase 
  • How to keep your dog happy
  • How to plan dog friendly stops
A dog on a road trip sticks his head out the window.
With the right planning and packing you and your dog can have the road trip of your dreams. 

What to Put in Your Dog’s Suitcase for a Road Trip

Dog Road Trip Essentials

An important step of planning a road trip with your dog is to pack for your dog as well as yourself. There are some key things you need in your car in order to have a successful dog road trip. 

Dog Road Trip Safety

Where is your dog going to sit in the car? Although it might be fun to have your furry friend sitting shotgun right next to you, the front seat is not always the safest spot for your dog. Your dog probably doesn’t know not to climb on your lap during traffic or put you into a different gear with a rogue paw. 

Making sure your dog stays put is something to consider if your dog is in the back seat or the trunk also. Having your dog secure in one place makes your driving safer and protects your dog if you get in a crash. 

There are canine seat belts, travel crates, and barriers you can use to keep you and your dog safe in the car. Research any dog car safety item you purchase and have your dog practice with it on shorter trips before your road trip. That way they’ll get used to it and you can make sure they’re comfortable and safe. 

Food and Drink 

We all like to have plenty of snacks and drinks on a road trip--make sure you have supplies for your dog too. Bring plenty of water, food, and portable bowls for each. Remember to pack the dog food in a place your dog can’t find it.

Healthcare on the Road

You’ll have to pack any medications your dog takes regularly. Check in with your veterinarian before a long car trip to make sure your dog is good to go. 

You might also consider medication for dog car sickness. If your dog tends to get nauseous in the car, talk to your veterinarian about prevention. They might prescribe an anti-nausea medication for your dog. It’s a good idea to strategically plan meal times for your dog before getting in the car as well. 

In case your motion sickness prevention doesn’t work out, you should be sure to pack paper towels and trash bags so you’re ready to clean up a mess if your dog gets sick. 

You can be prepared for an injury on the road by packing a canine first aid spray. A first aid spray allows you to treat and protect wounds without needing to rush to an unknown veterinarian in the middle of your road trip. Make a dog first aid kit with your first aid spray, some bandages, and whatever else you might need to take care of your dog on the road. 

Dog Comfort on a Road Trip

Blankets, toys, bedding, or a favorite bone could make a big difference in how much your dog will enjoy your road trip. 

Plan for Getting Out of the Car

You’ll definitely need your dog’s collar, harness, and leash. Throwing a back up leash in the car will give you some peace of mind in case you end up forgetting or losing the leash in your travels. 

A dog sits in the front seat of a car on a road trip.
Take your dog on practice car trips before your road trip to make happy associations with the car and see how your dog does on the road. 

Keep Your Dog Happy on a Road Trip

Making the Car a Happy Place for Your Dog

You should take some shorter practice car trips with your dog before you go on a road trip. Take your dog to places they already know and enjoy so they associate the car with good things. 

You can also reinforce getting in and out of the car with treats and praise. After some rewards and car rides to the dog park your dog will look forward to hopping in the car for your road trip. 

How to Know if Your Dog is Stressed on a Road Trip

Pay attention to these signs your dog is stressed throughout your road trip. You’ve probably seen how your dog shows stress in other stressful situations, such as a trip to the veterinarian or a thunderstorm, so you’ll easily be able to recognize those signs in the car. 

  • Pacing or shaking 
  • Whining or barking
  • Panting
  • Yawning, drooling, or licking
  • Change in posture
  • Shedding

What to Do About Your Dog’s Stress on a Road Trip

  1. Get out of the car with them to take a break from the stressful situation. 
  2. Don’t be overly comforting--this will prove to them they’re right to be scared.
  3. Run them through some routine commands so they can find comfort in the familiarity and be distracted.
  4. Give them some exercise at a rest stop. 

Plan for Stops with Your Dog on a Road Trip

Your Dog Needs Frequent Breaks 

Frequent breaks are essential for a successful road trip with your dog. Plan on stopping every two to three hours to give your dog a break from the car. 

Your dog will also benefit from some exercise on these breaks. Getting your dog tired when you’re out of the car helps them be relaxed and well-behaved in the car. The road trip will be easier for you and your dog if your dog spends most of the car time asleep.

Where to Stop with Your Dog on a Road Trip

You can’t rely on the first convenient gas station you see for pit stops when you have your dog with you. So how do you find rest stops that are good for a dog? Plan ahead. Use this list of websites for locating pet friendly rest stops and then plan your route around those stops.

Not every stop has to be a dog park or wide open field, but making sure you know of a few places along the way where your dog can safely stretch their legs is important for a good road trip with your dog. 

You also need a plan for what to do with your dog when you need a pit stop. If you’re traveling with other people you can take turns watching your dog and running into the rest stop for a bathroom and snacks. If it’s just you and your dog on the road you’ll need to figure out how to safely and responsibly take your bathroom breaks.  

People pour water from a bottle for a dog on a road trip.
Make sure you have plenty of water and a water bowl for your dog on your road trip. 

With the right planning and preparation you can have a fantastic road trip with your furry companion. Get your dog ready, pack the car, plan your route, and then hit the road for a trip you and your dog will love.

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