I LOVE going on road trips with my dogs, and would probably choose them over just about any human companion. We’ve gone from California to Colorado, from Colorado to Arizona, so many places in between, and have picked up some tips along the way to make your next trip with your pups as easy as possible.
1. If your dog isn’t used to being in the car for long periods of time, start with shorter trips to the park and build up to a couple hours or more.
This is especially important if the only time your dog gets in the car is to go to the vet. He might not be very excited to get in the car at first, but as you build up positive experiences and associations with being in the car, he will start to get excited.
If your dog absolutely hates the car and/or is terrified of being in the car, never force him to get in. You may have to start even slower than short trips to the park, like just getting in the car and giving him a Kong or special treat to chew on. You may also want to try calming treats (my favorite is ProQuiet) or calming music (like Through a Dog’s Ear).
2. Feed your dog at least a couple hours before you leave.
If you haven’t gone on a long trip with your dog before, make sure she eats a couple hours before you leave in case she gets carsick.
3. Get your dog’s vaccines updated and bring along your dog’s rabies shot record.
Some states might require proof of vaccination at the state lines.
4. Update your dog’s ID tags.
Just in case!
5. Pack a bag for your dog.
My dogs have their own travel bags, and in them are travel bowls, special toys, treats, food, potty bags, a tick comb, and anything else we might need (medications if necessary, extra water, jacket, blanket). Plan for things to keep your dog busy in the car and in the hotel.
6. Decide how your dog is going to travel.
The safest way to travel with your dog is having him ride in a travel-approved crate, but Subaru tested dog safety belts and found that Sleepypod was the only system that didn’t break or decapitate the test dummy dogs. You may think it’s not a big deal and that your dog would be fine, but a 10 pound dog traveling at 30 miles an hour can turn into a 300 pound missile in a crash – not safe for you, your dog, or your car.
7. Plan frequent stops.
Whether this is looking ahead of time for dog parks or just finding open space along the way, stopping will let your dog stretch her legs and burn off some of the energy that builds up from sitting in the car for long periods of time (and it’s not so bad for you, either!). A good rule of thumb is to stop every 3-4 hours for a quick walk and potty break.
8. Book pet-friendly hotels.
Even if it says that the hotel is pet-friendly on the booking website, check the hotel website or call and double check. You never want to show up and be turned away, and some hotels have weight limits or breed restrictions.
9. Never leave your dog in the car alone.
According to the Humane Society, even a “cool” 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside can get up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit inside the car in just an hour. A car can get up to 99 degrees in just 10 minutes on an 80 degree day. Even if it’s cold outside, your dog’s body temperature can drop really quickly, so just don’t do it.