One of the nice things about traveling with a dog on a road trip is that it makes the journey so much more enjoyable.
They just seem to know what is going on, and just go with it. Dogs are pretty free and easy like that.
I also love when they sit and stare out of the window, like they are contemplating life watching the world go by.
As much as taking our beloved dog on a road trip, there are things you need to follow to make sure you and your dog get the best out of your journey together.
Here are 17 top tips on how to successfully road trip with a dog:
- Plan and book the best places to stay with your dog throughout your road trip
- Practice shorter test drives first
- Take plenty of food and water and make sure you dog always stays hydrated
- Plan stop off routes in advance for bathroom breaks
- Keep your dog entertained with toys, treats and comforters
- Never leave your dog inside a car on a hot day
- Set up a personal space for your dog with some of their home comforts
- Take with you your dogs medical records as well as a dog medical kit
- Allow time to stop off, stretch and exercise
- Make a note of local vet’s names and emergency numbers for the closest towns throughout your road trip
- Consider taking herbal treatments, particularly if you have an over-anxious dog
- Do not give your dog the opportunity of escaping the car – keep all limbs inside the vehicle
- Look out for, or plan ahead for, local dog parks on your route
- Bring cleaning wipes and towels for any little accidents in the back of the car
- Take with you any necessary crates for your hotel stays
- Always keep your dog at a safe distance from wildlife
- Understand the regulations for animals along the routes and stop off points of your road trip
There is a lot to take on board.
Although some of these tips and tricks may seem obvious, let us walk through these in a little more detail and highlight some of the key things you need to know.
#1 – Plan and Book the Best Places to Stay with your Dog on your Road Trip
Planning is key on a road trip, especially if you are travelling with a four legged friend.
So many hotels, campsites, RV parks and parking grounds are dog friendly, but there are always exceptions to the rules.
It would be terrible to reach your hotel after a 10-hour drive only to find out they do not allow dogs!
Finding another hotel at 10pm in a small town could end up being a bad experience, and ultimately a night cuddled up with your dog on the backseat of a car somewhere.
We of course do not want this to happen.
Road trips can change on route, it is the excitement of it, but being prepared is more important.
Check with the hotel or campsite directly to make sure they are dog friendly and will be as welcoming to your pooch as they will be to you.
#2 – Practice Shorter Test Drives in Advance of the Big trip
Practice makes perfect as they say!
You may be so excited about your road trip, but your dog is not. They have no idea what is going on, but just go with the flow.
Dogs are kind of special like that.
If you have never tested the water before, so to speak, you may not know how your dog will react or behave. Especially staying somewhere new overnight.
A dog howling at 3am in a hotel room is never a welcomed thing.
You can be as prepared as possible, but if your dog spends the entire journey being anxious of the car movement, or the strange noises and sights, it will not be a good experience for either of you.
Before a long multi-day road trip, take your dog out on a couple of hours journey, and then a full day. Stay overnight if you can.
See if your dog is just happy to be in your company and goes with the flow, or whether you can see they are clearly unhappy.
Never force your dog into a situation they are not comfortable with.
#3 – Take Plenty of Food and Water and Make Sure Your Dog Always Stays Hydrated
This is a really obvious one, but nonetheless absolutely critical!
I do not need to tell you dogs need food or water, but you need to take ‘enough’. Supplies may be bought on the road, but you need to always plan for the worst.
Say you get a flat tire and break down in the middle of nowhere for a few hours waiting for a tow truck.
According to WebMD – a dog requires an ounce of fluids per pound of body weight. They estimate a 10-pound dog needs a bit more than a cup of water per day.
In hot weather your dog will need more water of course.
Just take more than enough food and water for you both, to cover every eventuality, and you should be just fine.
#4 – Plan stop off routes in advance for bathroom breaks
It is considered best to stop for a 15-to-30-minute rest for every 3-4 hours of driving.
That said, if your dog drank a lot of water on your last stop, you may need to pull over again in 60-90 minutes time to relieve themselves.
You know your dog. Look for the tell-tale-signs and monitor their water intake.
Google Maps is invaluable for plotting stop off points on a route.
Choose places where it is easy and safe to pull over and ideally has a grass verge or area to encourage you dog to go.
Make sure you clean up any mess and either dispose of properly or take it with you. For this you may need a special carrying cannister.
Hot cars and dog poop rarely mix well together!
#5 – Keep your dog entertained with toys, treats and comforters
You can’t play with your dog whilst driving of course, but almost all dogs have a favorite chew toy?
Or perhaps a favorite comforter blanket.
Dogs like familiarity just as we humans do. Familiarity brings stability in a strange world, or strange surroundings.
Make sure your pooch has home comforters around them. It will bring them a sense of calm and may keep them occupied throughout the journey.
#6 – NEVER leave your dog inside a car on a hot day
I am always shocked, baffled, and upset by the incredibly short-sighted and dim-witted view of people who leave a dog in a hot car.
We all should know the dangers by now.
Dogs should never be left in a hot car, period.
Many people have been caught out by wrong assuming a colder breeze outside meant a lower temperature, whereas anything inside the car would feel the full force of the heat.
#7 – Set up a personal space for your dog with some of their home comforts
Ever noticed how your dog always seems to end up in the same space in your home.
This is a dog’s personal space spot. The one they return to when resting, sleeping, or munching on their favorite chew toy.
Having a personal space area in your vehicle, whether this is an RV, camper, or car, with your dog’s favorite blanket and toys can help make your dog feel comfortable and, in a home, away from home.
#8 – Take with you your dog’s medical records as well as a dog medical kit
In the event of your dog needing medical attention, having your vet records to hand – including details of each of their vaccinations – can prove very helpful for any new vets treating your dog whilst you are out of town.
Speak to your vet before you travel, and ask for a copy of your dog’s records and keep with you at all times, just in case.
#9 – Allow time to stop off, stretch and exercise
We have already covered stopping off for bathroom breaks but stretching and exercise is important to – for you both.
Dogs have way more energy than us humans. After a long walk I am ready for an afternoon sleep, whereas my dog is ready to go again!
Exercise and stretching is important for you when driving long distances but equally so, if not more important for your dog.
#10 – Make a note of the local veterinary names and emergency numbers for the closest towns throughout your road trip
Plan for the best, be prepared for the worse.
You will probably have a rough idea of your road trip route. Plot the route out and make a list of several veterinarians in different towns and cities across your route.
If the worst were to happen, the last thing you will want is rush and panic search for local vets. Especially if where you are you have no data signal.
Write it out on a piece or paper, or a journal and carry it with you.
#11 – Consider taking herbal treatments, particularly if you have an over-anxious dog
If your dog is a little on the nervous side and has not spent much time away from their natural home, the impact of a long road trip and nights away from home may cause your dog to experience and act in ways that you were not expecting.
Some dogs take everything in their stride and are happy in any surroundings. But some have a more nervous disposition.
If you think the latter may apply to your beloved pet, there are a range of herbal remedies designed to help calm, relax, and reduce anxiety.
Adaptil is one such calming spray. You spray around the vicinity of the dog, rather than on your dog, but it is known to have a calming effect.
Usually these are used within diffusers around the home, but there is also Adaptil Travel designed to be sprayed in the car during long car journeys.
This video should explain more about the Adaptil Travel spray:
#12 – Do not give your dog the opportunity of escaping the car – keep all limbs inside the vehicle
Watching a dog with its head out of a moving car window makes for great TV commercials or Instagram photos, but it is not safe.
Debris from passing trucks, other road users and objects along the side of the road are potential hazard to any protruding head or limbs.
Always keep your dog inside the car and help keep them safe.
Having a window ajar to help keep air circulating rather than just having the air conditioner blowing will also be something your dog will appreciate.
#13 – Look out, or research, for local dog parks on your route
Nothing makes your dog happier than running in a local park chasing a ball.
Road trips ay be exciting for us but 10-hours in a car trip can be rather boring for a dog.
We have already covered bathroom breaks, and stretching opportunities along your route, but if you can use Google Maps to search for a couple of local parks, I am sure your dog will love you for it.
Just remember to take a ball!
#14 – Bring cleaning wipes and towels for any little accidents in the back of the car
If this is your first road trip with your dog joining along for the ride, you may not know the impact a long journey may have on them.
Even seasoned dog travelers can catch a bug, or stomach upset.
It is best to take with you plenty of cleaning wipes, towels, seat coverings as well as refuse bags to fill with any of the wipes or towels you use. These can be stored in the trunk of the car until you find a waste bin along your journey.
If your dog does have a little accident, you will be glad to have the cleaning stuff ready to take care of it.
#15 – Take with you any necessary crates for your hotel stays
Although some pet friendly hotels and motels are happy to allow dogs on to their premises, some insist on having them in a crate if left alone in the room, especially for housekeeping duties.
Leaving your dog in a hotel room is never a good idea, but if it is absolutely necessary for a short trip to a store or to the reception, you may need to keep your dog in a dog crate.
Check with the hotels directly or on their website for their policies, which can differ from hotel to hotel.
#16 – Always keep your dog at a safe distance from wildlife
Being out with your dog in the heart of the outdoors, surrounded by nature, may be great for you both but an over excited dog, or one that feels threatened, can be unpredictable.
You may lose the control you usually have, especially if your dog is not on their leash.
Make sure you keep your dog at a safe distance from all wildlife. This is to protect your animal as well as the animals you may see on your travels. It is their home after all, you are just visiting.
#17 – Understand the regulations for animals along the routes and stop off points of your road trip
So many different states, counties, cities, and towns – as well as individual places – can have local regulations for pets.
You need to check the travel regulations and general policies when traveling with pets across the country, especially inside the vehicle.
It never hurts to be aware of the rules and policies.
Dogs can make great companions for solo travelers
For many solo travelers, a dog is the perfect companion.
Not only does it provide a feeling of security, but it can be a great helping hand to find your way around unfamiliar cities and towns.
Dogs are social animals; they can help to create a welcoming environment in which to meet new people in a foreign area.
Many of us like solo traveling. Feeling free in the outdoors. Choosing a route and taking to the open road full of enthusiasm and adventure.
Although social interaction for some is not necessary all the time, spending hours and hours alone without speaking to or meeting anyone else can create a feeling of isolation and loneliness.
It is amazing how a dog can help fill the void.
They also are happy for you to take the lead, decide where your going – and small talk isn’t required!
Finding Dog Friendly Hotels, Motels and Campsites
When it is time to hit the road and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life for a bit and want to have your dog share your adventure with you, you must ensure they are not left alone outside or even worse, in the vehicle.
Many hotels, motels, campgrounds, and RV parks all offer places to stay with your pet but finding them can be difficult.
Using a hotel comparison search website, like Hotels.com, can help.
It gives you the option to find pet friendly places to stay. You need to search for your destination first, and then choose the pet friendly filter to see all the places that will welcome your pet pooch.
Is it ok to take a puppy on a road trip?
People do take puppies on road trips successfully, once they are allowed outside the home, but you may need to take a few extra precautions.
All the 17 tips and tricks covered in this post will apply to puppies, as well as adult dogs, but puppies will need a lot more attention and focus.
This can be very distracting for solo travelers, and you wouldn’t want to keep your puppy in a travel cage throughout the trip so that they don’t have the opportunity to distract you when you are driving.
If there are two or more travelers one can keep the puppy entertained and watched over as you take turns to drive.
This can work better than taking a puppy on a solo road trip adventure.
Road Trips with a Dog – Wrap Up
Here is a summary of everything we have covered:
- Follow the 17 tips and best ways to road trip with your dog and you should have a happy trip ahead of you
- A dog can make a great travel companion for solo road trips, but a puppy can be very distracting to perhaps best left to when there are two or more travelers
- Make sure you follow the rules and regulations in each state you travel to
- Plan in advance all your accommodation and make sure each is pet friendly and willing to take you and your dog