Flying with a dog in tow is not always easy, so many pet owners opt for a road trip instead. A road trip with your dog is not only doable, it can be lots of fun, too. A little preparation ahead of time goes a long way toward making a road trip comfortable and enjoyable for your pup.
The Spruce Pets talked with dog trainer Megan Stanley, CPDT-KSA, CBCC-KA, owner of Dogma Training & Pet Services in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for some of her best advice about hitting the road with your pup.
1. Make the Car Fun
If your dog is new to car travel, and you have some time before your adventure begins, get your dog used to riding in the car and help make it a positive place. “Let your dog go in and out of the vehicle while it’s parked and give treats while he is inside,” Stanley said. “If your dog is quite nervous of the car, feed his meals while in the car, give him a chew bone and anything else to help build that positive association. As they become comfortable, start with short trips, and slowly build up the travel time.”
2. Bring Everything You Need
Before heading out on your trip, make sure you have your dog’s food, dishes, collar or harness, leash, ID tags, medications (including flea, tick and heartworm prevention), toys and treats.
“Ensure you have any seasonal necessities as well,” Stanley said. “For the summer, this may be sun protection, dog-friendly insect repellant and a life jacket. In the colder months, it may be booties and a jacket.” Don’t forget a few soft blankets for the car and hotel, and possibly even your dog’s favorite plush bed, which will remind him of home.
3. Safety First
First and foremost, keep your pup safe in the car with a doggie seatbelt or crate. Accidents happen, and the last thing you want is for something terrible to happen to your dog. If using a doggie seatbelt, look for one that is crash-tested to ensure it will keep your dog safe in the event of a car accident.
4. Canine Comfort
Whether using a seatbelt or crate, make your dog’s travel space comfortable with a soft, warm blanket or crate pad. “Set them up in a spot that is easy for them to stand, lie down and stretch,” Stanley said. “For the summer months, choose a spot that allows the air conditioning to keep them cool, and in the winter months, choose a space that stays warm. In hot weather, windows sunshades help keep your dog cool.”
5. Schedule Pit Stops
It may be tempting to soldier on, but make sure to stop frequently so your dog can relieve itself, stretch its legs and get a drink of water. “If your dog has a hard time settling, make sure you take him for a long walk before the road trip,” Stanley said. “Keep him busy with a stuffed Kong, chew bones or other interactive toys. For dogs that don’t settle easily, speak with your vet about options to help them.”
6. Hotel Tips
You may stay at pet-friendly hotels along the way or at your final destination.
“If your dog is fearful or reactive, it’s best to find hotels where your room is at ground level, which allows for quick entry and exits so you can avoid running into other dogs and people,” Stanley suggested. "Motels are ideal for this as many enable you to drive right up to your door.”
When staying in a hotel with your pup, always be respectful of the hotel rules and of other guests. If your dog is crate-trained, bring the crate into the room with you so you have a safe place to secure your dog if you need to step out for a short while. It’s best not to leave your dog alone at first, especially if it seems nervous.
“If your dog is new to traveling to hotels, try to go at quieter times,” Stanley said. “Make the trip about teaching them good behavior for hotel travel and be patient as they learn what to expect at hotels. Sniff walks around the hotel and throughout are a great way to expend extra energy and help them de-stress.