How to Prepare Like a Pro for a Road Trip With Your Dog

Road trips are fun to embark on especially when you have a travel companion by your side. Many pet owners ask themselves the question, How do I prepare my dog for a road trip? We’re here to help you figure that out!

Let’s start with the basics – can dogs go on long road trips? Absolutely! The key to a successful road trip with your dog is planning it well in advance. Let’s dive into how you can prepare your pet for a road trip.

How Do I Prepare My Dog For A Road Trip?

As tempting as spontaneous road trips sound, they’re not the best thing for pets. We’ll arm you with everything you need to know to pull off a comfortable, hassle-free road trip with your dog.

Get Your Dog Used To Car Travel With A Few Test Drives

Take your dog on a few test drives to get a sense of how they react and feel. Start with short distances (15-minute drives) and gradually increase the distance you cover.

Observe how your dog behaves during the trip. Does he get anxious? Does he whimper or get restless? Does he jump on your lap while you’re driving? Does he bark or get feisty? Does he spin in circles?

Make a mental note of these things because they will determine if your dog is ready for a road trip. Have patience with your dog since this is new to him. Until concerning behavior changes, your road trip will need to wait.

Plan Your Route And Stops

Once your dog is ready for the road, it’s important to look for pet-friendly stays along your route. Calculate how long the trip is going to last before deciding how many places you’ll need to stop at.

It’s best not to remain too long on the road and halt for a few hours at a motel or two. If you plan to camp out in your car between locations, you’ll need to find a safe spot to stop at.

Include parks or open fields as stops along the way for a good stretch. Additionally, keep a list of pet clinics and medical stores that appear on your route to be prepared for emergencies, if any.

Carry Your Dog’s Essentials

Create a checklist of things to carry for your dog. The following list will give you an idea of what to include:

  • Leash
  • Bowl
  • Dog food
  • Dog treats
  • Chew toys
  • Medication
  • Dog tag
  • Sanitary wipes
  • Bedding
  • Water bottles
  • Dog bed
  • Poop bags
  • Quick-dry towels
  • Tick/flea comb
  • Pet-friendly sunscreen, toothpaste, and shampoo
  • Fur brush and toothbrush

It’s wise to pack for your dog first to ensure you don’t miss out on anything. If he gets fidgety during car rides, you can get a seat belt harness.

Make Adjustments To Your Car To Make It Dog-Friendly

Before you set out on a road trip, you need to choose a roomy car to travel in. If you have a small dog, a medium-sized car should do. For large dog breeds, bigger vehicles will provide ample legroom and height to keep your dog comfortable. Crammed spaces may agitate your pet, so be smart about the car you pick.

Layer the inside of the car with waterproof sheets to protect seat covers from snags and tears. Install sun shades for the windows if you’re traveling in the summer.

Visit The Vet Before Your Trip

If you’re wondering, Is it a good idea to take a dog on a road trip? visit your vet and get a health checkup done to determine this. If your dog has an existing ailment, the vet can prescribe appropriate medication. Be sure to ask the vet for a prescription of car motion sickness medicine for your dog.

Make Sure The Dog Is Fed At Least Four Hours Before Travelling

Feed your pet about 4 hours before hitting the road to prevent him from getting sick in the car. A long walk after the meal can help relieve your dog and give him a good chance to stretch his legs. It’s also a great way to tire out your dog so that he can rest for the first leg of the trip.

ALSO READ: Top 5 Expectations From A Trip

Tips For A Road Trip With Your Dog

If leaving your pet at home is not an option and you want to take him with you, then that will answer your question, Should I take my dog on a road trip? It’s also a great way to bond with your dog and get him excited about a new place. The following tips will help you make the road trip with your dog a success.

Have Up-to-Date Dog Tags

Update your dog’s tags with your address, phone number, and alternative contact details in case he gets lost. If there’s a microchip in the dog tag, be sure to update it with the same information.

Bring A Copy Of Your Dog’s Vaccination Record

Keep a physical or digital copy of your dog’s vaccination records while traveling. These records will come in handy if your dog falls ill and needs to be checked into a clinic.

Give Them Their Own Dedicated Comfortable Space In The Car

Since the passenger seat isn’t ideal for dogs to sit on during road trips, it’s best to place them in the back. That way, you get to focus on driving while keeping an eye on your dog in the rearview mirror. Ultimately, your dog should feel comfy during the trip.

Layer the back of your car with lightweight bedding when it’s warm and heavier blankets when it’s chilly. Keep your dog busy with his favorite chew toy and occasionally pet him at a traffic stop.

Play calming music and go easy on bumps in the road. Sudden sounds and jerks won’t help him stay put so it’s important to be mindful.

Don’t Ignore Their Bathroom Needs On Long Drives

Your dog will get antsy when he needs to relieve himself. Don’t ignore this or he’ll begin to misbehave or make a mess in the back. Whenever you stop on the way, walk around with your dog to see if he’s ready to go. It’ll also give you two some time to stretch and indulge in some playtime.

Always Give Your Dog Access To Water

Dogs get dehydrated quickly from panting and using their mouths for chewing, licking, or gnawing. Keep a spill-proof dog bowl in the back that he can reach from time to time. Alternatively, stop at gas stations at frequent intervals to give him water.

Avoid feeding him a heavy meal midway through the trip and offer him nutritious, filling treats instead. Once you reach your destination, you can give him a proper meal.

Find The Local Dog Park

Dog parks are the perfect place for pets to run wild and free. After a while on the road, your dog will be bursting with energy. What better way for them to let loose than at a doggy park? Most major cities have great parks that your pet can explore and play at. Stop by one for some much-needed downtime once you reach your destination. It is very important to teach your dog how to behave in a park before taking him there.

Know Your Car Is Going To Get Dirty

If you don’t take extra measures to protect your car from accidental spills or dirt, it’s going to get pretty messy back there. Dog-proof the interiors of the car and keep cleaning essentials (disinfectant cleaner, portable vacuum cleaner, gloves, scrubs, and the like) handy for the trip.

Many ask the question, Are road trips hard on dogs? Road trips are hard on dogs only if they’re unprepared for what lies ahead. It may take weeks to prep for this journey, so put in the extra effort for a breezy transition.

Know The Regulations At The Destination

Cities have certain rules in place when it comes to pets. Every state’s regulations vary, so it’s best to do some reading depending on where you’re headed. Also, get in touch with the place(s) you’re going to stay at to look into breed restrictions and pet policies.

ALSO READ: 5 Outdoor Travel and Adventure Gifts

How Long Can A Dog Be In A Car For A Road Trip?

Traveling with dogs in a car over long distances can be taxing and a challenge. Dogs are fairly restless animals by nature but there are less temperamental breeds. By now, you’ll know exactly how your dog responds to uncomfortable situations. As mentioned earlier, it’s best to take it slow and gauge how your pet reacts during a test drive.

Final Thoughts

A road trip with your dog is something to look forward to! If you’re doing this for the first time, ask a close friend or family member to accompany you on the road trip. That way, you won’t have to do things entirely on your own. Plus, they’ll keep your dog calm and entertained during the trip while you keep your eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel.

These tips will answer your question, How do I prepare my dog for a road trip? and address your most pressing concerns to help you plan a fuss-free drive.