Don’t all of us fur parents want to take our dog on road trips with us? Why leave them behind when we can have a fantabulous time travelling with them?
A road trip with a dog sounds so fun in our heads. But when you think about it practically and decide to put it to action, the doubts and worries set in- what about my pet’s relieving, food, hydration, nerves, play, routine, etc. You can get rid of all of these doubts by preparing well in advance. And trust us, you will enjoy your road trip enough to plan the next one while still en route.
We recently went on a nine-hour drive with our four-month-old puppy, Floyd. A trip which started with a million question marks turned out to be surprisingly effortless and fun. During the course of the multi-day road trip, we learnt that he loves sticking his head out the window and thinks that the wind is edible. Ha-ha!
So without further ado, let us share with you our tips for a comfortable and stress-free road trip with a dog. These tips are written in collaboration with Poulomi of Tales of Caesar. Read more about her and Caesar at the end of this blog post.
1) Get your dog acclimatized to car rides
Don’t directly go for a really long road trip with a dog like the nine-hour one we did. Take your dog for short drives, to a friend’s place or for day trips. This will help your dog get comfortable in the car and stay calm for your long road trip. It will also help you spot potential issues you need to work on or prepare for like motion sickness, anxiety, relieving requirements/frequency, space needs etc. Prepping in advance will buy you enough time to consult with your vet, have all your dog’s needs handy and teach your dog the necessary commands.
Apart from vet visits and running errands, we took Floyd for a 5-hour day trip with our friends. He was calm and slept like a baby throughout the car journey, so we knew he was comfortable and ready to hit the road for a longer time.
The key is to pay attention to your dog’s requirements and plan accordingly.
2) Visit your vet before your dog road trip
If you haven’t visited the vet in a while, do so before the road trip. Your dog will be exposed to a totally different environment, so a general check-up and getting your dog up to date with vaccinations is vital. Your vet may also have some useful dos and don’ts for the road trip based on your dog’s medical history.
3) Carry your dog's medical records
Carry your dog’s medical and vaccine records in case you need to visit a vet at your travel destination or your accommodation requires to see it.
4) Book pet-friendly accommodation
Not all accommodations allow pets. Some that do allow have ridiculous rules like ‘keep the pet outside the house in the garden’. Or the likes! Read up on your potential accommodation’s rules carefully and enquire with the property if you’re unsure of anything.
Our friends, who often travel with their two dogs, recommended Airbnb for pet-friendly stays and it worked out perfectly for us. Use their ‘pets allowed’ filter to look for accommodation. If you can’t find a nice place with the filter then try without it and message the hosts asking if they can make an exception to allow your dog. It’s time to put your charm to work!
5) Get a dog tag or update your old one
A tag will be your saviour god forbid you lose sight of your dog. If you don’t already have it, go buy one and if you do, ensure it is updated with your latest contact number. Preferably, also get an emergency number printed on it in case your phone is not reachable.
We got Floyd’s tag from Heads Up for Tails. It has the number of both his parents (my husband and mine- just in case you’re wondering).
You can use our code HUFTBBTWM to get a 20% discount on all purchases from the Head Up for Tails Website. This coupon expires on 16th November 2020, so hurry up!
6) Pack a bag for your furball
I cannot stress enough on how important it is to have everything necessary for your dog road trip handy, so you’re ready for anything while in the car. This way everyone will have a comfortable fun trip. Yes, even your dog is at peace when you are organised. We make a little Floyd exclusive bag which we keep in the front with us so we have easy access to his necessities. Things we don’t need till we reach our accommodation go in our main luggage.
Here are some road trip essentials for dogs. Do not forget to pack them:
- Dog Food and Food Bowl – You can give collapsible bowls a try to save space. Also, check this multi-feeder out, you can keep water and kibble together and feed through the collapsible bowl.
- Filled Water Bottles and Bowl or Water Bottle cum Bowl
- Dog Wet Wipes – For cleaning your dog on the road especially dirty paws. If you want to take the eco-friendly route, use a wet towel.
- Tissue Paper – Can be used for anything. Always keep this handy.
- Peeing Mats – You don’t need to carry these if not required. Our dog only pees on them. We carry them so he continues to be well-behaved wherever he goes. If your dog is like ours by any chance, do not forget to pack 2-3 mats for each day of the trip.
- Dog Diapers – These might be useful if you’re travelling with a puppy who isn’t yet trained well enough. If you’re planning to use it then it would probably be wise to get your dog used to diapers days before the actual trip, or he will just bite it off. We realized after our nine-hour trip that Floyd didn’t need them. He was pretty well behaved.
- Poop Scooper – Always pick up after your dog. Always!
- Poop Bags (preferably scented) – Much needed if you need to carry the poop bag in your car till you get hold of a dustbin.
- Bin Bags – To dispose of all the waste- poop bags/ dirty mats etc.
- Treats – To reward your dogs for their good behaviour or to build good habits.
- Toys – For your dogs to enjoy the trip as much as you do.
- Chewies – To keep your dog happily occupied in the car.
- Bed/Crate – A comfortable space for your dog to sleep during the trip.
- Leash, Collar and Dog Tag
- Medication and First Aid
- Shampoo, Brush, and Towels
- Tick and Flea Comb
- Pet Carrier Bag – To carry tiny dogs around.
Type in your email below and get a free dog bag checklist in printable PDF. Refer to it while packing to ensure that you never miss packing anything important for your dog.
7) Exercise your dog before a road trip
If you have an energetic dog who needs ample exercise, make sure he/she gets it before the road trip starts. This will ensure that your dog is not restless during the journey but tired, sleepy and calm. If you’re leaving early morning, try and get them a good amount of physical activity the previous evening and if you’re leaving in the afternoon get them some playtime in the morning.
Since Floyd was a puppy, we didn’t have to worry about this. He slept so much as it is.
8) Feed your dog at least two hours before you leave
A lot of dogs suffer from car sickness. The two-hour window would help with digestion and your dog would be all set for sight-seeing.
9) Carry and feed your dog dry food during the road trip
Feeding dry food is critical if you have a messy eater. You don’t want puddles of dog food in the car, do you? It is also a deterrent to vomiting compared to wet food. Make sure your dog eats some dry food daily so you don’t have to worry about him/her getting used to it at the last moment. Kibble all the way!
It goes without saying that you should not change their diet just before a road trip as it might lead to diarrhoea.
10) Ensure your dog relieves himself/herself before you leave
This is so important. Firstly, you have to ensure your dog is potty trained to an extent before you even think of a road trip, else you may have a rocky time in the car. Set aside time for your dog to do the needful to avoid pee breaks in the very first leg of your journey.
We know that our Floyd needs some time to poop and pee after eating so we always factor this in while deciding our “get set go” time.
11) Give your furball their own space in the car
Dogs like humans like their own space in the car, especially if they’re going to be in it for a really long time. So, ensure your dog has enough room for some tail-wagging, coiling or even their favourite all limbs in the air pose.
We put Floyd’s bed in the backseat along with his toys so he has a familiar and comfortable space to sleep in the car.
12) Carry a crate or seat belt during your road trip with a dog
Dogs, if left to move around the car, can become projectile in the case of an accident. It is best to keep them confined in their space for everyone’s safety. The safest way for dogs to travel in a car is in a crate. Provided your dog is crate trained, this will be easy and provide a familiar place for your dog to sleep in at the accommodation as well. Collapsible crates like this one are great for travelling because you can fold them up and save space when not in use.
If crates don’t work for your dog, then try a seat belt. This will ensure your dog stays put in the back of the car so not only he/she is safe but also doesn’t come in the front and disturbs the driver.
We bought this one for Floyd. It attaches to his collar and car seat belt slot so he stays in the back but has plenty of leeway to stretch, pose and even laze. Though unsafe, we do let him be without it from time to time.
If you have a small dog, you might even want to get a booster seat. This will ensure your pet’s safety and it will enable him/her to view the picturesque scenery instead of just the insides of the car.
13) Provide your dog with something to do in the car
Dogs truly love playing and chewing and what better way than keeping them occupied in the car with their favourite toys. We carried one of each type of toy – frisbee, ball, tug, plush, Kong and Yakies- for fun in the car, the accommodation and the outdoors. The two things that work the best in keeping dogs occupied are:
1. A Kong – It is a rubber toy in which you can stuff their favourite treats so they can stay busy trying to get them out. To make the Kong play last longer, freeze the Kong after you put the treats inside. The frozen Kong is godsent!
If you’ve never used a Kong before, then first introduce it to your dog a few days earlier so he knows what this toy is about. Stuff it lightly at first and gradually increase the tightness of the stuffing. Finally, introduce the frozen Kong. Choose a Kong based on the dog’s size and chewing habits. Click on the image below to check these out.
2. Yakies – Yakies are milk-based chew bones. Dogs love their smoky flavour and go at it for hours. It works wonders in keeping Floyd occupied.
14) Use positive reinforcement
Give your dog their favourite treats from time to time to reward and encourage good behaviour. For example, when they jump in and out of the car without being coerced or when they let you fasten the seat belt.
15) Give your pet access to water
Don’t wait till every time you make a stop to give your dog some water.
Either place a stable bowl on the floor or use a water bottle cum bowl. THE latter is super practical. The regular bowl with water just didn’t work for us because water spilt everywhere. But try both and see what works for you.
16) Stop every 3-4 hours for 10-15 mins
Take stops often so that your dog can stretch and do their business. Even better if you can stop at a place where your dog can play a bit like a dog park, beach, camp or any open space. It will be ideal to plan your route accordingly.
17) Open the window for fresh air sometimes but be careful
Dogs can feel very suffocated in the car. Roll the window down a bit from time to time to let fresh air come in. If your dog is anything like Floyd and loves to see the moving world with the head out then ensure the seat belt is fastened or you are holding on. We don’t want the scene from Marley And Me to repeat now, do we? High-speed winds can actually be fatal to your dog’s eyes and ears so beware.
Here is a short video from our road trip to Pune, India.
18) Be prepared! Your car WILL get dirty during a road trip with your dog
Dogs are a handful. They shed, they slobber, and love to get dirty. Don’t get mad at them, it is just bound to happen.
Before the trip, I envisioned torn seat covers, scratches and even cleaning up the pee/poop from the car. Luckily none of that happened except for the car seats getting dirty. If something like that will really get to you then install a back-seat cover. This will protect your back seat, back of the front seat, and centre console from liquids, spills, claws, dirty paws, slob and fur. The best bit is that they can be used as a standard bench cover or a hammock (see pictures below). The hammock will ensure your dog stays put in the back- comfortable and snug.
However, note that this cover can’t be used properly in cars where the backseat headrests do not jut out. We did not buy it because we have a Hyundai i10 and a Hyundai Verna and both don’t have prominent headrests to string up the seat cover.
19) Maintain a routine
While on a road trip with your dog, try and maintain the same feeding and walking routine for your dog as you would at home. Also, increase your dog’s activity so they are not anxious in a new place.
20) Do not leave your dog alone in the car for too long
Your dog may suffer from anxiety if left alone in the car, so try and reduce the amount of time you leave them alone in it. Also, open the windows up a bit so they get fresh air. If it’s a hot day, then window shades might help keep the temperature down in the car.
21) Check for signs of fleas and ticks
Dogs are exposed to ticks and fleas when travelling. Regularly check for these and comb your dog’s coat to get rid of them.
22) Keep a little stick to scare away street dogs
Street dogs can get a little territorial not to mention rowdy. Dogs use pee to mark their territory so this is seen as an act of rebellion and they are always ready to put up a quarrel with newbies. Beware and go figure!
23) Try a calming mist to soothe your dog
Calming mists soothe agitated dogs and help them relax, putting them to sleep. We haven’t tested it yet but know some dog parents who did long road trips with their dogs (think 1400 km from Bangalore to Bhopal and 1900 km from Bangalore to Kolkata) and this was a blessing in disguise for them.
24) Carry a muzzle or headcollar (just in case)
While we do not by any means think muzzles or headcollars are necessary, they may be needed. Locals, people at your accommodation or pit stops can sometimes bother you so keep at least a soft head collar handy whenever you go on a road trip with your dog. You should especially carry these if you have an adult large breed like German Shepherd, Husky, Rottweiler etc. To reiterate we don’t think using it would be required because if your dog road trips with you, we guess he is a pretty chill pooch.
25) Pack two towels for a dog road trip
Paws and mud are like long lost best friends. When they meet, they get stuck together and require human intervention. So carry two towels for your dog because more often than not, one is not enough.
That brings us to the end of our 25 tips for worry-free and comfortable road-tripping with your dog. So, pack your dog’s and your road trip essentials, don’t stress, lay back and have an epic trip. If you have any tips we may have missed or those that work for your dog, do leave them in the comments so they’ll be helpful to all.
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