Road trip season is here! Learn everything you need to consider so travels and adventures with Fido are a bonding experience that builds lifelong memories for everyone, including the canine companion co-pilot. Road trips, whether the travel is for pleasure or out of necessity, should be both pleasant and safe for Fido. Training him on how to behave while on the road, and being prepared for what might turn out to be an eventful car ride will decide what kind of experience you and your buddy will have.
Pre-Road Trip Drills
Not all dogs are as relaxed and patient when traveling as those we see with their heads hanging out the window, tongue lolling, and ears flapping in the wind. Some dogs require more training than others before they can develop the discipline necessary to travel safely.
Regardless of whether the trip is short or long, nobody wants to end up with a restless, barking, or whining dog. We also want to avoid leaving him feeling uncomfortable and sick, right? So, what can we do to make traveling a pleasant experience for the whole family, fur-babies included? The short answer is training and familiarity with travel.
For those of us with a puppy, it would be best to get him used to riding in a car early. Training him to behave will be easier when the experience is old hat. It also significantly decreases the likelihood of anxiety in the car. For breeds that are naturally energetic and loud, Fido may have to stay inside his crate during the trip. This only works, however, if he has plenty of breaks. Placing Fido in his crate on a few test drives around town will help him get accustomed to the feeling of a car in motion as well as keeping his cool in a smaller environment. We will definitely also have to do this with an older, hyper dog that hasn’t been car trained yet. In fact, the trial period where we get him used to the sensation of being in a moving vehicle may be much longer. And keep in mind that dogs who have plenty of experience in the car may need to be reacclimated if it’s been a long while. Going from nearly zero car rides for a year to eight-hour car rides should be something we lead up to.
For those who feel confident that their canine companion won’t need a crate, give him a designated spot in the car. Again, go on a few test drives and train him to stay when the vehicle is moving. We can also get a dog seatbelt and help him to be comfortable while wearing it. The only thing to notice is his comfort level and position. Dogs need to be able to switch body position, lie down as needed, and get their tail in the right place. Doggy seat belts are designed to keep a dog in a secure position for short rides. Longer rides in a seat designed for human anatomy can be very uncomfortable. Never let the dog sit in your lap or the lap of a child. This can be dangerous for the dog and the human, particularly those in front of an airbag.
Take Fido for walks and begin saying a command over and over as he does his business. For example, saying “go piddle” in a cheerful, upbeat tone will reward him at the same time we’re teaching him a new command. He’ll begin to associate that command with that activity very quickly. Then, take him out, but lead him to a different tree than normal and say the command to encourage him to go when you use the words, rather than using the words after he is already going. The same goes for going number two. He’ll be potty trained in no time! This leads to less waiting for him to find a good place to go on the side of the road while cars rush past. Instead, his biology and pavlovian response will kick in, and it’ll be much easier for him to get comfortable and take care of business, quickly.
Many dogs suffer from car sickness while on the road. The longer the drive, the more likely, he’ll have a bad day or few hours. We should all be observant of the cues our dog is giving. Panting, drooling, dry mouth, whining or whimpering, a worried look on his face, and becoming restless are all signs that he may need to take a potty break, may be car sick, or may need something else. It can be very helpful to check with the vet before the trip to inquire about a light sedative to help keep Fido comfortable and calm.
What to Bring
A well-behaved dog can be the perfect road trip companion. Here are the essentials everyone should be sure to pack, especially for the longer road trips. Having everything within reach will keep the journey enjoyable, safe, and hassle-free for everybody.
Filtered water in a sealed container and a water bowl. It would be safer to avoid giving Fido tap water while on the road, especially if he’s not used to it. This is because dogs are sensitive to the taste. Plus, depending on where we’re traveling to and from, he may actually pick up a bug. If the trip is really long, or the weather is hot, our pups will need more available water, more often. Bring a cooler with ice cubes, preferably also made from filtered water.
Enough dog food to last the whole trip. Consider the ride there, the length of the stay, and the ride back. Maybe keep a little extra, just in case there’s a small spill or detours. It’s better to have an adequate supply in case the brand he is used to can’t be found on the road. Remember, what’s carried in some stores, even the big box chains, can often be different from region to region. If Fido doesn’t have access to his usual food while away, it can cause digestive distress, such as gas, diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting. The same goes for his favorite treats considering, of course, how frequently we anticipate they’ll be needed.
Check out EcoEats. This delicious and affordable dehydrated dog food blend is packed with all the essential nutrients your pup needs to thrive. Plus, it’s lightweight, veterinarian-formulated, and wallet-friendly. Also, Try EcoEats. Low-calorie, all-natural dog treats that are perfect for training, rewards, and road trip deliciousness.
Fido’s leash, identification on his collar with up-to-date contact info, a poop scooper, and plenty of poop baggies are a must. Even if he’ll be spending most of his time in doggy daycare at his destination, nothing is more embarrassing, and show poor etiquette, than walking him around a rest area without any poop bags. Remember, we need to budget time and supplies for some rest stops to let Fido stretch his legs, run around for a bit, and do his business.
Bring Fido’s favorite blanket and toy, to give him comfort and avoid making him feel stressed, especially when he finds himself in unfamiliar surroundings. If the weather will be chilly (plan ahead and find out), don’t forget to pack his sweater, too. Not only will this help with keeping his surrounding familiar, but we’ll be able to play with him on those quick rest stops. If he likes fetch, bring a few balls, or a frisbee. Remember a few extra low-calorie treats that won’t upset his stomach, so we can play games and reward him.
If Fido is on any medications, bring those too. Count them ahead of time and make sure there will be enough. It’s also a good idea to bring his medical and vaccination records, especially for a long road trip. Just in case we want to drop him at a doggy daycare for a few hours while we sight-see, or if we need to bring him by the vet for something more serious, having records with us can only help. Add a recent photo to the kit, just in case he gets lose and then turned around and can’t find his way back to you.
Finally, don’t forget a dog-friendly first-aid kit. This should have bandages and wraps, a wound flush liquid, some dog-safe ointment in case he steps on something or meets an unfriendly dog. Keep EcoEars close if he is prone to doggy ear infections. And have some wipes available for accidents like spilled french fries and ketchup because someone leaves their lunch a little too close to his face while in the car.
Make traveling with Fido stress-free and fun. Prepare him with car rides, crate training, and commands for potty breaks. Pack all the comforts of home, which, when you think about it, isn’t much to ask. And take steps to plan a route that will make the car ride as safe and pleasant as possible. Everyone will have an amazing adventure. Safe travels and bon voyage!
- “Essential Checklist for a Road Trip With Dogs,” PetMD
- “Find Hotels Along Your Route with Our Pet Friendly Road Trip Planner,” PetsWelcome
- “Your Must-Stop List of Dog-Friendly Spots Near 10 Major Highways,” The Dog People