How to rock a road trip with your dog is the topic for today and here’s why:
“How is Dexter doing going cross country,” appeared on my Instagram feed “My dog seems to be bored.”
This is all too common for road warrior dog moms and dads taking to the nation’s highways and biways for a trip. In our case, we are traveling from Pennsylvania to Lake Las Vegas for the 6th Annual BlogPaws Conference. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, here on the blog and on Twitter, too, for #FidoseAcrossAmerica.
Boredom, stress/anxiety, upset stomach, digestive issues and a whole host of other issues can arise when a dog is taken from his regular living arrangements.
I’ve been traveling by car with a dog for over 20 years, so we’ve got an entire arsenal of tips to keep dogs stress free and on the road to happiness. Here are tips for successful dog-friendly travel:
Pack a WT-WTCH Kit
Consider the worst case scenario and keep those essentials in an easily accessible, easily toteable bag. In our Doggy Baggage tote we have a variety of items that go beyond the basics. Consider an extra leash if you leave your dog’s behind. Do you know what a Pet Clot is? If your dog is stung by a bee, do you have something handy? Beyond the basic first aid kit, here is a great post on what to put in that emergency bag: And we keep it fully stocked so that it is easily accessible at a moment’s notice.
Note: Be sure to purge that bag of expired contents at least twice a year. We shake our bag out on return home in the event any ticks, spiders, or other park critters meandered inside.
Plot the Course
I am one of those people who just loves and prefers the buddy system when traveling, so this helps keep a dog’s spirits up. Either way, here is what you need to do in advance of the trip so an idle mind does not take over your dog:
- Decide what vehicle is best. If you have a compact car, it might be in Fido’s best interest to upsize and rent a larger vehicle. If a smaller car is a must, set up the back seat/in-car kennel with the dog’s comforts of home.: Blankets, toys, etc. The car should be a home away from home.
- In the weeks prior to the trip, make a few practice runs. Pretend you are taking the long trip and set the dog up as you will when that big trip arrives. For the practice rounds, go for a half hour and drive somewhere the dog loves: Perhaps a visit to the park to play fetch, a friend’s house, out for ice cream or whatever makes your dog light up when referring to it. Do the same a second time but travel for an hour. Make the arrival the best thing since the invention of poop bags: Celebrate and tell the dog what an awesome pooch he or she is.
- The goal in doing this is to acclimate the dog to the road and make travel a fab thing to do. This same technique can be used with travel fearful dogs, but make the trips 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, and so on. Never force a travel fearful dog to go on a long road trip.
What to Do from The Road
My spouse and I are planning on getting an RV so we can more comfortably tour the country and travel to dog-related events and conferences.
We upsized from a car to an SUV so that I could work from the second row while Dexter is belted in next to me. Here are things we do to prevent on the road boredom:
- Have a buddy travel with you to keep Fido occupied
- Tire the dog out prior to a long leg of travel. We make a point of it to take long walks, play ball in the hotel room, and sightsee locally prior to embarking on each day’s trek. A content dog is a happy dog and a happy, contended dog will nap.
- Bring a favorite busy bone from home for the dog to munch on in the car.
- Pre-determine stops for pee, poop, eat, stretch, and play breaks.
- Create a fun word in conjunction with stop time. “Ready to pull over?” or “Break time” and teach your dog what a fun thing pit stops are.
- Be reasonable about the time you spend on the road. If your dog is accustomed to napping for a few hours at a clip, use that time to your advantage.
- Talk to your dog. I do it all the time, and I think Dexter appreciates it.
- Do some in car stretches and limb movements with your dog.
- Ipad apps: I have heard from a number of readers who play games on their tablet device with the dog.
- Scritch behind the ears, belly, and so on: Gve the dog a nice relaxing in-car massage, but make sure someone else is driving.
Precautions and Must Do’s
Keep to a regular schedule of feeding and walking. There is nothing worse than a dog with digestive issues from the road.
If your dog is not road ready, do not force him or her to travel. Only travel with a dog who wants to be there.
Hydration is key, for you and your dog. We have a word for water. So we say, “Dexter want a drink?” This is something we taught him from a young age. Any dog can learn a new word, so try it. Hold the water bowl by your dog and pour cool, fresh water into it while saying, “drink.” Never force a dog to drink – and always praise with positive reinforcement when he responds.
My dog takes a day or so to get used to a road trip and feeding times when we travel together. Resist temptation to change foods or add some human food. Again, the key is digestive continuity and not tummy upset. Again, I’ve been there, done that, and you risk dehydration if a dog gets traveler’s diarrhea.
So there you have it: Any road warrior tales with your dog that have worked? Let us know in the comments below. Oh, and here are a group of our pet blogging buddies who, no doubt, probably travel with a pet at one time or another. Say hi to them: