Top 5 Tips for Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip

Dog on road trip in Jeep: Photo by philip hawkshaw

There’s never been a better time to take your dog with you on a road trip. But making sure your trip is dog friendly can seem complicated. You might be wondering what you need to bring your dog to a hotel or what the rules for traveling with your dog are. Don’t let uncertainty stop you. Whether you are traveling with your partner, family, or friends, bringing your dog along is sure to make your road trip even more special. If you’re thinking about hitting the road, read on for the top 5 tips on bringing your dog on a road trip. 

Tip 1: Teach your dog to love the car 

To some dogs this comes naturally. Other dogs may feel nervous in the car. If you’re going to be driving long distances for several days, it’s important that your dog feels calm and comfortable. Some dogs learn to dislike the car because they only ever drive to the vet. This creates negative associations with car rides that make them feel anxious. If this sounds like your dog, this problem is easy to fix. Take your dog for car rides to fun places, like parks, hikes, the pet store to buy a treat, or just take a joy ride and give them treats for getting in the car and sitting down.

Dog on road trip in Vintage Car Photo by Callum Hill
Now that’s what we call a joyride

Doing this consistently will remove negative associations with the car and create new positive associations that will help your dog look forward to car rides.  

If your dog already enjoys the car, it’s a good idea to reinforce good behavior and habits. Practice positive reinforcement by giving them a treat for getting the car when asked, sitting calmly in their spot, getting out of the car calmly, and going to the bathroom when asked. You’ll be thankful that you taught your dog good habits when you need to stop at a rest stop on the side of the road.  

Tip 2: Plan for pit stops and entertainment 

You’ll want to make sure that you and your dog get a chance to move your legs before long stretches of drive time. Plan for a brisk walk before packing into the car to make sure your dog has a chance to use the bathroom and get some energy out. Remember if you have to stop and use the bathroom on your drive, your dog probably does too.

When you stop for gas, make sure to keep your doors locked. This is always good practice for when your dog is in the car or not. An unlocked car while you’re busy gassing up is an easy target for a quick theft. We trust you’ll take your dog out for a bathroom break, but finish filling up the car first so you can keep your attention on your dog.  

When you stop for food, gas, or to admire a vista, make sure you are also giving your dog what they need to stay safe and comfortable.  

Dog and Handler Admire the Vista on road trip photo by Mike Fox
Dog and Handler Admire the Vista

Encourage your dog to stretch 

How can you get your dog to stretch? They might just do this naturally. If they don’t, many dogs will copy you if you stretch. Dogs like to be involved in what you’re doing, so if you all do some light stretching, they are likely to do some downward dog themselves.  

Give your dog some play time 

Dog and handler Play ball on a road trip photo by Sinitta Leunen
Dog and Handler Play Ball in an Open Field

It’s a good idea to pack a ball on your trip to burn some energy. Of course, before you go throwing a ball around, make sure there is ample space and there is no risk of your dog running onto the road. You can also set your dog up with in-car entertainment. Entertaining your dog means they won’t go getting into trouble like chewing on your seats or jumping in the front. No, we don’t recommend giving your dog an ipad, but give them something to chew on. We love these safe rawhide alternative bones.  

Safe Dog Chew
No Hide Earth Animal Bone

Give your dog a snack 

It’s best to bring your dog their own dog treats for the road, but if their food is packed away there’s lots of human foods that can make a great snack between meals. A protein box from Starbucks is a great treat to share with your dog. Give them the apple slices, some hard boiled egg and a bit of peanut butter. But be aware that grapes can be toxic to dogs and almonds should be avoided. Cheese is questionable as it can cause digestive issues that you probably don’t want while driving long distances.

Dogs will also enjoy carrots and beef jerky. When choosing a jerky, it’s best to select one made just for dogs, but human jerky that doesn’t contain spices or additive should be okay on their stomach. Read the label and look for something plain. See what other foods are great for dogs and what to avoid here 

Tip 3: Visit the vet ahead of taking your dog on a road trip 

You’ll want to make sure your dog is healthy and up for adventure. You also need to make sure that your dog’s vaccinations are current. Pick up a copy of your dog’s vaccination records, inducing rabies, in case any of your hotels want to see it. This will also come in handy if you want to drop your dog off at a doggy daycare at any point along your trip. Vaccinations are required, and you don’t want to be stuck unable to reach your vet in time.  

It’s also a good time to update your dog’s microchip registration information, and make sure that you have your dog’s microchip number written down somewhere you can find it. If your dog is not chipped, do this at your vet before you take your dog on a road trip. Microchips are the best chance of getting your dog back safely in the event you get separated from each other. Any shelter will check for a chip and call you if your dog turns up. Make sure your information is correct so they can get in touch.  

You’ll want to make sure your dog is on a flea and heartworm medication. Check with your vet to make sure your dog is protected before you go. You should also ask your vet about removing ticks and vaccinating for snake bites.   

Tip 4: Plan a dog friendly road trip  

Set up your car so that your dog is safe and comfortable. Make sure your dog has access to water and a blanket so they understand where their spot in the car is. You should prevent your dog from jumping into the front seat. While some dogs love to have their heads out the window, it’s safest to keep paws, nose, and tongue inside the vehicle.  

take your dog on a road trip
Please keep paws, tongue, and ears inside the vehicle when moving

Make sure your destinations are dog friendly ahead of time. Some hikes are dog friendly, but national parks are not. Even if the campsite is dog friendly, many trails do not allow dogs, so plan accordingly.  

What do I need to Bring My dog to a hotel? 

You’ll want to clear your dog with your hotel accommodations ahead of time. Some hotels are dog friendly but may have fees or limitations associated with bringing your dog. Kimpton Hotels are known for their pet friendly services and do not discriminate against any size or breed. La Quinta has many pet friendly locations as well. If your dog provides you with emotional support you may be eligible to register your dog as an Emotional Support Animal. Most hotels will allow you to travel with your Emotional Support Animal free of charge, even if they are not pet friendly. Typically, a certificate is all you need. You should always call the hotel first to confirm and find out what you need to provide.  

Keep in mind, if you do bring your Emotional Support Animal to a hotel with you, it’s not okay to leave them alone in the room. Service Animals or Emotional Support Animals should be with the handler at all times.  

Getting a good night’s sleep 

taking dog to hotel bring their bed photo by lesly juarez
Dog feels right at home in his bed

You might want to ask for a room away from the elevator so your dog doesn’t hear people walking by your room. Or better yet, ask for a room on the ground floor to make bathroom breaks easier. It’s a good idea to bring their bed or a blanket, even an unwashed shirt from the laundry to help them feel at home in the room at night.  

Tip 5: Make a packing list for your dog so you don’t leave anything behind 

take your dog on a road trip
Ready for anything

Just like you’ve got your suitcase and day bag, your dog needs some stuff too. Whether you’re packing a weekender or you’re off for two weeks, here’s a quick checklist for great days and smooth nights.  

Doggie day bag for easy access 

  • Medication if your dog takes anything
  • Food 
  • Travel water & food bowls with lid
  • Treats 
  • Bone/chews 
  • Collar, identification, certificates 
  • Pet wipes for accidents or dirty paws 
  • Doggie bags 

Overnight bag for end of day

  • Bed or portable crate for hotel 
  • Favorite toy 
  • Blanket  
  • Unwashed T-shirt for comforts of home 
  • Microchip number written down
  • Vaccination records and vet information

With a little preparation, you and your dog can have a great trip and make lasting memories. If you’re going to be in hotels and want to certify your dog as a Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal, you can register today for a same day digital certificate.  

Registering online is the fastest and easiest way to certify your dog. 

To voluntarily identify your dog as a Service Dog and obtain your same day digital ESA or Service Dog certification, register now. 

REGISTER NOW

Let us know your tips for taking your dog on a road trip in the comments!

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