I’ve never owned a dog, and I’ve never been on any road trips with dogs. But my cousin just drove from New York to Florida with her dog. So of course, I had to ask her for some tips for road trips with dogs.
Because just because I haven’t taken a dog on a road trip doesn’t mean that you won’t. So my cousin, who is a vet tech, and I collaborated on this post to give you the top tips for road trips with dogs.
If you have any other tips, be sure to leave them in the comments and we’ll get them added to this list.
And, if you’re planning a road trip with cats, we have you covered too. Just check out our post on tips for road trips with cats.
Tips For Road Trips With Dogs
These tips aren’t necessarily in any order. Each tip is important.
If your road trip is ending at Disney, check out our post about what you need to know about service dogs at Disney World.
Bring extra water in your cooler for your dog
Your dog will definitely get thirsty during the road trip, so pack extra bottles of water in your cooler for your dog. You’ll also want to pack a collapsible bowl because that will take up less room in the car than your dog’s regular water bowl.
When you stop at a rest stop, be sure to let your dog get out of the car too. Fill the bowl and let your dog drink as much fresh water as he or she wants.
While we’re talking about rest stops, be sure to bring doggie bags with you as well. When you’re at the rest stop, let your dog walk around and go to the bathroom, if he or she has to. Make sure to use the doggie bags to clean up after your pet. Some pet waste stations may provide bags, but you can’t rely on those. So be sure to pack your own.
Bring your dog’s food
When you’re packing for your road trip, be sure to remember to pack your dog’s food from home.
If your are planning to be in the car during your dog’s normal meal times, stop at a rest area to feed them at those times. You want to keep your dog on his or her regular schedule.
You want to stop and feed your dog rather than trying to feed him or her in the car. That bouncing around probably isn’t the best for your dog’s digestive system.
And, while we’re on the topic, bring your dog’s treats from home too. You want to reward your pup for being a good boy.
Pay attention to the temperature in the car
I don’t always need to drive with the air conditioning on; rolling down the windows is good enough for me. And my cousin felt the same way on her road trip.
But her dog felt differently.
Her dog got really hot with the windows open because, remember, dogs are covered in fur.
So definitely pay attention to the temperature in the car. If your dog seems to be panting a lot or showing signs of overheating, adjust the air conditioning accordingly.
This goes for road trips in winter too. If you have the heat on, be sure to check and see how it is affecting your dog. You might be fine with the heat on, but it might be too hot for your dog. So put on your jacket and adjust the temperature to where your dog feels comfortable.
Use a harness or seat belt strap
When you’re driving on a road trip with dogs, you need to buckle your dog in in some way. You can’t just let him or her roam around the car.
My cousin prefers to use a harness over a seat belt strap when she goes on road trips with her dog. She told me if something happens (like a sudden stop or a car accident), and the dog jolts forward, the seat belt strap will keep them from flying forward but will pull on their neck.
Bring comforts from home
Pack things that will make your dog comfortable in the car, like blankets, beds, toys, etc. Scenes and smells from home will really make the road trip more enjoyable for your dog.
You don’t really want your dog to play with toys during the road trip. You’d rather he is she just sit calmly during the actual drive. But when you stop at a rest stop, break out those chew toys or balls from home and let your dog pay then.
Allow for extra time at the rest stops
Now that we’ve gotten here, I’ve realized something. We’ve already mentioned eating, drinking, stretching your dog’s legs, and now playing at the rest stop. These things all take time.
So keep that in mind.
When you’re timing your road trip, add in extra time for stops at rest areas. And let that be okay. Don’t be on such a tight schedule where you are rushing your pup. You want to make the road trip enjoyable for him as well. So if you spend an extra 20 minutes at a rest stop because your dog is really enjoying running around, so be it.
Talk to your dog’s veterinarian about the road trip
If your dog gets anxious in the car, talk to your dog’s veterinarian before you go. My cousin said you might want to ask your dog’s vet if getting your dog some medication, like trazodone, might help your dog stay relaxed over the road trip.
Your dog’s vet may have to do some blood work on your dog to make sure that he or she is able to take the medication.
If your dog’s vet decides medication is safe for your pup, he or she will be able to write your pup a prescription, if need be. Just fulfill that prescription before your road trip and give it to your dog as recommended.
There are certain medications for your dog that you can buy over the counter, but my vet tech cousin suggests against those because of the aforementioned blood test and because you don’t necessarily know what you’re buying online.
Do you have any other tips for road trips with dogs? Be sure to leave them in the comments.