There’s no doubt that our dogs are our best friends, so it goes without saying that we want to take them with us wherever we go.
For many travelers, that means loading their dog into the car whenever they’re going on a road trip and bringing them along for the adventure.
Contrary to popular belief, traveling with a dog by car is probably the easiest option.
Provided you’ve put some thought into the planning, have all of the necessary gear, and work to keep them calm and comfortable on the road, you can have a successful trip no matter the length, and make sure both you and your pooch are happy.
#1: Plan the Journey
The best way to avoid disappointment is to be prepared, and this goes for anything in life.
When it comes to your road trip with your dog, there are a few things you’ll want to have checked off. Know exactly where you’re headed, where you can stop, where you’ll stay once you arrive, and what’s required for safe travel with your dog.
A quick visit to your vet can give you all of the information you need and a chance to have your dog checked out to make sure they’re in acceptable health for road travel.
#2: Prepare Your Dog
We all have that visual in our head of the dog gladly jumping into the car with their head hanging out the window as you drive, but not every pet likes the car this much.
If you worry your pet won’t do well on long distances or if they haven’t had much experience driving, you should take some shorter road trips in the leadup to the main event to get them used to it.
When the big day comes they’ll be used to the car and you’ll have ironed out any potential issues before they occur.
#3: Have a Quality Crate
Just as humans require seatbelts to travel safely, our dogs require a crate to do the same.
You should invest in a quality dog crate and have it anchored down in a rear passenger seat or the trunk of your car, depending on the design of the vehicle.
A good crate should be durable, breathable, and comfortable, and you’ll want to make sure your dog is used to being inside of it before the big trip.
#4: Prepare a Pet Traveling Kit
For frequent travelers, you might already have a dog traveling kit on standby, but otherwise, it’s not that hard to pack.
In this kit, you’ll want items like food, a pet water bottle or bowl, papers, medication, basic first aid supplies, and grooming gear, depending on the length of your journey and where you’re going.
Some dogs might require additional help like a pet ramp to get in the car, so have all of this packed up and ready to go.
#5: Keep Food Light
A travel feeding schedule is a little different to the one dogs are used to at home, and the key is keeping it light.
Four hours before you head off, give them a light meal, and then pack some snacks for along the way whenever you take a break.
Resist the urge to feed them while you’re driving because dogs can get carsick just like humans, and you don’t want to put too much in their stomach in a moving car.
Light snacks whenever you have a break will be a treat for them and it’ll keep them satisfied until you reach your destination.
#6: Make Regular Stops
Plan regular stops where possible, or aim for every few hours to have a break and pull the car over.
Before getting out, make sure your dog has his collar, identification, and lead attached, just in case he runs away.
At the stop, you can throw them a ball around to stretch their legs, give them a drink of water, let them use the bathroom, and feed them a light snack. If your pet seems distressed while driving, you can make an early stop to see if it helps calm them down.
#7: Keep Them Company
It gets pretty boring driving long distances on our own, so don’t forget that your dog could be feeling the boredom too.
Where possible, have another human travel buddy with you who can keep your dog entertained and talk to them now and them.
Otherwise, regular chit chat with your pet will take their mind off the journey and prevent any whining that comes from feeling lonely. Pack them a chew toy for their carrier that can alleviate some of the boredom as well.
#8: Never Leave Your Dog Alone
Leaving a dog alone in a car is extremely dangerous, no matter how long you think you’ll be away.
According to The Humane Society of the United States, all it takes is just 10 minutes to heat a car to 102 degrees when the temperature is 85 degrees outside, and this is with the windows open. In this time, your dog can suffer irreversible organ damage and face the very real risk of death.
Always take your dog with you wherever you go even if you think it’s a quick pit stop, and tie them up outside a store or bathroom if you need to go inside.
#9: Reward and Relax
Once you reach your destination or final stop for the day, make sure you reward your dog for their good behavior during journey.
Give them a special meal, rub their belly, throw the ball around with them, and make them feel loved.
This positive reinforcement will make it a whole lot easier the next time you want to take them for a road trip and it’ll make you feel good as well.