Whether you’re piling the family into a station wagon to grandma’s or driving yourself along one of the country’s most underrated routes, your dog makes an awesome (sometimes obligatory) companion. Just be sure you know what you’re doing when it comes to road-tripping with your dog. Here’s everything you need to know before hitting the road with your best furry friend.
Run through your dog’s daily routine
Run through your daily routine with your dog. You’ll have to pretty much pack everything required to maintain that routine once you arrive at your destination. Dr. Danielle Bernal, a veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food, notes even dog-friendly accommodations may not be equipped with everything your pup is used to. “Packing your pet’s bed and some blankets is essential to making sure that they feel at home and comfortable when you all arrive,” she says. Aside from blankets, be sure to pack all the hits: leash, food, bottled water, bowls, waste bags and a couple toys. If your dog takes any medication, pack this in a spot you can reach easily.
Pack two different leashes
Packing two different length options (one no more than six feet and another closer to 15 feet) should cover your bases. Some cities require dogs on shorter leashes, but if you’re hiking, a longer one lets your pup explore.
Write a ride checklist
It also might be a good idea to toss in some treats, especially if your dog gets car sick (yes, this is a thing) or anxious while traveling. Dr. Bernal recommends Wellness® CORE® 100% Freeze-Dried treats to distract pups from stressful stints in the car and to reward good behavior. There are also calming treats from companies like Mac+Maya and CBD oil has been known to work well, though some vets are hesitant to prescribe anything not yet approved by the FDA. Finally, you’ll thank yourself for tossing in a few good cleaning supplies, because accidents definitely happen.
Speaking of accidents, a doggy first aid kit is also a smart thing to pack. Dogs can get carried away exploring new terrain or take a tumble on unfamiliar turf. Being able to mend any wounds is crucial. It can’t hurt to check out vet locations near your destination, either, in case you need to pop in.
Buy a travel crate
Crates work wonders both during the trip and upon arrival. While en route, a crate is an excellent way to secure a dog in a vehicle and provide a sense of comfort. “Don’t overfill them,” Dr. Bernal warns. “You want to make sure [your dog has] space to move around.” Never allow a dog to ride in the front seat or roam freely. At the very least, banish them to the backseat so they don’t distract your driving. Once you arrive at your destination, crates also remind dogs of home and make the transition to vacation much smoother.
Build in time for extra breaks
Don’t expect to arrive early, because dogs need to run around and relieve themselves often. “Plan for frequent bathroom breaks—about every two hours—to let your dog walk around and relieve itself,” says Dr. Bernal. “If you can, take them for a long walk or play before you hit the road to try to get some of their energy out before traveling, or plan ahead to stop at parks and paths along the way to help them stretch their legs while en route.”
Visit your vet before you leave
Just like you would for yourself before a journey across the world, schedule a check-up for your dog with your vet to make sure he’s up-to-date on all his vaccines. Especially if you’re traveling somewhere with different threats than you’re used to (ticks, mosquitoes, etc.), getting the proper shots now will ease your mind later.
Consider skipping breakfast
Well, your dog’s breakfast. Aside from tiring your pup out before hitting the road, it might be wise to avoid big meals, too. “I recommend skipping breakfast to try to prevent stomach upsets if you know your pup is a nervous traveler,” says Dr. Bernal. “Also, make sure to keep them hydrated—dehydration while traveling can cause upsets.” This is why having bottled water is a great idea.
Have a game plan to keep your dog occupied
Give a kid an iPad or pop in an album you can sing along to, and you’ve got your human companions occupied for long hauls. Dogs on the other hand? Woof. Dr. Bernal says, “I like to recommend treat holding toys so your dog can occupy itself trying to get to the good stuff!” Whatever you do, make sure the driver isn’t responsible for entertaining the dog along the way.
Don’t forget to reward yourself with a treat along the way. There are dog-friendly bars in every state waiting to offer you and your pup a delicious refreshment.