How to Keep Your Dog Comfy on a Road Trip

There once was a time when the family dog spent its life almost exclusively on a chain tied to a tree in the back yard, or perhaps confined to a small, cramped pen. He was usually resigned to a boring and limited existence, one in which he watched his family from afar. Today, times have changed. Contrast that sad and lonely picture of barren existence to the lap of luxury in which many dogs live today, and you’ll understand the growth of interest in all things canine, including how best to include them in daily life, such as the following “have dog, will travel” tips.


Organize in Advance

Great trips start with great plans. If you’re like most people, you make lists of the things you don’t want to forget. The time to prepare for an upcoming road trip is months in advance of the excursion itself. You’ll want a list for everyone who will be on the trip, including the dog. For the humans you’ll want to remember to pack things like music playlists, snacks, clothing, toothbrushes and teddy bears but dogs’ needs are different. Your careful advance planning will get set your entire trip in motion on a good note. The best thing about advanced planning is that it prevents you from being forced to make important decisions at your point of departure, a time already sure to be cluttered with a plethora of last-minute details. Your dog will be the beneficiary of your forethought and planning.


Pack What Your Dog Needs When Traveling

When it comes to your traveling with your dog, he essentially needs on the road all the same things he needs at home, plus a few. There is no “one size fits all” list, as with children, each dog’s requirements are as unique. Likewise, things such as vehicle size and space restrictions must be taken into account. Most people pack basic essentials for their dogs such as a supply of their food, water from home, dishes, leashes, toys, a crate, etc. Dogs accustomed crates tend to feel secure within that space and they relax and enjoy the ride. They’re also safer in the event of an accident. Pack medications your dog might routinely or even occasionally require and if motion sickness is an issue, give him a capsule of ginger on an empty stomach, an hour before your departure.  A first-aid kit designed for dogs is a must.


Identification Basics

Every day, all around the country, dogs go missing in a variety of circumstances nobody foresaw. Possibly the greatest mistake most dog owners make is thinking it won’t happen to them. It may not, but if it does, the difference between you getting your dog back or not, might depend upon having thought this issue through ahead of time. Should your beloved heart dog be stolen or get lost, you’ll be thankful you have a well-oiled plan to put into immediate action. The very first step in this process is ensuring your dog can be identified in the unlikely event he becomes separated from you. 

What does “properly identified” really mean? Perhaps the best measure of proper identification is found by counting the number of pathways through which your dog can be linked to you. The three primary ways to identify your dog are as follows. 

  • Collar – The primary purpose of a dog’s daily-wear collar (as opposed to a training collar, which should never have tags attached) is to provide a place where his identification tags can be securely attached. Depending upon where you live and/or where you intend to travel, you may need up-to-date proof of rabies tags and municipality tags. ID tags should be clearly legible and should display both your phone number and the word: REWARD. Microchip ID tags may also be attached. Don’t like the sound of many tags? Put them in a pouch. Google it.
  • Tattoo – Every dog should have an identifying tattoo in a visible location somewhere on his body. Common places to locate tattoos include inside the ear flap and inside the hind leg. If you choose to use your phone number as the tattoo, make sure it’s one you’ll be using for the foreseeable future.  
  • Microchip – Puppies as well as adult dogs are easily microchipped by a veterinarian. A microchip identifies the dog for life and is read by universal scanners owned by most veterinarians, animal shelters, and rescue organizations. 

Making certain your dog is identified in as many ways as possible is a must before starting out with him on a road trip.


Only Go Where Your Dog Can Go

The term “dog friendly” has become standard slang in the retail industry as dog owners increasingly are inclined to inquire, “Are you dog friendly? They become a patron if the answer is yes but when it’s in the negative, chances are they simply turn and walk away. The old adage, “Love me, love my dog” is clearly alive and well in the 21st century. Because you planned so well for what your pup needs before the needs ever arose, you’ll have a list of dog-friendly establishments to frequent along your journey, such as pet friendly parks, stores, restaurants, events, and more. If you’re on a leisurely trip, stopping at tourist attractions along the way, have a back-up plan if dogs are not allowed. It is rare for anyone to object to the inclusion of a small, well-behaved dog, especially when it is carried securely and discreetly in a shoulder bag (they make them from calfskin and include a leash) when out exploring the sites. So long as the dog is under control and the owner considerate of others (who might not love dogs as much as they do), there shouldn’t be much fuss or bother at all. However, do not leave your dog alone in your car where he is vulnerable to both theft and (in hot weather) heat stroke.


Destination-Related Considerations

In planning for your pet’s enjoyment and comfort, don’t forget to consider any special requirements that your destination might impose upon his comfort. Many times, it is possible to prevent problems likely to occur with careful consideration. For example, if your destination were a campground known for its spectacular Fourth of July fireworks you might wish to include anything additional that might be required to keep your dog from panicking such as a pressure wrap, a sedative from the vet, cotton for his ears and a secure crate. If heading to snow country, you might want to pack a coat and boots for Chief to wear … it will keep him from shivering and will prevent ice balls from forming between the pads of is feet.


Your Travel Itinerary

Another thing that will vary from person to person but which will have a tremendous effect on your journey is your specific travel itinerary. If you’re staying in motels along the way, it pays to determine the ones that are pet friendly in advance. Each motel chain has free nationwide listings that indicate whether they are pet friendly, or not. More and more hotel chains turn away clients with dogs because they fail to pick up their waste so be a considerate guest. Not all itineraries will include motel stops, however. Another scenario might involve multiple drivers, where the people involved make a fast trip by taking turns sleeping and driving. In this imaginary scenario, it is necessary to realize that the dog will need a chance to get out and move around every few hours, regardless of how big a hurry the humans may be. 


Know Your Dog and Plan Accordingly

This is perhaps the most consideration of all … what is your dog like? Dogs are as distinct in their personalities as people, and sometimes that says everything when it comes to planning an adventure that includes them. Dogs that are amiable in their natures, grounded in their training, and generally confident of themselves in most any social situation are a joy to have as traveling companions. However, this describes the ideal dog, which not everybody owns, so consider ways in which you might need to adapt your travel plans to accommodate your furry friend. You likely won’t need it, but pack a canine first-aid kit. Elderly dogs often have special requirements as do puppies. Many adult dogs have social “issues that, if not accommodated, might otherwise become an inconvenience, if not an outright hazard. One example is the dog apt to snap at people, but only when stressed. Traveling might be stressful for this dog, so outfit him with a humane basket-type muzzle, taking the time to accustom him to have a positive association with it in advance, and you have no problem to solve because you have prevented it. 


Nothing makes an animal lover’s heart happier than seeing how many people today enjoy getting out and doing things with their animals. Think through the ideas presented here and it’s all but a sure thing that all your trips with your canine companion will be happy ones.