Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dogs on Road Trips Tips

Willy, my young dog, loves to ride with me in the Jeep. He regularly hops in so we can go to the local parks. However, we have just returned from a 1200 mile road trip which was entirely different than driving a few miles up the street.

I became aware of the risks when traveling long distances with a dog. Because of this awareness, I am sharing these tips and reminders with you.

Food and Water
Remove your dogs food bowl at least 2 hours before leaving. Or feed your dog a very small amount prior to departure.  Dogs are prone to motion sickness.  Dogs that eat immediately before jumping into the car can be more prone to vomiting. No one, not even our dogs, want to experience a tummy ache or vomiting in the car.

Some dogs may or may not eat during the trip. Willy wouldn't eat a bit of food during breaks on the way there. I couldn't convince him to eat a thing.  On the way home, I had purchased some of his favorite puppy treats.  I was careful not to feed him too many treats, but I felt better knowing that he was at least eating a snack during our gas and bathroom breaks. I didn't want him to be 12 hours with a completely empty stomach. Dogs can become hypoglycemic.

Anti-spill water bowl 
Dogs can dehydrate fairly easily. I noticed, in the cold weather, that I wanted the heater on the high setting more often than Willy did. Pet parents have to remember to provide water at every stop, at least.  If possible, a sturdy and spill-proof bowl can make water available at all times. We need to be aware of how the temperatures (low or high) may be impacting our pet.

Frequent Breaks

Personally, I can drive 600 miles with only 3 or 4 very quick gas and bathroom stops.  With the dog, I made sure to stop a few extra times.  I'm convinced that being able to get out and stretch his legs, sniff the air, go to the bathroom, and get a drink all helped Willy be a better traveling companion.

Clean Up After Your Dog 

Willy knows the difference between a walk and a quick potty break.  I have always told him "go pee-pee" when it's time to focus and take care of business.  This daily training was very helpful when we were on the road. I didn't want to linger outdoors at truck stops nor did I want him outside for very long in what often appeared to be dirty places. I'd give this verbal reminder and he'd go quickly. We'd stretch our legs briefly, let him have another drink of water, and hop back into the Jeep and go.

I hadn't realized that other dog owners also teach their dogs to potty on command. In fact, the ASPCA recommends that your dog is trained to go on command prior to traveling.  I am aware that some dogs do not like to potty in unfamiliar surroundings, so this command/training may be helpful.

This is a good time to give the reminder that it is a good idea to have taken your beloved pet to the veterinarian prior to the trip. Making sure your dog is in healthy condition as well as current with all of the preventative medications will help your dog avoid picking up something during the trip.

Dog waste bags
If you watch for signs for pet-walking areas, you will soon discover that many, many pet owners leave their pet droppings lay.  Conscientious pet owners will find themselves trying to help their dogs avoid the manure piles, or making stops at other areas that are manure-free, but that often are strewn with trash. These less popular areas often have taller grass and are more likely to be the home of fleas or ticks.  This is a reason that your dog be current on all pest prevention medications and treatments.

Let your dog stretch his/her legs frequently during the trip but walk him/her with caution. And for goodness sake, be a good pet owner and clean up after your dog. Coletta Teske does a nice job of explaining why it is healthy for our pets and important that we pick up after them.

Familiar Items

Bring familiar items to help your dog feel more secure.  A towel or blanket that they sleep on, or that smells like you, will help them feel more comfortable.  I didn't want to bring Willy's big crate pad that is old and torn so I provided him with a towel for a few days prior to the trip.  I brought that Willy-scented towel along for him.

This towel was helpful both with giving him something familiar as well as providing cover for the seat in the event Willy got car sick.  He did not. But I was prepared.
Snack dispenser

I also brought a few of his favorite toys, his brand of dog food (in case it was hard to find in the vacation locations). Toys like treat dispensers are good ways to occupy your dog once you reach your destination.

To Crate or Not To Crate?

It is recommended that your dog be crated or seat belted while in the car.  This is to A) keep the dog from being a distraction to the driver and B) to keep the dog from being a projectile in the event of an accident.  Willy knows his spot is in the back seat and does not ride in front, and NEVER EVER rides on my lap while I'm driving.  For these reasons, I haven't decided to crate or belt him in the car for most trips.  But I have to say, I was concerned during stops that having him crated would have been more safe to guard against pet theft.

Pet theft has been on the rise over the years. And pet thefts from a car are one of the most frequent ways pets are stolen. Afraid of pet theft, I found myself working hard to park in front of the building windows or security cameras while running in and out of the human restroom very quickly.  I know that parking like that did not prevent theft, as a smash-and-grab goes very quickly. But I felt it was better than parking behind a group of vehicles that obstructed the view of mine.

Dog safety belt
During my next long trip, I may crate him as a prevention to people who would consider stealing my dog.  I definitely use a harness/belt set-up when we are driving around with the Jeep top off.

You know your dog, you can determine which is the best option after considering the issues of distraction, projectiles, and theft. Just remember that it is better to take that extra bit of precaution.

Stressed Dogs and Their Behaviors

Finally, remember that stressed dogs may exhibit behaviors that aren't usual for them. When in unfamiliar surroundings or people, off-schedule, or stressed about the multitude of things that occur during travel, they can become clingy, snappy, or aggressive.  Dogs that don't normally suddenly run away, may suddenly jump out of the car at the gas station.  They may become snappy with your relatives that are unfamiliar to them. Or they may chew things in the hotel room.  Keep in mind that whether or not your dog loves to go with you in the car, they may need some extra love and supervision during the stress of a trip.

Traveling with pets makes good memories. Our pets are our extended family. As our puppy parent, it is our responsibility to make their travel as safe and comfortable as possible.

Meanwhile, we visit Ruth and Valentino at Dog Pawsitives photo by Ruth

Disclaimer: In affiliation with, Dawn Rae is a content writer who may earn compensation from the sale of Amazon products. 


  1. Excellent tips for traveling with dogs! Tidbit would not eat nor drink and barely tinkled while traveling, no matter the length of the trip. Now, if I stayed in a hotel at night, then she would. I've yet to take a long trip with Valentino, but on short trips he will drink.

    Valentino and I are delighted to have you visit us at Dog Pawsitive Tidbits and hope you and Willy come visit us one day in Florida too!

    1. Daisy would eat and drink on trips. In fact, she was such an easy drinker. I would just buy her a bottled water and she'd drink from the bottle like a gerbil drinking from one of those gerbil waterers. Willy is a smidge more difficult.

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  3. Very sensible and useful tips when traveling with your dog. We employed many of the strategies you describe here. I agree a light meal several hours before travel is good. We didn't crate our Goldie but he did wear a harness for safety which worked well. We never had any problems with him toileting or eating/drinking which was good. Yes and we took his bedding , toys etc I think often he had more luggage than we did lol!

    1. That's too funny about Goldie having so much luggage. As I was packing I thought that if I didn't stop grabbing things for Willy, he'd have a large bag packed than I did!

  4. Excellent tips for traveling with a pet. My brother & SIL are snowbirds, spending winters in the South and summers in the North. That means two 2-day trips each year with a small dog and three cats. So I'm quite aware what things are needed to travel with pets.

    1. Oh my goodness, a dog and three cats.. that's quite a large family to travel with! Wow. I can't imagine.

  5. Most excellent tips for traveling with a pet! We do travel with our pets on occasion and I have never opted for a craft with our dogs, but we certainly use the carriers when we travel with the grandkitties. I guess I have never worried about pet theft since there are usually several of us traveling together.

    I really liked you idea about the familiar towel. We once went to Louisiana to visit my sister. Our old beautiful lab jumped down out of the back of the SUV, excited to arrive. Once inside the house door, he ran right back outside and jumped back into the SUV since the back was still open. Funniest thing you ever saw! I think having something familiar would have helped as long as one of us stayed in the house with him. He really was the best dog ever. If something bothered him, I am quite certain it would have bothered any dog.

  6. Thank you so much, Mouse. We hear about pet thefts or about pet-rights folks removing pets from vehicles so often that I"m extra nervous about it. Next time I travel long distance, I may use the crate to be double safe. Especially since you can't really lock a Jeep.. what with the zipper windows and all.

    Oh what a wonderful story about your Lab. I think dogs do very much want to have familiar things around him. So funny that he said his hellos and ran right back outside. Must have been ready to head home just that quick. What a sweetheart.