It’s one of the most sacred of all summer institutions: the summer road-trip. Whether you have a plan in mind or decide to just pick a direction and go, there’s no feeling quite like packing up your car and hitting the open road. You can do this on your own — if you thrive on solitude — or you could go with some of your friends, especially if you want to argue about what to listen to the entire time.
A third option is to bring the greatest of all travel companions along: your dog. Taking your dog on a summer road-trip not only frees you up from finding a sitter or kennel back home, but you’ll also get to share in a bond-deepening adventure with an up-for-anything co-pilot.
Before you head out on the highway with your four-legged friend, there are some things you’ll want to take care of first. We’ve put together some helpful hints before you hit the highway:
Make Sure They’re Ready To Travel
First thing you’re gonna want to do is call your vet and let them know your plans. Aside from making sure your dog’s up-to-date on things like heartworm medicine, you might want to get them some additional vaccinations too. While all dogs should be getting their annual vaccinations, it’s not unusual for dogs to not get every single vaccination every year. Now that you’re planning on taking them out of their typical environment, your vet can help make sure nothing important ends up slipping through the cracks.
Speaking of your vet, you’re going to want to get a complete and up-to-date copy of their vet records to take with you, too. Should an emergency come up, you’ll be glad you’ve got those on hand. Finally, and this may seem obvious, but if your dog has issues with short trips in a car, then chances are they’re not going to be comfortable for a long one. Ignoring any issue they take, or assuming they’ll ‘get used to it’ might make their anxiety worse in the long run. If this is the case, you’re probably going to have to re-think your plan.
Here’s hoping you’re a light packer when it comes to road-trips, because when you’re packing for your dog, you have to take everything with you. Okay, maybe not everything everything, but you can’t just grab a leash and a half-empty bag of dog food and take off. If you do, you may end up desperately looking for something resembling a plastic dish of some kind at some gas station in the middle of nowhere, or trying to MacGuyver a water bowl out of a plastic bottle and a pocket knife. Neither situation is ideal.
It’s also a good idea to bring something that your dog is familiar with, like a blanket, pillow, or favorite toy. A familiar smell will help bring them comfort and ease any anxiety they might experience. Something else that’s a big help on this front is something for the dog to chew on. You’ve got the road to concentrate on and that killer playlist you made for the trip, but your dog is going to need something to do, and a chew toy can do wonders in occupying their time. You might want to avoid anything that squeaks, though. Unless you like to be slowly driven mad while you’re trapped in a fast-moving vehicle, of course.
Plan Your Route Ahead Of Time
Having your dog with you is going to complicate your usual travel routine. Those thousand-mile road-trips you could make in a lean 12-and-a-half hours when you only stopped for gas? That’s pretty much out of the question when you’ve got a dog along for the ride. Granted, most dogs can, and do, tolerate around eight or so hours of solitude during the day when all the people are out working their jobs, but in a car they’ve got nothing to do but stare out a window. Realistically, you’re probably looking at making a stop every four to five hours so you can let them out to walk around for a bit. Added bonus: getting up and walking around will be good for you, too.
When it comes to making these stops, the key is efficiency. Look for places that have open spaces nearby where you can safely walk your dog, then once you’re there, you also can buy any gas, coffee, or whatever other sustenance you might need. It’s inevitable that having a dog with you is going to add some time to your trip, but if you plan accordingly and maximize every stop along the way, it can definitely help minimize the impact.
Read The Fine Print
So, let’s say you’re on the road in the middle of one of those multi-day trips. You’ve decided to call it a day and you’re on the lookout for a place to stay the night. Unless you’re planning on sleeping in your car or setting up a tent somewhere (both viable options, by the way), you’re going to have to consider the fact that most hotels don’t allow pets. Those that do usually have some hidden fees or non-refundable deposits hidden deep within their rental agreements. Even if your dog is a role-model for ideal canine behavior, you could end up paying quite a bit extra for a room.
Of course, there are a number of resources online to help sort out these details. Websites like BringFido and PetsWelcome are great for pet-friendly hotel accommodations, along with the option to search for pet-friendly options on most of the big hotel and travel sites. Of course, once you find some that you might like, make sure you call them and have them explain all of these details before you go rolling into their parking lot in the dead of night.
Have A Place Ready When You Get There
Once you’ve finally arrived at your destination, your dog will need a safe, comfortable place to stay. If you’re crashing with friends or family who know your dog, then this isn’t really a big deal. But, say you’re staying in a hotel that doesn’t allow dogs, you’ll need a plan. Boarding kennels and dog hotels are solid options, if you’re in a big city.
Assuming you’ve got all of that already taken care of, (and why wouldn’t you after reading this list?), leaving your dog in an unfamiliar place could lead to some major anxiety issues. This is where those familiar items start to come into play. Set up a little space just for them, and give them time to become comfortable with that space while you’re there with them. If possible, you may even want to consider bringing their kennel, should you need to leave them in the room for a while — unless you want to take the risk and see the kind of rock-star-level havoc your four-legged friend can do in your absence.