How to prepare your dog for a road trip (and what to do on the trip)
Updated: Jul 19
Need to get away from the city but don’t want to leave your dog behind? Road trips with your dog can be fun as long as you prepare well. What’s more, they’re a great way to spend quality time with your best friend. Here’s how to prepare your dog for road trips:
Before the trip:
Dog-friendly road trip tip #1:
Get your dog used to car travel with a few test drives. Start with short trips and gradually increase the length of the trips. This will help you spot potential issues — Does the dog get carsick fast? How soon before he needs to relieve himself? Does he have a tendency to paw at you while driving? Knowing all of this will help you prepare better.
Dog-friendly road trip tip #2:
Plan your route and stops well in advance to minimise confusion on the road. If its a long trip, look up pet-friendly hotels or favourable spots which have a lot of open ground. In case you’re sleeping in the car, look up safe spots to stop at. It might also be helpful to make a list of animal clinics and medical stores along the route.
Dog-friendly road trip tip #3:
Visit the vet before your trip for a health checkup to prepare your dog for the road trip. If your dog has just recovered from an illnesses, he might need special arrangements when traveling. Your vet can also prescribe medication for car-sickness.
Dog-friendly road trip tip #4:
Carry all of your dog’s essentials such as bowl, food, water, leash, collar, car-sickness bags, treats, medication, blankets, toys and most importantly a name tag on the collar. If you’re staying outdoors, be sure to carry a dog bed and a crate that’s large enough. If it’s just you and your dog on the road, considering getting a seat belt harness.
Dog-friendly road trip tip #5:
Apart from the regular checks that you do for every road trip (fuel, servicing etc), you might want to make adjustments to your car to make it dog-friendly. Install sunshades if its summer. You can get a slipcover for the seats to protect them from fur and scratches.
On the trip:
Dog-friendly road trip tip #6:
Avoid giving your dog a heavy meal just before you travel. Make sure the dog is fed at least four hours before travelling. Prepare your dog for the road trip by taking him on a walk just before you get in the car. This will let him stretch his legs and relieve himself.
Dog-friendly road trip tip #7:
For dog-friendly road trips, the earlier the better. This way you avoid being outdoors in the hotter part of the day. This is important since dehydration is a common risk for dogs when traveling. You can also make extra stops on the way.
Dog-friendly road trip tip #8:
Keep your dog calm by playing soothing music or by giving him a chew toy to work on during the drive. If you have a co-passenger, ask him or her to gently stroke the dog every now and then. Also, try to maintain an even speed through the trip as dogs are prone to motion sickness and can be disturbed by high speed and sudden jerks.
Dog-friendly road trip tip #9:
Make sure the dog is monitored for restlessness, dehydration, signs of wanting to throw up etc. Dogs can get restless in closed, air-conditioned vehicles during the road travel, so you might have to roll down your windows a bit to let in fresh air every now and then.
Dog-friendly road trip tip #10:
Remember to stop every two to three hours and let your dog out to relieve himself and give him water. When you stop for meal times, feed your dog light and wait for enough time before you get back on the road. Always keep your dog on leash if you’re stopping on highways and never leave your dog alone in the car for extended periods of time.
Dog-friendly road trip tip #11:
If you’re driving around for several days, make sure that dog has enough time off the road to recover from the day’s exertion. Let your dog run around a bit after you stop at the end of the day. Give him adequate water and food. Also, check for signs of dehydration, ticks, fleas etc.
Lastly, put all the stress aside and bond with your dog during the road travel. Stop by interesting spots such as wooded places or take mini hikes you can come back from within an hour. Let your dog enjoy himself safely. Have a wonderful trip!