Dogs are the ultimate ride or die friends. For many pets, hopping in the car with mom, dad, or a full family and heading to an awesome destination is about as good as it gets.
Maybe not as good as rolling in poop, but otherwise it’s tops
Tips for an epic road trip:
1. Plan fun stops along the way!
- Enjoy the journey instead of rushing through it
- Discover new locations to explore
- Give you and your dog opportunities to stretch out and arrive to your destination less stiff
- Have a more active instead of sedentary travel day
Tips to find a location:
- First, get your full route on a map program
- Next, zoom in on a section of the route where you may want to stop based on the amount of time you will have been in the car
- Finally, type “parks” or “trail” into the search feature on the map. Look for something close to the highway that might be interesting or fun. My general rule is it has to be within 10 minutes if it’s just a good stop, but I’ll drive 15 minutes if it looks incredible. Once I have a stop in mind I do a quick internet search for the following:
- Is it dog friendly?
- Will it be open around the time I arrive?
- Do the pictures and reviews look good?
- I usually check a these from a site like google and also
- From a dog friendly website like Bring Fido
- If it’s a dog park:
- Do you have to have a membership, register with your rabies tags, or pay money to go in?
- Definitely look at reviews and pictures for dog parks. Some are amazing, and others may have good reviews as being a great place to go close to the highway, but when you get there it is just a fence around a small area of grass. I would qualify this as an excellent potty stop, but wouldn’t plan my day around it.
- Typically the best parks and trails I find are public parks where I have to keep my dog on a leash. Don’t limit yourself to just looking at dog parks
- My favorite dog park in the South East US (and my dog’s):
- Hands down DogWood Park of Jacksonville. Seriously, check it out!
- If it’s a trail:
- Check the level of difficulty and know the map well before heading out.
- Check reviews to see if it is a well marked trail or easy to get lost
- If you are looking for 1-3 miles of trail to get out and stretch your legs, you don’t want to accidentally get stuck on a 7 mile route bc of confusing trailhead markers
- My favorite trails in the South East US
- FILL IN HERE
2. Pack light and in as few bags as possible
Why: Often at road trips we are stopping overnight at hotels, friends houses, Airbnb’s etc.
Dragging bulky or heavy luggage in one hand when your dog is on leash in another can be annoying and cumbersome.
If you are able to sleep in your car or have a camper you don’t have to worry about this step:-)
- When you first arrive somewhere, take your dog for a quick potty walk before trying to grab any luggage
- Bring luggage that is easy to carry and have one or both hands free:
- Stackable rolling luggage
- Book bags
- Fanny packs etc.
- Bring just the dog essentials (and a few optional perks):
- Food, Water (for car/trip), and bowls
- Leash and collar
- Mat or Bed
- 1-2 Toys
- A couple things to chew (ex bully stick/nylabone)
- Travel Crate
- Towels and clean up stuff in case your dog gets muddy, throws up in the car, etc
- If going somewhere remote or are planning on hiking here are some other things you could add:
- Pet first aid kit with a little manual of what to do should your dog need quick help and you aren’t close to a vet
- Pack a paw: I hike a lot with my dog who is 72 pounds and sometimes we are far from the trailhead. It gives me tremendous peace of mind to know that if he got really hurt I have a way to get him back. If you have a big dog and may not be able to carry them for a couple miles should something happen, I highly recommend this item. I am in no way affiliated with the company, just a big fan:-)
- Small book bag for carrying enough water and snacks for you and your dog on the trail
- It’s a good idea to always have extra just in case you lose the trail or it takes longer than expected.
3. Train your dog for the experience!
This is by far my best tip:-)
One of the biggest bummers on a road trip is when you are expecting to have a blast with your dog and it’s clear they are not having a good time.
Things you can avoid that suck:
- Your pup looks nervous and fearful of the new sites/sounds
- Your dog is car sick
- Your dog is stressed, barking like crazy, and ruining you and your passengers good time
Test how your dog reacts to the kinds of things they will be exposed to before you go. This will give you an idea of there are some areas your dog could use preparation and support BEFORE you are on the road. Below are some examples of things that training can help with:
- Ex. Go to a gas station near a highway and practice taking your dog for a potty walk next to all the noise of the highway. If they are sound sensitive or fearful of big trucks, this is excellent information to have pre-trip.
- Try walking your dog into a local dog friendly hotel lobby where they will see people rolling luggage, walking other dogs, and will be in an unfamiliar environment. If they are barking, lunging, or having any kind of anxiety take a mental note of what appears to be triggering the reaction.
- If you will be camping, test how they react to putting up tents, making a campfire etc.
In any of the examples above you can help your dog build confidence in these environments through training.
Bonus Training Tip: Teach your dog to get in and out of the car politely.
For information about how to do this contact us anytime. We would love to help you prepare for your epic road trip!