6 Questions to Ask Before Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip

Taking your canine on a road trip is always an exciting proposition. Imagine all the fun you’ll have exploring the world together!

However, traveling with dogs can also be a logistical challenge. You have to bring everything along that your dog needs, plan your travel schedule around their needs, and consider whether or not your dog would even like to go on a road trip.

Credit: Dagny Gromer

Ask yourself the six questions below before you drag your dog along on a trip.

Has My Dog Ridden in a Car for a Long Time Before?

You don’t want to set out on a six-hour road trip if your dog has never been in the car for more than 30 minutes.

Many dogs do perfectly fine in the car for short periods. But after an hour or so, they can get antsy and even car sick.

If your dog has only taken short car rides around town, they are probably not ready for a long road trip. You’ll need to work them up to longer drives before it’s time to leave. The last thing you want is to realize that your dog hates long car drives halfway down the road!

We recommend taking your dog on a few practice trips before you commit to an hours-long drive. These rides should be at least an hour long.

You can head to a dog park in another town, hit a hiking trail, or visit a friend’s house. What you do doesn’t matter very much. You just went to ensure that your dog has some experience with longer trips.

Does My Dog Get Car Sick?

Just like people, some dogs are more prone to getting car sick than others. Some dogs may not get carsick when driving over short periods and then get highly sick when driving for hours.

(This is why test runs are essential!)

Dogs prone to motion sickness aren’t necessarily unsuitable for road trips, but you will need to plan around their sickness a bit!

For dogs that get extremely motion sick, medication is available. You will have to speak to your vet about getting a prescription. There are several options available, and you may need to find one that works best.

Most medications work for 24 hours, so only one dose will be necessary!

Some dogs get motion sick mainly due to anxiety. If your dog falls into this category, anti-anxiety medication, dog pheromones, or lavender may be helpful.

Here are some more car sickness cures for dogs:

  • Calming herbs
  • Special toys and chews
  • Colder environment
  • Desensitization to the car
  • Familiar objects

We recommend trying multiple cures at once. They often work best when used together.

Is My Dog Trained Enough for the Road?

It is tough to take an untrained dog on a road trip. Your canine should know the basic dog commands before you attempt to take them on any trip.

A recall command is also beneficial should your dog escape from the car. However, this is a more advanced command and not necessarily required.

Your dog should know how to sit, stay, come, and lay down, though.

A leash-reactive dog is tough to handle on trips – when they’ll be spending most of the time on a leash!

Canines that aren’t social and tend to react negatively to people aren’t good candidates for trips. You should work on socializing your dog heavily before taking them on a trip. If your dog is lunging, barking or freaking out when he encounters people or other dogs,  don’t take him along.

Are the Places I’m Stopping Dog Friendly?

One of the biggest logistical hurdles of taking your dog on a trip is finding places to eat, shop, and stay that are dog-friendly.

You should figure this out before you hit the road.

Your destination should be dog-friendly. Be sure to double-check! You don’t want to show up at a campsite only to find out that they don’t accept dogs during that time.

If you’re staying at someone’s house, be sure they are okay with your canine tagging along.

If you need to stop by a hotel halfway through your trip, locate one that accepts dogs. You may have to plan your driving route based on where the dog-friendly hotels are.

Eating is less problematic since you can always eat in the car if necessary. However, there are often dog-friendly restaurants in major cities. If you’re driving by one, consider stopping at a dog-friendly restaurant to stretch your legs.

Is My Dog Physically Ready?

If your dog has a chronic health condition, it may or may not be able to go on a road trip. It depends on their specific health condition and overall well being. Sick dogs likely won’t enjoy being on the road, even if their condition is technically manageable on the road.

You also have to consider what you’ll do if your dog gets sick while you’re traveling. Do you have the funds to stay in a different location for a few days while your dog recovers?

Be sure to check the vaccination laws for wherever you’re going. Different areas have different vaccination requirements. Some require the rabies vaccine every three years, while others require it every year.

You don’t want to potentially get in trouble with animal control because your dog isn’t vaccinated correctly.

Always keep your dog’s vaccination records with you, as well as any other essential vet records.

Am I Okay with Turning Around?

Dogs are unpredictable. If you decide to take your canine friend on a trip, you have to be okay with turning back around if something happens.

Back-up plans are essential for these trips to go well.

If your dog suddenly gets sick in the car, do you have a plan B? Are you okay with turning around?

What if your dog needs more stops than you’re expecting? If your trip needs to be completed on a specific timetable, we do not recommend taking your dog with you. They tend to suck up time on trips, especially if they’re suddenly too nervous to do their business at a rest stop.

If you’re set on getting to your destination, then taking your dog with you is not recommended. We don’t recommend taking your dog on time-sensitive trips.

If you have a wedding to get to, now is not the time to drag your dog along with you.

Final Thoughts

Taking your dog on a trip with you can either be fun or an absolute nightmare. It is vital to think about the logistics of taking your canine with you. Consider where you’ll be staying and eating on top of your final destination.

Be honest about your dog’s readiness for a long trip too. Not all dogs are great road trip buddies and that’s okay. Don’t take your leash-reactive, unsocialized dog on a trip. It will stress both you and them out considerably.

Finally, have fun! If you aren’t having fun with your dog on a road trip, then what’s the point?

Steffi Trott is the owner and founder of SpiritDog Training. Originally training dogs in-person, she added online training in 2018 to her business. Steffi strives to provide game-based, positive training solutions for owners and their dogs.

When she is not training other owners’ dogs she competes in dog agility or hikes in the New Mexico and Colorado wilderness with her own four dogs.

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