Essential Tips for Road Tripping with a Dog

road tripping dog in car

Written by Drew Taylor on

Drew is a travel- and wellness-obsessed writer, editor, and social media strategist based in Brooklyn, NY. Her favorite destinations are Italy and Vietnam, though South Africa is next on her bucket list.

road tripping dog in car

The cherished American pastime of car travel is even more amazing in the company of your BFF (best furry friend). Find out how to make a long road trip with your dog safe and fun for both of you with these tips on how to prepare and what to pack.

While embarking on a long journey with your four-legged friend may seem daunting at first, these owner-approved, road-tested tips for traveling with a pet will ensure that your dog is the ultimate travel buddy.

1. Start with a small road trip.

Work up to long road trips with your dog by taking them on a local excursion or weekend getaway first. You’ll get your pooch used to experiencing new sights, smells, and sounds—and if you give them lots of positive reinforcement along the way in the form of treats, praise, or a favorite toy, they’ll be all the more eager to travel again in the future. Shorter road trips also provide a good opportunity to work through any travel-related quirks that might not have surfaced prior—like a pup who gets nauseous on long car rides (if that’s yours, ask your vet about calming herbal remedies or anti-nausea medications).

2. Prepare for the unexpected.

Sometimes, things happen, even in spite of careful planning—and you don’t want an upset stomach or travel delay to derail your entire road trip.

Just as you should keep a stocked first-aid kit for your pup at home, it’s important to bring the essentials with you on the road in case of injury or illness—this includes gauze and adhesive tape, milk of magnesia or activated charcoal to absorb ingested poisons, hydrogen peroxide, an eyedropper to flush wounds or give oral treatments, and an anti-diarrheal medication (consult your vet for a specific product recommendation for your pet). Store liquids in a spill-proof Silicone Bottle Set so you don’t weigh your bag down with full-size bottles. Aside from first aid, you’ll want at least two days’ worth of extra food, in addition to their usual meals, and a pet-friendly water bottle.

Before you go, store your veterinarian’s number in your phone along with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s hotline—it’s (888) 426-4435—and research the number of an emergency veterinary hospital in the area you will be visiting.

3. Pack your dog’s travel bag in advance.

Much like traveling with a (human) baby, your fur baby requires a little extra planning and gear, so don’t leave this to the morning of your departure. Aside from first-aid and food, their duffel should include a blanket or towel, a treasured toy to remind them of home, and their favorite treats—consider packing a few chews or bones that take a little longer to ingest to keep them occupied in case you dine out somewhere on your long road trip without your dog. You’ll also want to pack a harness to keep them safe and secure while in transit—and if you’ll be near water at your destination, don’t forget a doggy life jacket.

4. Go hands-free.

A convertible duffel bag is perfect for a road trip with your dog because it allows you to hold all the road trip essentials and your pup’s leash while you’re hiking or just hitting a rest stop. Stash a portion of food, their water bottle, and waste bags in the front pocket for easy access—and stow all of your pooch’s must-haves in packing sacs to keep them separate from your own.

5. Wear them out.

It’s a common refrain in dog training: A tired pup is a well-behaved (and happy!) pup. Look up local dog parks, pet-friendly hiking trails, or even dog-friendly national parks along your journey and make time to exercise your furry friend—they’ll thank you by snoozing in the car or staying calm while you go out to eat. Just make sure they’re wearing a collar with ID tag (labeled with your name, number and home address) at all times.

We want to know: Where have you traveled with your dog? What are some of your top tips for successful trips? Let us know on Instagram or Facebook!

Related Links:

4 Best Road Trip Routes in the USA

Why It’s Time to Embrace Microadventures

5 Great Dog-Friendly National Parks