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Through the ages, dogs have been called man’s best friend. To put it simply, dogs are awesome, but the love for our drooling, furry companions goes far beyond watching them beg for food, play catch or live up to the title as the traditional household pet. It’s evident that people have such strong bonds with their dogs. In fact, they’ve become a deciding factor behind millennial home purchases and coming home from vacations ahead of schedule. For a dog owner, there’s nothing worse than leaving your fur child behind.

So, why not take them with you? About 37 percent of pet owners travel with their pets every year, up from 19 percent a decade ago, and travel companies are rising up to meet that growing demand. Setting off on a road trip with Fido is not only more accessible than ever, it’s a great bonding experience that can encourage you to explore more remote, special locations away from tourist hot spots. With thousands of miles of open road to cover, you don’t have to stress the anxiety of leaving your dog at home when you can just bring them along!

Taking a road trip with your dog can add a handful of steps to the preparation process. Just like you pack your suitcase for a vacation, your pup has his basic necessities. We’re covering everything you need to know to make sure your four-legged BFF is ready to hit the open road with you.

Daily Essentials for a Road Trip With Your Dog

There’s nothing worse than leaving home for the weekend without your toothbrush, medication or a change of clothes — the same goes for your dog. While humans can grab just about any necessity from a convenience store on the side on the road, it might be harder to find the essentials for your furry companion. If you’ve never been on a road trip with your dog, the best piece of advice is to keep their routine as normal as possible. Use our guide below to help create your dog’s travel checklist, so you don’t hit the road and realize you’ve forgotten the basics.

essentials for traveling with a dog

Prepare Your Vehicle

While road trips with your furry family member are fun and memorable, they can also be exhausting. An extended period of time in the car can wear out even the most patient passenger. Just like kids might ask “are we there yet,” dogs can express their restlessness by hanging out the window, standing on the center console, or trying to squeeze their way into your lap. It’s important to equip your car with a dog-friendly safety restraint. This way, in the event of an accident, you can help protect your pup. Fortunately, there are all kinds of “doggy seatbelts” to choose from that can fit you and your dog’s road trip style.

dog car safety

Gather Your Dog’s Gear

The best part about road trips are often the hikes and excursions that come with exploring the outdoors, and any adventure enthusiast knows that having quality gear is essential to having a successful trip. Your closet may be overflowing with the latest gadgets, but when you explore the outdoor terrain with your dog in tow, be sure to keep his needs in mind.

For most dogs, putting booties and other gear on for the first time will be a little uncomfortable, so test this out at home a few times before committing to it on the road. In fact, your dog might even get excited when you pull his gear out knowing that he’s going on a trip with you!

dog hiking gear

Prevent Heat Stroke in Dogs

While summer marks the peak season for road trips, it’s also the hottest time of the year. Unlike humans, dogs are only capable of producing sweat through their nose, paws and tongues, so temperatures that seem bearable to us can potentially have dire consequences for our furry friends. Never leave your dog in the car — not even for a minute.

It may not feel as hot outside, but cars basically work like a greenhouse, trapping the sun’s heat and can reach deadly temperatures for your dog within minutes. Always consider the weather conditions when planning a road trip with your dog and remember to avoid exercise in the heat.

If you’re worried your dog may have heat exhaustion, it’s essential to reduce his core body temperature. You can help by moving your dog to a shaded or air-conditioned area, pouring cool water over his coat, or spraying his footpads with alcohol to improve evaporation and dissipation of heat. Most importantly, get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

heat stroke in dogs

Tips for a Smooth Road Trip with Your Dog

Now that you and your furry friend are all packed and ready to go, it’s important to consider your dog’s perception of travel. Some dogs only associate the car with going to the vet, while others aren’t accustomed to being on the road for extended periods of time. If this is your pup, there are a couple things you can do to ease tension and better prepare for a smooth drive.

  1. Take a trial run — Start by taking a drive to a nearby park, or a local hiking spot. Finding a fun and relaxing place for your dog to enjoy can give them something to look forward to. Build up to longer periods of time spent in the car by starting with a location 10 minutes away, then 30 minutes, then an hour. Be sure to include lots of positive reinforcement with each drive.
  2. Utilize rest stops — Taking frequent stops can help with canine car sickness, but it’s also a good opportunity to stretch, take a potty break, grab some water and explore new spots. Your dog will thank you for this later!
  3. Avoid canine car sickness — Just like humans, some dogs suffer from car sickness. While this is more common among puppies, some dogs don’t grow out of it. Fortunately, there are several simple solutions for helping alleviate motion sickness in dogs. Try cracking the windows for fresh air, make sure your dog can see out the window, take frequent breaks and short trips ahead of time, keep them occupied with fun toys or feed your dog less before a road trip. If all else fails, consider talking to your vet about motion sickness medication or something to help ease their nerves.

dog on a road trip

In short, dogs are the perfect companions, and, as pet owners, it breaks our heart to leave them behind on an adventure. Fortunately, road trips make for a great bonding experience and give you the chance to bring Fido along for the journey. Every road trip begins with a plan, so while you’re creating your packing list, preparing snacks for the road and curating the perfect playlist, do the same for your pup to make sure you both have a fun trip and make memories along the way! Get started planning your trip today!

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