Planning a Road Trip with the Dog


When the weather begins to moderate, we begin to day dream about vacation time. The days grow longer; daylight stays until almost 8 o’clock in the lower United States and we have “cabin fever.”What is “cabin fever” you ask? It’s not a real, physical illness, it’s a longing to get out of the house and plant flowers, take a long walk in the sun, build something, go fishing, etc. Most of us are disgusted with Winter. It’s so cold outside, the days are short, and our tempers get “short” too.

Family members begin to talk about where to go this summer. The kids want to go to a Theme Park; Dad wants to take a prolonged road trip,with a couple of fishing side trips along the way. Mom wants to go somewhere that doesn’t require her to do anything domestic. She wants to be pampered, she doesn’t want to cook, wash or iron clothes.

Then the kids ask, “Can we take Tops with us, please, can we?” Tops is their new dog. He is part Golden Retriever and no one knows exactly what else. He is a sweet dog, but how will he travel? Mom puts the kids off with a half-hearted, “We’ll talk about it later.” The last thing Mom wants to do is to plan a road trip with the dog.

Train Your Dog for the Trip

The begging, the tears and the shouts of joy are all over and it’s been decided that Tops will go on vacation with the family. Does Tops know about riding in a car? Someone in the family must take charge of his training.

1.Take Tops in to see the veterinarian. Tell the vet you’re going to be on vacation and you want to be sure Tops is healthy. Make sure he has a current rabies shot and any other shots he may need. Get a copy of Top’s medical record to take with you.

2. Make sure Tops is okay with riding in the car. Do some short practice road trips. Make sure none of these trips are to the vet. You want Tops to understand that riding in the car is fun and he may go anywhere with you. Take him places that are strange to him and where people that he does not know are shopping or visiting. Make sure he knows how to act in these instances.You will be his guide.

3.Tops is a large dog so you won’t have a carrier or a crate for him, but don’t let him roam loose in the car. All dogs should ride in the backseat. Keep a leash on him at all times. When you stop at a rest area, you don’t want Tops to bolt out of the car.

4. Stop about every two hours. Dogs need rest stops too.

5. Take dog treats and chew toys. Bring Tops’ favorite food, his favorite blanket or bed and his water bowl. Also bring his comb and brush. He will be getting out of the car into  some places that have weeds and high grasses and you will want to keep his coat clean.

Decide on places to see, Where to Sleep

You have the dates you are going to be gone, you have the dog trained, now where are you going? You have made arrangements to visit a theme park for the kids and the rest of the trip will be sight seeing with overnight stops at motels. Find out from the Theme park their rules concerning pets. Some will allow dogs on leashes while others have kennels for visitors to house their pets while seeing the sights.

Check with Motels about rules for pets. Some allow pets with no extra arrangements, others charge an additional fee for a  pet to stay in the room. A few motel chains do not allow pets in the room. Do not sneak your pet into the Motel, go on down the road to another facility. You can save yourself some hassles, it you decide how far you are going each travel day and make motel reservations ahead of time.

Traveling with a small Dog has a few different  considerations

Before we round out our story , we need to take a look at our friends with small dogs. If you are traveling by car, all small dogs should be confined in a crate or a small carrier. Put them on a leash so that when you stop for a rest, your little dog can’t get away. They should at all times be in the back seat,  All other considerations would be the same as for large dogs. Small dogs are more likely to be acceptable at most Motels.

Some rules are made to be broken, however. My mother had small dogs and the current family pet always rode in mother’s lap in the front seat of the car at all times. In their retired years, my mother and father drove all over the Southwestern United  States. Dad bought a GM pickup truck and a small travel trailer and  outfitted it with everything necessary for camping.  The little dog, sometimes two little dogs, were always with them.

Alternative Travel Vacations

Some people like to “rough it” and spend all their vacation time in the great out of doors. It’s called Camping. With the right gear, camping can be almost as easy as being in your own kitchen. However, everybody in the family should be in agreement about a camping vacation. If even one person is not happy about the choice then the whole vacation will be less than ideal.

But if everybody is “gung ho” about a camping trip, consider National Parks, and National Forests for your destination. All campgrounds have information on rules and regulations for campers, and if pets  are allowed.

 You would be wise to check early on campgrounds in popular areas. During summer months campgrounds in some areas are completely filled.

A good time was had by all

Our pets become part of the family. With a little training, your dog can be delightful company, especially for your kids during a long trip. Also consider that your dog can be a watchdog for your belongings. Most dogs bark when strangers approach, and that can be a good safety measure. Take the dog. You’ll all have a great time.

12 thoughts on “Planning a Road Trip with the Dog”

  1. This article really came at the right time because I am planning on going on vacation and taking my dog along with me for the first time. I actually I told there is no need to train the dog for the trip but reading through this has enlighten me why I need to train my dog and the guidelines to follow I must commend you for taking your time to share this information

    1. Dhayours,

      Please take your dog on some short rides to see how he gets along. If he looks forward to riding with you-you are good to go. But what if he should get “car sick?”  you need to know what to expect. Car sickness and anxiety can be treated.-See your Vet. The idea is for Both of you to enjoy the ride.

  2. I love the idea of travelling with a pet and I love your post. Animlas, when they become part of the family they are just like any other member and I would not want to leave mine behind. It’s alwyas good though to remind peple what to do, i think we often forget about the needs that our lovely four paws friends might ahev espcially when we are travlling. Thank you for the great post, summer it’s almost here and now I can’t wait to go on vacation with my Bozo!

  3. You have a very catching and unique style of writing which made reading this article so much more fun! I could imagine the whole story in my head as you choose very nicely your words. Although I don’t have a dog (I have two cats) I could now say that I am prepared for a road trip with a dog (for cats, I assume, there are other rules -oh wait, cats don’t have rules). Thanks for this share!

  4. I have never taken my dog on a road trip but I have always wanted to. It has not been that long that I got the dog and I have not really trained it as you suggested in this post. I do take long trips and I actually think my dog might not be able to handle these type of trips. Maybe that is because I have not yet trained it. I am going to have to start working on that. Dogs can really be fun to be around and they can brighten my day especially when I am feeling down.

    1. Jay,

      Glad you liked my article. You should take the time to teach your dog to ride in the car. Consider your dog as a toddler–He doesn’t know what and how-He looks to you to teach him.

  5. Great information on traveling with dogs.  I wish I had seen this before we moved from Texas to Florida.  Our dogs run around free in the house and in the yard,  Short trips to the vet and dog groomer was about it for their car ride.  Teddy is a rescue dog, and I did not realize how he was on a long car ride.  He continually got sick and shook like a leaf.  I wish I had made sure he was good for the ride.  Now that I know, I take certain precautions and give him something to relax.

    1. Matt’s Mom,

      You learned the hard way about your dog’s problems. Some animals do get car sick, just like humans. Glad you found out how to treat the situation. Your Vet is your best friend.

  6. You have a very catching and unique style of writing which made reading this article so much more fun! I could imagine the whole story in my head as you choose very nicely your words. Although I don’t have a dog (I have two cats) I could now say that I am prepared for a road trip with a dog (for cats, I assume, there are other rules -oh wait, cats don’t have rules). Thanks for this share!

    1. Simon,

      You’re right, cats have that unique spirit that says, “you can teach me, but I’ll decide if and when I learn it.” Would you believe, I had a cat that learned to ride in a car.  That is a story for another time. Takes untold patience.

  7. Wow! This is insightful and informative. I must commend you for sharing this awesome information. I have a dog, a Labrador, he is very cool and lively but whenever I go on a journey, I leave him at home to avoid the hassles that may arise from traveling with dogs. Especially, most motels do not like to accept pets into their rooms and this is a big turn off which left me with no option than to always keep him at home. But this post has come at the perfect time.  Now, I know what and how to enable a peaceful travelling for I and my dog. Thanks

    1. Darrick,

      Labradors are wonderful dogs and smart-usually take to training very well. As big as they get, you must take the time to teach him how to behave–If you are not good at it– some pet stores (Pet Smart) actually have classes for you and your dog. Local humane society might know who gives classes.

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