Reg and I have done a few road trips with Ru, including one big one up through Oregon which I shared here on the blog with you guys. Since we were camping and staying with friends, we didn’t think twice about bringing her along, although many people were astounded when I shared photos of her joining our travels on Instagram. Anyone that knows me personally knows that Ru and I are basically attached at the hip and hardly go anywhere without each other, whether it’s to a house party or a quick grocery shopping trip (yes, I leash her outside or leave her in the car, both of which she loves). Reg and I joke that Ru would agree to be perfectly behaved just about anywhere, as long as she could come with us where ever we go.
Since finding a dog sitter is hard and Ru is a total trooper, doing road trips together was obvious. She loved checking out the national parks, sleeping with us in the Subaru, and climbing water falls as much as we did. In all honesty, other than leash laws and general dog restrictions, having her with us was easy. But there are a few ways that you can make overnights and long car trips with your furball easier.
1. First, be honest with yourself – are you and your dog up for this?
Look, some dogs are just not meant for road tripping. If they aren’t comfortable being left alone in the car or in a strange motel for an hour or two, they probably aren’t a good candidate. If you can’t go grocery shopping or have a nice dinner out because you can’t leave your dog’s side for five minutes, it’s going to be a huge burden and perhaps not worth it. Also, if your dog doesn’t do well sitting in the car for hours because of road sickness or general anxiety, just don’t do it to them. No one is going to have fun on that trip, and everyone would be happier if you left Fido with a caring dog sitter. But if your pup loves hanging her face out the window, curling up asleep in the back seat, exploring new places, and hanging out in the car or in a motel alone, you’ll be fine.
2. Plan your route and stays ahead of time
It’s harder to do things on the fly with a dog in your car for a number of reasons. First, if you’re camping fanatics like us, many federal, state, and even regional parks don’t allow pups at all, and if they do, they have to be on leash and restricted to only paved roads. When we decided to hit up Crater Lake, I did a ton of research to make sure I could bring Ru and find out what the restrictions were (and there were a lot). At one point we decided to leave Ru in the car for an hour and a half while we did a hike she couldn’t come on. But even if you’re not planning to camp, you’ll want to have some pet-friendly hotels in mind that will welcome your little fur ball, so you’re not stuck in a lurch at 11pm without anywhere to stay. Make sure you call to make confirm any breed restrictions, rules, and additional fees.
3. Train your dog to be comfortable in a crate and in a car
These things will not happen overnight, but making sure your dog will be in a place that feels familiar when she’s unattended will help create a lower anxiety situation for everyone involved. You can even crate her when she’s in the car! I won’t go into the details of crate training here, but by slowly introducing her to her little “cave,” it will give her a comfortable and safe space where she can’t hurt herself or the hotel when you’re not around. This was especially important to me when we were staying at our friends’ house. Although we do not use a crate at home anymore, by crating Ru at their house when we went out for dinner, I could be sure she wouldn’t chew up shoes or do anything else to embarrass me or ruin our welcome.
4. Get your dog plenty of exercise to reduce anxiety and make long car rides more bearable
On road trips, your dog’s entire routine goes out the window. While some dogs do just fine with that, others do not. In general, getting your dog plenty of exercise is a great way to make sure she’s happy and not getting into trouble, but this is doubly true on road trips where anxiety can be higher than normal. Reg and I always keep our eyes open for dog-friendly rest stops that have a pen to let your dog off leash, where we stop and play fetch or tug-of-war for 30 minutes. We also make sure to incorporate hikes into our agenda at least every other day, because it’s a great way to tucker Ru out while we take in the natural sites. Plus, it means when you put the pup back in the car, she’ll sleep for hours.
5. Make a packing list of everything you need
Packing lists are a great way to make sure there are no major detours to Pet Smart to pick up more food (yes, we ran out of kibble last time). In addition to the obvious like food, toys, medications, a crate and dog bed, and so forth, there are a few surprising items that are great on road trips. Make sure to bring a doggy jacket or sweatshirt, especially for short haired pups, since camping outside or trips through the snow can be very cold for unprotected furballs. Bring a towel dedicated specifically for your dog, for when she inevitably goes swimming in a river or runs through a mud puddle. I also recommend putting her drinking water in a large Tupperware so you can easily give her some when you take a fifteen minute potty break on the road.
Have you ever taken a road trip with your dog before? Do you think your pup (and you) would be up for it?