Keep Your Next Road Trip with Fido from Going to the Dogs


If you’re taking a road trip with dogs, you need to do a little more leg work. Bringing your pets along takes more effort than it normally would to plan a road trip.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the most dog-friendly car. Here are a few tips to make sure you and your family have a great time taking a road trip with dogs. Not cats.

Call Your Vet

Before you hit the road, give your dog’s vet a call. You need to ensure Fido is current on all his vaccinations. Tell your vet where you’re going, including stops along the way. The vet might recommend additional vaccinations to guard against known problems in those areas.

While you’re talking to the vet, see if you can get extra medication your dog’s taking. You never know when a delay could keep you away from home a few days longer. It can happen, so make sure your car is ready for a road trip.

Update Tags

Check your dog’s tags before your trip. They should have your current contact info, with your cell number. Your home phone number won’t be of use in another city or state.

Obviously, if the tags are worn down so far you can’t read them, it’s time for a replacement.

Guard the Upholstery

If you’re anal-retentive about the condition of your car, this one is for you. Get a protective cover for your seats if you aren’t putting your dog in the cargo area.

Quite a few companies make protective seat covers aimed at pet owners. Go with a brand that has a good reputation in the automotive sector, like WeatherTech, instead of something made by a pet supplies brand. You’ll enjoy better fitment, which is a big deal with any seat covers.

Freshen the Air

If you’re taking a road trip with dogs, remember: dog breath smells horrible. Other things about dogs can really smell, too. Put some air fresheners in your car a few days before, and keep a large supply for the trip.

Everyone will thank you for this simple step.

Consider Supplies

While you’re making a list of stuff you’ll need for the trip, don’t leave Fido out. He’ll need his usual supplies for each day, like water and food and bowls for each. Don’t forget poop bags.

Check the weather wherever you’re going. If it’s going to be cold, consider packing a sweater for your pup. If you’re going camping, bring along gear for your dog to be comfortable and safe, like protective booties for hiking or illuminated safety vests.

Don’t Dope Him Up

Once I followed a vet’s suggestion and gave my dog a sedative for a long road trip. It was a bad idea, because I practically had to carry him to the car, and he acted off for a couple of days after.

My two cents are to skip the sedative. Instead, take Fido for a long walk before you get in the car. He’ll feel naturally tired and will be content to sit and relax.

Take Breaks

Yes, taking a road trip with dogs is like traveling with kids – you must take more breaks. Obviously, your dog needs potty stops just like humans. In addition, he needs to stretch his legs on at least a small walk, just like humans.

Everyone has their idea of how often you should stop. You know your dog, so you should be able to gauge how often he needs a pit stop.

Bring More Than Plenty of Water

This was another hard lesson learned. Once, in the dead heat of summer, I set out with one of my dogs on a fairly short road trip. We took what we thought was enough water, but he lapped it up in no time. Looking back on it, we should have given him more, but we didn’t have it.


Later, he showed signs of heat exhaustion, threw up, etc. It wasn’t pleasant for anyone. My suggestion is to take twice as much water as you think you’ll need. Having extra will never hurt in an emergency.

Keep the Windows Up

I see people cruising around all the time with the windows down and Fido’s head hanging out. Truth be told, I used to do it. Then I started hearing about dogs jumping out of cars because they saw a cat, or another dog, or especially a squirrely. That’s when I stopped leaving the window down.

Now, I just turn on the air. Believe it or not, my dogs stick their faces in the vents and love it every bit as much as having the window down.

Secure Accommodations Beforehand

You’ll have to plan ahead when taking a road trip with dogs, unless you’re going to stay with family. Some hotels take dogs, and others don’t.

You might have to pay a daily or flat fee to have a dog in your room. These are good things to find out about ahead of time.

Consider a Safety Harness

Believe it or not, dogs do get hurt in car crashes. You can get a safety harness that uses the seat belts in the car to keep Fido from going flying in a collision. The harness also prevents your dog from climbing into your lap while you’re driving.

Even better, get a crash-rated crate. It gives you somewhere to keep Fido if you must leave him in the hotel room alone.

Visit Dog Friendly Locations

I once took two of my dogs to San Francisco. It was amazing, because the Bay Area has many dog-friendly restaurants and venues. We even visited a winery that allowed dogs. Going somewhere where four-legged companions are welcome will make the trip far more enjoyable.

Have you taken your dog on a road trip? Tell us about your experiences.