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Your Guide to a Successful Road Trip with Your Dog

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A road trip is the perfect opportunity to bond with your dog and let them experience new sights and sounds they may not get in their own neighborhood. Your dog will love exploring new paths, and you’ll love creating new memories with your best friend.

Before you hit the road, you’ll want to be fully prepared. Here’s a helpful guide for having a successful trip with your dog

Essential Supplies to Pack for Your Road Trip

While you’re packing your own necessities, make sure to pack what your dog will need while you’re away. You’ll need supplies for their day-to-day activities, and you should also pack items for an emergency as well.

7 Tips to Make a Road Trip with Your Dog a Success

Tip 1: Get your dog used to long car rides.

Longer car rides can be stressful for dogs, especially if they aren’t used to them. It’s best to start small. Drive around the block first and reward your dog along the way. Praise and treats will help your dog associate car rides with fun, positive experiences.

Slowly increase the distance and time spent in the car until you’re confident your dog will be comfortable for longer periods of time. Getting exposure to car rides months in advance will help reduce stress for you both.

Tip 2: Plan your route in advance.

Spontaneity can be part of the fun of a road trip, but it’s important to know about dog-friendly places along your route. Look for dog parks, dog-friendly restaurants, and rest stops with fenced areas for some much-needed exercise. 

There are tons of great websites you can visit to find the best dog-friendly spots in your area, such as BringFido and Sidewalk Dog.

If you’re not planning to camp with your dog, you’ll need to find pet-friendly accommodations. Before you head out, confirm that your hotel or vacation rental does allow dogs.

Tip 3: Check-in with your vet before you leave.

Make an appointment with your vet to check that it’s safe for your dog to travel. Having trouble getting an appointment? You can get quick access to veterinary expertise through Hello Ralphie. If your dog gets sick while you’re on the road, you can also use Hello Ralphie to chat with a vet online. They can help you keep your dog safe and comfortable until they can be seen in person.  

If your dog takes meds, get their prescriptions refilled before you leave so you won’t have to worry about running out. Pack all of the necessary tools you need to make sure they’re properly administered, e.g. pill pockets, treats, applicators and syringes, etc.

Tip 4: Keep your dog’s safety in mind.

Just like you, your dog needs to wear a seatbelt or be properly secured in case of an accident. Dog car seats and seatbelts that attach to your dog’s harness are great safety options. 

Crates are also a good choice because not only do they keep your dog secure, they also provide some room to stand up and move around without distracting you when you’re driving. 

An important thing to consider when you’re traveling with your dog is that it’s best to not leave them alone in the car. In warmer months, your car can quickly become too hot for your dog, putting them at risk of a heat stroke. The cold months are also dangerous and leaving your dog in the car can put them at risk of hypothermia. Many states have enacted laws that prohibit animals from being kept in a car in dangerous conditions.

Tip 5: Manage your dog’s stress.

Starting slow with your car rides and making them a positive experience with treats and praise will go a long way toward minimizing your dog’s stress. However, your dog may still get stressed, especially if your car ride is hours long. 

Bring something from home that offers a familiar scent. This might be their favorite toy or an article of your clothing or a favorite blanket. Keep this item close to your dog in the car to calm them.

Keep the radio at a reasonable level, as this can sometimes trigger fear responses. Alternatively, you can try playing soothing music for dogs. Crack a window to provide some fresh air, but be careful never to lower your window low enough to be a safety risk to your dog. 

If you know that your dog experiences anxiety about car rides and you’ve tried training, reinforcement, and other calming methods, talk to your vet before you leave. They may prescribe anti-anxiety medicines like antihistamines, anxiolytics, or sedatives.

Tip 6: Be mindful of motion sickness.

For some dogs, just like people, too much time spent in the car can lead to uncomfortable motion sickness. Be on the lookout for these signs that your dog may be car sick.

Counterconditioning your dog through positive reinforcement can have a positive effect on your dog’s reaction to the car ride. If your dog still experiences discomfort, you can approach motion sickness similar to anxiety

Keep your car cool and comfortable. Make sure they have something near them that smells familiar to keep them calm, and make sure they’re securely fastened to minimize movement. 

Traveling on an empty stomach can also be helpful, but for longer road trips that isn’t always possible, as your dog will need to eat. 

If you’re worried about your dog’s motion sickness, speak to a vet before you leave. They may be able to prescribe anti-nausea medications to prevent vomiting and make them more comfortable.

Tip 7: Make frequent stops.

Even if your dog loves car rides and doesn’t show signs of anxiety or stress, they’ll still need frequent stops to stretch, go potty, or grab a quick snack.

When you let your dog out of the car, make sure they’re on a leash and wearing their ID tags at all times. Microchipping and GPS-enabled dog tags are also great safety precautions in case your dog gets loose outside the car.

During your pit stops, make sure to exercise your dog. Even on the road, they need mental and physical exercise to stay happy and healthy. This can also help reduce their car-ride anxiety.

Ready to Make Lasting Memories with Your Best Friend?

Road trips can be the ultimate bonding experience for you and your dog. They can be safe and fun if you plan and prepare accordingly. Make sure your bags are packed with all the essentials, and your pup is comfortable and confident on the road. 

Remember to be patient and check in with your dog before and during your trip. Once you’ve taken all the precautionary measures and your dog is comfortable cruising, you’ll both be happily exploring new destinations together!

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