How to road trip with your dog in the USA

For many of us, a dog is a full and complete family member who is treated like a child. A dog, like its owners, also needs an active pastime and a change of scenery. And the dog may well be taken with you on a road trip, although it does add to the hassle. The larger the dog, the more difficult it is to travel with it by car, especially over long distances and for long periods of time.

How to road trip with your dog

Preparing your dog for a car trip

The main preparation for a dog to travel by car, especially for a long trip, is to accustom the dog to the car. The dog should not be afraid of the car, he should get used to it, and he should not get carsick.

You should accustom your dog to the car as early as possible, preferably from puppyhood. A dog, like people, can get carsick, up to and including nausea.

Decide where your dog will usually ride: at your feet, in the back seat, or in the trunk of the car (if you have a station wagon or large SUV with plenty of room after the back seats, of course). For short distances, the dog can also travel sitting in the legs, but for long trips for a dog (especially a large one), you need to allocate a place where the dog can sit and lie down peacefully, changing positions if necessary.

Put a seat cover or a Heated Blanket over the seats so your pet doesn't get his paws all over them. For trunk luggage, use a soft mat where he can lie down.

As with an adult dog, gradually train your puppy to the car, starting with an opportunity to become familiar with the car, sniff it, climb inside and sit in it. Invite your dog to climb into the car and give him a treat inside. After that, drive a short distance with your dog, such as around the block, gradually increasing the length of the ride.

Under no circumstances should you scold your dog if he vomits inside the car.

After the dog has gotten used to the car a little bit, you should do a short touring trip, increasing the distance driven each time. Don't feed your dog before the trip, especially if your pooch isn't used to the car enough yet. It's better to skip one feeding, and feed your pet later.

It is better, and faster, for your dog to get used to the car when he understands that there will always be "fun" in the car after a trip. A trip to the countryside or cottage, followed by active dog games and walks, will be perceived positively by the dog. And after some time, your dog will be asking to get in the car to go "out". Get dog insurance. Much like you need to be insured, it is important that your dog also be insured to ensure you both would get the necessary medical attention in case of an accident. 

Packing your dog's things for the road

A dog, like a child, needs its own travel essentials.

I won't talk in detail about the necessary vaccinations, assuming that any dog must be vaccinated, especially against rabies (forest dwellers can carry a whole bouquet of canine diseases, and your pet can get it from any, even the smallest caught mouse). Vaccination against ticks is also important.

List of items:

  1. Food and water bowl.
  2. A supply of drinking water and food, or a food kit if you feed your dog "straight food". As a rule, in camping conditions the dog eating natural food eats the same as the owners (porridges, soups). The food set increases by one more person.
  3. Bedding for sleeping.
  4. Large rags or towels, in case a soaked or dirty dog needs to be wiped dry before getting into the car. I use old duvet covers for this purpose (they absorb moisture well). And these rags are a must if your dog got soaked and it's cold outside - you need to wipe the dog dry, so that the dog would not catch a cold.
  5. Leash and muzzle (if necessary).
  6. Dog comb. Especially for long-haired and actively shedding dogs. After outdoor games or active games in the pond, the dog's hair starts to shed with particular intensity, and it is better to comb it out, in order to avoid getting into the car interior.
  7. If the dog rides in the seat, a seat cover (or capes).
  8. Dog anti-tick sprays won't be out of place, especially during tick season. And don't forget tweezers or a special product to remove ticks from your dog.
  9. Be sure to take dog "goodies" and a couple of toys when traveling with your dog in the car.
  10. Pharmacy kit (peroxide, bandages, absorbent cotton). Any hiker always keeps a first aid kit with him. It has everything you need in case your pet, for example, hurts a paw.

Placing the dog while riding in the car

In order for the dog to be able to tolerate a long trip, it is necessary to prepare a comfortable place for the dog. Sometimes the trip to the place of rest can take more than one day, for example, the road to the South can take up to three days, and to Lake Baikal - four days one way (with normal travel and a full night's rest). And, the larger your pet, the more room in the car it needs.

There should be enough room for your dog to lie down, stretch out his legs and change position if necessary. Some dogs, as in our case, ride in the back of the car. We travel in the car in threes (me, spouse and dog), so we have the back seat free.

It is possible to allocate space for the dog in the trunk of the car - a station wagon, but it is necessary to fix the things that are in the trunk so that when you move they do not fall on the dog and do not crush or hurt him. To do this, you can use a thick mesh stretched between the walls of the car.

Some tourists use special spacious cages for transporting the pet in the car.

Sometimes dog owners recommend securing the dog with a leash while driving, especially if the dog is too active in the car and there is a risk of jumping on the hands or feet of the driver. Under no circumstances should this be done! When restraining or, more correctly, tying the dog in the car with the leash, if the car suddenly moves, for example, when suddenly braking or avoiding an obstacle, there is a possibility of strangling or injuring the dog, who will just hang on his own collar.

If your dog is acting restlessly in the car, trying to move around the cabin, it is better to transport him in a bag or container - carrier. Trust me, this will be calmer and safer for both you and your pet.

A dog that is used to the car behaves absolutely calmly in it. And many dogs, once the movement has begun, like experienced tourists, collapse in their place and take a quiet nap, occasionally showing curiosity about where they are now.

Don't forget, a dog is more relaxed about a long car trip when he sees his owners all the time. So does a small child.

Stops along the way

As well as people, during the trip by car, the dog needs periodic stops to run and stretch his paws and do the necessary "dog stuff". It is necessary to stop every 2 to 3 hours of driving, for 15 to 20 minutes. During this time, your pet should run (or at least walk). It is best to play with the dog (let him run after a ball or stick).

The dog should definitely be watered during the stop

Also, while driving in the car, especially if it is hot outside and there is no air conditioning in the car, the dog should be watered. Running air conditioning also dries the air, so the dog should still be given water.

In order not to stop for a long time during driving we adjusted ourselves in the following way: a small bowl and a bottle of water are always ready at hand. We pour a little water into the bowl (we hold the bowl in our hand, so as not to spill the water). The dog drinks. If necessary, we add more water. Excess water from the bowl can safely splash out the window.

In no case you can not leave the dog in the car with the windows tightly closed. Especially in the heat. Too high temperatures in a car heated in the sun and the lack of fresh air can kill your pet.