Taking some time off work to go traveling is always exciting — and not just for humans. If your dog is like mine, your dog needs adventure, new smells and things to pee on and frankly just loves being with you as much as possible. (If coming along isn’t medically viable, check out some tips for boarding your dog.)
I’ve taken some great road trips with the girls (LizatheMisfitDog and FionatheTacoDog) and learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. (Read — don’t try to drive on a sunny 95-degree day when your AC has gone out; do make sure to plan frequent pee breaks for all involved.) But a lot of what goes into a successful trip has to do with the prep ahead of time.
Before hitting the open road this summer, zoom through our PetCoach expert’s checklist of what you’ll need to bring along to keep your dog both happy and safe.
1. Talk to your dog’s veterinarian about your road trip
Before hitting the highway, pile into the car and head to your vet’s office for a regular checkup. Let your veterinarian know the areas where you’ll be traveling before you go — there may be diseases and dangers in that area that aren’t as prevalent in your home town. For example, any snow birds heading to the Northeast may want to ask their veterinarian about getting their dog the Lyme disease vaccine or learn the signs and symptoms of tick paralysis. Likewise, those heading South should take heartworm preventatives even more seriously. (Check out other outdoor diseases your dog is at risk of contracting during summer fun.)
2. Get a copy of your dog’s medical records
You’ll also want to make sure you have a recent copy of your dog’s medical records in case an emergency comes up and you have to visit an unfamiliar vet or medical facility. Having your dog’s medical history easily accessible can be a lifesaver.
3. Know the dog-in-car laws and think: Safety first
We’ve all seen it. The person who is simultaneously driving and talking on the phone with their dog half on their lap and half out the window.
A lot of people give their dogs free rein in the car when making a quick trip to the gas station, but letting your dog sit on your lap may be more than unsafe — it may be illegal. Certain distracted-driving laws allow states to charge pet-holding drivers and others explicitly forbid dogs being transported in pickup truck beds without proper restraints. Other states actively encourage but don’t enforce doggy seat belts for general safety. Check out the laws in the states you plan to visit and remember that proper doggy restraint can be a lifesaver for your pup if you were in an accident.
4. Check what kind of coverage, if any, your car insurance provides for your pooch
Speaking of accidents, it’s better to know ahead of time what will happen if your dog gets injured during your road trip. Many car insurance plans now cover dogs traveling in the car, but to what degree and under what circumstances can vary a lot. Be prepared before you hit the highway and give your insurance agent a quick call to discuss your plan — and find out whether it’s road-tripping Rover-ready.
5. Know the signs of heatstroke & how to stay cool
The heat is no joke. While most dog moms know never to leave their dog in a hot car, any dog can be at risk of heat exhaustion and stroke at plenty of other points on your trip. Learn the signs of heatstroke, like increased panting and excessive drooling.
If you missed last week’s article on dog sweat, check it out for some tips on how to keep your doggie cool this summer.
6. Always, always, always use a leash
Pack a few different leash styles and sizes for your trip. My personal favorites include a 15-foot training-style leash for picnics, a lasso-style leash in case we encounter a loose dog and a 4-foot leash for basic walks.
Remember: No matter how Herculean your dog’s recall, anytime you get out of the car, put your dog on a leash. Your road trip will bring you to lots of new places with new sights, smells and dangers that your dog doesn’t know. Keep Rover alive. Keep him on a leash.
Double-check the collar has up-to-date tags too, just in case.
7. Pack your dog a suitcase
OK, this doesn’t have to be big, but I do know some dog-loving moms who will carry more on their road trips for their Boston terriers than they do for themselves. Think of it this way. If you have to bring it for yourself, chances are your dog has its version too. You have your food and snacks, you bring doggie’s food and snacks. You have your water, you’ll need Rover’s water. You bring your medication, you’ll need his medication.
What you may not have thought of, though, might include travel bowls for food and water, a travel bed and some toys that can keep your dog entertained on the road. If your dog’s up for it, you might even consider some Doggles.
8. Locate pet-friendly hotels before you hit the road
This can be a biggie. Gone are the days of sneaking your pup into not-so-friendly hotels because none accept pets. (Which, of course, I’ve never done…) Today, there are lots of hotels and chains that will welcome you and your dog. Red Roof Inns, for example, make a special point of being pet-friendly and have been my harbor in a few storms. Just be sure to call ahead to confirm whether the hotel policy allows pets and to ask about any additional fees or policies that apply.
Traveling can be a nightmare or it can be a breeze. The more you prepare, the more at ease everyone will be. Start making arrangements early and get ahead of the stress to make your road-trip with Rover a trip to remember for all the right reasons!