Best advice for Road Tripping with your Dog … you likely haven’t heard before

What do you need to know for the perfect road trip with the dog? Well, if you’re taking the dog along, you’re 90 percent of the way there. 

What else do you need when travelling with the dog? Many articles offer the basics: take food, water, travel dishes, poop bags, and vaccine records. A lot advice is about what to bring and how to secure your dog in the car.

But I was recently asked for advice about travelling with your dog – specifically, road tripping with the dog – which got me thinking about things people don’t immediately consider.

It got me thinking about mistakes I’ve made (and learned from) travelling with the dog during the past eight years, so I created a list of advice I didn’t considered before I hit the road with my faithful Fido. (I also created a full packing list here. Check that out too).

But first…

Guess what? I was recently interviewed for a talk radio travel show called Liz Fleming Travels on NewsTalk 610 AM about travelling with your dog. It aired Saturday, September 11, 2021 at 3pm – check it out on ‘I Heart Radio’ online to listen to the show each week live or on the NewsTalk website.

Here it is: My Best Advice for Road Tripping with the Dog …

Stop frequently, and enjoy the journey

Plan on taking a little (or a lot) longer to get places when your travelling with the dog whether that’s driving hours to your destination or walking from the parking lot to the front desk to your hotel room – for different reasons:

First, plan on stopping about every three to four hours (or more) on a road trip because dogs need to go frequently. Also, few dogs will eat in the car or drink water. Stop to pee and at least drink. It’s been my experience that dogs don’t usually eat until they get settled at the destination. Rarely does mine eat on the journey.

Second, if you’re walking your dog anywhere, even through a hotel lobby, people will stop and ask about your dog – usually as a segue to tell you about their dog. This is especially true if your dog looks like she could be in a Disney movie. I always try and be a good canine-mom citizen because if people have a pleasant experience happening upon my dog, all the more reason for hotels to be pet-friendly.

Third, a sign that dog travel is a thing – many highway rest stops are adding leash-free dog zones perfect for burning off some energy before you get back in the car. I’ve stopped several times with my previous dog and current dog Victoria at the Big Apple dog run (check it out here). A surprise find was years ago at a North Carolina tourist welcome centre, which is a great idea.

Carry updated paper and electronic vaccination records

dog at dog park

Carry update vaccination records with you especially if you’re crossing a border, but even if you’re not. I made the mistake of keeping a paper copy in my glove compartment – stash it and forget it. However, I got used to the paper being there so when the vaccinations expired, I had outdated records.

I ended up at a Dutyfree outlet at the border between Ontario and Michigan calling my vet to electronically send a copy of the records. Since then, I keep them on my phone and paper copy – updated.

Also, you might not only need them at a border – I’ve had to briefly leave my dog at a doggie daycare or kennel while travelling to go somewhere not dog-friendly. Usually, I book it in advance, but even so, you might have to show proof of vaccination (including Bordetella or kennel cough) to leave your dog even for a few hours, planned or not.

Have a photo of you with your dog to prove ownership

Pawlooza 2016

Speaking of your phone, fill it with photos of your dog. Ok. Clearly, you’ve done that. But take several at different times of you WITH your dog BEFORE you leave home. If your dog goes missing or is picked up, a photo of you and your dog together is proof of ownership.

Microchips are great, but compatible scanners are needed and that’s not always practical. Recently, someone I know lost her dog – briefly – to a neighbour who took the dog and claimed it was hers. The police were called, and the attending officer accepted photos of the dog with its real owner as evidence of ownership, and the dog was safely returned.

Keep dog food in the original packaging

Again, I learned this one the hard way: buy an unopened bag of kibble (if you feed dry and honestly, it’s the easiest to take traveling) and pack it if you are crossing a border – even state or provincial. First, a bag not tampered with is likely to believed to be dog food. Second, ingredients matter.

I once crossed between Ontario, Canada and Ohio, USA and was asked if there was any lamb in my dog food. I didn’t know. The border guard looked at the ingredient labels of all my dog food – including every packet of single serve wet food – before he let me cross. Apparently, at the time, no lamb products were permitted into to state. I had no idea.

Bring single serve wet dog food

Also, single serve wet food is my other travel go-to option. Dogs sometimes eat less on a trip and wet food entices them to eat once you get to your accommodation – and single serve are easy to open.

Unlike an entire can, there’s less waste if the single serve isn’t all eaten at once. Most plastic containers are recyclable. And yes, I once packed canned dog food but no can opener. Not all cans are pull tops – another feature to consider.

Pack familiar dog bed and toys

Black and white dog at pet friendly Sandman Hotel Ottawa Ontario

I always have a dog bed and a dog car seat set up in my car because I take my dog with me almost everyday. Take a dog bed from home for your dog and use it in both the car and the hotel room.

Even if your dog sleeps with you on the hotel bed – many hotels ask that you don’t do this but those are the same ones charging an extra ‘cleaning’ fee like the Sandman in Ottawa – bring the dog bed into the room because it’s a familiar smell in an unfamiliar environment.

Similar note: I always pack at least one favourite toy – it’s familiar – and one brand new toy – new mental stimulation – to keep my dog entertain in the hotel room. Unlike me, she doesn’t care to watch tv at the end of a long drive. A new toy entertains and distracts.

Additional Advice for Road Tripping with the Dog

Here is more advice for taking your dog on the road from Fidose of Reality: Turn your Dog Road Worrier to Travel Warrior.

Something I hadn’t thought about, but which training commands will make travel easier? Here’s a list of suggestions: learn before you travel from Go Pet Friendly. Full disclosure: my year-old dog knows none of these. We have work to do.

What to pack? Find the short, long and extensive version of a travels with your dog stuff packing list here.

Also, here’s some great advice from a hiking with small dogs warrior: You Did What With Your Wiener?

Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and a travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria. Contact Sherri at here. All written content is original, written by a person, and based on experience and research. Please subscribe!

One comment

  1. […] Here’s a mistake I make a lot while travelling: I forget to bring any dog water bottles for my high energy pup. On a road trip, pet hydration is particularly important. And she usually asks for water after a vigorous off-leash run, even when we’re just stopping at a run along the highway. […]

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