Eleven Tips for a Dog on a Road Trip

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When you’ve spent two weeks driving  4,153 miles / 6,684 kms with a dog, you learn a practical thing or two along the way!

Here are Banjo and my top tips for going on a road trip with a [large] dog:

Image © Kurgo 1. Safety first! Invest in a seat-belt or other restraining device.  This is as much for your safety as it is for your Shyhound’s!  I recommend the Kurgo Auto Zip-Line, which comes with an adjustable harness.  With it, your Shyhound is kept safe, but is free to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Absolutely essential if you plan on spending several hours a day in the car.

Image © Kurgo 2. Protect your car too! Dog fur, muddy paws, and carsick drool can quickly dirty the backseat of your car. Why waste time cleaning it when you can hose/ shake off the dirt from a well-fitting cover instead? We like the Kurgo Wander Hammock – its ingenious design means it arrives in a carrying case which attaches to the back of the front seat – perfect for holding spare poop bags, toys, a collapsible water bowl. As a bonus, it also comes with its own water bottle, which is great for keeping your pup hydrated on the road.

3. Speaking of water: as dogs’ stomachs are sensitive to change, some recommend you bring a supply from home and others say to buy bottled water. Banjo’s stomach is fairly sensitive, but he was OK with national hotel chain tap water. Just let the faucet run for a minute before filling up your Shyhound’s bowl.

4. As for food, bring more than you need – an extra day’s worth for every 3 days you’ll be on the road. As for when to feed Shyhound, do so last thing at night. S/he will be more likely to poop first thing in the morning, which makes for a more comfortable journey the next day.   And if you place Shyhound’s food and water bowls in the bathroom, it will be easier to clean up spillages and crumbs. [Does anyone else have a dog who likes to walk with his mouth full??]

5. Bring a blanket that smells of home.   Use it to protect your hotel bed from Shyhound’s fur – and therefore your credit card against extra room charges!  Plus, it will be a comforting smell for a Shyhound in an unfamiliar place, and it’s nice to cuddle up to in the car on a long journey.  If you bring a soft laundry bag, save room in the trunk (boot) by giving it to your Shyhound to use as a lovely, stinky pillow!

6. There are more dog-friendly hotel chains out there than you realise!  Some charge a pet fee, some require a deposit, others don’t.  For sheer value, we liked Motel 6 – less than $60 a night, and no pet fee.  La Quinta definitely had the nicest rooms and the best continental breakfast, but cost around $100/night with no pet fee.  Best Western seemed to have more hotels in more places, it costs as much as La Quinta AND charged a $20 fee, and the rooms weren’t as spacious. Best of all, should you find yourself in Gallup, NM, do stay at El Rancho Hotel – $100 a night, no fee. (They also have a cheaper motel across the parking lot.)

7. There are plenty of websites which list dog-friendly accommodations and attractions – invaluable for when it comes to planning your trip.  We liked BringFido and DogFriendly.  Although we wished both sites were optimised for handheld devices, we were able to find dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, and off-leash dog parks.  You can also find local veterinary offices, should you need them in an emergency.

8. Stretch your legs – all four of them!  Be sure to stop every couple of hours to let your Shyhound go to the bathroom.  You’ll benefit physically and mentally from a break too.   Take your Shyhound for a brisk walk last thing at night, and, if possible, try to find an off-leash park for him/ her to tear around in before a long journey. Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog and the last thing you want is a hyperactive dog in the car.  At best, it can be annoying; at worst, it’s just dangerous.

9. If you’re renting a car, pick one with good stabilisation and automatic transmission to minimise carsickness.  If you have a large dog, the deeper the backseat, the more comfortable s/he will be lying down.  And don’t forget #2 above to avoid extra cleaning charges!

10. Eating on the road can be difficult for humans when health and safety laws forbid dogs from entering restaurants.   Pick a place where you can eat outside and tie your Shyhound to your chair – not the table, for obvious reasons!  If there is no outside space available, leave your Shyhound in the car and sit where you can keep a watchful eye.  Remember to crack open the car windows.  Most importantly, don’t forget that in summer months and in some states, leaving your dog unattended in a car, even for a few minutes, is against the law.  When in doubt, get the food to go, and eat in your car.

11. Last but not least, make sure your Shyhound is up to date on all vaccinations and tick/flea medications before leaving on a trip.  If s/he takes regular medication (this could include a monthly medication, like a heartworm pill) don’t forget to pack that too!

To read about our long journey, go to Cross-Country Road Trip. Happy travels!

Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments section below!

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