My two poodle mixes have now completed two road trips. Last May, our road trip took us from New Mexico to Arizona, Utah and Colorado. More recently, I took a road trip from Albuquerque to Los Angeles with the pups in tow. Here are some things that I have learned along the way:
1. Acclimate Your Dogs to the CarSince we got our two dogs, they regularly travel in the car with me, whether it is to make a drive-thru run or bounce around town running errands. Before leaving for a multi-hour/multi-day road trip, make sure that your dog is comfortable in the car. If your canine does not travel by car often, a test drive before your trip will help you understand how they will react and if you should expect bouts of car sickness.
2. Have their Vaccines and Medications UpdatedMake sure that you have enough medication to last through your trip and even a couple of days after you return so that you don't have to rush to the vet upon arriving home. Having their vaccinations up-to-date is important for their health. Also, don't forget to bring copies of their vaccination status with you. Many daycare and boarding facilities require vaccine paperwork before they will accept your dog.
3. Have Necessities within ReachWhen planning out our road trip routes, I try to schedule things so that we won't have to drive after sunset. This is because even the major highways of our country can be quite desolate. When you are on a tight schedule, the last thing you want to do is rummage through your car to find necessities that you might need during stops along your route. The items that I keep close at hand include leashes, poopie bags, water and paper towels. Hand sanitizer would also be a good idea.
4. Keep the Pups SecureIf your dogs are anything like mine, they love to wander around the backseat of the car, jump into the driver's seat when you leave and be a general distraction. A safety harness keeps them from distracting the driver and passengers as well as keeps them safe in case of an accident.
Both of my dogs have Sleepypod Clickit Sport harnesses. These harnesses run on the expensive side, but for us, it is worth it to have the peace of mind that they are secure. This harness was the ONLY harness to pass the Center for Pet Safety's 2014 crash protection test.
5. Protect Your Car (as much as possible)Dogs get dirty, but your car doesn't have to. We purchased the Solvit Waterproof Seat Cover (pictured above) from Amazon specifically for our first road trip. It protects our backseat from our dogs' dirty paws, plus water spills and spit ups that may occur.
6. Take Frequent Stops with Multiple PurposesOur Sleepypod harnesses can also be used outside of the car as a walking harness so you don't have to switch back and forth at stops along your route. Another tip for saving time is to take stops at places where you can complete multiple tasks. When we stopped in Gallup, NM on our recent trip, we stopped at the Navajo Travel Center. Here, I was able to fill up the tank with gas, use the restroom and buy a small snack, plus the dogs were able to relieve themselves, take a short walk and get in a cute photo opp!
When we traveled to Roswell, NM last summer, we took a long walk along their Main Street. We found the city to be very dog-friendly, and we were able to take the dogs into the Roswell Spacewalk and the International UFO Museum. This helped immensely with getting some of their energy out while allowing us to take in some tourist sites.
When looking for a place to rest your head for the night, make sure you confirm the hotel's pet policy. Many hotels charge additional pet fees and have weight limits. Even if the pet policy was listed on the hotel website, I would call to confirm the policy and also check to see if I had to pre-request a pet-friendly room.
7. Book Pet-Friendly Accommodations and Invest in Crates
We bring two dog crates with us during our travels. This is mostly to keep the dogs safe and secure when we are not in the room. Housekeeping will probably also thank you for crating your dogs. My bigger doodle would scare the daylights out of them!
8. Stick to Your RoutineMy dogs are creatures of habits. We try to stick to our routine as much as possible, including feeding times, potty times and bedtime, to help them stay comfortable and to be less disoriented with all of the new places we are visiting.
9. Have Fun and Prepare for Photo Ops!
One of my favorite road trip planning websites is Roadside America. I have found so many wild photo stops from them, including the Painted Desert Indian Center in Holbrook, AZ. If time allows, take the opportunity to see as much as you can along your route. Who knows when you will be back?
My dogs are pretty good at posing and staying on command, but if yours are not, try to practice before your trip and bring treats!