7 Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

So, you're heading on a vacation with your dog. Good for you! Here's how to prepare and equip yourself properly.


Vacationing with a dog can be a fun and memorable experience for the entire family, especially when hitting the open road. Over the nearly 20 years of vacationing with my dogs, I’ve heard countless numbers of fellow dogless travelers tell me, “I wish we could’ve brought ours along!”

Generally, I ask folks why their pooch isn’t along for the ride, and then reply in kind with ways to bring Fido along the next time around. Granted, it isn’t fret-free, and it requires proper planning. But if your heart is set on roving with your Rover — perhaps even cross-country, as we recently did — here are seven ways to make the trip, trek, and time worthwhile, well-spent, and waggingly wonderful.

1. Safety First

Show some restraint in getting there (he’ll never ask “Are we there yet?” but potty breaks are needed). Never allow your dog to hang its head outside the window of a moving vehicle, as road debris might seriously damage the eyes and sudden stops can be deadly. Travel-ready safety products including harnesses, seat belts, pet partitions, and booster seats will keep dogs out of harm’s way and prevent interference with driver focus. NEVER leave a pet unattended in a car.

If the jingle of car keys results in a slinking away of your pooch to a safer haven behind the couch, you can try to change this. Assess road readiness with a five-minute trip around the block. Slowly increase the amount of time Fido spends in the car, making the destination worthwhile (perhaps go to favorite park). Praise “getting there” with a treat upon arrival. Never take a travel-fearful dog on a road trip. Desensitizing and gradually acclimating Fido takes time and patience. A vet or animal behaviorist can help.

2. Arm Your Dog Against the Elements

Aside from the first aid kit and other must-haves for a doggie excursion, I pack a veterinarian-recommended sunblock and in-car sun shade. My dog is safeguarded from harmful UV rays en route and throughout the trip. Pets, like people, can get sunburn, even in an air-conditioned car.

A deterrent to fleas, ticks, and (bonus) bedbugs, food-grade diatomaceous earth has become a staple in my household and on trips. A chemical-free alternative to pest prevention, I sprinkle some onto my dog’s skin before traveling. After using it for more than a year, I’ve yet to find one critter on my dog. Using a salt shaker, I travel with it and lightly dust the outside of my suitcase with the powdery substance. These fossilized remains of microscopic shells act as shards of glass to winged critters.

3. Locate an Animal Emergency Clinic

Locate the nearest animal emergency clinic prior to leaving for vacation, ask the front desk upon checking in, or use an app to find one, but be prepared. I learned this the hard way, when we were in the middle of the country and my Cocker developed a urinary tract infection. Know where to go should an emergency situation develop. Sounds like common sense, but panic set in when it happened to me and I couldn’t find an out-of-town vet that would see an emergency client.

4. Watch Out for Sneaky Fees

Be certain to call ahead and ask whether there are any weight limits, restrictions, fees, policies, or limitations on pets. Lodging facilities may change policies, so a phone call first can save frustration on arrival. Each property’s policies vary, and having been caught by the “we meant $50 per night, not per stay” realization, a quick call can save a lot of frustration.

5. Watch Out for Sneaky Pees

My well-trained, housebroken dog would never pee in a hotel room. He’s a Canine Good Citizen, after all. This is true 99 percent of the time. The unthinkable can happen, though: Perhaps a dog stayed in the room prior to your arrival and Spot decides to mark his, well, “spot.” Allow dogs to relieve themselves before entering the room, keep a regular routine of timed potty breaks, and keep an enzymatic odor/stain remover handy for those “just in case” moments.

6. Teach Spot Good Pee Habits

One of the greatest challenges fellow dog travelers tell me they encounter on the road is getting their dog to relieve himself or herself where grass is not readily available. By acclimating your dog to urinating on a variety of surfaces, including grass, gravel, rocks, wood chips, and cement, this dilemma can be resolved in advance. From experience, there is no greater road-trip joy than a rainy day, a slab of concrete, and a code word to initiate the process (like “Go pee!”). For dogs who refuse to do the deed unless grass is present, eco-friendly, self-draining toilet systems for dogs have become a popular mobile option.

7. Use Temporary Dog Tags

Your home address and phone number are of zero assistance to a lost pooch in unfamiliar territory. Temporary ID tags are a great way to ensure your cell and hotel info are on a tag. Change the destination with each trip you and your pooch pal take. How much fun would it be to later scrapbook these tags representing all the places Rover has been roaming with you? I’m far from crafty, but I like to save souvenirs.

Rover road warriors unite! Got any favorite off-the-beaten path travel tips? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credits: Frenchie driving car by Shutterstock, all others courtesy Carol Bryant

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