road trip with a dog

10 Tips for an Awesome Road Trip with a Dog

Going on a road trip with your dog doesn’t have to be complicated. Check out our 10 tips for an awesome trip and have fun with your pet!

Go on a road trip with an RV Rental is a type of vacation – or even just a weekend getaway – that we can all enjoy, right? However, when there are four-legged buddies with starry eyes involved, it feels like we might not be able to enjoy a road trip after all. Wrong! Every vacation can be a “bring your dog” type of vacation.

Going on a road trip with a dog does not have to be complicated at all. If you have a puppy, this is the best time to start them on road-tripping, teaching them how to behave and making them feel excited rather than nervous when you are about to hit the road.

If that ship has sailed, there is no problem, you can still expect fun road trips and great memories. However, try to start with simpler, shorter road trips, so your dog has the chance to get used to the experience slowly and calmly. If your pet has had zero contact with getting around in a car, try taking them on short car rides, like errands or going to the ATM, to ensure they are comfortable in a moving vehicle.

When the time for hitting the road comes, just follow these 10 tips that will make your road trip with your dog awesome for everyone:

Pack a first aid kit

First aid kits should be our best friends during road trips. Well, that and snacks. But first aid kits are essential to be safe rather than sorry. It is important to carry objects useful in healing our bruises in case of an accident, but dogs might need different types of medicine and/or instruments when it comes to an accident of their own.

Make sure to carry a pet-friendly first aid kit in your RV, made of things that can help your dog in times of need, such as tick removers, syringes, 3% hydrogen peroxide in case of poisoning, and whatever else you feel necessary. If your dog has a habit of eating all they find, be sure to carry meds for an upset stomach.

You can make your own pet-friendly first aid kit or just buy one (we recommend this one).

Bring a copy of your dog’s vet records

Always carry a copy of your dog’s documents, both the medical and the vaccination records. 

Your pet’s documentation is a must if you have to make an emergency trip to a local vet. 

If your dog gets sick during the trip, it will be easier to treat them if the local vet has access to their medical and vaccination records.

It is a good idea to do some research first and have at hand the contact and address of vets in the places you will be visiting, just in case something happens. It is harder to find a vet suddenly in a moment of panic, so planning a bit here can be very useful later.

Asking your vet for suggestions on how to make the road trip more pleasant for your dog can also be useful, as they may provide insightful tips that benefit you and your dog. 

Make sure your dog doesn’t eat at least an hour prior to the trip to avoid car sickness

The nervousness and the trip itself can make your dog’s stomach upset. Avoiding food before a trip is the best way to keep the car free from… unwanted stomach matter. 

Feed your dog at least an hour before leaving and try not to give them more food before hitting the road. Moreover, make this meal light, since overfeeding can easily lead to car sickness. 

During the road trip, avoid feeding your pet. Try to give them food – in small quantities to avoid motion sickness – during breaks at rest stops. 

Make your dog tired before the road trip

Man making his dog tired before a road trip

A tired dog is a calm dog, so in order to avoid hyperactivity and chaos, be sure to walk and play with your dog before the trip. Make them run, jump, and chase, and you will most certainly have a very smooth start to your road trip.

Also, keep your dog entertained during the road trip: put some toys in their space, preferably toys your pet is used to. This also makes the environment more familiar for them, which is helpful!

Use calming treats, but make sure to check in with your vet first

Some dogs hop in the car without hesitating, ready to be taken wherever their humans want to go, however, other dogs feel some anxiety when it comes to traveling. If your four-legged friend is overly anxious and starts to be restless as soon as you start packing, calming treats can be a lifesaver.

There is a wide variety of calming treats available on the market, but make sure, nonetheless, to consult your vet before giving your dog any of these products. Your vet will know which is the best for your pet.

Make 15-minute stops every 1,5 to 2 hours

Stopping regularly is essential during a road trip with your dog. Even if you are in a hurry to get somewhere, never neglect your dog’s needs.

On average, 15-minute breaks every 1,5 to 2 hours is a good thumb rule for your dog to pee and stretch their legs a bit on a rest stop (if you find a place with a dog park, even better!). 

However, it is relevant to consider other factors that might affect the rule and make you stop more frequently, such as your dog’s age. Puppies need to pee more often than older dogs. The general formula to know how long your puppy can hold their bladder is 1 hour for every 1 month of age (1hx2months=2h). So, in general, if your puppy is 1 month old, they can hold their bladder for 1 hour; if they are 3 months old, they can hold it for 3 hours, and so on.

Consider, as well, that time spent in strange environments, with different smells and sounds, can make your dog more nervous, thus unpredictable, which may make them pee more often. Keep an eye for restlessness and whining. And do not forget to carry a generous supply of poop bags for the potty breaks!

Never leave your dog unattended inside the car on a hot day

“Just a few minutes” can be fatal for your dog. You might not realize it, but it gets really hot really quick inside the car during the summer, so if you need to go somewhere and cannot take your pet with you, make sure to crack a window or turn the A/C on and be very very quick. 

If the car is left out in the hot sun, on a really hot day, don’t leave your dog inside unless it is an emergency – and in that situation, once again, be sure to be super quick and leave the A/C on for your dog. 

If you leave your dog in the car with the A/C on, it is a good idea to put a paper on the window informing concerned bypassers that everything is OK!

Taking precautions applies, as well, in the winter weather. As the weather can be unpredictable at times, pack some clothes for cold and rainy weather. Pack some extra towels as well in case you are caught off guard by the rain!

Always have water and food around you

There is no way we can go on a road trip without food and water. The same applies to our furry friends. 

Keep food – treats included! – and water for them in the RV. Water is especially important, even more so on hot days. There are plenty of different types of bowls and bottles for sale that allow you to give your pet water during the trip without making a mess, but they are not always as effective as you would hope, so you can just put the bowl of water inside a bigger bowl to catch the spill. 

As we have mentioned, keep food out of the picture while on the road. And take extra paper towels in case of any accidents with water – or anything else – in the car.

Give your dog its own space in the RV

dog sitting in an RV

Your dog will feel much more relaxed and confident if they know exactly where to go inside the car. Having their own seat or space will also keep your pet from hopping around the car and possibly creating a dangerous situation for everyone. 

You can make a space of their own by using familiar blankets, toys, or any other object that you know your dog will recognize. Make sure that the space you choose is properly equipped so your dog is comfortable and safe during the whole road trip. 

Keep your pet restrained 

Safety comes first on road trips. While people, in general, might not find a problem in having their dogs hopping around the RV during a road trip, the truth is that not restraining your pet puts both of you at risk of serious injuries, maybe even fatalities. 

Since dogs are not very fond of sitting and fastening their seat belt as we do, it is important to have an alternative that will keep them safe and comfortable in a moving car for hours on end.

There are a lot of options for accommodating your dog, depending on their size. If your dog is small, portable carriers are a nice option; for larger dogs, you can get a doggy seat belt. Car hammocks are also an interesting option because they are ideal for all sizes, prevent your pet from falling on quick turns, and are really easy to install. 

If you can, install the accommodation options in the back of your RV. Veterinarians suggest that the best place to keep your dog during a road trip is in the back of the car because of airbag injuries. 

On the subject of safety, we beg of you: no heads out of the window! It looks fun for the dog and we love the image of a dog with the head out of the window, but the risk of injury is really high. All it takes is a miscalculation of distance or flying debris and you have a really ugly situation in your hands. Don’t risk your dog’s life over something that is just for fun.

Traveling with your dog isn’t so ruff after all! 

A road trip with your dog can sound like a lot of work. It will not always be easy, for sure. Things may get out of hand at times; accidents can happen; you might feel like you are running out of patience at a point.

But keep in mind that this is a different experience for your dog. They will feel nervous, afraid, uncertain, and they will always rely on their best friend to find comfort and protection. You might feel your dog is being clingy or annoying, but they are just searching for the sense of security only the people they love the most in the world can give them, so just be patient with your dog.

After a few rounds, and with the help of our tips, you will see that road trips are indeed pet-friendly; you will see that a road trip with your dog is so easy that you will not believe you ever found it hard.

If you are patient, you will quickly find out that a road trip with your dog can be one of the most amazing and unforgettable experiences of a lifetime both for you and your pet. And you will definitely want a few more doses of road-tripping with your dog!

About the Author

Inês Morais
Inês Morais

Nature lover. If circling the world in an RV and explore the most hidden nature spots was a job, probably wasn't writing this now...