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Taking a Cross Country Road Trip with your Dog

Happy Dog with Head Outside the Car

Whether your trip is 5 hours or 10, taking a cross country road trip with your dog can be stressful! You want your dog to be as comfortable as possible during the trip, and have many other things to worry about. 

In Summer of 2019 we took a 1500 mile road trip from Buffalo, NY to Longmont, Colorado- our new home! The drive was about 23 hours (not counting stops), with 2 cars packed with everything we own, and of course our doggo! 

Traveling with a dog is not the easiest feat, but it was easier than I imagined it to be! At the end of the day, your precious pooch really just wants to be with you, so don’t stress too much!

We found the following tips to be extremely helpful during our road trip, and hope they will help you as well! 

Read more information on road trip essentials

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

taking a long road trip with your dog

What do dogs need for a road trip?

On long road trips, dogs will need a travel bag, an extra long leash, special treats and toys, and time to exercise. Try to stop every 2-3 hours to give your dog time to exercise and use the bathroom. Read more about what dogs will need below:

Dogs don’t need much, but having all their items in one place makes traveling much easier! This dog travel bag is awesome- it includes foldable dog bowls, food and treat containers, a water bottle, and tons of pockets to put toys! Plus, it even has a luggage sleeve so you can place it over your suitcase handle for easy traveling!

Thinking about everything your dog might need can be overwhelming, especially when searching through all your suitcases and bags trying to find a specific toy.

Having everything in one spot will take a lot of stress off you when taking a cross country road trip with your dog. Plus, your dog will feel happy knowing all his favorite treats and toys are right beside him!

This extra long dog leash was a true life saver on our road trip. At the time, our dog Ollie was just a puppy- just over one year old, so he had a LOT of energy. You can get this leash anywhere from 15 feet to 100 feet, depending on your dogs needs! 

Whenever stopping at a rest stop, put your dog on this extra long leash to give them more freedom to run around, without worrying about them running off! Most rest stops have large fields or picnic areas where your dog can safely explore on the leash. 

Our dog LOVED being able to run around, even while on the leash! Running around for 10-15 minutes was just the trick we needed so he would fall asleep again in the car.

The leash can be a bit difficult to use, especially reeling your dog back in. However, the pros definitely outweigh the cons for this one! 

Stop Every 2-3 Hours

As a rule of thumb, when taking a cross country road trip with your dog, plan to stop every 2-3 hours. Your dog will most likely begin to get restless around that point, and will want to get up to stretch his legs and go potty.

This of course, varies depending on your personal needs and your dogs needs- it might be a little shorter or a little longer than these numbers.

Think of it this way- if you are restless or need to use the restroom, chances are your dog does too!

We made a rule to let our dog run around every time we stopped to get gas, and every time we stopped for the restroom or food. Even just a quick 5 minute run around session can be enough to get through the next couple of hours! 

Take a quick walk, throw your dogs favorite ball, play frisbee, or even take a short jog! Whatever you need to do to get the blood flowing- its good for you too!

This car seat cover is a miracle worker when taking a cross country road trip with your dog! It is 100% waterproof, and has side flaps to keep your car from getting dirty and scratched up. It is easily installed by putting the buckle around the headrests and opening the flaps!

Your dog will love the extra cushion the cover provides, and your car seats will thank you for staying clean! You can also adjust the side flaps to make room for a passenger that is also in the back seat.

Your pooch will love having a space all to his own! Additionally, the flaps can prevent your dog from jumping up into the front seat, which can be dangerous while driving. 

This seat cover is an amazing find, and a definite must have on your road trip!

Talk With Your Vet

Not all dogs do well in the car, just like some humans! Sometimes dogs get car sickness, and even throw up. This is why it is a good idea to get that car seat cover in the previous step!

Some dogs get anxiety when it comes to being in the car or traveling to new places. Talk with your vet, as there may be some medications you can give your dog to help!

We have found it helpful to delay feeding your dog to after driving is over for the day, specifically for dogs who throw up easily in the car. However, talk with your vet about this too!

If your dog yawns more than usual, drools a lot, or licks his lips, this might be a sign of car sickness. If you see these symptoms, it might be a good idea to stop at the next rest stop!

You can also get your dog an anxiety vest if they get nervous in the car, or even in new places like the hotel. 

You can read more about symptoms and remedies here!

Find Local Dog Parks

This tip was probably the most helpful thing we did when taking our dog on a long road trip. When we arrived at our destination, and before we left the next morning, we would always find a nearby dog park. DogGeek is a great resource where you can put in your location, and it will give you a list of nearby off leash dog parks! 

This allows your dog to get familiar with the new area and scents, as well as run around and stretch. It was also nice for us humans as well, as we were able to get some fresh air and sunshine, and take a nice walk around the park. A win-win for all involved!

Some dog parks are patrolled by police though, and require your dog to have state requirements, so make sure you check if the park has this or not before you go! Your out of state license plate would probably be a red flag!

Otherwise, grab a coffee and take a walkabout after being cramped in your car all day! Doing this in the morning tires your dog out and (hopefully) gets them to sleep better in the car!

If you are a dog owner and have never heard of Bring Fido, you are seriously missing out! It is basically a dog lovers dream website!

Here, you can find pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, bars, events, services, and practically anything pet related! 

This can help you with finding pet-friendly hotels if you choose to stay somewhere overnight. You can also bring your pet with you to dinner, so he isn’t locked up in a new and scary hotel room by himself! 

We use this all the time, even just when we want to go out on the weekend and want to bring Ollie. It is truly a lifesaver, and your dog will be so happy he could join you!

Special Treats & Toys

Buying your dog some special treats, a new toy, or his favorite bone is a great way to entertain your dog on a cross country road trip. Having something new and exciting to eat or play with will help him feel happier and more relaxed!

Our pup LOVES bully sticks. Although they are on the expensive side, they are much healthier than other dog bones (won’t cause choking), and take a long time to eat. 

You could also get your dog a fun puzzle toy to pass some time. Simply put treats into the toy, and watch your dog try to solve the puzzle to get the treats out! This is a great way to entertain your dog, even in the small space of a backseat!

Everyone loves a special surprise, so treat your dog to a special toy or bone, to say thank you for handling this road trip like a champ!

Bring Vaccination Records

This is an important tip to remember when taking a cross country road trip with your dog. Simply put your pups records in your glove box or somewhere safe, just in case! You can even take a picture of them on your phone.

Some hotels might ask to see the records, or you never know what might happen during the trip. Maybe your dog gets sick or hurt and needs to see a vet- they will need his vaccination records! 

This is a small and simple tip, but could be extremely important in the rare event that something were to happen. Bring them just to be safe!

Pet Seat Belt

Having your pet in a seat belt can be life saving in the rare event there is a car accident. We tell humans to wear seat belts while in the car, so why shouldn’t pets? 

If there was an accident, your dog would easily fly through the windshield. Having a simple seat belt could save your dogs life! They are also great for dogs who like to stick their heads out the window too far, or those who would jump out if there was sight of another dog (I have actually had a dog do this, and he got pretty hurt).

They are also great for those dogs who like to jump out of the car as soon as you open the door. This could save them from jumping out into a busy parking lot!

The seat belt is super easy- it attaches to your dogs collar like a regular leash, then the other side goes into the seat belt buckle- easy as that! Your dog will still have room to move around, too!

If your dog is running around multiple dog parks and rest stops, chances are he’s going to get a little dirty! And, he should! With little time to run and play during the day, he should make the most of his time outdoors rolling in the mud and digging in the dirt.

However, your car and hotel won’t agree! These dog wipes are the perfect tool to clean your pup up between washes.

Maybe he starts to get a little smelly- you don’t want to smell that the entire road trip! These wipes also help with odor too! You never know what your dog will get into, so its best to bring some wipes just in case!

The last thing you will need when taking a long road trip with your dog is a pet first aid kit

You never know what could happen on your trip, so having a first aid kit will help in emergencies. Maybe your dog hurts himself in the car and you are 50 miles from the next exit- you will want some sort of first aid to help him!

Hopefully you will never have to use it or even open it, but having one will give you a piece of mind knowing you are prepared in case of an emergency situation.

Thank you for reading taking a cross country road trip with your dog. What other tips do you have when it comes to long rides with your pet? Let us know in the comments section below- we would love to hear from you!

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About the Author

Hello!

My name is Erica Sailor and I am the creator and developer of My World Sights! I love traveling the world with my husband and sharing what we learn along the way! Read More

Erica Sailor

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