Tips to Planning a Road Trip with your Dog

Are you thinking about taking a road trip with your furry friend? A road trip is a great way to travel with larger or multiple dogs, see a lot more of the countryside, and it gives you the freedom to stop, explore and experience places that you normally wouldn’t. With planning an epic road trip with your dog, there are a few dog-specific challenges and prep that you will need to consider. 

Here are a few simple tips and tricks to having an unforgettable adventure with your pup. 


1. Paperwork


Required vaccines and pet passport

If you are planning on taking your pup with you on a road trip the first thing you should think about is acquiring relevant travel documents including proof of vaccinations, as this may take some time to get depending on where you are traveling to.

If you are planning to go abroad at any point in your road trip, an important thing to remember is that your dog's Rabies vaccinations cannot be allowed to expire otherwise, you will need to have your pup vaccinated as if for the first time and many authorities require 21 days after this until your dog is considered safe for travel. The day of the vaccine is counted as day 0.

In order to get a Rabies vaccine, your pup must be at least 12 weeks old. 

If you are in Europe or wanting to travel to the EU or the UK, you will need to make sure that your dog has a Pet Passport, and is microchipped. You can apply for a Pet Passport from your vet (within the EU), and turnaround can take around 5 working days. 

If you are traveling to the UK or returning to Ireland, you will need to make sure your dog has been treated for tapeworms, no more than 120 hours and no less than 24 hours PRIOR to re-entry to the UK or Ireland. This will need to be recorded in your Pet Passport under section VII, “Echinococcus Treatment”. The Vet issuing the treatment will need to sign, stamp and date this entry. 


Documentation

Another good idea is to keep a copy of your dog's passport and any other travel documents you might need in your emails just in case they get lost on the open road.

Although a lot of pet owners are wary of printing their pet's name on their dog's collar it can save you a lot of heartaches to print a tag with your contact information including a cell phone number should your furry family member wander off.

If your pup is a regular visitor to the vet like Poppy is, ask them for any medical records that you will need to take with you in case you have to visit an emergency vet along the way. We carry Poppy's blood work print-outs in her passport so that a vet has an easy way to see what is normal for her (If ever you are worried that your pup isn't its normal self, a blood test is a great way to check their whole body status and has been lifesaving for Poppy on more than one occasion).
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2. Pet Carriers



A great option you may want to invest in for a stress-free road trip is a good quality pet carrier, they can come in really handy when you have your hands full and have to check in to your hotel, for example. It can get a bit overwhelming trying to find your reservation papers whilst your pup is running their leash in circles around your knees!

Their pet carrier will become their safe space where they can feel comfortable and you can do what you need to do without worrying about them. Poppy is only 2.5kg so we have a canvas bag with mesh windows which makes it really easy to zip her up when I need to. For larger dogs, a bag won't be practical but there are plenty of good rigid travel crates that can be just as comfortable for your pup.

It is a good idea to start acclimating them to the dog crate or travel bag as soon as possible, especially if you have an anxious dog. If your dog is crate trained at home and is happy sleeping there, bring it with you or let them get used to a travel crate before the trip.

If a pet carrier is not for you, you should consider getting a well-fitting harness and pet seat belt. They are becoming more widely available and the designs are improving all the time to make them safer. A pet seat belt may be particularly suitable for larger dogs that need to spread out on the back seat. You may also want to invest in some seat covers to protect your car’s upholstery in case your pup gets car sick or if they find a really good puddle to roll in whilst you are halfway into your cross-country road trip!

Once you have decided on your preferred way to secure your pup in their seat, let them get used to taking short trips as often as you can before setting out on your road trip.

The safest way to travel with your dog is with their travel bag or dog crate secured on the back seat or in the cargo area to avoid distractions and dangerous situations whilst driving.  If they insist on sitting in the front seat, they should be properly restrained just as you would do for any other family member.
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3. Things to pack


There are lots of great products available for all types of trips with your dog. If you have space, try to pack as many of their usual things as you can, such as their dog bed, their favorite blanket, favorite toy, even their food and water bowls to make them feel comfortable on a big trip.

Pack plenty of your pet’s food as it is not ideal to change their diet suddenly should you run out on the trip. Also pack plenty of water, especially for in the car as your pup needs to stay hydrated with all the excitement!

Depending on where you are going, you might want to pack a doggie towel to dry them off after visiting a dog-friendly beach or taking a walk through the woods. If you are going on an outdoor holiday, a dog first aid kit may come in really useful. Things to include are tweezers for splinters, tick pullers, eyewash, antiseptic wipes, and gauze in case of cuts and scrapes.

Dog-friendly wet wipes come in really handy to keep your pup's feet and face clean after a busy day sniffing about in a new city or trekking up in the hills.

In the event that your dog does feel sick in the car, or brings half the forest in with them, a small car cleaning kit including a spray-on carpet cleaner and a mini vacuum can make the rest of the trip so much more pleasant!

Wherever you are planning to go with your pup, make sure you have packed plenty of poo bags as you are an ambassador for all pet owners whilst out with your pup.



4. Practice in the car before your trip


Make car travel fun and get your furry best friend used to the car seats by going through the motions of harnessing them up on the back seat or in their travel bag and take a quick trip to the pet shop to pick out a squeaky toy! Short drives and squeaky toys are the best way to get anxious dogs comfortable visiting new places and gradually building up to a couple of hours at a time rather than driving long distances the first time your pup travels in the car.



5. Motion Sickness


If your pup does suffer from car sickness, which is not uncommon in younger dogs, you can visit your vet for a prescription medication that will make everybody have a better trip. Whether or not your pup suffers from car sickness, a good way to avoid it is to plan for frequent stops and to make sure your dog is in a cool area of the car with plenty of shade. Always have some water available and their dog crate or travel bag should be big enough that they have enough room to stand up and turn around in. Just as it is for us, it is a good idea to let your dog stretch their legs with regular bathroom breaks on a long drive. If they start to feel ill, have them drive for a bit. 😉 

Also, avoid feeding your pup immediately before long car rides, and of course, all pet owners know that dogs must not be left in a hot car else they will quickly suffer from heatstroke.

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6. Whilst on Holiday


In order to make things as relaxing as possible for your pup, try to keep to a regular mealtime and only feed them a light meal if you will be in the car again soon. It is best not to let them fill themselves up too much until you reach your final destination.

Where possible try to feed them their normal diet and avoid too many treats from the restaurant table (check our dog-friendly food article in which Pete 'the Vet' Wedderburn BVM&S CertVR MRCVS, a well-known Irish vet, and co-founder from Petfix Club with over 35 years of experience, lets us know what common fruits, vegetables, and spices are safe and not safe to eat for our pups).

Avoid long days. Some Pet-Friendly hotels allow you to leave your pup alone in the room, after a long day of exploring the cities or the countryside, let your pooch relax in the room for a while each night. This is especially important for small dogs that have to run a marathon to keep up with us exploring all of the sites! (Check out all the dog-friendly hotels along your route on PawsFriendly.com where you can see each individual hotel's pet policy.)

Plan a visit to local dog parks on your trip so that your canine companion can make some new friends of their own whilst you get to meet local dog owners, which is a great way for you to get the best tips of where to visit along your pet-friendly route.

The last thing to do at the end of the day is to take your dog out for a potty break so that everyone gets to enjoy a good night's sleep, and, of course, it's a good idea to take them out again first thing to avoid any accidents in an unfamiliar place.
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Where will you go on your next road trip? This is the perfect time for some advance planning - check out PawsFriendly.com for all the best pet-friendly accommodations, dog-friendly restaurants, pet-friendly attractions, and a list of vets along your route so that your most treasured family vacations can now include an epic dog-friendly road trip!

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