Thinking of hitting the road with your four-legged friend when the weather improves? As temperatures start to rise, doggo road trips are sure to follow suit.

If this is your first time taking a road trip with Fido, there’s a whole lot more to strapping them in and getting behind the wheel. As with anything that involves taking your dog somewhere, there’s a heap of preparation you’ll need to do ahead of time.

From making sure they have plenty of breaks to keeping them healthy and happy along the way, we’ll run through everything you need to do before you and your hound take a trip on the open road.

Take them for a test drive

Before you head out on a lengthy, days-long journey, try getting them used to travelling in a car with a few short trips. That way, you can spot any issues that you might have to deal with on the day of the road trip itself.

Do they get carsick? How quickly do they need to relieve themselves? How long is it before they get agitated? Taking a few shorter trips to gauge their behaviour will help you to better prepare for longer distances.

making a plan

Plan out your routes and stops

Knowing the route to take in advance will not only help you know which is the shortest and most straightforward, but you’ll also be able to plan out their breaks too whenever they get a little restless. It might also be a good idea to make a note of any vets local to the area just in case.

Visit the vet beforehand

Speaking of vets, taking them for a health check ahead of your drive can be a big help. If they’re on the mend after recovering from illness, then they might need special arrangements when travelling, which your vet will be able to advise you about.

And if your dog is prone to car-sickness, the vet will be able to prescribe them with medication to help if they need it.

Bring along their essentials

It should go without saying, but here goes: be sure to pack all of their essentials for the trip, such as their bowl, food, water, leash, collar, car-sickness bags, treats, medication, blankets, toys and a name tag on their collar. Make a checklist of their must-haves; the last thing you want to do is be halfway through your journey before you’ve forgotten their favourite chew toy.

Pack safety gear and a first aid kit

When you’re on the road, your dog should never be allowed to roam around whether they’re up front or in the back. As well as being a massive distraction for you, they could be seriously hurt in the event of an accident. Be sure to pack a dog carrier or crate to restrain them – just make sure it’s big enough for them to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably.

Likewise, pack a pet first aid kit so you can take care of them in the event of any accidents. In your dog’s first aid kit, bring along scissors, adhesive tape, saline eye solution, absorbent gauze pads, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes and 3% hydrogen peroxide – just in case they need to be sick. 

Feed and walk them before you travel

As well as feeding them at least four hours before getting behind the wheel, it’s a good idea to take them for a nice, long walk too. Not only will stretching their legs tire them out once you’re on the move, but they’ll have also have time to do their business so they’re less anxious during the journey.

dog with its head out the window of car

Aim to take them earlier in the day

A good rule of thumb: if you’re taking your dog along on a road trip, the earlier you can set off the better. Setting off first thing in the morning means you can make a strong start on the journey before the day has chance to heat up, keeping dehydration to a minimum on the way.

Keep them cool by cracking a window, and make sure they have plenty of water on hand if they need it.

Take regular breaks

Lapping up all that water means your pooch’ll need you to pull over if your journey’s longer than six hours. This is where all that forward planning will come in handy.

Plus, taking them for a toilet break will give you a chance to stretch your own legs and recharge so you can stay alert for the remainder of the journey, while they get to explore somewhere new.

And if you’re feeding them, keep their meals light and wait for enough time before you get back on the road.

Keep them calm

If they’re prone to agitation, you’ll want to keep your dog calm along the way. After all, this is probably something new for them.

Try soundtracking your journey with something soothing, or give them their favourite chew toy to keep them occupied. If you’re travelling with others, then have them gently stroke your dog every so often to reassure them. Lastly, keep an eye on your speed; an even pace will keep them calmer compared to high speeds and sudden jolts.

Book some dog-friendly accommodation

Whether it’s your destination or somewhere to stop off at along the way, be sure to book a hotel that’s going to welcome you and your canine friend with open arms. When you’re scanning sites like Hotels.com or TripAdvisor, make sure you’ve checked the “pets allowed” option so you can find something you can both hunker down in for the night. Watch out for any pet fees though; this way you won’t get caught out by any surprise charges at check-in.

Fancy a family road trip but looking for something new that’s up to the task? Check out our guide to the best cars for big families right here, or for something a little more pet-friendly, we’ve got you covered with this guide to buying a car with your furry friend in mind.

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