We love camping and love to take our yellow lab, Kayla, with us. With Illinois currently our home port, we’ve taken her on trips as far as California, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and South Carolina on wonderful camping trips. . Being prepared for road trips with your dog is very important. And in this article, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned from our experiences.
Before hitting the road:
* There is nothing worse than loading up the car and going on a long awaited family vacation, only to find your car sick dog vomiting in the backseat sixty miles from home. So make sure your dog can handle long car trips well before you leave town. Take your dog on several “training runs” of varying duration / distance, and if your dog suffers from car sickness, consult your vet about possible remedies, or consider leaving your dog at home.
* Speaking of the vet, we’re getting impressions of all of our most recent dog records to take with us on the road. We do this in case she needs to visit a vet while we are away and some kennels require her for short term boarding and / or grooming. And we make sure she is up to date on all of her vaccinations. If any of them will expire while we’re away, we make sure she gets it before we leave, even if it’s early.
* If you are staying in motels along the way, make sure you are familiar with the chains that allow dogs in the room. Don’t wait until you get tired after a long drive to start looking for a motel, as many don’t allow pets and you might be looking for a good time. We do one of two things. Either we call ahead and reserve a room in a motel that we know how to accept pets. Or we plan to stay in a chain that we know allows pets. Motel Six and Holiday Inn have fairly broad acceptance policies, as do many Super 8’s and Day’s Inn’s (but not all, so be sure you know which ones). Some motels allow pets on an individual basis. Just make sure you have travel guides or have researched the internet, so you know where you will be greeted with your pet before you leave the house. (For example, Triple A guides list pet-friendly motels, and many pet travel websites list them as well.)
* If you are camping, make sure you know the rules for dogs in campgrounds before you arrive. Most private and public campgrounds allow pets, but require that they be kept on a leash at all times. We found that national parks allow dogs on leashes in parking lots and paved walkways, but most don’t allow them on hiking trails. Zion National Park has a 3 mile paved trail that dogs are allowed on and they are welcome at their campgrounds. The Grand Canyon allows dogs on the paved “Rim” trail, but not when hiking in the canyon. Bryce Canyon allows dogs, but only in cars on parking lots. However, Red Rock Canyon in Dixie National Forest near Bryce allows dogs not only in campgrounds but on all of their hiking trails (as long as they are on a leash). My advice is to find out before you go by visiting websites or calling ahead so you won’t be disappointed with the restrictions when you arrive.
What to bring:
* Kayla has her own “suitcase” – and every time she sees us pulling her out of the closet, she knows we’re about to take her on a trip (and she gets very horny). Here is what we keep in his bag:
1. A few towels (she is a lab, likes to swim anywhere she sees water, so these are handy for drying her off, or if she has an unexpected accident, throws up, etc.).
2. Lots of plastic grocery bags to pick up after her on the road. One of the reasons that pet owners aren’t welcome in many places is because they don’t pick up their dogs from rest areas, motel lawns, campgrounds, etc. So make sure to always clean up after your dog.
3. A few filled water bottles and a dish of water. We offer water to Kayla at every stopover, and sometimes even on the road if she is thirsty. Keep her hydrated. Although dogs love to travel, it can also be stressful for them.
4. Individual sachets of food portions, if his meals will take place on the road. We’re also including some goodies, to reward her for being such a good girl in the car.
5. Chewing on Toys / Balls: Kayla generally doesn’t like chewing things while we are driving, but some dogs do, and it helps relieve boredom.
6. We also bring wet wipes and paper towels, in case of spills or accidents.
7. Bringing a dog bed is helpful as motels don’t like dogs on the beds. If your dog regularly uses his bed at home, he also brings something familiar with him. If it fits, you can also place it on the seat where the dog will ride. The familiar scent is comforting and provides a more comfortable ride for the dog.
* In addition to the items we bring in Kayla’s suitcase, we keep her medical records in a safe place.
* Some dogs are very excited when traveling and are difficult to hold back. This can lead to dangerous situations for drivers. If your dog finds it difficult to sit still during the trip, you may want to consider a dog harness that attaches to seat belts. There are plenty of them and make the trip safer for you and more comfortable for the dog (like when you make those sudden stops or turns that throw the dog to the ground).
On the road:
* Frequent stops: we try to stop every two hours at a rest stop. Normally, Kayla doesn’t need to potty around the house as often, but being in the car for long periods of time can be stressful and / or boring for a dog. So we stop more frequently to let her go out and stretch her legs. She loves to rest (all those new smells) and sniff every blade of grass she can. We find it to be good for us too, because when we travel without it we very rarely stop. But with Kayla we find our travel experience more enjoyable as we can also take a break from the driving and stretch our legs. Remember to always look for your dog. It is the right thing to do, and in some places it is the law.
* We don’t let Kayla stick her head out the window when driving, especially at high speeds. Although dogs love to do this, it can be harmful to them. Objects flying in the air can strike their face and damage their eyes and ears. When we open the window to let her hang her head, we only do so at lower speeds.
* Never leave your pet alone in your motel room. It is against motel policy, and if a dog destroys items in a room, you must pay for them. Also, if a barking dog is disturbing other customers, you may be asked to leave. If a motel has multiple issues with pets, it may change its pet policy, so for your own sake and other animal lovers, always stay with your dog.
* In hot or hot weather we try to never leave Kayla in our parked car for long periods of time. On the rare occasion that this is unavoidable, we try to find shade and leave the windows cracked, and get back as soon as possible. Most of the time, we can avoid leaving her alone by going our separate ways for shopping and other errands, always leaving one of us with her.
* Related to the suggestion above, we tend to eat “on the go”. We source fast food or other take out while driving and eat it in the car so that Kayla is not left unattended for long periods of time. If we’re going to eat in a restaurant, we try to go there after dark, when the sun goes down, and leave the window cracked. Then one of us checks it every half hour or so (especially when it’s really hot) and makes sure it has water and is okay. Traveling during the colder months makes this less necessary – but if your dog is a barker it can quickly become a nuisance to other customers, so be respectful to them.
Other general suggestions:
* The reality is that sometimes on the road we like to visit places where Kayla is not allowed. So rather than leaving her alone at camp or in the car, what we do is check local kennels for day boarding possibilities, or even night boarding. For example, we spent a day at Disneyland a few years ago, and for $ 10 she was taken to Disney kennels for the day (she even got a certificate after her stay). While on a Colorado rafting trip, we found another kennel nearby where we could leave her. And for an evening excursion, we know we can leave it overnight. Of course, we will be missed, and she will be missed. But she will be safe and well groomed, which is most important. (Be prepared that this is where you might need a copy of his medical records – and make sure his Bordetella (Kennel Cough) vaccine is up to date.)
* Be patient with your pet. Traveling is an exciting experience for them, but it can also be stressful as you take them out of their usual routine. Like children, they may not behave as they normally do at home. Kayla has a tendency to bark at anyone walking around our campground and is difficult to deal with on a leash when we approach a river. Be calm and consistent with your dog, knowing that this is a new situation for him. And if this seems to be causing more trouble for you and your dog than it’s worth, you may need to consider leaving your pet at home in the future. Hopefully that won’t happen – but if that’s what’s best for your beloved dog, you need to keep this in mind.
These are just a few suggestions from several trips with our dog, Kayla. It’s certainly not exhaustive, and I can add things as they come to me or experience them on future trips. But I hope you find the suggestions helpful when considering traveling with your dog.