On The Road Again: Road Tripping With Your Dog
To say that Kevin Roberts has taken the road less traveled is an understatement. He’s a really outdoors kind of guy, and he brings his dogs along for the adventure. He loves to camp and jumps at the chance whenever he can. In this series of articles, Kev shares his wealth of experience with us, along with some must-know tips that will make your next camping trip with your dogs an adventure to remember.
Heading out on the highway with your four legged friends is a great bonding experience, and will give you memories to last a lifetime!
Last summer, I drove from Winnipeg, through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, up to Toronto, then up to North Eastern Ontario. From there, I headed back west, across Ontario, through Manitoba and Saskatchewan, up through Alberta, into British Columbia, through the Yukon, then into Alaska. Now that’s what you call an epic road trip!
Of course, I brought my dogs with me (all four of them). They love to travel and are great companions on the road. The trip took about seven weeks in total. We lived out of the car and packed in everything we needed, except dog food and groceries. Food items, we bought as we went along.
Whether you’re taking a road trip for a few days or a few weeks, some planning ahead will serve you well. What’s the secret to a successful road trip with your dog? Be organized. The following articles in this series are designed to help you plan for your own road trip with your dog. Memories to last a lifetime need a little planning to be successful!
Before You Go
- Check out your vehicle and make sure that everything is running smoothly
Think of it as insurance. Take your vehicle in a few weeks before a major road trip for a tune up and an inspection. Not only could a busted whatchamacallit or a broken thingamajig slow you down, and end up costing you a lot of money to get fixed, if you were to run into car trouble out on the highway, it could put you and your dogs at risk.
If your car suddenly broke down on some barren stretch of road, could you and Fido make it on foot to the nearest garage? Would a tow truck give your pups a lift? Where would you stay with your dog while you waited for the necessary repairs?
In the thousands and thousands of miles I have road tripped with my dogs, I have only ever had one serious repair needed, when a wheel fell off my camper.
I was lucky to find a motel close by that allowed dogs, and a super friendly tow truck driver who allowed my two border collies to squeeze into the cab of the tow truck. If I had my trailer serviced properly before I hit the road, I would have avoided the trouble and had a more relaxing vacation!
- Talk to your vet
Let your vet know where you are headed to with your dogs. If you are crossing an international border you will need to have your dog’s rabies certificate, signed by your vet, along with you. Ask your vet if there are vaccinations or things you should be aware of in the area you are traveling. Think of potential problems like wood ticks, fleas and worms that might possibly be endemic to the area you are visiting.
Have your vet’s phone number and email on hand as well. If you get into a situation while you are traveling and your dog needs veterinary care, it can be handy for your vet to speak to a local vet you are visiting.
Pack any medications, like heartworm, that will be due while you are away. I prefer to tuck it away in the glove box, the one place in my vehicle I know my dogs can’t get at!
- Eating on the road
The majority of our dogs’ diet is kibble based. We find it easy to use and convenient. For road trips with dogs, kibble needs no refrigeration and is easy to transport.
We find it easiest to pre-package every dog’s meal when we hit the road. Our dogs range in size from 40 to 75 lbs., so hey certainly have different dietary needs. When we travel, we like to feed them a light meal in the morning and a normal sized meal in the evening once we have reached our resting spot or that day’s destination. Ziplocs make easy-to-use dog food containers, and we can soak the kibble in water a few hours before we feed it. Sometimes we find that dogs on longer roads trips don’t always drink enough water.
Are you able to bring enough of your dog’s current diet with you to last the entire trip? If something were to happen to your dog’s food cache on the road, would you be able to find more?
For shorter jaunts of a few days to a few weeks, we are pack enough food for our pups. On longer journeys, we gradually switch them over to pet food that we know we can find in grocery stores along the way. Not every small town has a pet store with specialized dog food, but every grocery store, no matter how small, has a pet food section. By switching before the trip, we avoid any upset stomachs and ensure that our dogs are able to stomach the new, temporary food.
We always pack a few days’ worth of extra food for our dogs, just in case we hit unexpected delays. And don’t forget to pack bowls for food and water!
- Go with a plan on where to stay
Simple fact: Pets are not welcome everywhere. When we travel in the warmer months, we prefer to camp with our dogs. It’s cheaper, we have our own bed, and it makes the journey more fun. During the colder months, we stay in motels with the dogs.
No matter where we are headed, we check out a few sites before our planned arrival. While the majority of campgrounds allow dogs, not all are as suitable for traveling with your dogs. We look for a well-treed campground with private spots. A well-treed spot gives the dogs a clear sense of where their home turf is. If the dogs can rest, so can we!
We also check out the campground notices for bear and animal activity. Camping with dogs has the potential to attract unwanted critters to your campsite. Dog bowls, food, or even toys left out can be very tempting to coyotes, bears, raccoons or skunks.
One final thought on campgrounds: we always ask if the water is potable. There is nothing worse than road tripping with your dog that gets the runs!
When we go for the indoor option, we look for a motel that has outside corridors. It’s simply easier to walk the dogs right outside than it is to walk them down hallways, and then outside to do their business. We ask for a room at the back of the motel, or furthest from the highway. While the dogs are trained to not bolt through an open door, you never know, and the further away from the highway, the better.
No matter which option we choose for bedding down for the night, we always bring some towels and blankets with us for the dogs. They sit on them in the back of the car during the day, and at night we lay the blankets down, and the dogs instantly know they are at home.
Check in next week when I go over some basic rules the dogs need to know if everyone is going to get along (with four dogs and two people, there need to be some ground rules in place so I don’t turn around and go home!)
Kevin Roberts lives for adventure. Together with his pack of rescue dogs and his husband, he spends as much time outdoors as possible. Kevin lives by the motto: "Get outside and play with your dogs!
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