On The Road Again: Stop And Rest Awhile

Kevin Roberts
by Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts has prepared you for your upcoming road trip by getting you ready before you leave and teaching your dog how to behave properly in the car. Now it’s time to hit the road – and he’s got some advice for you as you make your way to your destination. This article is all about rest stops. We know, not one of the things you think about on vacation, but when you have dogs, they become an important stop on your journey.

Now that you and Fido have figured out what you need to be ready for the trip, and you have done some in-car behavior training, you are ready for your road trip! You have your destination in mind, and whether you are off on a long adventure or a short one, you have some things to consider to keep it safe and fun for everyone involved!

Here’s a list of the essentials to pack for your dog:

  • Dog food (in a dog (and bear!) proof container
  • Food bowl
  • Water bowl
  • Container for water (thermos, bottles)
  • Blanket for your dog to lie on
  • Leash
  • Collar current ID and rabies tag
  • Rabies certificate signed by your veterinarian
  • Poop bags
  • A favorite toy to engage your dog’s mind for when you stop at night
  • Brush
  • Nail clippers (if your dog is swimming a lot, their nails can get very long, very quickly)
  • Any necessary medication (Don’t forget the heartworm)
  • A recent picture of your dog, printed out, in case you become separated
  • Kennel or containment system

Stop Often

We like to stop often to give ourselves and the dogs a break from the drive. Every two or three hours works for us. It lets us out to stretch our legs and breaks the drive up. With plenty of little stops along the way, we are not exhausted, and the dogs aren’t wired when we finally stop for the night. We are seasoned travelers, and once you take enough trips, you will find your grove and learn what schedule works for you and your dog.

When we are in the car for a long trip, we keep a bag handy with their leashes, bowls, poop bags and a few toys. This is handy for when we stop – there is no wasting time digging around for anything.

Where to Stop

Not all stops along the road welcome dogs. Some gas stations and service stations do not allow dogs out of the vehicles. Keep your eyes peeled for highway rest stops and picnic areas. Many of these areas are scenic and can be a lovely place to snap a few shots of your journey as well. Nothing says “Summer Road Trip” like selfies with the dogs!

At some point, you will need to fuel your car and yourself. If you have packed a lunch in the cooler for the trip, a roadside picnic area will be just the ticket. If you need to stop at a restaurant, consider a drive-thru. A drive-thru means that you don’t have to leave your dog in the vehicle. No matter how sunny or overcast it is, a car’s interior can heat up very quickly, putting your dog at risk for heat stroke or even death. I encourage you to plan a picnic ahead, or do the drive-thru – your dog will thank you!

When we fuel the car, we look for a station that offers full service or pay at the pump. We still look for a spot in the shade, so that we can roll down the windows while we fill the tank. If we ever need to leave the dogs in the car, one person stays with the dogs, and the other person goes in. We never leave the dogs unattended in the vehicle.

Keep in mind that a stop in a new place can be scary for your dog. A service station has lots of noises and smells, which your dog might not appreciate. Large trucks starting up, motorcycles roaring by on the highway, chemical smells in the air. You don’t know how your dog may react to a new situation, so keep your dog contained or on a leash while filling up.

When we do find a nice quiet place to stop, we might swim, go for a short walk or work through some obedience skills. Exercising the dog’s mind can be just as effective as exercising their body, and not take as long! Our own dogs can run for hours, but add some focus work or some tricks and they are satisfied within 10 minutes. If they are tired, whether it be their brain or their body, they settle down and relax much better in the car.

The last thing we do before we leave a rest stop is offer the dogs some water. They may not be willing to drink the water, so I bait it with a little bit of dog food or treats. This encourages them to drink a little more.

Clean up after your pet, so that you will be welcome to stop there again. An increasing number of rest stops are no longer welcoming dogs. Be a good ambassador, and stoop and scoop. Don’t bend and pretend!

Stop often and let your dog be your guide – enjoy the adventure!

Kevin Roberts
Kevin Roberts

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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