#NationalDogDay: How to Bring Your Dog on a Road Trip

Within the next ten days, America will celebrate two of the most important holidays of the year. One, Labor Day, we all know well. It’s the officially unofficial marker to the end of summer. A day some of us are lucky enough to have off from work and most of us pass with a barbecue or trip out of town.

But the other day, the day that’s arguably more important is today.  A day that, while definitely not a government holiday, should still be celebrated with fervor and excitement because it’s the day you get to put man’s best friend first–if you’re fortunate enough to have one, anyway. Today is National Dog Day.

You see, I’m lucky enough to be the owner of the perfect dog. And I’m not just saying that. Cooper, my four-year-old rescued Labrador and Basset Hound mix, is truly one of the best dogs on the face of the planet. While he has faults, like his (understandable) obsession with food and the fact that he can somehow make himself denser in the middle of the night when I want to move him , his docile temperament and always-sweet disposition make up for them ten-fold.

Cooper Petey Shepherd, or Coopie-Coo as I lovingly refer to him.

He also happens to be one of the best travel companions I’ve ever known–dog or human alike–for many reasons. First and most prevalent is that he doesn’t judge me for belting my favorite song lyrics, but there are a dozen other things that make him amazing at travel. Like the fact that he’s so darn cute because he likes to sit in the front passenger seat and open his mouth up just enough to make it look like he’s grinning from ear-to-floppy-ear. Or that he likes for me to hold his paw and has the uncanny ability to tell when I can based on where my hands are on the wheel. (If they’re at ten-and-two, he knows to lay down and wait for me to get through traffic. But if they’re at five-and-seven (usually on major highways), he likes to nudge my elbow so I’ll take his paw.)

So if you’re like me and considering celebrating both holidays by taking a road trip out of town, but not wanting to leave your best pal behind, then here’s what you have to do.

1.) Prepare your vehicle

Pet Dividers
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Pet Dividers

Now, if you’ll have company in the form of a human passenger, or if you just don’t feel comfortable with your dog in the front seat and have trouble keeping him or her from climbing to the front while driving then you might need a pet divider. They come in a few different designs and are a great way to ensure that your dog stays in the backseat with minimal distraction to the driver.

Pet Mats
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Pet Mats

There’s also the issue of protecting your seats and upholstery from the animal’s nails or any shed fur. Since dogs tend to shed quite a bit in the summer, you may want to consider a pet mat or pad to help protect your seats from the debris, or at the very least, help you with the clean-up after your trip is over and done. They’re specifically designed for in-car use and won’t ruffle or fold like a blanket in the event that your pet gets rowdy.

Floor & Cargo Mats
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Floor & Cargo Mats

Arguably the most important factor in Cooper’s ability to be the perfect travel companion is that he doesn’t get car sick. So if your four-legged-friend is unfortunate enough to get motion sickness or tends to loose their lunch when in the car, you’re definitely going to need to prepare. In this instance, you’ll surely want to cover all of your bases with pet pads and even some floor and cargo mats in case things get projectile. Not only are they good for travel with your pet, but they’re also just generally a good thing to have to preserve the beauty of your car through spillage or tracking in whatever elements you encounter.

2.) Snacks and drinks are a must

Every road trip needs snacks and drinks. Period. End of story. If you don’t have at least two snacks–one salty or savory and one sweet–then you’re not doing it right and you need to hand in your road trip credentials. You also need a drink, preferably one with caffeine so you can stay alert behind the wheel, but I’ll let you be the judge of that one.

front seat Cooper
Refusing to give up the front seat, Cooper rides on a box on moving day.

You’ll also need some food and water your dog just in case. I like to have a zip-lock baggie of Cooper’s favorite treats handy and an open cup of water so he can drink whenever he wants. It works pretty well for us that whenever I crack into my treats, he gets one of his own. Plus, they’re good to have if your animal responds well to positive reinforcement. If, however, your dog gets sick in the car, don’t feed him or her if there’s any driving left to do. If you do, you’ll likely be cleaning up multiple rounds of vomit. Just keep the water close by so they can stay hydrated.

3.) Take lots of breaks.

Just like you need some time to stretch your legs, get a bite to eat or use the restroom, so does your pup. So it’s good practice to stop the car every hour and a half to two hours depending on the size and energy level of the dog. The bigger the dog, the longer the break needs to be. Also, be prepared for some changes in stool. The change in environment may make them anxious and in turn have an effect on their stomach, so be sure to bring extra baggies for any excessive defecation. Every break should be at least fifteen minutes so the dog has time to do it’s business and possibly even some running around. the more energy burned outside of the car, the less they have to burn inside of the car.

4.) Be patient.

There will likely be some hiccups unless you have traveled with your pooch before, so remember to be patient. Whether your dog loves car rides or hates them, either way, this is something that is new and/or different for their routine, so they may be scared or nervous at some points. Don’t let impatience make this a one time thing.

5.) Have fun!

And finally, just remember to have a good time. If all goes according to plan, this could become something that you and your dog can one day repeat. So don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself because your dog will as long as they’re with you.



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