Malck and I recently finished a 479 mile road trip!

We traveled from Raeford, NC to Hendersonville, NC to pick up one of the dogs that the rescue we volunteer with adopted out a year or so ago. Poor Pepper (f/k/a Bonnie) was picked up in the Pisgah National Forest all by herself. Her former owner was not interested in reclaiming her, so Malck and I went on behalf of the rescue to spring Pepper from doggie jail.

Traveling across town with your pet is usually quick and easy, but if you are planning a longer trip with your furry friend, there are some things you should consider to make the trip fun for everyone.

  • Secure your pet in a crate – Sure, most dogs love to lounge on the seat or stick their head out the window. But, a crate helps keep a dog (or cat) safe in the vehicle in case of an accident or other emergency maneuvers.
  • Switch to a harness – If you usually use a collar and leash, consider putting a harness on your dog. These are often more secure and will not pull on your dog’s throat. With the potential of lots of new and interesting things for your dog to see, smell, and want to explore, it is a good idea to be able to maintain control with minimum effort.
  • Dog Tags – Make sure your dog or cat has identification tags on his collar. Microchips are an excellent way for lost animals to be reunited with their owners. Also, bring a recent photo of your pet with you and keep one on your phone.
  • Check the air flow – Before you set out, sit where your pet will be and make sure the air conditioning, heat, or air flow from windows is adequate for your pet’s comfort.
  • Bring a water bowl & bottled water – Traveling pets should be offered water at every stop.
  • Bring snacks and food – Though I’m guilty of buying cheeseburgers for my pets while on the road, it’s generally considered to be unhealthy for them. Unless your pet gets roadsick, bring some dry kibble and some treats for your pet. Only feed kibble to your pet at stops to avoid potential choking hazards.
    • Bring enough food to feed your pet for your entire planned trip. Most pets experience gas or other abdominal distress from changing their food.
  • Make a potty pack – When a dog’s gotta go, a dog’s gotta go. Many gas stations have grassy areas perfect for pottying purposes. A responsible pet owner will have poop bags on hand to ensure the area is left clean. For cats, use a disposable baking tray as a litter box in the crate and clean it out at every stop.
  • Bring a copy of your rabies certificate – All my dogs are pretty friendly, but long distance travelling is stressful for everyone. At the end of a long day even a normally friendly dog’s nerves may be frayed. Bring along your certificate just in case.
  • Bring a muzzle – If you know your dog gets grumpy at the end of a long day, bring a muzzle for her to wear while out of your car. Since I have mostly bully breed dogs, I generally muzzle my pack when we are out and about. Not because I fear my dogs will bite (they won’t), but because I know if they are muzzled, no one will have any cause to question their behavior. It is for my pack’s protection.
  • Always use a leash – Fido may have fantastic recall at home, but with cars, people, and potentially other dogs around, your command may be lost in the commotion. Not all other dogs are friendly and having a leash on your pet is the best way to direct him away from potential threats. You should also check your leash and collar or harness prior to the trip for frays, breaks, or other weak points that could cause the item to fail.
  • Entertain your pet during breaks – He wants to stretch his legs every few hundred miles as well. Bring a rope toy or some other way to interact and entertain your dog while you are filling up the gas tank. A quick run is a good idea as well.
  • Never leave a pet in a closed vehicle – I’ve done lots of long trips with only a dog as my co-pilot. I have an extra key for my vehicle and leave the engine running and the a/c or heat going on the rare occasions I have to go into the gas station.
  • Plan your trip – If you are taking a multi-day trip, plan where you want to be and call ahead to ensure that hotels or campgrounds accept pets. Many hotels charge a small fee, so you want to be sure you are prepared. Also ensure that your dog’s size and breed are allowed.