When summertime hits, or it’s the holiday season, many of us are eager to hop in the car and get going somewhere. Traveling to see family or spend some time at a new and exciting location is a part of life and one that can be really fun to share with your dog.
Traveling with your large dog can be a wonderful experience for everyone-- as long as you plan accordingly. No dog-lover wants to picture their dog in a kennel while they enjoy a week at the lake, am I right?
And what’s more, footing the bill for a kennel or dog-sitter can just about double your vacation cost. So let’s bring Fido along for the ride!
Because planes, trains, and buses largely place restrictions on travel with dogs over 25 pounds, the best way to travel with your large breed dog is by car. But this won’t hold you back as much as you think. With the right planning and enough breaks, your dog can probably withstand a pretty long road trip.
Here you’ll find 8 tips to make traveling with your large dog a little bit easier, safer, and fun.
1. Pack everything your dog will need (and then some)
The first step to an enjoyable trip with your dog is packing everything your dog will need. Sometimes, I’m surprised at just how much stuff this really is!
When you are away from home, you won’t have access to everyday items, so when you pack for your dog it’s best to bring items you don’t necessarily use all the time but might need. This will leave you prepared and save you time and money from running out to a pet supply store while traveling.
Packing list for your large breed dog:
- Food for the duration of your stay + a few extra days—don’t forget some special treats, too
- Food bowl and large water bowl-- bringing the bowls they are used to using at home works really well
- Dog bed or crate-- we always bring our dogs’ beds with us so that they know where their ‘spot’ is even in a new environment. This helps them settle at night
- Towels you don’t mind using on your dog-- you know, in case of rain, swimming, mud, etc.
- Entertaining toys, balls, bones-- maybe even throw in some new ones that will be extra exciting while you are away from home
- Dog brush—to contain shedding, remove mats or burrs, or in the event your dog rolls in something undesirable (we’ve all been there)
- Medications—if your dog takes a daily medication, this is obviously a must! Don’t forget the peanut butter (or other means) you use to get them to take their pill ;)
- Extra leash, harness, and collar with tag—your dog should be traveling with a tagged collar on and leash, but bringing extras is an important precaution
- Poop bags—no dog owner wants to get stuck without a large stash of these
- Any special gear—depending on the type of trip you’re taking or excursions you plan on doing with your dog, remember to pack special gear. For example, we used to take our husky on cross country ski trips and would need to bring her special harness, and hiking trips during hunting season mean packing their orange vests and bells for their collars
- Vaccination records—in the event of an emergency, you will be able to have your dog seen quicker if you have vaccination records in hand. Yes, they can contact your vet, but this will streamline the process. This has come in handy for us when we needed ‘emergency grooming’ – ha. But really. A husky covered in horse poop was something better handled by professionals (don’t worry, we hosed her off before bringing her in…). And most groomers won’t take your dog without proof of vaccination
2. Exercise your dog before you leave
Once you're packed and ready to go, don’t just wake up and put your best bud in the car for a 6-hour journey. Get in a really good exercise session before asking your dog to contain themselves in the car for an extended period of time.
One idea is to go with your fully-packed car to a large field, dog park, or hiking trail. Get in a good play session and leave directly from there for your destination.
3. Get your dog used to the car before going on a long journey
If your dog has car anxiety in general or is rarely in the car except for going to the vet, you’ll need to get them used to the car before attempting a long trip.
Make a point to get your dog in the car a few times a week to go to fun places. Ramp up the drive time slowly to get them used to longer periods in the car. This will make a road trip more tolerable for everyone.
4. Keep your dog safe in the car (and your car safe from your dog)
Some dogs are naturally good in the car; others just can’t seem to settle (I’ve got both). You can keep your dog safer in the car by installing a barrier that keeps your dogs in the trunk of your SUV or one that prevents them from jumping into the front of the car.
There are also products like the Dogit Car Safety Dog Belt, that clip your dog in like a seat belt to contain them to one spot. For extra wiggly dogs, with no room for a crate, many dog owners love this product.
As for your car, between the shedding, potentially muddy paws, and general wear and tear a dog can put on your car you can take some precautions before a big trip. A water-proof seat liner is a must-have with a large breed dog. And they make them for SUV trunks, too! Simply toss it in the wash after your trip.
5. Plan a route with extra (dog-friendly) stops
Traveling with your dog is going to make for a longer journey, but if you except that, you can make it really fun. The ‘getting there’ becomes part of the trip!
Maybe you have a dog that can handle stops at a typical rest-stop, but I know my pack can’t. It can be really difficult for some dogs to take a bathroom break on a small green patch next to a busy highway. And exercising them is nearly impossible.
Instead, look for state and county parks along your route before you go. Many of these locations have clean bathrooms for humans and offer a much more relaxing space for your dog to get the wiggles out, relieve themselves, and sniff around a little.
6. Do your homework on emergency vets before you leave
Hopefully, you aren’t going to have any issues with your dog while traveling. But dogs are unpredictable, so it’s best to be prepared. Look up the closest 24-hour emergency vet to where you are staying before you leave for your trip.
This way, if your dog gets a little too close to a porcupine while you’re hiking, you’ll know exactly where to take them. Can you tell I’m speaking from experience here?
7. Make the proper lodging arrangements when traveling with your dog
With the internet, it can be pretty easy to find dog-friendly lodging options when you want to travel with your large dogs. Airbnb, HomeAway, and Vrbo all allow you to search for rentals that allow dogs. Just be careful when reading rental pet policies, some place restrictions on dog size and age.
There are also a variety of pet-friendly hotels available across the country. But when choosing one, find out just how pet-friendly they really are. Sometimes, hotels really embrace your dog-- offering dog beds, treats, and an on-site dog-parks of sorts. Other times, it simply means—yeah your dog can sleep here if they’re well-behaved. Find out which end of the spectrum your hotel lands on and plan accordingly.
If you are staying with family or friends, be sure to talk to them about your dog coming ahead of time. Be respectful of their home and their wishes. You might want to bring a crate for your dog, even if they don’t really use one at home anymore. Another option is to bring some baby gates for doorways or stairs to contain your dog to certain areas of their home, and pack a yard line if they don’t have a fence.
8. Plan activities that include your large dog on your trip
The whole point of traveling with your dog is to get them in on the fun, right? So be sure to plan out some fun dog-friendly activities before you leave.
Look for restaurants and bars that allow dogs, check-out local dog parks and swimming holes, plan some fun hiking and look for dog-friendly beaches. If you dig a little, you’ll find lots of great stuff to do in any location with your best bud.
You also want to make sure your dog is getting the exercise they need each day while you are traveling. This will make everyone’s trip more relaxing and stress-free.
Most of all-- have fun traveling with your large breed dog!
With a little extra prior-planning, traveling with your large dog is going to be a blast. Just remember to pack everything they’ll need, choose a dog-friendly place to stay and include them in as many activities as possible.
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We hope you have a great trip 😊