8 Steps to a Perfect Road Trip With Your Dog

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Road tripping with your dog requires a little more planning than usual. You’ll want to ensure your dog is acclimated to the car well before you leave, plan for comfort and ample stops along the way, and research dog-friendly destinations in advance.
It’s only natural to want to bring your best friend along to experience life’s most precious moments––meaning your dog, of course! With planning and patience, bringing your dog on a road trip can be an enjoyable and (mostly) stress-free experience.
Before you set out, you’ll want to ensure you have the right coverage in case anything goes sideways. That means car insurance and a good roadside assistance plan.
The car insurance comparison and broker app Jerry makes finding both quick and easy. With Jerry, you can compare rates from dozens of providers, sign up for a policy, and even secure roadside assistance in minutes. And you might even be able to add pet insurance, too!
To help you get on the road faster, we’ve fetched the best tips and tricks for how to road trip with a dog.
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1. Get your dog comfortable being in the car

Ensuring your dog is comfortable riding in a car is key since, well, a road trip involves long drives. While puppies may adapt to the car easier than older dogs, you can have great success helping a dog of any age become comfortable on car rides.

Use positive reinforcement

Be patient and use positive reinforcement while getting your dog acclimatized. Rather than punishing behavior you don’t want (like trying to get in the front seat), reward the behavior you do (sitting quietly in the back).

Manage anxiety

Some dogs will have more anxiety than others when it comes to new experiences. If the dog refuses to go in at first, you’ll have to introduce them to the car slowly over multiple sessions.
Once your dog gets in, sit in the car with them and turn the engine on. Complete a few sessions just like this, then begin to take slow drives around the neighborhood. Gradually increase the time in the car until the dog is comfortable sitting for reasonable periods of time.

Aim for early socialization

On your road trip, your dog won’t just need familiarity with the car—they’ll need to be okay seeing strangers at the gas station and other dogs (or even wildlife!) at campsites. It’s not a good idea to test out how your dog interacts in these situations for the first time while you’re on vacation.
Pro Tip Associate the car with things other than the vet by regularly taking your dog in the car to a dog park or another fun place.

2. Designate the dog’s space in the car

Dogs thrive on consistency and routine. They will quickly settle in on a road trip if they’re used to sitting in the same space each time they go in the car. It’s up to you whether that space is the back seat or a crate.

Relieve anxiety and boredom

If you have an anxious dog, try placing one of your t-shirts where they’re sitting as the familiar scent is comforting.
Make sure to bring chew toys for stimulation and anxiety relief. Stuffies, balls, and marrow bones are all great options. Bring squeaky toys at your own risk!

Keep the car clean

Be prepared for hair and dirt to accumulate. It’s well worth investing in a water-resistant, hammock-style seat cover that keeps your seats clean(er) and your dog more comfortable.
Regardless of how dirty the car may get, dogs should NEVER be allowed to ride in the bed of a pickup truck.
If you’re worried about your dog trying to roam, there are a variety of safety harnesses that integrate with your seatbelt system to keep your dog in place.

3. Ensure you have A/C and emergency cooling measures

Every summer brings news headlines of dogs overheating in cars. Cars can reach dangerously high temperatures for humans and canines alike in a matter of minutes when turned off—even if the outside temperature doesn’t seem that hot.
If you need to leave your dog in the car while you run into a store, keep the car running and have someone stay with the dog or ask if you can bring them inside. If you can’t, limit your errand to five minutes and turn on a battery-powered portable fan to keep the dog cool.
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4. Time food, water, and potty breaks

To minimize your chances of accidents, make regular stops to give your dog a potty break. (It shouldn’t have to be said, but please bring doggy bags to pick up your dog’s waste—it disrupts the environment.)

Mature dogs vs puppies

If your dog is over the age of six to eight months, aim to stop once every four hours.
Puppies will need to stop more frequently—depending on their age, perhaps once every two hours.

Where to stop

When you take dog potty breaks, it’s better to choose a rest stop than a gas station. Gas stations have strong fumes and traces of petroleum or other fluids are present in the concrete. Plus, many dogs won’t go anywhere except the grass.
Make sure you always keep the dog leashed at rest stops so they don’t run into traffic.

Feeding schedule

Give your dog food and water a couple of hours before you hit the road. This helps reduce the chances of an accident or nausea right off the bat.
On the road, though, they may need to eat or drink on a tighter schedule. Let your dog drink as much water as they want when at each rest stop, then wait to see if they need to potty again before getting back in the car.
Pro Tip Your dog should have a good drink of water every two hours. Purchase a travel water bowl to make hydrating on the go easy.

5. Consider anti-nausea remedies

Just like humans, pets can get motion sick. Your dog may be experiencing motion sickness if they begin whining, pacing, drooling, licking their lips, or suddenly stopping activity.
Your dog’s nausea or general anxiety in the moving car can make for an uncomfortable trip full of unpleasant noises.
There are several remedies to combat doggie nausea, including over-the-counter meds like Cerenia. Try CBD for dogs or lavender oil kits to soothe your dog’s anxiety.

6. Keep your dog’s information on hand

No one wants to think about their dog getting lost—let alone in an unfamiliar area—but you should always be prepared.
  • Make sure your dog is wearing a sturdy collar with as updated tags
  • Ensure any microchip information is up to date before you leave
  • Carry photos or physical copies of your dog’s vaccination records
  • Keep a current picture of them on hand
This will be useful not only if your dog runs off, but also if you need to visit an emergency vet, board the dog in a kennel, or are crossing international borders.
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7. Research destinations and book ahead

Save time and effort by booking ahead as much as possible. It would be quite the disappointment to arrive at a destination only to find out that pets aren’t allowed.
For each destination point, keep track of the nearest emergency vet offices and local regulations about off-leash dogs.

Camping

Your dog will probably enjoy camping more than a pet-friendly hotel—they can let loose, run outside, and get a little muddy. But big commercial campsites and national parks have stringent regulations when it comes to pets.
Some national parks don’t allow dogs at all, while others only allow them on designated trails or near the entrance. Private or out-of-the-way campsites are usually the best option with your pet.
Finally, be careful when and where you let your dog off leash, if ever––you don’t want them interacting with unknown wildlife.
Pro Tip If you’re going to bring your dog camping, purchase a light for their collar and be prepared with a tick remover tool and skunk remedy.

8. Be patient––and have fun!

Don’t be mistaken: bringing your dog on a road trip will require extra pit stops and patience throughout the trip. Having your dog will limit places you can stop, or you’ll have to be comfortable placing them in a kennel or doggy daycare for part of the time.
But a doggie road trip can be worth all the extra effort. Watching your furry friend splash, play, and do the iconic stick-head-out-the-window thing can make for amusing pictures and lasting memories.

Why you need roadside assistance

Getting stuck on the side of the road is a pain when you’re alone or with friends—but it’s even worse when your dog is stuck, too.
Purchasing quality roadside assistance before you leave will give you peace of mind if you run into any troubles during your road trip with your dog.
The roadside assistance program from Jerry includes 10 miles of towing, jump starts, tire changes, rental reimbursement, and exclusive member benefits like Uber credits and tire repair—all starting from just $6.99 per month.

FAQs

How often should dogs stop during road trips?

As a rule of thumb, adult dogs should stop every four hours. Signs they need an additional stop include whining and pawing. Puppies need to stop more frequently as they have smaller bladders.
If you can, maintain your normal routine. Let the dog out as often as you would at home.

How can I make my dog more comfortable on a road trip?

  • Make sure the dog is used to being in the car by introducing them early and using positive reinforcement
  • Keep them in the same spot in the car each time, and ensure they have a blanket and toys
  • Consider anti-anxiety and/or anti-nausea measures

Finding car insurance for your road trip with a dog

Car insurance is an integral part of your road trip. Without it, you leave yourself open to all sorts of liability.
If you want cheap car insurance quotes fast, get Jerry. A licensed broker that offers end-to-end support, the Jerry app gathers affordable quotes, helps you switch plans, and even will help you cancel your old policy.
And to ensure you always have the lowest rate, Jerry will send you new quotes every time your policy comes up for renewal, so you’re always getting the coverage you want at the best price. This level of service is why Jerry earned a 4.6/5 rating on the App Store and made it the top insurance app in the country.
Jerry blew my mind, honestly. From start to finish, using the app took me 10 minutes and I ended up with $100 of savings a month. Best of all, customer service answered all my questions about rental car reimbursement and roadside assistance.” ––Savanna R.
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