6 Tips: How I Survived My Road Trip with a Nervous Dog

Tips for Road Trips with a Dog

Some dogs love car rides. Others despise the very idea of jumping into a vehicle. Whether your pup is in the former or latter camp, she deserves an epic road trip full of sights to bark at. That seems easy enough, but it also poses a serious question: How do you survive a car ride, let alone a long road trip, with an anxious dog?

We asked a few dog owners for traveling tips, advice and ideas that kept them sane – and their nervous pooches calm – during their past summer vacations. Here’s what they suggest.

1. Plan Ahead

“The best resource I found was an online trip planner,” says Phoenix resident Braxton Hillis. “My Great Dane is a gigantic, whiny baby in the car. When we drove from Phoenix to Columbus to visit family last summer, had it not been for my planned route, we would have been lost – figuratively and literally.”

Tip: Like any road trip, traveling with your dog means scheduling out every hour of the trip. Essentially, you need to make plans before you even think about packing your toothbrush or Spot’s water bowl.

An online trip planner, like the one provided by Go Pet Friendly, can be used to locate everything from pet-friendly motels, restaurants, campgrounds, dog parks, and other stops along your route. You can even save your trips to compare plans.

2. Practice Makes Perfect

On the advice of her vet, Samantha Talmadge began driving her new terrier around town a month prior to their planned summer vacation. “When we brought our puppy home from the shelter,” Talmadge says, “he threw up three times – once on my boyfriend’s pants. I spoke with my vet at his first check-up, and she suggested I take him along for short drives through the neighborhood. Over time, he stopped getting sick, and our road trip was much easier than we’d expected.”

Tip: Some puppies may feel carsick when traveling, which may result in owners stopping to clean up “messes.” Puppies usually grow out of this over time, but to speed up the process some vets recommend taking practice car rides the weeks following any big trip.

It’s best to start with a few short one- or two-minute car rides with your puppy around the neighborhood. Slowly ramp it up until he can withstand an hour without showing signs of doggy carsickness.

3. Pack Medications

Take it from Kim McGillicuddy of Tempe: “Don’t forget your dog’s medications! We did once, and it was a miserable experience.” McGillicuddy and her husband had to play phone-tag with their vet and another local vet to get a quick prescription refill. “We sat in a parking lot for nearly three hours before our prescription was available. Never again will we make that mistake.”

Tip: Always check with your vet to get any prescription refills and see if your dog is healthy enough to travel. You can also request anti-nausea medicine to help with dog motion sickness.

Car Rides with Anxious Dog

4. Have Enough Space

Brett Swansonite of Surprise, AZ, is the owner of two large dogs: A German Shepherd and Husky. Traveling with them has always been difficult.

“I used to drive an old Ford Escape,” Swansonite says. “It was never an ideal SUV for trips with my dogs. When my vehicle finally died, I had to make the upgrade to a newer, larger SUV. That’s when I decided on the Honda Pilot, which has enough room for both of my furry buddies, and then some.”

Tip: Traveling with large dogs requires a large vehicle. Ensure you have at least a three-row SUV or minivan, like the Pilot or Odyssey, if you own more than two large breeds. Contact our Phoenix Valley Honda Dealers if you need help choosing the right Honda SUV for your dogs (and you, of course).

5. Wear Your Dog Out

“I always let my dog Skip go bonkers at a dog park an hour or so before a car ride,” Danielle Schlansky of Prescott says. “When he’s exhausted, he sleeps and sleeps and sleeps. It’s incredible – my daughter wanted to rename him Rip Van Winkle the first time we tried this tactic.”

Tip: When tired, dogs will usually slump over anything to catch some “Z”s. A 30-minute break at a dog park or a long jog around your hotel might be all that’s needed to ease your dog’s nerves on a road trip. Even a fun, engaging dog toy can wear a smaller pup out.

6. Protect Your Car Seats & Doors

When Karl Novacheck reflects on his first road trip with his mischievous Border Collie Baxter, he winces with regret. “The car seats were utterly destroyed before we even got to the first gas station,” he says. “The seat cushions were all torn up. Scratches went up and down the car door. There were slobber stains everywhere, even on the hood.”

The solution? Car seat covers and door protectors. “The moment we got home, I ordered a Honda CR-V seat cover and a car door guard. It stopped him from ruining the rest of my car, although he still slobbers uncontrollably.”

Tip: Dogs + Road Trips = Ruined Car Seats. This is an equation that’s been proven as fact for at least a century. Before you head on your road trip with your dog, buy and install the right car seat cover and a door guard. Most dealerships sell OEM seat protectors, so ask your nearest car dealer for advice.

Dog owners in Arizona can contact one of our Phoenix-area Honda dealerships to order an OEM Honda accessory. We can also install your accessories, including all-weather floor mats, cargo liners, carseat covers, and many others for HR-Vs, CR-Vs, Pilots and Passport SUVs.

Enjoy your trip!