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Adventure Inspiration

How To Road Trip With Your Dog: 8 Practical Tips

Hitting the open road means something different to everyone. Whether you want to explore uncharted territory, see new places through your dog’s eyes, or simply chase squirrels across state lines, whatever your reason, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top eight tips for an epic road trip with your dog.

8 Tips For Road Tripping With Your Dog

A dog sniffs inside a Ruffwear Haul Bag.

1) Pack Your Dog’s Gear

You’ve got enough on your plate with packing for yourself. Let us lighten your load by taking care of your dog gear packing list:

  • Dog travel bag like the Haul Bag™ to organize gear
  • Water and dog food
  • Dog food & water bowl — go with The Quencher™ if you want something that's ultra portable
  • 1-2 of your dog’s favorite toys
  • Treats
  • Pick-up bags
  • Medical records & vaccine certificates
  • Dog drying towel like the Dirtbag™ for wet-weather or water play
  • Dog bed and blankets
  • Emergency vet number
  • Seat cover to protect your car from dirt and scratches
  • Dog apparel appropriate for the weather you’ll encounter

2) Research Where You’re Headed

At a beach, a dog stands in the trunk of a car and greets a woman.

Take the guesswork out of your trip by researching dog parks and dog-friendly restaurants ahead of time. If you’re planning to explore the outdoors, look into which trails, national parks, and campsites allow dogs.

It can be helpful to plot out where you plan to stop on a map so you get plenty of breaks from the car. Features like “Create a Map” on Google Maps allows you to draw specific routes and add stops.

3) Practice Short Road Trips First

A dog sits on top of a Ruffwear Dirtbag Seat Cover in a car.

Unfamiliar routes can bring surprises – like unexpected bumpy roads and swerves. Some dogs adjust well to road trips, while others might experience anxiety or motion sickness.

To prepare your canine companion for longer car rides, ease them into the experience with shorter practice runs. Not only will you set your dog up for success, you’ll also learn their individual needs and how you can best support them. If your pup experiences any sort of discomfort on the road, you can chat with your veterinarian for guidance about how you can best support them.

4) Get the Wiggles Out Before the Journey

A woman throws a Ruffwear Camp Flyer toy for her dog.

Both you and your dog benefit from exercise before hours of sitting. There’s nothing like a good ball chase, toy tug, or morning run to get the wiggles out for you and your tail-wagging sidekick – and hey, maybe it’ll even encourage a snooze in the car.

5) Provide Rewards Along the Way

Dog playing with the Gnawt-a-Rock™.

Add treats to the experience, and you’re bound to create a more positive association with road trips. Try rewarding your dog with treats and toys every few hours. Toys also provide mental stimulation, so you can keep your canine explorer occupied while you get lost in your favorite podcast.

Go one step further by combining treats and toys with the Gnawt-a-Rock™ toy. It holds kibble and treats inside for your dog to discover as they chew and play.

6) Create a Calming Space

A man sits in the trunk of his car with his dog while on a road trip.

Help your dog enjoy the journey by creating a comforting spot for them in the car. This might include a dog bed, sleeping pad, favorite blanket, or items that have familiar smells from home. To keep your dog secure, we recommend the Load Up™ Dog Car Harness. This car harness has been crash tested for safety and ensures your furry companion stays put during unexpected bumps or swerves. Plus, the comfortable design allows them to relax and enjoy the ride (without becoming a backseat driver).

7) Take Breaks

A woman walks on a trail behind her dog who is playing with a Ruffwear Gnawt-a-Cone dog toy.

Every two-to-three hours, take a break to stretch, walk, play, or go to the bathroom. Your pup will be stoked on sniffs – imagine the grass, bushes, trails, and fire hydrants! Stops are also a great time to refuel your dog – and yourself – with water and food. Replenish and hydrate to keep those good vibes going.

8) Leave No Trace

Kids walk with their two pugs on a trail.

For many, a big part of road tripping is the exploring we get to do along the way. But our epic excursions have an impact on the environment and wildlife. Luckily, there are ways to keep the stoke high while minimizing our impact. To hit the trails responsibly, take a look at our article: Leave No Trace: Dog Edition.

Off You Go

So that’s it, you and your pup are packed, prepared, and pumped. Now go explore those coasts, forests, deserts, and peaks. You’re ready.