First, an introduction to the 2 most important things in my life…
I once read an article on how black dogs are the first dogs to be euthanized at shelters (I guess they aren’t “exciting enough”). After reading that article, I went out and adopted my first dog, Bindi, a 3 year old black lab mix that was returned to the shelter 3 times by other families. When we picked her out, she was one of 4 black lab mixes at the shelter. We snatched her up and took her home, and my life has been better ever since. A month after adopting Bindi, we went back to the shelter and found Bauer, a black chihuahua mix that fooled us into thinking he was trained because every time I said “sit” he sat. Turns out that was just on accident and he wasn’t trained at all (he’s a mastermind at trickery). We brought him home to be best friends with Bindi, and now he is the most loyal man I have ever met in my life.
That was years ago. Now Bindi is 14 years old, and a lot of her black is turning grey. Bauer is about 11 years old now, and he’s missing a lot of teeth. After going through my divorce, it quickly became just me and the dogs. I wanted to do everything with them and go everywhere with them. So I did.
The pups and I have road tripped all over America…
I think the count is up to 23 states that Bindi, Bauer and I have been to together. We are all avid hikers (yes, even the chihuahua), so I center our trips around hiking. These trips take minimal planning compared to an international trip, and I encourage everyone who loves spending time with their dogs to take them somewhere sweet. Let them experience amazing things, let them swim in waterfalls, let them enjoy some fresh air in a new and exciting place. As we all know, dogs don’t live forever. So make their short time on this earth fantastic.
*I always use AllTrails to plan hiking trips. They take you straight to the trail head, have reviews on each trail written by other hikers, and they tell you whether or not dogs are allowed.
Here are some tips…
So now you’re probably grabbing your pup, with tears running down your face saying “Please don’t ever dieeeee!” and throwing her in the car, ready to go see amazing things. Thats great! But slow down just for a second, because traveling with dogs takes some planning and preparation.
1: How’s your pup’s health?
You do not want to take your dog on the road unless he or she is feeling good. If your dog hasn’t seen a vet in a while, it would be a great idea to take them in for a check up before leaving on the trip. If your dog is on any prescription meds (mine definitely are), make sure you have plenty before leaving. Let me take this moment to stress the importance of heartworm and flea/tick preventative. Your dog should be receiving these preventatives monthly (I will spare you the lecture on this right now…just be a good dog owner and use preventative).
2: Plan a route
Before getting your heart set on a destination, research whether or not they allow dogs. Every National Park (and most state parks) have a page on their website describing exactly what you are allowed to do with your dogs there. For example, the south rim of the Grand Canyon allows dogs above the canyon, but no dogs are allowed below the rim (totally not safe for dogs). This rules out the majority of the hiking opportunities, except for one trail on the top of the rim. Every park usually requires your dog to be on a leash… so don’t be that guy with the unruly unleashed dog. My dogs hate that guy. Don’t be that guy.
3: Check the weather
A large part of going on a road trip is being in a car (duh) so check the weather before you go. Try to avoid planning trips for the boiling hot times of the year. Do not leave your dog alone in a car when the weather is warm. This can lead to heat stroke and death. Travel during the cooler months to ensure that your pet is more comfortable.
4: Proper tags
Make sure your pet is microchipped and has up-to-date tags with your cell phone number on them. If something spooks them and they somehow get away from you, you want to make sure that you can get them back. Only having your home address on the tag is no use to anyone if you’re on the other side of the country. I got my awesome dog tags from TagMePetTags on Etsy.
5: Figure out where you’re going to sleep
When we are driving through the night and trying to get to a place quickly, I sleep in my car. You can park your car at a rest stop, or in a Walmart parking lot, and sleep. I am a solo female traveling, so I typically park in areas where the parking lot is well lit (then I bury my head under blankets so it’s still dark). If I feel like splurging and actually get a room to sleep in, I always go for Motel 6. They are not the classiest of places, but they are cheap and 100% dog friendly. They don’t charge extra for dogs at all.
6: Pack your dogs a bag
My dogs have their own separate backpack full of their belongings when we go on trips. I pack toys, collapsable water bowls, food dishes, all of their daily medications, pre-measured ziplock bags of food, towels (because I know they’ll be swimming), a small emergency kit and poop bags.
7: Make your car dog-heaven
I can remove the back seats of my car and make the entire back area of my tiny car completely flat. This becomes dog-heaven with the most comfy of padded beds, kongs full of treats, and nylabones. My dogs are now pretty low energy (they are old, give them a break!). The hikes we go on tucker them out pretty well and most of the time they are asleep in dog-heaven. For dogs that are more active (and for people with bigger cars) you may want to consider having a large crate to make into dog heaven. This is the safest way to travel with your pups. There are other options like a dog hammock if your back seat doesn’t lay down flat. Whatever you decide, make sure it is comfortable for your pup.
Now start planning. Go and get your dogs out there!