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Roadtripping with your Dog: Tips on keeping everyone happy + healthy when driving cross country Pt.1

Roadtripping across the country can be a dream for many! Hitting the open road and seeing the amazing places this country has to offer is a life-changing experience. But what to do with Fido? Bring him of course!

This three part blog post will discuss everything from prepping your pup beforehand, to what to do with your dog in the National Parks (most do not allow dogs off main roads and campsites) to how to keep your pup happy and healthy during the trip!

I just finished a 3-week road trip with my 10-month-old Coolie puppy, Whip, and my 8-year-old rescue cattle dog Jake, a seasoned traveler. It went off without a hitch! Our itinerary included Badlands, Glacier, Yellowstone, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Great Sand Dunes, and Nashville, and we have plans for a 6 week road trip next year. I’ve also traveled for years with my own personal dogs through my work as a guide dog instructor. With a few accommodations, you too can bring your best friend with you and have them enjoy the experience just as much as you!

Preparing for the Roadtrip:

  • Look for dog friendly hotels and do some trial runs before committing to a month long trip. We did several overnights and long weekends with the puppy so that she understood how to behave when away from home. Her first night in a hotel she was a bit concerned with the noises of people walking down the hall, but by her third or fourth trip she was a pro!

  • If you plan to leave your dog crated while you are on a humans-only adventure, make sure you have practiced the length of time you plan to leave them and they are quiet and happy doing so. Because my dogs come to work with me, I actually had to build up Whip’s crate time so she was comfortable being left alone.

  • I recommend that if you have any concerns about your dog chewing or being uncomfortable in the hotel room that they should be crated so you know they are safe while you are gone.


  • We ended up renting a van to take this trip. We were driving over 8000 miles and didn’t want to put that on my Subaru, along with wanting the extra space. It worked out great because we had plenty of room for a crate and all our luggage, along with the friends we met up with along the way. Next year we are looking at having a camper-van so we are even more self-contained. Think about what vehicle you’re going to use and then make sure it will fit everyone and all your gear comfortably.

  • Make sure you have a safe way for your dog to travel. Whether it’s crates or a harness/seatbelt combo, no one intends to get in an accident. Safetymeasures for your pet are just as important as you wearing a seatbelt.

  • Travel Hack: If you don’t have a dog seat cover and want to keep hair off your bench seats, especially in a rental, grab a fitted sheet and cover the seat with it. Extra towels can protect against nail marks.


This is not intended to be an exhaustive list but I will enumerate some things that you may forget to pack on the trip and might be helpful.

  • Collar with phone number and address clearly listed. Some tags wear out over time, make sure your dog is well identified in the case of an emergency.

  • A familiar dog bed or mat to lie on. I like the Ruffwear Mt. Bachelor Pad, as it rolls up small when not in use and has a waterproof backing.

  • Food: enough to have extra in case of emergency. We will discuss more on food in a later post.

  • Backpacks and portable water bowls. If you plan on hiking, bring the appropriate gear. Portable water bowls were really helpful when we went to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. If your dog can carry their own gear in their backpack, even better!

  • Heat related gear: I brought Ruffwear Swamp Cooler’s and a Ryobi fan run on drill battery in case it got hot. Both the humans and the dogs used the fan but we didn’t need the swamp cooler as our hikes were always early morning or later in the day. What I forgot to pack was dog boots. It was over 100 at the parks in Utah and we ended up carrying the dogs over blacktop on more than one occasion.

  • Exercise Pen: If you are meeting up with friends or want to be outside with your dogs without them being leashed to you, an ex-pen can work really well for both containment and seperation. You can pick one up for pretty cheap on Amazon or craigslist.

  • Tupperwear Bins: On this trip we packed one tupperwear bin for us and one that held all the dog stuff. This way everything was organized, easy to move around or bring into the hotel, and we knew that if we needed dog related, look no further than that bin. It also meant the dogs couldn’t get into it if we left them in the car with a 30 day supply of food ?

  • Nothing you don’t need: This is a great reminder that you CAN overpack. I brought anything that was critical and wasn’t easy to get (ie. I brought the dogs raincoats because I didn’t want soaking wet dogs in rental homes.) Remember that you will be near civilization, so if you really need something you can always run out and get it.

Next time we will discuss choosing hotels and locations along with considerations relating to food and storage.

*Originally published on August 2017


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