Traveling with a dog definitely takes more planning than the wanderlust ideals of just hitting the road and seeing what happens, but I can’t think of a better companion to take a road trip with.
For those of you new to this site, this is Cooper, my recently one-eyed dog. When people point out his eye, he tries to act all cool and say, “Well you should see the other guy!” (The ‘other guy’ was completely unscathed, fyi) and I interrupt him and say, “He just sees the better half of things now!” He is adapting remarkably. We both are.
He and I packed up our belongings in Austin, TX, put them in storage, and are traveling the country for three months. I am spending most of my time writing, hiking, and exploring. Cooper is mostly interested in the varied squirrel populations.
Many have asked for advice for going on a road trip with a dog, so here goes:
1. In Cooper’s case, he is putting a lot of effort into making sure I am not going to abandon him in whatever new place we arrive at each day. I keep assuring him that he is sticking with me, but so many new places and so much inconsistency can be hard on a pup and he is taking it out in his eating. After several days of trying to coax him to eat a solid meal, I finally stopped at a pet store and picked up some canned food. I always stick with organic and I bought the small cans and mixed it with his dry food. He is in heaven and eating again.
2. It is important to plan ahead. It is good to know where you are going and what the rules are. Most (if not all) National Parks do not allow dogs on any of the hiking trails. They are allowed in camping areas and on paved surfaces only. A lot of the state parks are the same way, but it depends, so check their websites. I have planned on a lot of hiking on my travels, some of which is in dog restricted areas. Since I can’t leave Coop in a car or in my tent (dogs can easily make their way out of tents) and he is small and bait-like for larger predators (which call many of these parks home), I can’t leave him tethered in a campsite either. Instead, I looked into alternative accommodations via Airbnb. For prices that are usually not much more than camping but certainly less than a hotel, I have stayed in log cabins and small casitas that allow me to safely and comfortably leave Coop for a few hours so I can venture off and hike. One of my Airbnb hostesses even asked if she could hang out with him for the day while I was out hiking. It was a total win win win!
3. It is ok to leave your dog in the car if you have to pee. My facebook feed is constantly littered with articles about how terrible it is to leave a dog in a car and how oven like the temperatures can reach. It is true! Cars can be lethal to pups in extreme heat, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do while out on the road, but I am here to tell you that if you leave the windows cracked, you dog will be completely and totally okay for the 120 seconds that it will take you to run into a gas station to pee. Even in hot places. I promise. You are not a terrible fur parent.
4. That being said, do not leave your pup in a car for anything longer than 2-3 minutes if it is anything in the category of warm or hot out. I try to make all longer stops (grocery shopping, laundry, etc) while Cooper is safe and comfortable in a hotel or other structured accommodation. It’s all about planning ahead.
5. Dogs are a great excuse to stop often and enjoy the scenery. You need to get out and stretch your legs as much as they do. Take advantage of rest stops. Towns always have some sort of park, even if tiny, which can be a good place to stop for a short picnic.
6. Cooper has his own space in the passenger seat. He is small, so it works. I bought a soft, plush bed that fits perfectly and he can curl up in it. I bought a seat belt for him, but he prefers to go back and forth between his bed and the top of my things in the back seat. Often he will sit on the little consul next to me and watch the scenery for hours. If your dog is larger, it requires a little bit more finagling. One couple I met on my travels packed all of their things in the back seat of their Subaru and then the trunk area was reserved for their lab.
7. It is better to ask for forgiveness than to assume you can’t take your dog anywhere. Restaurants and other food establishments generally don’t want dogs inside, but they are allowed on most patios or outdoor seating areas. Coop is small enough to throw into my bag, and I am amazed at how many places don’t care that I bring him in. Even walking on his leash, many places are welcoming. For the few times I needed to go into a grocery store and didn’t have a place for Coop, I threw him into his travel duffle. He can see and breath even when it’s all zipped up, but no one else can tell there is a dog in there.
8. Doggles!! I picked a pair up for Cooper back when we weren’t sure if he was going to lose his eye and he had to wear the cone for 6 weeks. I figured that when out for a walk, if he was wearing the doggles, it would protect his eye and he could have a reprieve from the cone. Now, while traveling, I let Coop look out the open window when we are in parks and driving super slow. He LOVES having the doggles because it allows him to see and smell and enjoy and not have so much wind and dirt in his good eye.
9. While traveling with a dog is definitely a little bit more work, it is well worth it! If you have any other questions or advice, please email me or leave them in the comments!!
10. Happy travels!
You can follow both of our adventures through all our social media. Cooper is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @Coopterrier. Both of our links are off to the side! If you enjoy this post, please pass it along. Sharing is caring!