Holidays with Dogs: Part 2 – On the Road Again

And the holidays continue…

Photo by Jen Walker

Many of our families have travel plans that will take us (and our pets) off our usual routines, out of our homes, and well beyond our comfort zones!

If you think it is difficult for you (or your child) to sit still and smile while Aunt Gertie is pinching your check and telling you how cute you are  – just think how much more difficult it will be for your dear friend Fido if they are in the same situation! Be prepared to step in and act as your dog’s advocate so that they are not pushed into a growl or something more assertive to get away from a well-meaning but quite possibly scary (to them) stranger.  Better yet – have them wait in the car to begin with, saving doggy introductions until after the initial hugging/shouting/cheek-pinching people storm is over and the pressure is off. Fenced yards or large open rooms are better areas for dog greetings; keep away from confined spaces like doorways and hallways that can make pets nervous.

If you get cross-eyed imagining what that six-hour drive to Gramma’s house will do to your back, consider what nook or cranny Rex might get tucked during that drive, given everything else that needs packing in. If a dog crate can fit into your car, or a full spot on a back seat with your dog safely belted in, it will be an easier ride for them. Instead of just expecting your dog to sit still and quiet for hours on end at the first try, try taking several test of one or two hours during the weeks leading up to your big road-trip, so your dog can get used to more extended car trips instead of the usual around-town drives. Those trial runs will ease your dog into the rhythm of longer adventures. If you can keep those outings fun, they will ready your dog for the big trip.

Planned rest and stretch breaks during the drive will help assure everyone arrives in a jollier mood! Make the journey part of the fun. You can plot your route using mapping software like Google’s to pick out likely grassy areas or even parks. There are great online resources to use if you have meal stops or overnights on your road-trip. is one of our favorites. It has an easy-to-use interface and offers options including hotels, restaurants, activities, events, and services by location. Are you traveling in California? If so, DogTrekker is a fun site to visit before your travel plans are set, to learn about dog-friendly places along your way! They review hikes, beaches, wineries and more, and break their search categories down usefully (Lodging: B&B’s, Cabins & Cottages, Camp Grounds, Hotels & Motels, etc).

A packing list will help ensure all Fido’s needs are met while you are traveling: food and treats, bowls and toys, bedding, extra leash, copy of current vaccine history, any relevant veterinary information and medication  (along with veterinary contact information), poop bags, grooming equipment including nail-trimmer and styptic powder, and a basic pet first aid kit. If your dog is crate trained but you don’t have space to bring the regular crate, consider getting one that packs smaller but is still has adequate space. Using the regular dog bedding inside it can help make it feel homey for Fido. Keeping all of your dog’s gear together in a duffle bag or a sturdy plastic bin will make transport easier. Kids can help put their dog’s travel trunk together, checking things off the list as they packed.

Who will be responsible for different parts of your dog’s caretaking while you are traveling? If you plan ahead who will do the feeding, walking, cleaning-up-after, and entertaining of your dog, you will assure that all these get done in the most predictable way, making it a smoother adventure for your dog. Family members old and young can help with different tasks according to their ability.

And while you are away, take time to enjoy yourselves and help your dog enjoy themselves too! You are making memories together. If you want to share any photos of your travels with the family (two and four footed), we’d love to see them on our Facebook page!


I am a wandering hedge-scholar. Feet in the dirt, head in the clouds, dog by my side!
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