7 Helpful Tips for a Cross-Country Road Trip With a Dog

Tips With a Dog
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Nothing beats the freedom of hitting the open road with your best friend by your side and some of your favorite tunes playing over the car stereo. If your dog is your best buddy, taking a road trip with him or her adds a whole new dimension of fun and excitement to the trip. One of life’s greatest pleasures is sharing a trip with a furry friend, yet, there are difficulties sometimes on a cross-country road trip with a dog. Traveling with your pet might be stressful if you don’t know how to accommodate their unique set of needs.

I’ve spent endless hours on the road with my dogs because I’m a huge fan of both road trips and dogs. I’ve been all over the west coast with my dogs, from many road trips in Washington to longer ones down the Oregon Coast. The experiences I’ve had and the places I’ve been have given me a wealth of knowledge that I’m happy to pass on to others. When planning a trip with your dog, every detail counts, from learning his or her travel habits to assembling the ideal canine luggage.

This all-inclusive manual is designed to assist you in facing the one-of-a-kind obstacles you’ll face on the road with your dog. This article will help you handle everything from pit stops and meals to keeping your dog quiet on long trips. If you put in the time and effort, your next vacation in the car with Fido can be the trip of a lifetime!

Road Tripping With a Dog FAQs

There’s nothing quite like being able to show your dog the world — or at least the country. Hiking with your dog to waterfalls, playing in the snow, and jumping into piles of fallen leaves in every state is a wonderful way to spend a vacation

If you’re planning a fun road trip and taking your four-legged friend with you, it’s best to be prepared. Dogs need space to exercise and lots of clean water. They also thrive on routine (not something in surplus while road-tripping). They can, however, be great road trip companions if you do it right. 

So before you organize the car and begin the drive, here are some questions I’m often asked about road-tripping with a dog

How Long Can a Dog Go on a Road Trip?

Road Trip Dog In Car

Driving cross country with a dog isn’t too different from driving with a baby (where you’ll also need plenty of tips for a road trip with a baby) — or even just another adult. They can sit for only so long before they need to get out of the car and stretch their legs. The exact period of time your dog can handle the car will depend on many different things. 

Some dogs are more comfortable in cars than others, some have more energy to expel, and some are quite happy sitting or sleeping for most of the day. You know your dog best. So when planning your road trip, schedule stops every couple of hours for everyone to stretch, drink water, and breathe some fresh air. 

If you stop often enough, and your dog is okay with the car, you could probably manage multiple days on a cross-country road trip with a dog.

How Often Should You Let Your Dog Out to Pee on a Road Trip?

If your dog shows signs of needing a bathroom break, I’d suggest stopping as soon as it’s safe. Otherwise, generally, every two to three hours is ideal for bathroom breaks. If your dog is still a puppy, you may need to stop sooner than this.

When you do stop, try to encourage your dog to pee, give them some water, and perhaps take them for a short walk to allow them some privacy. If you’re noticing that your dog is not peeing when you stop, there may be something wrong, and it would be best to check in with a vet.

Why Won’t My Dog Go to The Bathroom on a Road Trip?

Certain dogs have no problem doing their business wherever they are — when nature calls and all that. Other dogs may be shy or uncomfortable in new places. Being on the road means your dog is in strange spaces, and unfamiliar sounds and smells can distract them

They may also be experiencing some anxiety which can make bathroom breaks harder. Try to find quieter spots for your dog when you stop. An environment as close to their usual bathroom area as possible is ideal. If you’re worried that their hesitation is becoming a problem, find a vet on your trip, and they can prescribe something to help. 

I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to help me plan out my trips and find fun stops along the way. Use my code “BTR5QTP” for $5 off when you sign up!

Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea During Road Trips?

Diarrhea while on the road can be caused by a few things. It could be from motion sickness or from stress. Both of these can be treated with a vet’s meds, which should help the situation. 

Your dog’s diarrhea might come from eating things they shouldn’t along the road, which should be avoided as much as possible. It’s also not a good idea to change their diet while on the trip, so try to bring their usual food with you. 

Lastly, an upset stomach could be caused by an infection or parasite. If it persists and is not getting any better, I’d suggest taking your dog to the nearest vet to get checked out. 

How Do You Use The Bathroom When Traveling Alone With a Dog?

It’s not just your dog’s toilet breaks that you need to schedule. You need to plan for your own needs as well. 

If you’re traveling alone with your dog, it’s best to stop off at pet-friendly rest areas with bathroom facilities, allowing you to secure your dog’s leash somewhere. You can then use the bathroom while your dog gets some fresh air, and you both get to stretch your legs while traveling cross country with a dog.

How Do I Keep My Dog Calm on a Long Road Trip?


If your dog is shaking, crying, or not enjoying the drive, it can take much of the fun out of your trip. You want your pup to be as happy as you are on the road. 

The easiest way to keep your dog calm in the car is to begin before you even leave. Getting them comfortable on longer drives — but slowly — is the first step (and one of my top tips on a cross-country road trip with a dog!). Then make sure the car has their toys and blankets and is a safe space for them. 

Some dogs will enjoy calming music while in the car, and some soothing ear scratches may also help. If you’ve done all of this and your dog is still scared of the drive, you may need to look at calming meds from your vet. 

How Do I Feed My Dog on a Road Trip?

Feeding your dog on the road isn’t too different from feeding them at home — only the scenery changes. I wouldn’t suggest you try to feed them in the car while it’s moving. Rather stop at a gas station or pit stop area and do dinner time. 

A travel-friendly bowl, a seal-tight container for food, and lots of water are all you need to have with you for a cross-country trip with a dog. Try to stick to your usual routine and dinner times to keep your dog feeling safe and happy. 

Traveling with children? Make sure to have enough road trip snacks for kids as well!

What to Pack for My Dog on a Road Trip?

Road Trip Dog Safety Harness

I have a long list of things to pack when driving with the family, but even though dogs are a little lower maintenance, they still have their own needs. If you’re taking your pet along on your road trip, make sure you have the following items with you:

  • Safety harness – Keep your dog leashed and secure at all times to avoid them getting hurt or lost. Also, ensure that your dog always has an ID tag on them. 
  • Collapsible water and food bowls – These will collapse down to save space, and they’re really handy for hikes and other trips too. You can pack a few bottles of water and some food separately. 
  • Toys and chew treats – Pick out a couple of your dog’s favorite toys and some hardy chew toys to keep them busy during the drive. Their toys will also help keep anxiety down by providing homely comfort. 
  • Back seat cover – This will help keep shedding hair in one spot, but it also creates a sort of hammock on the back seat for your dog, which is cozy and safe. 
  • Blankets and towels – Bring some scents from home with you and pack a few blankets and towels into the car for your dog to lay on. 
  • Pet first-aid kit – Include bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, and any necessary medications prescribed by your vet. 
  • Waste bags – A good owner knows to clean up after their dogs. Having good waste bags and perhaps a car bin, in case you can’t find a bin where you are, is important. 
  • Brush and other grooming supplies – Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean it’s time to slack on your dog’s grooming routine. Carry the grooming essentials to keep your best friend looking spiffy on the road. 

Make sure to reserve your rental car ahead of time! I love using Discover Cars for my trips.

Tips For Cross-Country Driving With Your Dog Safely

Road Trip Dog With Blanket

A long-distance drive can be fun for humans and dogs as long as it’s done with preparation and planning. Below are some more tips I often give to anyone wanting to road trip with dogs. 

Get Your Dog Comfy in The Car First

One of the most important things is to ensure that your dog is comfortable in the car. If this is their first time driving with you, then a long-distance trip is probably not wise. Take shorter journeys around your town and stop in at the dog park or at friends’ houses, or just take drives around the block until your dog seems more at ease

Book a Vet Check-up Before You Leave

I’d still suggest noting vets along your route, but it’s always more reassuring to have your usual vet look at your dog before the trip. So do a general check-up, make sure your dog is healthy, and ask any questions you might have while there. This is especially important if going on a long road trip with a new puppy.

This would also be a good time to ask your vet if they’d suggest any calming medicine for your dog during the drive.

Looking to pass the time with your companions? You’ll love this trivia for road trips.

Safety First Always

It’s important that you don’t allow your dog to roam freely in the car. This can distract the driver, and if you have to break hard or get into an accident, your dog will be hurt the worst. 

Ensure they are strapped in using a car strap or in a specialized dog car seat. Or if they are crate trained, you can bring their crate in the car with you during cross country travel with a dog.

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Plan Your Route

cross country road trip with a dog hike

Road tripping as a couple can mean you drive where the wind takes you. Planning ahead becomes more essential as soon as you add a dog into the mix. 

Check your route before you leave, and write down all possible stops (even if you don’t stop there, have them handy just in case). It’s also a good idea to keep track of all pet-friendly (and non-pet-friendly) spaces you’ll encounter along the way. 

Stop Often

When setting out your itinerary and travel time, always budget more time than you think you’ll need. Dogs aren’t designed to be cooped up in cars, and to keep them happy, you may just need to stop a lot more than you’d bargained for.

Set aside time for multiple stops along the way, and try not to rush these. Make sure your dog is hydrated, take them on a short walk, and if there’s time, play a little game. All of this will keep the drive smooth and joyful. 

Check For Accommodations

When you’re traveling with the (full) family, finding accommodations that allow dogs can be tricky. There are, thankfully, quite a few pet-friendly hotels and camping grounds that you can book. 

To alleviate any stress on the road, check your accommodation options and book them as early as you can. This ensures that your dog is welcome, that you know where you’ll be sleeping, and that other pet owners won’t beat you to it. 

Rent a SniffSpot

Did you know you can rent a secure, open space for your dog to run while on the road? SniffSpot is kind of like an Airbnb for dog parks. People all over the world list their large areas of land and then charge for their dogs to spend an hour or two expelling some pent-up energy. This is a cool and thoughtful way to cater to your furry friend while en route.

Traveling with your pup is a fun experience, so make sure to keep these tips for a cross-country road trip with a dog in mind to make yours that much smoother!

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