A Checklist for You and for Your Dog
You’ve probably made a travel checklist for yourself with what you need to pack for the trip and your emergency items. It’s similar for when you’re getting ready for a road trip with your dog except you know need to do a checklist for your dog as well.
Below is a list of the essential items you’ll need for a trip with your dog. I’ve even made it easy and added a printable PDF checklist at the bottom to keep you and your pup ready for any adventure.
When Traveling with my dog Loki the most important parts are that he has food, water, and his comfort items. Think like a big furry baby (minus the diapers but about equal on the messy front).
1. Dog Food
I usually feed Loki a mixture of cooked ground beef, oatmeal, and fruit or veggies like pumpkin or sweet potato with a mixture of some dry dog food. Yes, he is a spoiled pup.
For trips that will be longer than a couple of days or that will not have a fridge to store food like this, I would suggest going with straight dry food but only if you have your dog accustomed to the dry dog food and feed it in enough quality to switch it without upsetting your dog’s stomach.
Loki’s stomach is very sensitive so it took me about 2 months to switch him fully over to dry dog food before I left on my cross-country road trip. I had him on dry food he’d eaten before that I knew he liked (the Hill Science Diet Advanced Fitness Lamb and Rice recipe).
It was good, but not easy to find along the way so make sure if you will need to restock along your route that you have a dry food that you can easily find along your trip.
The last thing you want is a dog with an upset stomach trapped on a long car ride.
2. Water and Food Bowls
I had 2 sets of bowls with me when I traveled. This way I could keep a set in my bag to bring into wherever we were sleeping that night and a set in the car at all times.
It came in handy when we got back to the car and Loki needed water after a hike. It was also handy for on the go feeding when we did long stints on the road so I could feed him in the car when I stopped for gas or give him quick water breaks when we stopped to stretch our legs.
Having a set of bowls easily accessible is a must have for any road trip but I would highly recommend 2 sets if you are doing any multi-day road trips with your dog.
I originally went with two sets of metal bowls that I picked up at Petco but have since fallen in love with the silicone collapsible dog bowls. They are easy to store, easy to clean, and can go just about anywhere.
The only downside to the silicon bowl is they get holes in them (after a few years) and so they don’t last as long as metal bowls.
Loki is pretty low-key in the bed department. He will sleep on the bed, a couch, the floor, a pile of dirty laundry, shoes, really anywhere. He does have a few blankets he’s attached too but other than that he will sleep anywhere.
When traveling I was able to get away with just the couple of blankets he particularly likes to help give him a sense of home wherever we go.
If you find your dog sleeps on his bed every night or sleeps in his kennel every night then it would be best to keep their routine and bring the bed or kennel so they can maintain their sleep routine on the trip. This brings me to my next item.
4. A Kennel
Whether your dog is used to sleeping in a kennel or hasn’t ever been in a kennel they should at least feel comfortable with being contained in one for a period of time.
If your dog has never been in a kennel then buy a collapsible kennel that will be roomy for them and start kennel training.
This is a dual-purpose investment. First and foremost, a kennel is like a den for your dog and is their safe space no matter where you are travel. Second, and equally as important, many hotels won’t let a dog stay there without a kennel and if you need to leave the dog they won’t let the dog be left unless it is kenneled.
Make sure that before any extended trips, your dog is happy and feels safe in a kennel and that they can be left alone while in their kennel.
For Loki, it was easy for him to get used to a kennel, the hard part came when I had to leave him alone while he was still locked in his kennel. The easiest method I found was to cover it with a blanket and play music.
I would alternate doing this while I was still home and found it eased his separation anxiety.
5. Car Safety Gear
When doing long road trips with your dog it’s best to have them restrained or confined in some manner. Some suggest that you ride with your dog in the kennel, others suggest you use a dog seat belt or put a hammock sling in the back seat to prevent them from getting into the front.
If your dog is well behaved and small enough I would add the option of having your dog lay in the foot space behind the driver or passenger seat. This is the method I went with mostly because Loki had a dislike of being on the seats and dove into the foot space whenever he entered the car.
If your dog likes to wander around the car while you drive or loves to look out the window, I would suggest investing in a hammock for your back seat.
I know many are strong advocates for dog seat belt harnesses or kenneling their dog. My hesitation with them is that if you happen to be in an accident your dog is dependent on you being awake and capable to get them out of the car. It also assumes that your dog isn’t going to freak out and potentially injure themselves trying to get out of the kennel or harness.
There are pros and cons to each though so at the end of the day you need to find the right driving situation for you and your dog.
6. Good leash/harness
When traveling with your furbaby, it’s great to get out and see the sites, go for a hike, all that fun stuff. I found that what made it the most enjoyable was having a dog that wasn’t yanking my arm off to smell every blade of grass and greet every squirrel that ran by. A good leash and proper harness have been vital in accomplishing this.
I stick with a standard 6-foot nylon leash. I do not use a retractable leash because Loki likes to go from 0 – 60 and would snap a retractable leash.
The 6-foot leash is a good length to keep a larger dog under control while still being able to give slack if needed. Likewise, since he is a natural puller, I use the pet safe easy walker dog harness.
This harness has a clip for the leash in the front. It turns the dog to the left or right when they start to pull too much making it awkward for them to walk and stopping them from pulling.
I can tell you from experience, Loki used to pull so badly that he would choke himself and I had severe shoulder pain and knee pain from him pulling. Using the harness halved the pressure I have to put on the leash to keep Loki under control which is crucial to a happy trip with your dog.
As an added note, I trained Loki on an e-collar and used it for the first part of my trip. I found it did help to keep him under control but in the long run, I have found it made my dog more dominant aggressive and he would only listen with the collar on which was not convenient for travel.
Treats are another great way to keep your dog under control when paired with consistent training. It’s also a great way to reward your dog since traveling is not as natural for them and may take its toll on them at times.
I had a few different treats for Loki consisting of Greenies for when I just felt like he deserved a cookie, some chicken jerky as a high value treat when I needed him to come, and small soft treats to keep in a bag in my pocket for quick grab treats.
8. Meds (flea tick, heartworm, motion sickness, anxiety meds)
If you’re going on a longer trip or find that your dog doesn’t do well in a car, you’ll want to have all the medication for them. For a quick trip this can be limited to motion sickness meds or anxiety meds.
For longer trips you will want to have all the flea and tick prevention as well as heartworm prevention.
I have a reminder scheduled in my phone so even if I didn’t know which day of the week it was, my phone would alert me when it was time to give Loki his heartworm pills so he was always protected no matter where we went.
9. Poop bags
When going on adventures with your dog you should also bring poop bags. I’m going to sound like one of those National Park Ads but your adventures with your dog shouldn’t detract from other people’s fun so pick up after your dog to make sure no other hikers, bikers, or whoever steps in your dog’s poop. He may be adorable but his sh**s isn’t.
Also, by bagging and closing it, this keeps the flies away from areas like dog parks so you don’t get swarmed by shit sitting flies crawling all over you **full body shiver**.
Onto more pleasant items, TOYS!! It was great not only to have toys for Loki in the car but also when we were moving from place to place. It helped him to stay calm and settle in faster. He loves to chew on antlers so that is my go-to when traveling with him along with tennis balls and his very well loved kong moose toy.
I would experiment with your dog and see what toys seem to keep her calm and which ones they like most. If your dog loves to fetch I would have a container of balls in your car or a kong frisbee to play with on the go.
Loki is sadly not a fetch player but loves to sniff anything and everything so a blade of grass seems to suffice when we are out and about.
11. Grooming supplies
I lucked out beyond belief with Loki being a short hair, low shed dog. It made grooming very easy and at least on the West coast there are a lot of hoses to easily clean off your dog at the dog parks after they’re done running around.
If you have a long-haired dog or a dog that sheds more you will need more grooming supplies like a brush, potentially a comb, detangle spray, and more.
If your dog loves to swim and play in the mud but has a long coat and detests baths, I might suggest getting your dog’s coat trimmed down to a length that would be easy to maintain while not exposing them to the elements
When traveling, unless your dog lives on a pillow and loves to wear sweaters while going outside, don’t shave your dog. Removing all their hair exposes them to the sun as well as frostbite in the winter. It may make the grooming process easier in the short run for a trip but it would risk your dog’s health and increase medical expenses which nobody wants.
Whether for drying your dog after a bath or for keeping your seats dry after a swim in the lake a towel is great to have for the ride. Loki loves to swim and swimming means wet dog in the car and lots of hosing down. It was a lifesaver to have one of the microfiber towels that soaks up a lot of the water and dries quickly on the long road trip.
Even if you’re going on a shorter road trip I would still suggest bringing a towel for those unexpected messes whether it be a hop in the lake, getting caught in the rain, or if the dog pukes in the car and you have no paper towels.
(As a side note, having paper towels is a great thing to have as well if your dog tends to puke in the car)
13. Roof rack or Thule box
I didn’t bring a Thule on my trip and I must admit I really should have. I thought I would be fine having everything in trunk and overflow into the back seat occasionally if needed.
I ended up having stuff either blocking my view or in the back seat crowding Loki way more than I would have liked. I honestly didn’t use half of what was even in my trunk because I was moving and had put a few boxes that my moving company couldn’t take in my trunk. I would have preferred to put them up in a roof rack.
If you plan on traveling in a variety of climates, moving and taking advantage of the move to do some travel, or you like to travel and be prepared for any event then I would strongly suggest getting a Thule rack.
This is my advice for what to bring as my top must-have items when traveling with a dog. Some items are necessary like the medicine while others you may feel are less necessary like a towel.
No matter how long your trip is or how many states you plan on traveling to you should make sure your dog is comfortable and ready for the adventure in all ways. At the end of the day, you know your dog best and should make the final call on what will make him or her happiest when you go on your trip.
Enjoy your time roving with rover!