15 Tips for Epic Road Trips with Your Dog

I LOVE travelling with my doggy best bud, Annie.  My previous dogs, Daisy and Sam, also loved a little road trip.  Not everyone thinks travelling with a dog is practical or possible but, as long as you are realistic and prepared, going on a road trip with your four legged friend can be a great experience for you both.

Do be sensible though, if you have a newly adopted dog or you know they don’t travel well, maybe it is best to get a dog sitter until you have had time to acclimate them to being on the road.

Daisy enjoying our road trip through Andalucia, Spain

Below are our top tips to help ensure that your canine chum has a great time

Make sure they have a comfy, safe space

Don’t forget to make sure that your dog is used to travelling safely.  We recommend using a crate or a safety tested car harness. Annie always travels in a crate.  She has been used to this from the beginning and looks forward to getting snuggled up in her cosy bed inside her crate.  If your dog is not used to a crate though, we would always recommend getting them used to being in one before heading off on an adventure.  This article from the Humane Society on introducing crate training is really useful.

Don’t forget the travel bowl

We never go on any trip without the trusty travel bowl.  It is really important to make sure your dog always has access to fresh and clean water.  A collapsible travel bowl is a really practical addition to your list of must haves.

We like the silicone versions  that are widely available in most pet shops and, like this one, online.  They don’t get mouldy if you forget about them in your bag like the fabric ones can and they don’t take up too much space.

This folding bowl that we got free when travelling on the Ferry from Uk to France has been well used since.

Make sure their ID chip is up to date

Don’t forget to always have an up to date id tag and microchip.  This is important anytime but especially so when travelling in unfamiliar places.  If your dog does get lost they are less likely to be able to make their way back “home” and there is less chance of a local recognising them.

Make sure they have all the appropriate vaccinations

When travelling throughout Europe a pet passport is required and they must have up to date vaccinations for this.  Always check requirements for the area you are travelling to well in advance of travelling.

What are the local dog laws and etiquette

Do your research before you leave on your trip.  Every country has different rules and regulations irelating to dogs.  Some countries even have different rules depending on the region you are in.  Public transport may require your dog to wear a muzzle, there may be areas that dogs are not allowed off lead.

A sign in Italy reminding people not to let their dog off the leash in this area

When I travelled with my previous dog Daisy in Spain last year there were a lot of beaches that dogs were not allowed on.  I had to do my research before heading off for a beach day.

When we travelled over on the Ferry Daisy also had to be wearing a muzzle.  She had never worn a muzzle before so I made sure to plan in advance. I didn’t want her getting stressed out having to wear a muzzle when she wasn’t used to it.  I worked on desensitising her to the muzzle before we left. This article by Karen Pryor provides lots of useful information on muzzle training and the best types to use.

We always recommend  that you purchase a well fitting basket type muzzle.  Whilst a lot of people gravitate towards the less conspicuous mesh ones, these styles, if fitted properly, are only good for use for very short periods as they do not allow your dog the chance to pant, drink and take treats properly like the basket one will.

Daisy getting comfy on the Ferry from the UK to France

Check dog friendly accommodation in advance

We are sure you and your dog don’t want to get caught out and have to sleep in the car!  Whilst a lot of European countries are very dog friendly, not all accommodations accept dogs.  We always recommend booking in advance to avoid stress or disappointment. Also, some places may say they are dog friendly but they may not be so welcoming when you arrive.  Always read the reviews if you can, or double check in advance.

Be aware that some places will have a surcharge for dogs.  We were once caught out with this. We knew there would be a charge but the amount was not stipulated.  When we arrived they wanted us to pay an extra 40 euros for the night! We could have booked a different hotel for us both for this amount.

Annie getting comfy on the HUGE hotel bed we had near Milan in Italy

Are there any regional risks you need to be aware of

As mentioned before, do your research.  Some countries have certain diseases that your dog may need to be protected against.  Speak to your Vet and check online.

When travelling last year I knew that the Processionary Caterpillars were a risk in Southern Spain in the winter months.  These harmless looking hairy blighters are extremely common in areas with pine trees. There have been reports of dogs dying after getting the caterpillar hairs on their paws.  They lick their paws and the hairs cause the dogs tongue to swell dramatically and it can cause asphyxiation.

Don’t forget their food

It sounds like an obvious one, but if you are on a long trip and you know your dog has a sensitive digestion, make sure you bring enough or know where you can get more along the road.

Having to swap diet on the road is not ideal.  If your dog has a reaction to the food you may, at best, be dealing with some unpleasant smells or a bit of diarrhea or, worse, need to go to the vet if they have a violent reaction.

I am speaking with experience of this one.  I got caught out one night and fed Annie a rich tinned supermarket food when we were travelling through Tuscany.  The following day, whilst exploring picturesque San Gimignano, Annie had the most explosive runs right in the middle of a busy, cobbled street.  Mortifying and almost impossible to clean up. Poor Annie was fine but I will not make that mistake again.

More on lead time in a strange area

Unless your dog has a rock solid recall, we would always suggest minimising off lead time until you are familiar with an area.  Some areas of Europe have a high stray/feral dog population, others may have livestock lose close by. Also, if your dog is unsure of an area they may be more likely to get confused/spooked

Annie having great fun, on lead, in the Italian Alps

Don’t over do it

Don’t forget that you can overstimulate your dog.  Lots of new sights, sounds and experiences, even for the most well adjusted pooch, can be tiring .  Make sure you give them plenty of time to kick back and relax along with all the adventuring you may be doing.

Annie enjoying some chill time at our hotel in Courmayeur

Bring some familiar items

Like us, dogs feel more comfortable with familiarity.  Remember to pack their own bed and blanket and maybe their favourite toy and treat.

Daisy enjoying the sun whilst snuggled into her favourite travel blanket at a Cafe in Granada, Spain

Have you got a doggy first aid kit

We always travel with a doggy first aid kit in the car.  No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen and it is handy to be prepared for any little mishaps.  We have experienced cut pads, big ticks and a cut ear on our travels and having some gear to help manage it is so useful.  We would recommend making sure that your kit has, at least, some bandages, antiseptic wipes, a tick twister.

Sometimes you do have to improvise too.  Annie had to wear one of my socks, tied up with another, to stop her from gnawing at a little injury she got on our travels.

Don’t forget the lint roller

Try to be respectful of the accommodation you are staying in.  There must be nothing worse than having to clean up huge amounts of dog slobber, fur, or worse.  I do let Annie up on the beds in hotels, unless asked not to, but I always cover it first with a large blanket we travel with.  If your dog is mega fluffy, you may want to bring along a lint roller to get rid of the worst of the hair before you leave.

Annie comfy on her blanket on top of the bed on our travels

Always have a doggy towel to hand

Don’t use the hotel towels to dry off a wet and mucky dog after a rainy walk.

Be prepared for the weather – cool coat, waterproof

If the weather is going to be hot, don’t plan any big walks for your dog during the heat of the day, make sure they have plenty water and shade to retreat to.  Annie has a cool coat which was really useful, even when we were just lounging around, when we visited Sicily in the height of the Summer.  I would add that this was a rookie error from me. I won’t ever subject Annie to temperatures like that again if I can avoid it.

If you know the weather is going to be colder, don’t forget the coat!

A freezing beach day in San Sebastian but Daisy was snug as a bug with her fleece and coat on.

Most of all though, just get out there and have fun with your furry companion.  It is a privilege to be able to share your adventures with your dog – enjoy and take lots of photos!

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