Life, Travel

Traveling with our Dog: Lessons and Essentials

Checking out the lake behind our dog-friendly hotel in Mercer, Wisconsin

We knew before adopting our dog that we hoped to travel with her, whether it be to close by locations like parks and friends and family members’ homes or on long road trips for vacation or to visit my family out-of-state. It’s been a learning experience mastering the process of making travel with our dog safe, clean and (somewhat) hassle-free.

Essentials to Have On-Hand Always

I assembled two car kits for each of our cars that ensure we have the basics on-hand at all times. These fit in two gallon sized Ziploc bags. The basics for us include:

  • A couple small toys to play with – one stuffed, one chew toy
  • An extra leash, collar and tags on that collar with our information
  • Extra dog bags
  • A collapsible water or food bowl
  • Doggie wipes

We have one larger setup presently (who knows, we may get a second one) that we switch between the two cars that includes:

  • A quick detach seat cover
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  • A mesh net that keeps her from climbing into the front row
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  • A bolster that creates a wider seating surface for her to lie down
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  • A bed

With the exception of the bed, all of the other items fit inside the bolster, which makes it incredibly easy and convenient to grab and go from the garage and put in whichever car we’re taking that day. I always make a point of filling up an extra water bottle for Paisley and grabbing treats to-go as well.

Essentials for Overnight Travel

When we’ll be gone overnight or if she’ll need to stay indoors by herself in a new place that she isn’t familiar in, we pack a few more items.

  • A collapsible travel crate (more on this in our lessons learned)
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  • A silicone food mat to put her bowls on (makes less of a mess on the floor)
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  • A blanket
  • A white noise machine (our dog is high maintenance, what can I say?) – we didn’t buy this, we got it passed onto us for free from a family member
  • A plastic container of her food and a scoop for portioning. Our large container for her food actually came with a travel sized container – this has worked out super well for multi-night trips.
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  • A large tote bag to haul everything
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  • A towel (just in case)
  • Enzymatic cleaner (just in case)

Lessons Learned in Traveling with our Dog

  • Car travel is not stress-free for all dogs. We really lucked out that Paisley LOVES highway travel and goes to sleep (or at least lies down) immediately when we get up to a consistent speed on a highway. She’s far more agitated and excited when we’re driving around town, stopping and starting. Some of our friends have had a good experience easing their dogs into longer drives and associating treats and affection as rewards for car trips.
  • Crates for large dogs are really bulky and don’t always fit in your car well. The original crate we bought for Paisley was a large wire crate, and while they do collapse – they are HEAVY and bulky! Paisley’s 48″ crate weighs about 40lb and is 48″ x 32″ when collapsed. We bought a lightweight (15-20lb) crate that is 42″ (a bit smaller) and had her acclimate to it over a month. She slept in it every night and was crated it in while we left for short periods of time. All was working well until we left her alone a little bit later than her usual dinnertime in a new place – she chewed through the mesh on one of the walls. She didn’t escape, nor did it look like she was attempting to – but the boredom or stress in a new place didn’t work out well for the crate. We’re going to see if it is fixable, but we may end up needing to just collapse her heavier wire crate.
  • It takes more advance planning to find places to stay overnight that are dog-friendly. Airbnb has a number of dog-friendly listings, but there are often additional pet surcharges. The same for hotel chains. With Paisley being above 50lb in weight, many hotel chains don’t allow dogs above this weight – but we’ve found through research that Wyndham brand properties are overwhelmingly pet-friendly.
  • Waysides and rest stops are your best friend. I’ve never noticed in my life how little grass there is on most gas station parking lots. We stopped at waysides and rest stops on wooded lots on our trip a few weeks ago and will plan to do the same on our longer road trip in September. If on major interstates, you can research in advance where rest stops are along your route and plan your breaks accordingly.
  • Keep the diet as expected when traveling. We made the mistake a few weeks ago of taking a trip while transitioning Paisley’s food AND while she was taking medication. Those changes, plus the changing environment led to some gastrointestinal distress. We ended up giving her a bland meal that night and the next day to help her tummy (white rice + scrambled eggs and cottage cheese with a tiny amount of her kibble mixed in).
  • Routine helps keep things predictable. Obviously when you are traveling your schedule is a bit different than the norm. We tried to keep some things predictable, like meal times, walks and keeping up a regular amount of exercise, even if the exercise looked different than on a normal day.

All in all, traveling with our dog has been a positive learning experience. We’re heading to Kentucky over the holiday weekend with her and are looking forward to introducing her to my parents and seeing how she does on a longer trip away from home.

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