Moving cross country can be an exciting adventure for you and your household, and it can be even more fun with your four-legged co-pilot at your side—that is if you know what you are doing.
Long distance travel isn’t without unique hazards for dogs of all kinds, but if you are properly prepared then moving cross-country with your dog should be a walk in the park.
1. Acclimate Your Dog
If your dog isn’t used to car rides, start taking him on short trips to a nearby park so he associates the car with fun. If he’s super nervous, start with sitting in vehicle in the driveway and then driving around the block a few times per day.
2. Look Up Breed-specific Legislation
Research whether you’ll be driving through cities with breed-specific bans. About 75 breeds are prohibited in various US cities, according to Responsible Dog Owners of the United States.
3. Pack Where Your Dog Can’t See You
It will freak your dog out to watch you packing all your stuff like you’re about to desert her. Do all that moving stuff out of your dog’s sight until it’s time for you both to hit the road.
4. Take Frequent Potty Breaks
Take 10-15 minutes every few hours to walk, stretch and relieve yourself and your pooch.
5. Stay Hydrated
Have water available for both you and your dog.
6. Lessen Anxiety
Mella Barnes’ Chihuahua “Cheeko” got explosive diarrhea from anxiety during the car ride from Detroit to Nashville. “You don’t want to have to drive to the nearest gas station while gagging with the windows down,” she says. For nervous dogs, try anti-anxiety supplements or a comforting ThunderShirt.
7. Keep it Familiar
Bring your dog’s usual bed and a towel with your scent in the car, says Sally Morgan, a holistic physical therapist for pets: “Familiar things decrease the stress of the trip.”
8. Locate Veterinarians in Advance
On Barnes’ first day in her new place, her other Chihuahua, Pinky, had a medical emergency. “I had no idea where the nearest vet office was,” says Barnes, who had to scramble to find one.
9. Notice Rest Stop Rules
Not all rest areas allow dogs to use the “grass facilities,” says P.I. Barrington, who drove with her dogs from California to Tennessee last year. But she did find one that had a dog park.
“We just dropped the leashes and let them run,” she says.
10. Bring Enough Food
A long, stressful trip is no time to switch dog food, since sudden diet changes can cause digestive problems.
11. Update Identification
Make sure your dog is wearing a collar at all times with up-to-date contact information and your new address in case the pet gets lost, says Morgan. Also get your dog micro-chipped.
12. Consider a Harness
Morgan walks her dog in a harness when they’re on the road to minimize the chance of him slipping his collar and running away if he gets spooked.
13. Plan Walks Ahead of Time
Robert Dillman, who moved two dogs on a five-day road trip from Montana to Florida, likes to plan ahead for stops around walkable areas, especially at night. Bring a flashlight for those “low-light bathroom breaks,” he says.
Treat your dog to an early-morning walk each day before hitting the highway to allow both of you to stretch your legs and explore.
14. Keep it Fresh
15. Restrain or Put up a Barrier
Consider using a dog-restraint device or a dog crate to keep your dog safer in case of an accident or sudden stop. To keep an unrestrained dog off the console and protect him from launching forward if you slam on the brakes, install a barrier between the front and back seats.
16. Sniff Out Pet-friendly Hotels
Research hotel pet policies beforehand and have a “Plan B” hotel in case traffic or weather steers you away from your first lodging choice.
17. Protect Against Fleas
You’ll meet plenty of other dogs on walks, and hotels may have fleas, says Burnette, who’s crossed the country on five road trips with Winston.
18. Stow Supplies in an Easy-to-reach Organizer
Include disposable wipes, paper towels, leash or harness, collapsible food bowl, poop bags, towels, water, toys, chews, treats and nausea, anti-anxiety or other medications.
19. Anticipate Extreme Weather
When Laura Renner moved from Texas to California in August with her mini dachshund, Cody, she and a passenger stopped to eat in Arizona.
“It was too hot to leave Cody in the car,” says Renner. “One of us had to wait outside with Cody while the other went in and ordered the food to go.”
20. Mind the Rules If You Fly
If your dog is small enough, you can bring him in the cabin in an under-the-seat crate as a carry-on. Airlines have limitations, fees and required documentation so be sure to check with the carrier. Also allow for extra time.
“You carry your dog with you through security and put their bag through the X-ray machine,” says Renner. “You won’t be able to go through the scanner with your dog.”