Tips for Road Tripping with a (Neurotic) Dog

Ever since The Pea went of to college, we have been taking road trips to visit her in Santa Barbara. Tim has been on many of those trips. Why take him along? For one thing, it was a great chance for The Pea to see him. Second, we know that spending time in a kennel stresses Tim out, so we try to avoid it unless we are traveling somewhere by plane. Third, kennels are expensive! Fourth, the only kennel that will take Tim is 40 miles in the *opposite* direction from Santa Barbara, so dropping him off before a road trip just makes the road trip longer (unless we are willing to pay for an extra day in the kennels).

As with many things, road trips and Tim don't get along very well. Being removed from his comfortable routine is just the beginning. Enduring a long car ride, staying in an unfamiliar hotel, constantly being exposed to strangers, being left in a car, are all things he hates.  Here are some ways we help minimize his anxiety and make the trip pleasant for him:

Frequent road stops. We stop more frequently and for longer periods of time to give Tim a walk, let him smell new things, and give him a chance to pee.

Treats. Road trips are not a time to skimp on treats!  

Routine. We try to keep to Tim's regular routine as much as possible: morning and evening walk, 10AM Greenie, etc..

Pet-friendly hotels. It goes without saying that we only stay in hotels that allow pets. Don't try to sneak a pet in where it's not allowed! Our favorite pet-friendly chain is Hampton Inn and Suites. They are so welcoming and understanding. Whenever possible, we go to pet-friendly restaurants where we can stay with him outdoors.

Familiar objects. We always bring Tim's basket, a blanket, and a toy, so he has somewhere to relax when we are in a hotel room.

Come prepared. Tim's travel bag always has bowls, enough food for the trip plus an extra day, towels and cleaning spray (he's never had an accident but you never know!), extra poop bags, and extra treats.

Consider medication. We do give Tim some Benadryl (half the vet-recommended dose) at night to calm him down, because he starts barking when he hears strange noises at night, and we don't want to disturb other guests (or ourselves!). Relaxing chews also work well for him. We have not yet tried Thunder Shirt or calming sprays but they may work for your dog.

Practice makes perfect. Road tripping with a dog can be fun, but with a reactive dog like Tim, it can be challenging. The more successful trips we have under our belt, the more relaxed Tim is, the more relaxed we are, and the better it gets!

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