Have Tail, Will Travel


Traveling is a wonderful thing. It enriches our souls, creates unforgettable memories, makes us appreciate what Mother Nature has to share, and it teaches us.

And if you have a dog? Well, traveling might get a little trickier, but it’s also more fun!

In our household, we are big road trippers—and when I say road trip, I don’t mean to the next town over. I’m talking two provinces over into the center of Canada to run around on sand dunes or all the way up the coast to Alaska to look at a glacier. Any chance and excuse we get, we’ll pack the truck up with some food, change of clothes, adventure gear—and we’re on the road again!

We’ve done this for years. So, when we added Aspen, an adorable Labrador / Great Pyrenees mix, to our family, we made sure to integrate her into our lifestyle in a way that was comfortable for her. We’ve logged a lot of miles together over the past year, so I wanted to share my personal tips for road-trippin’ with your own pup.


A Tired Dog is a Happy Dog

What we found to be crucial to traveling with Aspen was to tire her out first. It’s not a great idea to put a highly energetic dog in the truck and hit the road for however many hours. Trust me!

Go for a walk or run, come home, have play time, hydrate, and then go back out for a bathroom break. Release all of that built up energy and make sure food and potty breaks have been taken care of. You don’t want your long road trip to cause stress and build up nerves for your fur-baby.

While traveling, if your pup starts whining, panting or trying to visit the front seat, it’s likely an indication that she needs a rest stop to stretch her legs, sniff around for a minute and potty.

Packing for Your Pup

When packing for a road trip, I like to make sure we pack Aspen’s items first—which includes enough food (plus extra in case of emergencies) as well as treats, pet first-aid kit, blanket, food and water bowls, and a few toys. Of course, we also love to bring along our favorite flannel bandana from The Northwest Dog—which happens to be Apple Orchard!

When heading out to a new place, it’s important to make sure your dog feels comfortable and has some sense of stability. Bringing along familiar household items such as favorite toys or a blanket or bed help make a new space feel more like home, which soothes your pup’s nerves.

Make Space for Your Dog in the Car

Depending on what sort of vehicle you have, consider how much room will be left for your pup after you pack everything else in. We have a large truck, so we leave the back row of seats open for her to lay on comfortably with her blanket and maybe her toy duck. If your car is smaller, a rooftop box can accommodate your travel gear so the backseat or rear of SUV is available for your pup.

Consider the trip from your dog’s point of view… you want to be comfortable while driving long distances, and your pup should be, too!

(Editor’s note: Of course, the safest way to transport your pet is in is heavy-duty kennel like the ones from Impact Dog Crates. They keep your pup safely in place and protect him in the case of a car accident. Another option we love here at The Northwest Dog are the seatbelt restraint systems from Kurgo.)

Keep it Positive

When preparing for travel, use lots of positive reinforcement! When preparing for and taking a trip with your dog, remember to practice patience and to remain calm, positive and happy. Your pup picks up on your vibes! If you’re stressed, your pup will be, too.

If this will be your pup’s first road trip, getting in and out of the car is a good place to start. Depending on your dog, a good little cuddle or a little treat is a fantastic way to begin. Show your dog that this process is nothing to be afraid of. Practice getting in and out of the car, riding around the block, and then taking slightly longer trips around town—all while offering positive praise and training treats.

After a few times, you may notice your dog becoming excited to get in the vehicle! Aspen used to be so scared to do this! We started getting her used to this as a young puppy, and she was too small to get in and out of the truck by herself. (I know, how precious!) But, after repeating the process a few times, she learned that getting in the truck meant fun adventures ahead!

Now, she happily jumps in, plops herself down for a nap, and away we go!

Take Your Time

During the road trip, we like to take our time and space it out rather than rush. Don’t push it too hard, and don’t push your dog’s patience–especially if this is her first long road trip.

Crack a window, let her dog take in all the new smells that you pass by. Take plenty of fun breaks, take time to play a round of fetch or go for a walk. You don’t want accidents in the car and you also don’t want to over exhaust your dog or yourself!

When we stop for a break, we like to include a snack and water as well as a little run-around to stretch all of our muscles. After a bit of romping around, its back in the truck and on the road again!

A good tip to remember is to consider a pet-friendly route. Do some research! You may be driving by some good quick hikes, a beautiful lake, a pet-friendly café, or maybe a dog park. Taking a little extra time on the front end to plan out a fun and interesting route is well worth it. After all, the journey can be just as rewarding as the destination!

Setting Up Camp

So you’ve finally arrived at your destination—now what? Before you jump into setting up your tent, make sure your pup is comfortable.

Take a moment to set up your pup’s space first. If you’re camping, start by taking him for a walk around the campsite to sniff out his new surroundings. Next, set up a spot for your dog to hang out with his water bowl, bedding and a toy nearby. We like to clear a spot on the ground and place some spruce bows on it with her blanket on top. The spruce bows help keep in heat and the blanket is just a comfort zone item. This little trick is excellent if you’re doing some fall/winter camping and around the PNW… it’s nice to just be warm!

(Editor’s note: Of course, your pup can also cozy up in a doggy sleeping bag, like these from Whyld River!)

Same goes for other destinations. Show your dog that this new location—whether a cabin, hotel or yurt—is safe and is fun. Allow your pup to socialize and get familiar with her new surroundings all while continuing calm, positive reinforcement throughout.

Cheers to Adventure!

While traveling with dogs may seem intimidating at first, it’s worth the effort! After all, life’s either a daring adventure or it makes you want to take a nap, right?

Pack the essentials, team up with your best friend and drive. Go somewhere amazing! Come back with new stories, experiences, and memories you’ll forever cherish. And give your dog the adventures of a lifetime for all the love she gives you!

Let us know where the road is taking you and your fluffy little friend next! Tag @thenorthwestdog and @aspenthepyrador on your next road trip photo on Instagram! Happy trails and tails!


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