On the Road Again: Making Travel Time Fun and Safe

Traveling with K2 the Wonder Dog

Welcome to adventures on the road with K2 the Wonder Dog! K2 is my 2 ½ year old yellow Labrador Retriever. He is my second lab, named after the first one, Kojak. His full name is Kojak Version 2.0 (K2 for short). I call him the ”wonder dog” because I always wonder what he is thinking!  My husband and I have been RV-ing and traveling with dogs for quite a few years. I hope K2’s adventures will help you learn to enjoy traveling with your dog as well.

Many of us leave our dogs in the loving care of Your Pet Space when we travel. I know K2 loves to be there and play with his doggy pals! But there are times when it makes more sense to take him with us. We travel both by car and by RV for vacations and to visit relatives, and have some helpful tips for those of you looking to travel with your dog.

Traveling with a dog is a little bit like traveling with children: you need to be prepared for a lot of different things, but if you think it through ahead of time, it can be very enjoyable and rewarding.

Dog Travel Packing List

One of the first things to do is to make a list of the things you will need for the dog, much like you make a packing list for yourself. Here is the list I use:

Vaccination records, towel, current photo, pet bed and blankets, water, cleaning supplies, food, poop bags, treats, toys, bowls, medication, collar and leash, first aid kit.

The current photo of your pet in the list of items to bring is in case something happens and he gets loose or lost – hopefully it will help you find him. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’d hate to not be prepared – I don’t want to lose my buddy.

You might think: what do I need cleaning supplies and a towel for? Well, if you stop by a beach, and your dog drinks the salt water, you’ll need to clean him up before getting back in the car, and if you don’t wait long enough for him to purge himself of the salt water he drank, you’ll have a mess in the car to clean up as well. This has happened to us – K2 emptied himself of almost a gallon of water in his kennel in the car – luckily I had my towel to mop it up and cleaning supplies to make it all shiny and smell good. Also, you never know when your dog will find mud to play in at a dog park either. K2 was filthy after digging in the mud one day.

Car Safety Dos and Don’ts

Lets go over safety next: always make sure your pet feels (and is) safe and secure when in a vehicle.

Some people like to let their dogs roam free in the car, envisioning them standing by the window, head in the wind, ears flapping in the breeze and tongue hanging out with a grin. Most dogs love this, and when they aren’t hanging out the window they will often curl up on the floor or a seat and nap while you drive. While this seems easy and stress free for you and your dog, it is NOT SAFE if you have an accident, or even if you brake quickly. If your dog is roaming free in the car, they can easily open an automatic window and leap out while the vehicle is moving, not to mention the distraction they can cause you by barking and moving around the car. We’ve all seen the crash test dummies go through windshields when they don’t wear a seat belt – think about what this will do to your beloved companion! One final, big No-No: doggies should not ride in your lap! In many states (including New Mexico) it is illegal, and it is also dangerous for both you and your pet. Keep safety in mind when deciding how to transport your beloved companion.

Some people use harnesses, others prefer crates. Do some research online and find a solution that works for you. PetAutoSafetyBlog.com is a great reference. If your dog is already crate trained, a crate in your car is ideal. The crate is great because it can also be used in the hotel room at night. Small creates that are secured by a seat belt are available for smaller dogs. Crates and seat belt harnesses should be in the backseat – just like child safety seats. This is the safest place for your dog to be in the car in case of an accident.

Some dogs travel well, others take a bit more time to get used to it. If the only time your dog is in the car is to visit the vet, they may feel anxious or nervous about a car ride. Make the environment as familiar and comfortable as possible for your pet. Get your dog used to sitting next to you in the car (without driving). Feed them a few meals a week in the car. Take some test trips before a big trip: outings for walks, to visit friends, and going to dog parks should make your dog more comfortable while traveling in your car. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with an identification tag and a rabies tag attached. Micro-chipping your dog is also highly recommended (and actually REQUIRED in New Mexico), and it will help you recover your pet if they get lost. If your dog has anxiety about traveling, talk to your vet about possible medications that can help. Another thing to try would be a Thundershirt anxiety jacket.

While on the road, you need to stop frequently to allow your dog time to stretch his legs and relieve himself. Aim at stopping every 2-3 hours. Look at the route you plan to take ahead of time, and look for places along the way to stop. Your dog, especially if they are not as used to traveling, may need to go more frequently than they do at home because of the stress of the car ride. K2 loves it when we stop at a dog park – it also ensures that when we get back in the car, he will sleep for the next couple of hours.

The best dog park we stopped at while traveling was a beach front dog park along the gulf coast. K2 not only got to romp and play with other dogs, he got to go swimming in the ocean. The fence for the dog park reached out into the ocean far enough I didn’t worry about him swimming around the fence. K2 is your typical lab when it comes to water – I always say if he had a bumper sticker, it would read “I’d rather be swimming”. I would never have stopped at or found this park without having spent some time looking before I left home and planning the stop as part of the trip – remember to plan ahead and you may find some really wonderful places.

Debbie and K2 on a pier.


Should you leave your dog unattended in your car? The easy answer is a resounding NO. Many states have laws against leaving your dog alone in your car – especially when it is hot. Even if the temperature outside is pleasant, a car still heats up in the sun.

But what if you want to eat dinner, or go somewhere your dog can’t join you? Planning ahead is key. If you know that you’re going to be spending the day at an amusement park or eating dinner out, check the area you will be in BEFORE you leave home and contact a doggy day care and arrange to drop your dog off. Another choice, if you are just passing through and want to get a bite to eat or go shopping, is the “tag team”, method, where one of us will go in while one of us stays with the dog, then the other person goes in when the first person is done. For a meal, once the first person has decided what they want to order, they return to the car and let the other person go in until the dinner is served. Once they are done eating, they switch with the other person. Another easy method is to order the food to go, and eat back at the hotel – or even better, at a park where you can walk your dog. If you are traveling alone, I recommend pick up or delivery for meals, and to eat in your hotel room. Having a cooler in the car filled with drinks and food can be useful as well – and for me, it tends to help me eat healthy food instead of junk food – an added bonus!

Traveling with K2 in the RV

Having the RV makes it easier to leave the dog while we go shopping, visit tourist attractions, or head out to eat. We can turn the generator on and leave it running to power the air conditioner if it’s hot, or the heater if it’s cold. But even when we do this, we return to the RV to check on K2 every 20 minutes or so, just in case something goes wrong and the generator fails. If we are at an RV park, I can rest assured that he will be okay until I return, since we are hooked into power and the RV can now be considered equivalent to leaving the dog at home when you go out. Expect more details on RV traveling with your pets in a future installment!

In conclusion, it can be a lot of fun to travel with your dog, but it does take some forethought and planning. Join me for K2’s next set of adventures, when we talk about how to find things to do and places to stay with your dog while on vacation or visiting friends and relatives, and how to keep him from annoying other hotel guests.

Until next time – get on the road and enjoy some time with your dog!

Deborah Ivey is a Las Cruces transplant. She describes herself as a high-tech gypsy, having moved frequently throughout her life wherever her work takes her. Now retired, she travels with her husband, Jim, and their dog K2, both by car and in their RV. She loves to explore new places, and find fun activities for herself and her dog to enjoy together.

2 thoughts on “On the Road Again: Making Travel Time Fun and Safe

  1. Great info and very timely – we are planning a major road trip from Cincinnati to Colorado next year. We wouldn’t dream of leaving our lovely mutt Wally behind, but we’ve never traveled like this before so I’ve already been thinking ahead about ways to prepare. Thanks for this article!

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