Before I had a dog of my own, I used to fly home a few times a year. After I got Galen, I started driving. I gotta admit, I enjoy long drives alone, just he and I. It seems that a lot of people aren’t sure what to do with their dog on a long trip, so I thought I’d share what works for us. I will preface this by saying I’m super lucky because Galen is a great passenger.
One: Prior and proper preparation prevents piss-poor performance.
I plan our route including stops and potential backup stops and print maps and directions for each leg at least a few days in advance. I got to the point driving from Waco to Albuquerque (11 hours driving, 12 hours including stops) that I didn’t need the directions, but I kept a copy anyway. I used to stop at dog parks, which was perfect when they’re empty, but not great for Galen with other dogs (he is worried about strangers in public). Now I stop at parks with sports fields for my buddy to stretch his legs and do his business. We stop every 3-4 hours.
Two: A tired dog is a good (and happy) dog.
Every dog needs daily exercise (running and barking in the yard does not count), and the same is true during travel. I basically try to run Galen into the ground before he gets in the car so he’s ready to sleep for the entire day. I bring a favorite toy or two and something for him to chew on during a longer leg of the journey. He looks out the window for a bit, then crashes until the car stops (see, perfect passenger).
Three: And for the human…
I know a lot of people aren’t really into hour upon hour of driving, especially across unchanging scenery (can you say West Texas/Eastern New Mexico?), so keeping yourself awake and engaged is important too. For drinks, I have my usual morning coffee with breakfast, a bottle of tea and a Neuro or Vitamin Water, and a super refreshing drink I found online before our first trip – tea bag(s), lemon, and honey (yay glucose) in room temp or cold water. For food, I take a variety of snacks (salty, sour, chocolatey) that are easy to eat without looking. Road trips are basically the only time I eat fast food, and Galen always gets a water at the drive-thru (which for some reason he just loves). For entertainment I start with radio (Christmas music if it’s on) until I lose signal, then listen to iPod playlists, and switch to stand up comedy when music gets boring. Books on tape put me straight to sleep, but that’s an option too.
Four: Stuff and things
Galen does best crated when I’m gone, and I learned the hard way that bringing his crate from home is best. (Backstory: my first trip home he busted an airline crate and created havoc for my sister’s cat (sorry Nike Little Louis Mitts)). Granted, his separation anxiety is way closer to resolved now, but having familiar gear around when traveling seems to help that progress transfer to new locations. I also bring a travel bed (we have this one), that goes in the back seat and somewhere near the action when we arrive at our destination. Since it’s usually colder in Albuquerque than Texas, I bring all of his jackets/sweaters for morning walks under 20F. Since we’ve started bikejoring more, I now bring his harness and bungee leash so he can run out his crazies in the mornings. His feet are usually fine, but I bring his booties along just in case.
Hopefully this will ease apprehension about long-distance trips with dogs. If you have to stay at hotels (like we’ll be doing on our way back to Dallas this trip), try to keep your routines the same as you would at home. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey! Happy cruising!