Driving Mr. Puppy
As regular readers of this blog know, we recently headed back to Chicago from LA. And of course we always have this furry fellas with us, so that means we have to drive between cities. And if you’ve never driven your dog across this beautiful country before, it can be a little daunting. But don’t worry, we’ve got 5 great tips to help you out!
Tip #1 – Mindset – Keep an Open Mind and a Good Attitude
For practical minded people, and believe me I’ve been known to be this from time to time, this may not seem like the most actionable tip. At least not at first. But trust me, it’s the most important thing I can tell you. If you don’t have a good attitude and keep positive thoughts, you’re just setting yourself up to have a miserable experience.
The good news is that in my experience, driving your dog across the country is actually much easier than you might expect. And even if you have a big dog that likes to do nothing more than run around and play all day long (cough…Sacha…cough), it can still be a great experience.
One obvious point to remember is that even though YOU know you’re going to be driving 2,000 miles, your dog doesn’t. Whenever we start off in the car, Sacha usually goes crazy and barks with excitement for the first 10 or 15 minutes before chilling out and settling down. But he always does. After a short while, he’s relaxed, and chill and settles in for the ride. And we’ve noticed too that after the first day on the road, the rest of the days of the trip he doesn’t go all crazy when he gets in the car in the morning. He just settles right in and enjoys himself.
Dogs are smart, they can tell if they’re on their way somewhere or if they’ve reached their final destination. With Sacha we find he can tell the difference between being en route to a place and arriving there. So trust that your dog will know when the journey continues and when he’s about to arrive.
Tip #2 – Choose Dog Friendly Motels
Granted, this one goes without saying, but you’ll need to make sure that you find dog friendly motels along your route. Fortunately, the majority of motels these days are dog friendly. Most seem to charge a daily fee to add your dog or pet to a room, typically in the $10-$15 range. So it’s not terribly expensive, but it is something to consider.
It’s interesting to me how times have changed. I remember as a kid driving across the country with my family and I think in those days, if you wanted to bring a dog with you, you had to find like a campground. As a doggy daddy, it’s great to see how things have evolved and how important dogs and other pets have become to our lives.
Anyway, back to motels. We personally try to stay at a Red Roof Inn whenever we can because their policy is always that pets stay free. We’ve always feel very welcome taking Sacha with us to a Red Roof Inn for that reason. They also often have good deals on room stays so be sure to click on the link below to make your reservations in advance.
Tip #3 – Give Your Dog Plenty of Room and Keep the Vehicle at a Comfortable Temperature
We drive an SUV and frankly, I can’t imagine going on a long cross country trip in anything smaller for a lot of reasons. But one of the most important things it provides us is the ability to give Sacha a lot of room. Take a look at the photo below and you can see what I mean. As you can see, we keep a space free for Sacha to move freely from the passenger side to the driver’s side. This gives him a chance to stand up, stretch his legs, move around a little bit, change his resting position, and so forth.
Sacha is an 80lb Samoyed and the space we leave for him lengthwise (again, from passenger side to driver’s side) is about 50″ and the width he has is about 25″, so about a 2-1 ratio. It’s important to note that as you can see, the space we give Sacha is right be behind us in the front seat, so he’s as close to us as possible. This is important to his stress level as well as ours. Plus, if there’s any sort of emergency or if he’s in any kind of discomfort whatsoever, the person in the passenger seat can get to him easily. Giving him that freedom and flexibility is paramount to helping keep Sacha relaxed.
You’ll also notice that we’ve put up a white baby gate if you take a look at the right side of the photo. This is really important especially if you have a big, energetic Samoyed like Sacha. Without that baby gate, Sacha likes to stick his head in the front seat and bark and try to play. Sometimes, he even tries to get himself into the front seat and you have to hold him back with your arm. Which obviously isn’t the safest thing in the world. So having a baby gate up there like we do is critical to keeping Sacha in the area you’ve carved out for him in the back. To purchase a baby gate similar to the one you see here, click on the link below.
We do wish there was a seat-belt solution that would accommodate that much movement for him on a long trip, but we haven’t found one yet. If you have a suggestion for one, please leave a comment. We do have a dog seat-belt that we like and prefer for Sacha, but for us, we only use that on short trips.
Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, Sacha LOVES to sit by the window and watch the country go by as you can see from this photo. The United States is a truly beautiful country and it’s awesome to have the opportunity to drive through it. From Los Angeles all the way to Vail, CO t’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s basically wall to wall mountains and hills through California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorodo and it’s just stunning! However, once you hit Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois…yikes! It’s all flat until you hit Chicago.
Tip #4 – Give Your Dog Access to Food and Water
The other thing we do is we leave Sacha with access to both food and water during the entire length of our trip. It’s particularly easy to get dehydrated while on the road (true for both humans and dogs) so we feel it’s important for him to always have access to clean water. Anything we can do to try and disrupt his routine as little as possible is what we’re going for. At each stop along the way, we give him more food if needed and always make sure he gets fresh water.
Now if you’re worried about the back of the vehicle getting a little messy I hear ya. And I won’t lie, it is a possibility. But quite frankly, though we had a little bit of spillage it really wasn’t bad at all. We typically keep his water bowl at about half full and his food at about a third full. Yes, it’s more work to monitor the bowls and fill them as needed, but it pays off with a cleaner backseat.
Tip #5 – Stop Early and Stop Often
Driving across the country means you’re going to be in the car for about 8-12 hours/day (or more depending on your pace) so you’ve got to make sure you stop frequently and give your dog some exercise. It’s good for them and good for you. Your pooch will certainly appreciate having the time to stretch his legs and do his business several times throughout the day.
Fortunately, most states have plenty of Rest Areas along the way where you can safely take yourself and your dog for a little walk. And again, most of them tend to be very dog friendly. You’ll want to be very careful if you take your dog out at a gas station and quite frankly, I don’t recommend it. Too many cars, and too much concrete. Best to stop at a nice Rest Area to give your dog some nice green grass to walk on. I’m pretty sure Sacha appreciates it.
Driving across the country can seem a bit daunting at first. And taking your fur baby with you adds another level of complexity. But if you you remember the five steps we’ve discussed here, it’ll help make your trip much more enjoyable. Once again:
The Top 5 Tips For Driving Cross Country with Your Samoyed
- Mindset – Keep an Open Mind and a Good Attitude
- Choose Dog Friendly Motels
- Give Your Dog Plenty of Room and Keep the Vehicle at a Comfortable Temperature
- Give Your Dog Access to Food and Water
- Stop Early and Stop Often
If you have any other tips you’ve used to drive your dog cross country, please leave a comment below. Would love to hear what others have found successful.
Happy driving and stay safe!
P.S. Longtime readers of this site also know how critical it is that I think you have health insurance for your pet. If you’ve read our series about Ramius’s battle with cancer, you know why I feel this way. So please, I urge you to check out Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, especially if you’re planning on taking a long trip with your pet. Best to get your pet covered for an unexpected accident or illness before you hit the road. Click on the link below for more information and to get a quote from Healthy Paws.