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Tips for Driving Long Distances with Your Dogs

The dogs and I survived our cross-country move from Niagara, Ontario, Canada to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. From one wine region to another (my partner works in the wine industry – we moved for a job opportunity), we took a somewhat leisurely five day trip which included stops in Chicago, Illinois; Fargo, North Dakota; Regina, Saskatchewan; and Banff, Alberta. The drive went without incident, except for quickly tiring of the prairies (sorry, Saskatchewan!). All of the cities we visited had character and did not disappoint. Even better, a little planning went a long way in making the dogs comfortable and giving me peace of mind. Here are some things to make sure you consider before driving long distances with your pet:

Does Your Dog Travel Well in General?

In my case, I was moving so the dogs had to come with me. Thankfully, they’ve always done well in the car. If you’re going on a long road trip vacation, you might need to decide if it will be worth it to bring your dogs. If the stress of short car trips is too much, you will probably want to work on that first and get a pet sitter while you’re gone. Consider: will long hours in a car be more or less stressful than missing you for a little while? And, will there be much for them to do and enjoy when they are not in the car on your trip?

Make Sure You Pack The Essentials – And Some Extras

Start your checklist early so you have lots of time to catch anything you might miss. For me, the basics included: hard crates for the car, soft folding crate for the hotels, bowls, extra food, a couple bottles of water, proof of vaccinations, ID, collars, leashes, extra blankets, lots of bags for waste, treats, safe chewing items for when they had to be alone in the hotel, and more that I can’t even remember right now!

Research Pet Policies and Fees and Reserve Your Accommodations in Advance

While planning my trip, I came across all sorts of pet policies. Some places clearly do not allow pets, some in only a limited number of rooms. Several hotels allowed dogs but did not allow you to leave them in the hotel room alone unless crated – and some did not allow dogs left alone in rooms whatsoever. It was common for there to be a maximum on the number of dogs (generally one or two) and even weight/size limits for dogs. Hotel chains tend to list all of these details on their websites but some places require more investigation, especially when it comes to hidden fees.

Look Into Laws if You’re Crossing Any Borders! 

I took a route from Canada, through the United States, and back into Canada. Both of my dogs were adults so I needed proof of rabies vaccination for them regardless of which country I was entering. However, at least as of this writing, you cannot bring a dog from Canada to the US without proof of rabies vaccination no matter how old the dog is. Meaning, you cannot bring in a puppy that is too young to have had that vaccine. Whereas in Canada, a puppy younger than three months can be brought in without the vaccine as long as you have proof of the puppy’s age. There are also laws around meat and meat products so that may impact how you travel with dog food. I found that none of the border patrol staff on either end were particularly concerned about my dogs, and nobody asked about dog food, but I’m glad I didn’t take any chances or risk being blindsided.

Expect to Take More Breaks

Again, my dogs turned out to be great little travellers, but I had budgeted time in case we needed to take more stretch (okay, and “business”) breaks. Some dogs, if they are stressed out or sensitive to changes in their routine, might have to relieve themselves a little more often. If you’re someone who likes to power through the drive to get to your destination, you’ll probably feel better if you mentally prepare to make several stops.

Have any other tips? Share them in the comments!

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