Taking road trips with my dogs is one of my favorite things to do with them.
We’ve driven over 4,000 miles from Seattle to Arizona, Driven 3,00 miles to southern California, driven to Colorado to hike some 14ers, gone on multi-day road trips in Washington State, and taken hundreds of other short trips.
Taking a road trip with your dog can be really fun but it has it challenges, especially if it is a long road trip.
One of the most important parts of planning a road trip is deciding how often you need to stop and where you will stop.
Why It’s Important to Stop for Frequent Breaks
I know what it’s like to get in the zone on a road trip – to just drive and drive with the desire to reach your destination quicker.
But it’s important for your dog (and you, really) to stop for breaks frequently.
If you wait too long in between rest stops, it could lead to:
Dogs need to go potty at regular intervals, and if they’re not able to relieve themselves, they may develop bladder or bowel problems, such as urinary tract infections or constipation.
Potty accidents in the car
Just like at home, if you don’t give your dog sufficient potty breaks, they may not be able to hold it and relieve themselves in the car.
Some dogs can only tolerate the motion of the car so long before becoming car sick.
By stopping frequently enough, you may be able to interrupt the process.
If they’re not given the opportunity to get out of the car and stretch their legs, the symptoms may worsen.
Since a dog is likely to vomit in the car, or develop anxiety and not want to ride with you again, you want to prevent this as much as possible.
Restlessness and boredom
Dogs, just like humans, can get restless and bored during long car rides.
If they’re not given the opportunity to stretch their legs and have a little playtime, they may become agitated and anxious.
How Often to Stop When Traveling With a Dog
It’s recommended to stop every 2-3 hours on a road trip with a dog to give them a chance go potty, have a drink of water, and go on a short walk to stretch their legs.
Some dogs may also appreciate a chance to play a quick game of fetch or run around during the stops.
The needed frequency of your stops may vary depending on the size and breed of your dog, as well as their age and fitness level.
For example, a large dog may be able to go longer without a break, while a small or senior dog may need more frequent rest stops.
It’s always best to consult with your veterinarian regarding your dog’s specific needs, to ensure that your road trip is safe and comfortable for them.
So how do you remember to stop often enough for your dog?
How to Remember to Stop Every 2-3 Hours
When I drive in the car with my dogs, they are super quiet.
If they are not both sleeping (which they do most of the time), Summit is watching out the window.
They sit behind the drivers seat in a car seat so, for the most part, I can’t see them if they get restless.
It’s easy for me to zone out and drive a long distance before remembering to stop for a break.
I have a few tricks to remind myself.
Driving with Dogs: The 100-Mile Road Trip Game
To help me remember that I need to stop, I like to play what I call the 100-mile road trip game.
I challenge myself to stop every 100 miles for a break and to find something “cool” in the area to check out.
Sometimes our breaks coincided with a planned stop along the way, like a scenic area or short trail.
Other times I’ve discovered something I had no idea existed, like the landmarks below.
If the average vehicle speed on the trip is 45 mph, a stop every 100 miles would mean about 2 hours and 10 minutes between breaks.
There are some times I’ve had to fudge a little with the 100 miles because that put us in the middle of nowhere on the side of the freeway, but at around 90 miles I start looking for a place to stop.
We never went more than about 3.5 hours without pulling over somewhere.
Set a timer
This sounds like a no-brainer, right?
But it’s easy to get caught up in the freedom of a road trip, get complacent, and forget to set an alarm for the next pit stop.
By setting an alarm or timer, you won’t forget to stop and give your dog a break.
Plan your route in advance
Before you hit the road, plan your route and identify pet-friendly rest stops, parks, landmarks, or other areas where you can stop and let your dog out.
You can use Google maps to space these stops out to be as frequent as you need to stop for your dog.
Keep an eye on your dog
Pay attention to your dog’s behavior and body language.
If they seem restless, anxious, or uncomfortable, it’s probably time for a break.
Taking a road trip with your dog is fun and a great way to strengthen your bond.
However, not stopping enough to let your dog go potty, get a drink of water, and stretch their legs can cause medical complications, behavior issues, or result in a mess in the car.
The best ways to make sure you remember to stop include playing a game with yourself, pre-planning, and setting a reminder.