Traveling With A Dog
Traveling with a dog is entirely different than traveling by yourself, or even with another human. But I’ve learned that its my favorite way to travel. There’s something very rewarding about knowing your giving them enrichment, and there’s NEVER a dull moment when your dog is along. After spending long periods of time with my malamute, Goliath, on the road in our Tacoma, I learned a lot about what traveling with a dog entails.
My advice about traveling with a dog:
1.) Put the dog first.
If there was one thing I could tell to others traveling with dogs, is to know that everything you do must be on the dog’s terms. Even though you technically control where you end up, the dog needs to be considered in every decision. If the dog is not happy, no one will be, trust me.
Dogs depend on us to meet their needs, and even when driving long stretches across country, those needs still need to be met. Take your dog out every single time you stop, even if its just for gas. They need to get out and stretch their legs just as much as we do. Make sure they stay hydrated. Having a collapsible bowl and a full reusable water bottle (we use a 40oz HydroFlask) in the front seat is super helpful. Make sure they’re comfortable. We may have issues with this because we have a dog with a thick double coat, but temperature can fluctuate a lot when driving across states and up and down mountains. I had to adjust to wearing a coat and a blanket in the truck at almost all times to keep him content. For us this also meant sleeping with our screens open in 40 degree weather so that our cap didn’t get too stuffy (29 degree rated sleeping bags are life savers). We also pack everything in the truck bed or in our Yakima cargo box so that Goliath can have the entire back seat to himself. It’s important to know your dog and be prepared for the accommodations they’ll need so that you both can be comfortable.
2.) Know their limits.
This relates to what I mentioned above about knowing your dog. You have to know how long they can hold their pee. You have to know exactly how much exercise they need a day for them to be content. You have to know their limits on how far they can push their bodies. Just like us, dogs are affected by terrain and elevation changes. Just because you’re only in Utah for the week and don’t know when you’ll get a chance to go to slot canyon again, don’t push your dog to finish the 7 mile hike in the dry desert just to get there. Pay close attention and know when they need to head back. Maybe even consider scheduling your trip around your dog. It’s fun to cross things off your bucket list, but it’s a lot less fun when you’re worrying about your miserable dog while doing so. On our trips, we do a lot of compromising to make both us and Goliath happy.
3.) Come Prepared
Traveling with a dog is similar to what I hear traveling with a kid is like. Overpack. Bring extra food in case plans change and you won’t be near any where you can get more. Bring toys, bones, antlers, or find safe sticks to keep them busy. Bring double the poop bags you think you need (they’ll never cease to amaze you with how much they can go while out on the trail). And always bring plenty of water. We play it safe and bring a minimum of the same amount of water we’re bringing for ourselves, for the dog, and he usually ends up cutting into our supply as well. It’s important to have different types of leashes and collars as well. Goliath, for example, has a prong collar for high traffic areas, and a e-collar for roaming. A long lead that can be anchored at a campsite is also a great resource to have. It allows the dog freedom to do its own thing and allows you the freedom of not holding onto a leash.
4.) Do Your Research
Know where dogs are allowed before you get there so you’ll never be faced with a situation of having to leave the dog behind. Scope out food places with outdoor seating. Check out the park’s dog policy. Most national forest and BLM lands allow dogs, state parks vastly vary, and most national parks are a no go (I’ll be doing another blog about this topic in the future). Another important thing to know about leash policies. So places allow dogs only if they’re leashed and some don’t specify. No matter how good of a recall you think you’re dog has, don’t break leash rules. As annoying as they can be when your dog wants to run free, they’re for its own safety. There might be unstable terrain, dangerous wildlife in the area, or even land that needs to be protected, and risking a problem with one of those is not worth a few hours of being on a leash.
What I Learned:
No matter how strong you thought your bond was with your dog, after traveling it’s going to be stronger. It strengthens by each and every new place you go. You are a part of their pack now. They depend on you, and you depend on them. Goliath never used to cuddle before we took him on the road, and now it's very clear that he values our touch and being close to us. We didn't have any run-in's with anything dangerous to give him a chance to show us, but he made it known he was our protector. Growling at beings in the dark, being wary of new campsites, looking out the windows while we slept, he was ready to protect us. Dogs adapt quickly to the dynamic of road life. Goliath knew how things work when we travel. He knows when to lay down and relax, when to sleep, when to play, and when to be on alert. All of the dynamics of road life allow dogs to see where they fall in the pack, where you fall in pack, and how that works together. Traveling with a dog gives them a chance to be more in touch with their wild side, and I'm so happy that we are able to give that gift to him.