When you go on a road trip, the trip itself is more of the story than the destination. If you’re ready to hit the open road but don’t want to leave your Golden Retriever at home alone, get ready to feel the wind blowing through both of your hair because you should bring them along! Goldens are happiest when they’re sharing experiences with you and watch home disappear in your rearview mirror.
Traveling with a Golden Retriever on a road trip can be a beautifully adventurous experience for both of you – but only with proper planning and care is taken beforehand to result in a low-stress and problem-free getaway. The best ways to enjoy a road trip with your Golden Retriever can be broken down into these categories:
- Know what to pack for your Golden
- Take specific steps before leaving
- Understand how to care for them during the trip
- Understand what not to do during your trip
- Know when to stop
- Know how to care for them once you’ve arrived at a new location
It may sound intimidating to have another body to look after on your trip, but having your fur-baby will make it an even more enriching time, plus you won’t have to worry about them back home alone.
It can go smoothly but only with proper planning and awareness of all potential risks. This informational guide of wisdom will make it as easy as possible so you can focus on enjoying the spirit of the highway and bonding with man’s best friend!
Traveling with a Golden Retriever – A Road Trip Guide!
Golden Retrievers love to be around their family and be apart of all events. They are very social creatures that will get depressed when left alone for long periods.
Your Goldie will thrive on quality time with you and if left to their own devices, may get very destructive with the following methods of communicating their frustration:
- Barking – a lot! (Which you may want to consider if you have neighbors and will be leaving for a long duration, even with a dog sitter).
- Destroying the house
- Tearing up dog toys
- Chewing on chews or other upholstery belongings
- Nipping at your heels or playing too rough
- Lethargic behavior and similar depressive symptoms to humans
As you can see from the list of commonly bad behaviors shown by Retrievers, they only want to be loved and have quality attention from you. Don’t discipline them too harshly for these behaviors because they are communicating to you in the only way they know.
Acknowledge what you could be doing better as their owner to satisfy their emotional and social needs – which may include bringing them on a family road trip!
Every activity is better with a dog, and it’s a great way to meet more people along your travels. Your Golden will be no stranger to strangers.
“The average dog boarding rates are $25 per day, $40 per night, $150 per week, or $500 per month depending on where you live, the size of your dog, and how long of a stay your pet needs,” according to Home Guide. So will you save money by boarding him in a busy kennel where he won’t get proper rest or attention anyway?
Of course, there are quality kennels that diversify attention better than others, but your dog will always prefer to be with you than left in a strange, loud, and foreign environment.
I hope I’ve convinced you that the adventure is worth the risks, especially once you’ve read this fabulous guide and have all the information you need to prevent any mishaps. Without further ado, here’s how to do it
What to Pack
When traveling with your furry companion, you’ll need to pack things that they require for comfort and overall survival. Since your car may have limited space, we’ll need to get organized.
The things you’ll need to pack for your Golden will include but is not limited to the following:
- Separate Pet Bag –This is to keep their things different from yours and easily accessible at rest stops
- Food and Treats– pack enough for the entire trip, and if they love their wet food, don’t forget the can opener! Check out these foldable/portable food bowls.
- Cups for Water– I really like these anti-spill bowls for traveling.
- Medications– Anything your pet requires, vitamins, supplements, diabetes shots, flea treatments, etc.
- Treat Pouches– can be great for positive reinforcement or reward when you need him to behave during a busy travel moment. A small treat pouch will go a long way to winning over their hearts!
- Toys– long car rides can get boring for your pup, so bring things they can play with and also more active toys for at rest stops to get them moving!
- Waste Bags– Here’s a set highly recommended by customers reviews!
- First Aid Kit– Here’s one for humans and pets.
- Pet Sunscreen and Bug Repellant– here’s a top-rated pet sunscreen that will prevent their noses from cracking in the sun, as well as a $5 Pet Bug Spray with excellent ratings and natural ingredients.
- An Extra Leash– some locations may require a shorter leash and not allow your pet to wander as far, and other times you may want a longer leash. Bring both and maybe a basic third one, just in case.
- Cheap Floor Mats –prepare for your car to get wrecked. This is the norm for any road trip but especially one with dogs and muddy paws. Bring paper towels, towels you don’t love a lot, and floor mats that you can throw out or recycle after the trip. Setting your car up for success will be a huge part of the battle.
Things To Do Before You Leave
Before embarking on your journey, there is more to do than simply pack.
The steps you’ll need to take before the trip are perhaps the most important section on this list, so pay close attention. Before leaving, you’ll need to:
- Get Your Dog to the Vet– This needs to be done about 2 weeks before you depart, so there’s time to remedy any issues. You’ll need to be sure they are of excellent health, up to date on all shots and vaccines, and always
Remember to pack all paperwork as well, so you have a dog license, health certificate, and proof of vaccinations, should anyone request them for accommodation verification. This is also in case of an emergency vet stop so that the new veterinarian will have all records on hand. Keep in your glovebox for safekeeping.
Have Tags Made – If your dog doesn’t already have contact information on a collar, go ahead and get this done now. If your Golden slips away when you’re not looking or bolts, you’ll want the contact information to be doubled here and on its microchip tagging.
Consider a Collapsible Crate – This is useful if you don’t trust your pup to not tear the hotel room up when left alone. A soft crate that folds compactly in your car is the perfect solution to make them more comfortable, adding a few toys and rewarding them for going in it. Here’s a highly rated option– Collapsible Crate Size LG. Remember not to use the crate as a punishment, or it will have negative effects. Reference this guide on Crate Training to get you started.
Plan the Route Beforehand –here’s an incredible resource that is about to make your life so much easier and you’ll be thanking your lucky stars for – Go Pet-Friendly is a “pet-friendly travel website where you can find pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, destination and trip advice, activities and more.” Use this to find stops that are made for both you and your fur-child! Your welcome.
“Pet-Friendly” Accommodations – absolutely use the Go Pet-Friendly link in the last bullet and realize that you may need to call specific accommodations you have in mind to confirm. Sometimes there are rules, deposits, and other fees you’ll want to be aware of before packing up. In a bind, search for a Best Western as most locations are pet-friendly.
Check the Forecast – knowing about the weather where you’re headed to is often overlooked, but then you’ve packed tank tops when you should have packed fluffy jackets. Know the climate of your destination, and each stop in between to be certain your pup won’t need snowshoes, a pet jacket, or any other climate-related preparations for your plan.
Read about Each Stop – the Go Pet-Friendly link will help you here as well, but remember to research your final destination. You may just assume a particular national park or beautiful attraction is dog-friendly, but do your research as many pets aren’t allowed on trails or will require a shorter leash in certain places. You don’t want to show up only to be turned away so take precautions.
Condition Your Golden for Car Rides – before starting a long journey, you’ll want to confirm that your dog enjoys the car, and it’s not a high-anxiety or tight space for them. Take short rides and test if they have carsickness. Most dogs love throwing their faces out the window and heading to the dog park, so this is a great way to test it.
(Pro Tip: Don’t make the first car ride the veterinarian or they may become traumatized).
Basic Training on Commands – Test that they are trained sufficiently enough to come when you call, or it might be a bad idea to bring them along. They need to nail the basics of, ‘come, sit, stay,’ or it’s a nonstarter.
Mentally Prepare for Dirty Car– I mentioned it above, but these babes will slobber, shed a ton, slosh mud, and much more. There’s no way to avoid it, and the only way to prepare your car in a protective layer to discard later. Consider bringing a handheld vacuum or short hose to rinse your pup off in case he’s been rolling around in the mud.
Things To Do During The Trip
Now it’s time to hit that open road that’s been calling to your soul! The steps to take at this point can be used throughout the entirety of your trip.
- Before Take Off, Potty Break– about 20 minutes before you depart, take them for a walk to get out the extraneous energy and allow them to do their business. It will help them to calm down before the travels begin.
- Give Them Designated Space– everyone needs some personal space, and this includes your Retriever. Don’t try to fill the car to the brim, but perhaps a dog hammock or bed in the back for them. The more space they have to relax and not feel confined, the better they will behave.
- Give Treats as Rewards– bribery will make your trip a lot easier. I like to use these Wellness Core 100% Freeze-Dried All-Meat Dog Treats because they are free of grain and fillers, but you can use them to encourage positive behavior in your pup.
Ways to utilize positive reinforcement and pet psychology through treat rewards will be things like them hopping into the car without coercion, doing their business, behaving well, or just being cute. Don’t make them fat, but treats are the way to their loyalty.
Important to note – Don’t give your dog treats while the car is in motion. They could choke or have food fly to the back of their throat, so you only want to give treats when at a complete stop or before taking off.
- Maintain Access to Water Always– non-spill bowl linked in the ‘What to Pack’ section above.
- Maintain Some Form of Routine– this will help your Golden not feel anxiety from a new environment. Keep many factors the same in their daily routine like the foods they eat, the times they go for walks, how long they walk for, etc. This will help them adapt and not feel overwhelmed by the influx of stimulation.
- Be Aware in Hotels – I recommend if you need to leave a hotel for a few hours, but the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door so that a maid doesn’t come by and accidentally let your dog out.
- Tips to Not Lose Your Dog – I would also recommend you take the time to at least skim this guide on how not to lose your pup during travels.
When to Stop
When mother nature calls, all animals need some bathroom breaks along the journey. Just like you, your pup will need pitstops along the highway in a grassy patch or short path to get them some much-needed leg movement.
Some tips for how and when to stop for your Golden are:
- Plan for around 20-30-minute breaks every 3-4 hours.Know your dog and how often they need to go for adjusting those timeframes. If your dog is on certain medications, they may not have as much bladder control and require more frequent stops.
- Always remember the waste bags. If you don’t, you’re honestly just an irresponsible pet owner and giving other dog owners a bad reputation.
- Pay attention to cues. If your dog is whining or pawing at the side of the car, they are probably trying to communicate that they need to go. Listen carefully if they’re moving around, pacing, sniffing the car like its grass, or fidgeting more than usual. They probably need a potty break.
You can also go by the rule that every time you go, they go. But you’ll need to read your own pup to gauge the frequency at which duty calls.
Arriving At The Destination
Once you’re walking into your beautiful destination, there are some steps you can take to aid your Golden in adapting to its new environment more quickly.
To acclimate your dog properly at the final destination:
Always get them on a leash and out to pee. If you have a Retriever, I’ll assume you’re a good dog owner that knows these kinds of basics like the back of your hand.
Give them some sniffing time to get the lay of the land. This will make them more comfortable going forward or being left alone. Let them sniff around for as long as they need until the curiosity has eased.
Layout their toys and make it a cozy, more familiar place for them.
Place the dog bowl and water away from any strongly smelled distractions (for example, if you’re bringing your cat along too, never place the litter box too closely to any animal’s food bowls. This will deter them from wanting to eat food or drink water solely from the overpowering odor).
Take a tour of the home or rental and be sure everything is dog-safe. This means that all the windows are shut, doggy doors locked, and rooms secure. Also, check that any poisonous chemicals, cleaning supplies, or human foods are stored properly and out of reach. All of this needs to be done before you consider leaving your dog unattended here.
You may leave the TV on quietly in the background if you’re leaving for a while. This will offer your Golden baby some social stimulation and make them feel less alone. Don’t leave it on too loudly as, “Studies have shown that some breeds, such as Collies, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds, have a higher incidence of noise anxiety. For some dogs, noise anxiety gradually appears and worsens as they age for no apparent reason. For other dogs, it appears as a puppy and stays with them,” according to this guide on treating noise anxiety in dogs.
If you leave it at the perfect volume, it will also drown out strange noises or neighboring voices that could cause your Golden to bark all day. You don’t want a bad review as the guest, so be considerate to every party involved, including your dog.
How to Secure Your Pup
The reality is that is can be dangerous to bring them along. You’ll need to understand how to keep your dog safe in the car and secure. The best precautions to take include:
- Check the dog harness fits before you leave– they have dog seatbelts available that will plug into your regular seatbelts. Test this in-car trial runs before the actual trip to be sure your dog isn’t chewing through the harnesses or trying to escape as that could make the situation worse.
- Provide a backseat dog hammock – These are real. Here’s a link for you to shop for them.
- Consider a crate in the car– usually, you won’t need to keep your dog in the crate for the entirety of the drive, but if it makes them feel more secure, but sure they can stand up and do a turn in it at least.
Things Not to Do During Your Road Trip
We covered what you should be doing before and during your road trip, but let’s cover the important mistakes that other pet owners have made. We don’t need you repeating history and putting your beloved canine in danger.
The things not to do during your road trip with a Golden Retriever are:
Don’t leave them unattended– especially in the summer, there is no excuse for leaving your pup in a hot car unless it’s for a mere few minutes with windows cracked or fan left running. “On average, 38 children and HUNDREDS of pets die each year from being left in a hot car, and this is absolutely one of the most preventable types of death that there is,” according to Bark Post. Absolutely one of the most preventable.
Don’t leave their waste– we’ve covered this, but it is probably the most commonly ignored ‘Do-Not’ on this list. Not only is it gross, but on a road trip, you’ll be leaving waste all around the country like a trail behind you that starts at your home state and leads to your vacation rental! I don’t know if that’s worse than leaving waste in one place, but it seems kinda worse. Don’t be this person.
Don’t ignore wildlife –this is part of doing your research and knowing what kinds of wildlife will be around in your rest stops. Perhaps don’t stop in the town known for wolf attacks, or if you’re walking around a National park, be aware of bears or elk strolling around. Know how to handle these situations or don’t put yourself or your Golden in harm’s path.
Don’t let them hang out the window – at least not for too long or if they’re prone to bad behavior. At high speeds, this can be very dangerous. Dogs are prone to jumping after a squirrel or similar stimulus.
If they simply adore it, keep the window cracked a bit but not large enough for them to jump from, recommended just above their neck so that they don’t even try it. Even if your dog is well-behaved and you trust them, keep in mind that leaving their heads out too long will also result in their eyes drying out.
Don’t ignore your pup –since they may be feeling a bit uneasy with all the new experiences happening around them, you need to keep an eye on them for the entire part of your travels. An eye to notice when they need to pee, when they want to wander off, when their body language and eyes are telling you they’re uncomfortable, etc. Understand the familiarities that will bring comfort to your dog and when to offer them.
Enjoy The Open Road!
The numbers are increasing for people that bring their dog’s places, as well as dog-friendly locations. The trend is an exciting one that we can all enjoy (because let’s be honest – everything’s a bit better with your dog!)
To add in a bit of devil’s advocate, travel can be stressful even without your dog. So, if you want your trip to be all about you without the responsibilities, I completely understand, and you shouldn’t feel bad about this. In this case, I simply suggest you leave the Golden Retriever at home or find a responsible friend/kennel to watch them.
However – if you believe you can handle the serendipity of travel while balancing the needs of your pup, I think it can be such a rewarding experience for both of you.
Many dogs will be naturals for the open road and ready to live that wanderer life with you, while some won’t be as adapted for that lifestyle.
The lucky thing about having a Golden Retriever is that they are quite adaptable. They are happiest when they are with you and sharing adventures with their chosen human. I think it would make for a fantastic addition to your travels, and you’ll truly cherish the memories you make together on the ride.
My final tip is to always have a veterinarian’s contact information with you in case of an emergency. This way, you can consult them before spending all your money at an unknown vet’s clinic. Here’s a resource on how to handle needing an emergency vet – things to know before you need one.
I hope this guide has been useful to you, and I want to congratulate you on being a responsible enough pet-owner to do some research before departing. You’ve taken the time to prepare, so now you can avoid a lot of headaches.
Kick back, snuggle your Golden close, and enjoy that warm stretch of the horizon at the end of the road!