We’ve all seen those horror stories on the news and on Facebook about those poor dogs who die in hot cars every summer. Most of us, I hope, know that leaving a dog in a hot car is a bad idea. But what do you do when you just HAVE to stop and can’t take them into a store with you?
I do a lot of solo traveling and road trips with my dogs. For a good amount of the year, a parking spot in the shade and some cracked windows are sufficient, but NOT during the summer. So what then?
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How to Road Trip with a Dog in the Summer… SAFELY!
During most of the year when the temperatures are comfortable, stopping on a road trip is not a big deal and a lot of these tips aren’t as relevant. In our part of the globe, however, summer temps can hit and even break 100 degrees for months at a time. This is when having a good game plan in place for road trips with your dog is a really good idea.
Travel with a friend
The best option when traveling is to have a second person with you, if possible. This way, if you need to run into the gas station to use the restroom or grab a drink, you have a second person to stay in the car with your pups in the air conditioning.
If you do travel with someone else, take turns running into mini marts, bathrooms, fast food restaurants, etc. This also makes it easy for one of you to take your dog(s) out to use the restroom and offer them water during pitstops.
A cooler full of drinks and water for the dogs and a few snacks means less need to stop on the road.
Efficiency is key
If you’re like me, you don’t always have the luxury of bringing a second person on your road trips. When this happens and it’s hot out, I try to stop as seldom as possible to prevent leaving my dogs in the car. But you can’t just NOT use the restroom.
When I stop for gas and a bathroom break on the road by myself, I look for 3 things:
- Can I get/do everything I need in one stop?
- How busy are they? A busy gas station means longer waits at the register, and probably for the bathroom too.
- Is there a nice grassy area for the dogs?
Bring a Second Set of Keys
When I do need to stop on a hot day, I either bring a second set of car keys or I take my key fab off of my key ring so I can leave my car running in the parking lot. I park as close to the front door as possible so my car is in full view and lock the doors. This may make some people a bit nervous, but I generally travel during the day and find places where theft is pretty unlikely. Gas stations, for instance, are usually pretty busy and as long as your car is locked, theft is pretty difficult in plain view.
Leave your windows up and your AC on. Cracked windows and even a shaded parking spot are NOT enough.
*TIP from a friend: IF you’re worried that a good samaritan will think your dogs are locked in the car and about to die (if they don’t see your car is running or you drive an electric vehicle that’s practically silent) try this! Hang a dream catcher or a piece of streamer, paper, etc, in front of your vents to show that the air is running.
Have Water Available
When you do stop, fill up a nice big bowl of cold water for your pups to leave in the car. I bring a water cooler with ice in it to make sure we don’t run out on the road.
You obviously can’t leave your car running while you pump gas. If it’s REALLY hot, I try to pick a gas pump towards the middle of the station that’s full shaded and open my windows all they way while I’m pumping. If your dog is a flight risk, make sure they’re restrained in some way so they don’t take this opportunity to go on an unwanted adventure. This is also a great time to offer your pups some water.
Split long drives into multiple days
When I’m not traveling with a dog, I tend to power through a 10 hour drive no problem. Traveling with dogs means more time for potty breaks, exercise breaks, water breaks.. you get the idea. More frequent stops and longer stops mean a 4 hour drive is now a 5-6 hour drive and a 10 hour drive is just, well, not gonna happen. Instead, try to break up your longer trips into multiple shorter days.
Find a pet friendly hotel so you all spend less time in the car. Then once your dogs get to roam and sniff and pee on every bush outside, get them settled in the room and go get an actual dinner with real food. AKA something that wasn’t purchased at the gas station counter while you were attempting to pee, eat, get a drink and get gas in less than 5 minutes because your dogs were in the car.
For an extra level of coolness, consider getting a cooling mat for your dog to lie on during summer road trips.
You can also get a spill-proof water bowl to give your dog constant access to water while you travel.
If all this seems like just too much effort…LEAVE YOUR DOG HOME OR WITH A PET SITTER 🙂 Happy traveling!
Getting ready to take a road trip with your dog? Check out our printable road trip gear list!
Do you have other tips for traveling on those SUPER hot days with your pups? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Thanks for reading,