12 Sep Why You Should Go on a Solo Road Trip With Your Dog
I’m currently sitting on the front porch of an old Alaska cabin with my dog, Eira Violet, lying down at my feet. It’s just the two of us, and we’re watching wind whip the spruce trees and listening to the thunder. I haven’t felt this utterly relaxed in ages, and I owe it to Eira: especially when you’re a mom like I am, traveling alone with your dog can be a healing, bonding experience.
Eira “helping” me write this article about her.
If you haven’t gone on a solo road trip with your dog, you should do it as soon as you can.
But I have a secret: this is my first-ever solo road trip with a dog! My only wish is that I’d done it way, way sooner.
Before I became a mother three years ago, my German shepherd dog, Bella, was my baby who did everything with me. She’d become mine when I was just 16, and we had a deep bond. I took her to parks, on hikes, and on camping trips. She went running with me every morning, and she was very protective of me: if anyone got too close and she didn’t like the look of them, she’d growl. She remained my baby even after my son was born; he loved her as much as we did. But sadly, she passed away before they could get to know each other better.
Bella and my son as a baby, bonding in our Oklahoma backyard.
One thing I wish I would have done with Bella before she died, though, is take a solo road trip with her. I recently planned a road trip to get away for a couple days and do a lot of work on writing my novel. At first, I didn’t think much about leaving Eira home with my husband and son. He had easily handled having them both by himself before. Why couldn’t he do it again?
Then I started thinking about the several hours of driving on lonely Alaska roads. Staying by myself in a cabin all night. I thought, hmm. It would be nice to have Eira along.
I’m not someone who thinks dogs can or should protect their owners. Most dogs, unless they’re trained for protection, can’t be counted on in a tense situation. And anyway, dogs are our fur-babies! When someone broke into my home in California several years ago, did I let Bella loose from the bedroom to go attack them? No! I grabbed her, ran into the bathroom, locked us both in there, and called 911.
She probably would’ve attacked an intruder, but I didn’t want to risk her getting hurt.
So I decided to bring Eira along on my road trip. She’s shown some of the same natural protective tendencies as Bella, although she’s more friendly to most people and dogs than Bella was. Still, she growled and barked when an electrician approached her from our backyard without having knocked on my door first.
What to Put on Your Packing List
I started to get excited once I decided to bring Eira. I’d just bought her a harness and seat belt for riding in the car with me during cold winter months. My car is small, but I figured I could give Eira the entire back seat. When she rode in the front seat with me to test out the seat belt, she’d been kind of cramped. She is a big dog, after all!
First, I made a packing list to make sure I remembered everything I needed for Eira:
- Food and water dishes
- Retractable leash
- Potty bags
- Retractable stake
- Harness and seat belt
- Vitamins (and if your dog needs them, remember to bring her medications!)
My car, packed with necessities for both Eira and me.
The day we left, I stopped at the store to get Eira a treat for the road: her favorite bacon-flavored edible Nylabone. She settled into her cozy, spacious seat in the back and chowed on the bone — I think she finished it in the first hour, but it was still so worth it! And it set the tone for a relaxed, fun road trip for Eira and Mama.
Eira in the back seat with her Nylabone.
When you go on your solo road trip with your dog (because after you read this article you will totally want to), try to clear out the entire backseat or a big area for your pup to stretch out and relax. Eira had room to sleep, look out the window, eat her edible Nylabone, and just stretch out and relax. She didn’t whine or bark once during our entire road trip!
It’s a great idea to bring a collapsible bowl or two with you on your road trip with your dog. That way, you don’t waste lots of space and it’s easy to pull out the bowl to give your dog a snack or drink of water. And in hot summer weather, you definitely want to offer your dog water every time you stop. I was even able to leave the bowl with a bit of water in it on the seat with Eira, and it didn’t tip over. She got to drink some water while I was driving!
Eira drinks from her collapsible bowl during a rest stop.
Make Sure to Make Plenty of Rest Stops
I also offered Eira water each time I stopped for gas or food. Importantly, I let her out every time so that she could go potty. The last thing you want on a road trip is a dog who has to pee the whole time or who’s getting sick of being in one spot for so long.
Rest stops are where Eira’s harness and seat belt really came in handy. Watch the video below to find out why!
I had to stop the video in order to get Eira safely out, so I’ll finish explaining: the harness has two clip rings on it, so I can keep the seat belt clipped in to one ring while I clip the leash to the other. In the past, I’ve had to really focus to make sure Eira doesn’t jump out of the car before I get a leash on her. Now I can get the leash on while she’s still safely attached to her car seat belt, and then unclip the seat belt once the leash is on. I love this level of safety for my dog!
Make sure you bring potty bags with you on your trip. Your dog might need to poop when you let her out, and the last thing you want to do is leave a poop in the grass near a gas station or restaurant. You want the owners of these establishments to look kindly on dogs and their owners — not view them as a nuisance. Dispose of the bag in a nearby garbage can, or if there are none outside, store it in your trunk or the back of your truck until you can get to an outdoor garbage can.
If you bring along lavender-scented bags, this will be a less smelly task.
Which Entertainment Should You Choose for You and Your Dog?
Our road trip wasn’t hugely long, but long enough that spending hours driving without having reliable radio sounded…dull. So, I brought along an audiobook. And I think that’s part of what kept Eira calm and soothed the whole time; dogs actually enjoy listening to human voices reading books, and she had that calming voice to listen to during the entire drive.
And I, on the other hand, had something fun to listen to. You can use Amazon’s Audible service to get an audiobook for your drive, or if your car is older like mine and has no aux cord, get a set of CDs from your local library.
Once You Arrive at Your Destination, Set Up Your Dog’s Area First
Especially if it’s hot out, it’s important to take your dog out of your car immediately once you arrive at your destination. Set up their retractable cable tie-out while holding them on the leash; it’s a bit of a chore, but it’s better than accidentally forgetting your dog in a hot car. I got Eira’s cable tie out set up next to my cabin in about two minutes, and then I clipped her in while I set up camp for her.
First, I filled her dishes with food and water and set them within reach of her cable but also not so close to the stake that she would accidentally tip them over.
Eira’s food and water setup for our trip.
Next, I quickly unloaded all my food into the fridge and my belongings into the cabin. Then I clipped Eira to her retractable leash and took her for a long walk in a field next to where we were staying. She chased pebbles, chomped on mosquitos and gnats, and even found a feather to play with. She leapt and sprinted and generally had the absolute best time stretching her legs.
I enjoyed the walk, too. And here’s the thing: if I hadn’t had Eira with me, I probably wouldn’t even have gone for a walk. She got me out and about faster than I alone could’ve, and I’m very grateful!
The happiest dog in the world, I think!
During the rest of my trip, Eira provided me with wonderful company, the opportunity to get out and exercise, and (I like to think) a bit of extra protection. She’s a big dog who might look scary to some people, even though she’s usually a big puddle of goo when she meets new people.
She made me laugh and provided me with just enough extra work to keep me active without taking up all my writing time. And oh, how we bonded! I feel like I know Eira on a deeper level: she’s smart, sassy, and oh-so-joyous. I came away feeling an even deeper love and appreciation for her than before.
And that’s why I believe every one of you should go on a solo road trip with your dog. I wish I had done it with Bella while she was still alive, but I’m so glad I’ve done it with Eira.
And trust me, this is only the first solo road trip we will take together!
Tell me: have you ever taken a memorable trip with your pup? Was it the best time ever? Let us know in the comments!
My sweet Eira on one of our evening walks.