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Road trips are always better when you have someone to share them with. Bringing your dog ensures you have a companion, watchdog and adventure partner whether you’re hiking, biking or even living the #vanlife. But having the right products for your dogs can make or break your trip.
My husband Kenneth Kearney is a professional wildlife and landscape photographer so we spend a fair bit of time on the road in Oregon, Washington, Montana, British Columbia and Alaska. California and Alberta are next on our list.
In Spring 2019, we adopted two dogs from the streets of Houston, Texas through two different rescue groups. Kuma, named for the Japanese word for bear, is an energetic 3.5-year-old 45-pound pit bull mix and Ghillie Dhu, named for a Scottish forest fairy, is a calm 5+-year-old 45-pound super mutt. We are true dog lovers—our dogs are members of our family. We want to bring them with us whenever possible.
At home and on road trips, we use pet calming products to reduce their reactivity and anxiety that is so common among rescued and pandemic pets. But on road trips we also use a range of other products for dogs to keep them safe, nourished and comfortable along the way.
Because road tripping with dogs is a learning process, I wanted to share some of the tips and travel pet products for dogs that have made it possible for us to travel in comfort over the last few years. And if you’re heading into the great outdoors with your pups, be sure to check out SPY’s guide to Camping With Dogs.
1. LuckyPet Slide-On Personalized Pet ID Tags
PET ID TAGS
Whenever you leave home, you want to be sure your dog has visible identification so that you can recover them quickly and easily if you get accidentally separated. We chose curved slide-on ID tags that fit flush to your dog’s collar or harness because we don’t like the noise generated by dangling tags. Hanging tags can also get caught on vegetation or fencing and either be pulled off or worse, trap your dog in a possibly dangerous place or situation.
These personalized slide-on laser engraved tags come in four sizes that will fit flexible collars that are 1/8-inch thick or less and either 3/8-, 5/8-, ¾- or 1-inch wide. You can choose open-ended tags for collars with buckles on both ends or closed-ended tags for those with a buckle only on one side. These durable, 1/16-inch thick stainless steel, easy-to-read tags are relatively easy to attach without any additional tools.
We use open-ended tags on their collars and harnesses. They have been pulled off on a rare occasion, usually during rough play, but otherwise have held up well. After three years of use, the bold black lettering has been worn off a bit but is still easy to read.
2. Viewpets Waterproof Bench Car Seat Cover
Dogs get wet and dirty, especially when you’re traveling. We protect the leather seats in our vehicles with a waterproof bench car seat cover. The heavy-duty quilted, scratch proof and waterproof canvas material keeps the dirt and smell off our upholstery and prevents permanent scratches or other damage. The dogs appreciate the seat protector because it gives them traction in a moving vehicle and a comfortable place to curl up during nap time. Although this protector is a universal size (49 inches L × 56 inches W) not specific to our Subaru XV Crosstrek or our Nissan Leaf, it fits both securely. That’s because it has two tuck-in seat anchors, two elastic straps that wrap around seat corners, and two straps that clip around back headrests that help it stay in place well.
Although we chose black, this seat cover comes in four other common colors. We love that we can spot clean it, vacuum it and even toss it in the washing machine. It also has Velcro openings so that seat belts can still be used when in place.
This was an easy choice for us because this cover has earned more than 22,000 four- and five-star Amazon reviews. Customers rate it very well for sturdiness and value for the money.
3. Furhaven Car Seat Safety Clip
DOG SEAT BELT
A lot of time on the road increases your chances of getting in an accident. A seat belt for your dog is a must to keep them safe and to keep them from interfering with your driving. Most manufacturers of pet seat belts recommend that you use a harness and not a collar so that any pulling that might happen in a sudden stop would be distributed across their chest and not their more delicate neck.
We use these safety clips because they’re versatile, affordable and easy to use. You only need to clip the “male” end into the seat belt buckle and you’re ready to roll. The sturdy polypropylene webbing comes in blue, gray or black with a quick-release swiveling aluminum clip that can attach to their harness.
The length is adjustable up to 20 inches for use in multiple applications and vehicles. We adjust the length so that they can stand up fully and see out the front of the vehicle without interfering with our driving or putting more than their head out the window.
4. Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness
DOG SAFETY HARNESS
While traveling in a vehicle, your dog is safest when attached to their seat belt while wearing a harness. A collar isn’t safe with a seat belt as it could damage your dog’s windpipe or spine even during a quick stop. Our dogs also walk better with less pulling on a harness compared to a collar.
We use the Ruffwear Front Range dog harness in Tumalo teal. Although our dogs prefer to be nude, they’re always in their harnesses when we travel. We like that this one is both comfortable and safe. It’s foam-padded construction on the inside makes it soft and cushy enough to wear all day. The outer sturdy canvas holds up during hikes in the bush and cleans up nicely with a soapy handwash. It took us a bit to get the fit just right because it’s adjustable in four places. Ghillie experienced some rubbing under the arms because he is broad chested but we eventually were able to adjust it for a just-right fit.
The reflective trim increases visibility in low-light conditions on those after-dinner walks. There’s a pocket for identification tags and two places to attach a leash. We use the loop in the front for Kuma because she pulls less on it than the aluminum V-ring on the back. You can also use the loops to hold the Beacon Safety Dog Light or other visibility aid.
The manufacturers recommend measuring around the widest part of your dog’s rib cage and if they fall between sizes, choose the larger size for your dog.
5. Fat-Cat Fish Freeze-Dried Wild Salmon Snacks for Dogs and Cats
HIGH VALUE RECALL TREATS
Taking your dogs on the road increases their chances of getting loose or lost. Whenever we travel, we bring along high value treats—snack-style food that our dogs cannot resist—so we know they will come when called if they get loose.
Our dogs will always come when called when they know we’re offering wonderfully odiferous Fat-Cat Fish Salmon snacks. We love that they are human-quality, high-protein, single-ingredient wild, and not farmed, salmon that’s caught in Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The freeze dry process makes them last well even on the road without added preservatives. The 1.25-ounce zippered packaging (also made in the U.S.) keeps fishy odors from escaping.
Made by a small, family-owned pet food company based in Bellingham, Washington, the makers have over 75 years of experience in the fishing industry. We also like that Fat-Cat Fish also gives back. Their Feeding the Hungry program donates human and pet food to U.S. Food Banks by shipping more than two million meals to food banks in the Western States where they do business. They also donate cash and pet food to animal shelters through The Humane Society of the United States and have donated treats to Rescue Bank to help pet owners during natural disasters.
Read More: The Best Healthy Dog Treats
6. Collapsible Dog Travel Bowls
These are easy to forget when you’re packing for your road trip. We chose collapsible bowls that are easy to clean, lightweight, durable and easy to stash away to save space. They come as a pack of two bowls, each with an aluminum carabiner that can be easily clipped on a belt loop, leash or backpack. They are also available in two sizes (5- or 6.8-inch diameter) and five color combinations. The silicone material is easy for humans to collapse, wipes clean and dishwasher safe. We felt confident about this purchase because these bowls have earned almost 16,000 four- and five-star Amazon reviews.
These aren’t perfect of course. Some customers report that their larger dogs have tipped them over and that they aren’t large enough volume to hold the volume of food or water needed for a full day.
7. Native Pet Organic Air-Dried Pumpkin Powder
Just like humans, when you travel, your digestion can get disrupted by changes in your schedule and diet. Dogs especially will eat different foods, stray rodents, garbage and who knows what else that can result in diarrhea, constipation and other digestive upsets.
Both at home and when we road trip, we feed our dogs this organic dietary supplement that helps them stay regular despite the chaos of the road. Made with just three ingredients grown in North America—organic pumpkin, pumpkin seed and organic apple—this shelf-stable powder can be easily mixed with food or water. Pumpkin has long been recommended by veterinarians as a natural home remedy to establish regularity for dogs. The manufacturers also claim that it also helps prevent the scooting you’ll sometimes observe.
Available in an 8- or 16-ounce can, you can save a lot when you buy multiple cans that have a shelf-life of two years. Our dogs love the taste, so they see it as an extra treat.
8. Doggy Do Good Compostable Dog Poop Bags
DOG WASTE BAGS
To be a responsible pet owner, and to protect our waterways, it’s important to carry pet waste bags when you’re on the road. Because pet waste is biodegradable, we only use biodegradable dog poop bags that are home compostable—meaning they don’t require industrial-level heat and pressure to degrade.
Watch out for brands that greenwash—packaging their products to appear to be eco-friendly when they are not. Doggy Do Good bags are certified home compostable within 6 to 123 months by OK Compost & TÜV Austria, and the Biodegradable Products Institute in Canada. Made in Royal Oak, Michigan, these are compostable because they’re 38% vegetable-based while remaining thick (0.8 mil) and leakproof to contain contents and odor.
They are available in 60-, 180- and 360-count packages, all with 10 bags per roll. Rolls are perforated for easy tear away and each bag has handles for easy tying. The rolls are a standard size that fit most dispensers. Outer packaging and roll cores are made from recycled cardboard.
We feel good about spending our money with Doggy Do Good because they are members of 1% for the Planet meaning they donate 1% of profits to animal welfare and environmental nonprofits. They also donate products and profits to reputable animal rescues and no-kill shelters.
9. The Sniffspot App
RENT SPACE FOR YOUR DOG BY THE HOUR
When you’re spending hours in a vehicle, your dog still needs daily exercise to keep them happy and well-behaved. But it’s scary to let them off leash in towns you’ve never been to and into dog parks (where there are any) with potentially questionable hygiene and safety. The Sniffspot App is your answer.
Like renting a cottage for vacation, the Sniffspot gives you access to thousands of hosts willing to rent out their back yards—or their back 40—by the hour so your dogs can get their zoomies out. When you make a reservation, you have the space to yourself and hosts often offer extras like swimming pools, snacks and beverages.
Each listing includes photos and details about the spot, like the property size, type of fencing and whether you can see or hear other animals. You can read reviews and see photos from past visitors before booking your appointment and you’ll have the chance to leave a review after your visit. Luckily, there are Sniffspots all across the U.S. and around the world so you can often find several to choose from no matter where you go. For a couple of years, we’ve been using Sniffspots for essential exercise when we travel and we’re also hosts, too.
The hourly rate of each spot is set by the host and varies based on amenities and the size of the spot. Some in my neighborhood in Washington state are just $10 an hour for an acre all to yourself. Once you create your account on the app or your desktop computer, you can make reservations of variable length and change them if needed. You can get a discount on your first reservation and every dog after the first plays for 50% off the standard rate.
10. Whistle Go Explore Smart Device
BEST WEARABLE TECH
We don’t yet own this but have been researching wearable tech devices for our dogs to give us even more peace of mind when we travel. Worn on their collar and paired with your phone or computer, you can monitor your dog’s location and their health in real-time and over time. The unit also has a built-in night light. Using GPS location monitoring, your device can be set to alert you if your dog escapes its designated safe place. Under 2 inches square and waterproof in up to six feet of water, the collar unit comes in three colors.
Because of the size of the device, it is meant for dogs 25 pounds and up. Wi-Fi is required as is a low monthly subscription. You access the data collected via the Whistle app.
You can set custom activity goals based on your dog’s breed, weight, and age as well as reminders for vet visits and medications. You’ll also be alerted proactively when the device detects potential health concerns. Customers have also confirmed the excellent battery life of up to 20 days.
Why Trust Spy?
Lorraine Wilde has had at least two cat and two dog companions in her home for the last 35 years. Lorraine owns and uses each of these products, except for Whistle Go. Before each purchase she evaluated customer and professional reviews, the safety and health of the ingredients and materials of each product, and each company’s product research and development.
Lorraine has only the highest of standards for her pets and her family. She also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science with an emphasis in toxicology. She does this work to help consumers make healthy, informed and environmentally conscious choices to protect their pets, their families and our planet.