A Puppy’s Guide to Road Tripping

A Puppy’s Guide to Road Tripping

  • Erin Swanson

Ruffwear Ambassadors Nate and Dani Wyeth live in Bend, Oregon with their favorite road trip sidekicks: golden retriever, Ranger, and 10-week-old puppy, Lemon. They've mastered the art of dog-friendly road tripping – and recently added some puppy-specific tricks and travel gear to their tool kit.

It Starts With a Plan

When you’re as attached to your dogs as we are, your entire world revolves around your pups. Nary a decision is made without their best interests in mind, and that goes for everything from the food we feed them to how included they are in our favorite thing to do – traveling.

We’ve become rather fluent in the art of road tripping with your doggos, and we're here to share our tips on how to make it more enjoyable for all when you’ve got a new puppy.

A woman holds her puppy while taking a stretch break on a road trip.

We’re in the early stages of preparing for a three-week road trip to Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho this fall. It’ll be here before we know it. Sure, Lemon, our ten-week-old puppy will be six-months-old when we set out for three weeks on the road, but we have all been getting her acclimated already this summer and have learned a whole slew of new things along the way.

A close up photo of a golden retriever puppy.

While some may argue otherwise, we feel like the best road trip starts with a rock-solid plan. And a plan B. Probably a plan C as well, just in case. For us, that looks like a few nights many months out with some maps, a calendar, and a screen or two nearby for research.

When we plan things out, we’re looking for pet-friendly places to stop along the way to stretch the legs and empty the bladders. Veterinarians say puppies can hold their bladders for about an hour per month of age (until they gain bladder control around 4-6 months old), so those stops are super important for proper potty training.

A woman and her two dogs walk in nature while taking a break on a road trip.

While sometimes there are rest areas along the interstate, we like to take the scenic routes, so we look for public lands in areas safe to let the dogs run and where there are fewer temptations for a puppy.

The same goes for places to sleep at night. While established, developed campgrounds can be great, we prefer dispersed camping areas where the dogs can be more at peace. Flush toilets are nice, but have you ever experienced pure solitude in the middle of the forest?

A golden retriever dog rests in the car while on a road trip.

As the plans come together, here are a few other things we keep in mind:

  • We try to find a place to stop every couple of hours. When we stop, we take the pups for a short walk and a quick drink of water before getting back on the road. We look for places with shade in the summer and away from the hot pavement that can burn their paws.
  • We try to avoid restaurants while road tripping and make sure to keep the cooler stocked with groceries so that we don’t have to leave the dogs in unattended vehicles when it’s human meal time. Include these picnic stops in your planning.
  • We always keep travel days pretty short, but if it’s supposed to be hot, we travel early in the morning. It’s as much about the journey as it is the destination, and for us that means living life a little slower, taking more time to take it all in.
  • We identify restaurants, other dog-friendly businesses, dog-friendly activities, and veterinarians ahead of time so that we’re always prepared with a place to stop.
  • Keeping vaccination records on hand is smart, especially with a puppy who may not yet be fully vaccinated.
  • We make a list of any notable dog rules or laws along our route to make sure we stay on the (mostly) straight and narrow.

Packing List

A woman uses the Kibble Kaddie™ Dog Food Travel Bag while on a road trip.

When it comes time to start packing, we start by filling our Kibble Kaddie with the proper amount of food we’ll need for the trip. Our puppy eats the same food as our adult dog, which makes things easier, but they eat a lot, so oftentimes we’ll fill up both bags. The Kibble Kaddie does have a partition, though, if your puppy eats different food than your adult dog.

A woman opens her Ruffwear Haul Bag™ during a road trip.

We then fill up our Haul Bag with all of the remaining necessities including a few favorite toys like the Gnawt-a-Cone to keep a teething puppy entertained, their sleeping bags, harnesses, and extra leashes. If needed, the bag also makes a great sling for a puppy.

A woman carries her puppy in a Ruffwear Haul Bag.

A Hydro Flask Oasis accompanies them in the backseat, so we’ve always got water handy. Puppies drink a lot of water, so it’s best to be prepared.

The dogs own the back seat, so we try to make it as comfortable for them as possible. The Dirtbag™ Seat Cover keeps things in one place, and the convenient zipper pocket ensures leashes and a collapsible bowl are handy when we stop.

A person pulls a dog bowl out of the zipper pocket in the Dirtbag Seat Cover.

We keep the puppy from moving around too much by seat-belting her in. The Load Up™ Dog Car Harness is made for car rides and makes sure a pup stays safe from point a to point b.

The new Hitch Hiker™ Leash makes it easy to have one dog on an adjustable length lead while keeping your hands free for the other dog (or for treats, toys, picking up poop, or whatever you need some spare hands for) when we’re ready to stop.

A woman puts toys and treats in her Home Trail Hip Pack.

One of us throws the Home Trail™ Hip Pack over a shoulder, wearing it as a sling, keeping those aforementioned treats, toys, and dog poop bags handy for whenever they’re needed. While it might sound like a lot, having things ready to go and in their place makes quick time of our stops, and being prepared means we don’t have to run back to the truck to grab something a half-mile into our hike.

A puppy goes on a walk during a break from a road trip.

We keep a few other items in the vehicle including that aforementioned vessel to have plenty of water on hand, our Knot-a-Hitch™ tether system, and a dog first aid kit.

All that’s left to do next is gas up, check the oil and tire pressure, and hit the road. Making sure your puppy is tired out before loading up will ensure a great start to the trip. The rest, well that depends on the planning. We’ve known this for a while, but the dog’s way to road trip is definitely the best way to road trip.

Eager for more inspiration from this road tripping crew? Follow their adventures at @natewyeth.

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