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Tips for Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip in the Desert
By Mel Lee-Smith
Published: 10/07/2020, edited: 08/10/2021
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There’s a wonderfully diverse array of scenery on offer right across the United States. And if you’re looking for somewhere to take a truly memorable vacation, why not take your dog on a road trip to the desert? With clear blue skies, iconic landscapes, and uncrowded surroundings, there are plenty of good reasons to go traveling with a dog to the desert.
But before you hit the highway, there are a few things you can do to help your trip run as smoothly as possible. Keep reading for our simple travel tips for dogs in the desert.
Before you go
You’ve decided to take your dog on a road trip in the desert and you can’t wait to get going. But there’s a lot you need to do before jumping in the car.
First, take your pup to the vet to make sure they’re in suitable physical condition for a trip to the desert. Some breeds can find hot conditions particularly tough going, so your vet may recommend that your pooch stays at home. You’ll also be able to make sure all of your pup’s vaccinations are up-to-date before hitting the road.
Next, take some time to prepare your pup for a long road trip. If they’re only used to taking short drives to the vet or the park, don’t expect them to immediately adapt to spending hours on the road. You can train your dog to like car rides by rewarding them for calmly hopping into the car, and by starting with short trips and gradually building up to bigger adventures.
Finally, you’ll also need to think carefully about what to pack for your pooch. Many must-have items are obvious, such as food, bedding, toys, poop bags, and your pup’s leash.
But there are also a few desert-specific items to include on your packing checklist. The most obvious is, of course, A LOT of water. The conditions in the desert are extreme, so it’s essential that you and your pup have plenty of water to stay hydrated. You may also want to include the following:
Tweezers (for removing cactus spines from your pup’s fur)
Booties (to protect their paw pads from burning)
Some sort of shade cover for your dog
A cooling pet bedw
A cooling vest or jacket for your pup
Pet first aid kit
Once you’ve packed all the essentials, it’s time to head for the desert and tackle one of the best road trips for dogs.
Staying safe on the road
It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving to your local dog park or driving cross-country with a dog, your pup should always be buckled up. The last thing you want is to have your pup moving freely around the car. Not only can they be a big distraction, but they could also be injured (or worse) if you’re involved in an accident.
There are several ways to safely secure your pooch when traveling with a dog, including car harnesses, doggy car seats, and travel crates. Just make sure that whichever option you choose is appropriate for your pet’s size and that they have plenty of ventilation.
Provide toys to help keep boredom at bay, and make sure your pup stays hydrated throughout the day. Last but not least, never leave your dog in a hot car, as the consequences can be fatal.
Stop and smell the roses
Don’t be too focused on getting to your destination; take some time to enjoy the journey along the way. This is critical not only for your enjoyment, but also for the safety of you and your pup.
Make sure you take a break from driving at least every couple of hours. This will give your pup a chance to have a drink to stay hydrated, stretch their legs to run off some energy, and answer the call of nature. It’ll also give you a rest from the monotony of driving, which is essential to ensure you don’t get too fatigued.
Best of all, you and your pup will get to do the most important thing of all — enjoy yourselves! You might even like to plan your route so that it takes in some great dog-friendly walking trails and off-leash parks along the way.
Where to stay
The next thing you’ll need to consider is where you’re going to rest your head. Maybe you’ll be searching for pet-friendly hotels, comparing the best holiday rentals, or searching for pet-friendly campgrounds where you can park your RV or go tent camping with dogs.
The key thing to remember here is to do your research. Check any accommodation venue’s policies on four-legged guests to make sure your dog will be welcomed with open arms. It’s also a good idea to search for recommendations from friends, family, and other pet parents — they’ll give you a better idea of just how dog-friendly a particular venue actually is.
Desert dangers for dogs
If you’re taking a dog on a road trip to the desert, you’ll need to prepare yourself for the following hazards:
Heatstroke. In the extreme heat of the desert, it’s essential to keep your dog cool. Provide ample fresh water for your pup to drink, ensure they have access to shade, and avoid exercising in the hottest part of the day. Make sure you recognize the signs that your dog is struggling, and that you know the best way to treat heatstroke if needed.
Paw problems. Hot surfaces can be painful and damaging for delicate pet paw pads. To help keep your pup safe, consider investing in a pair of special booties. Taking care to stick to grassy areas and avoid hot bitumen and sand will also help.
Rattlesnakes. The mere mention of these slippery snakes is enough to send a shiver down any dog lover’s spine, but they’re a hazard you need to be aware of in many desert regions. Steer clear of any areas prone to rattlesnakes, while it’s also worth training your pup to stay away from snakes before you leave home.
Other wildlife to watch out for. The dangers of the animal kingdom don’t stop there. Porcupines, scorpions, coyotes, and other creatures can seriously injure a dog, so keep a close eye on your pet at all times. Unless they’re extremely well-trained — a reliable “leave it” command could come in very handy — the safest option is to keep them on a leash.
Cactus spines. The harsh conditions of the desert can produce some remarkable plants, but many of them boast spikes and thorns that could harm your furry friend. Coming into contact with cactus spines can be a particularly painful experience for pups, so bring along a pair of tweezers for any extraction jobs. Checking your pup and combing their hair each day will also help remove burrs and prevent matts from forming.
Whether you’re hiking, cooling off, or just admiring the scenery, there are stacks of “pawsome” activities for you and your dog to enjoy in the desert. There’s no shortage of memorable experiences just waiting to be enjoyed. And with a little bit of planning and preparation, you can help your pup stay safe and have a tail-wagging good time.
So stop thinking about it and start getting ready — it’s time to take your dog on a desert road trip!