Having driven from upstate New York to AKC/Eukanuba in Long Beach, Calif., twice and to Portland, Ore., for the Belgian Tervuren National this year, I have visited a number of rest stops along the main routes. Let me share some wisdom and observations.

Foxtail and burdock are hazards of the Southwest that can be avoided by exercising dogs on sod instead of arid land. Photos courtesy of Deb Eldredge, D.V.M.

When traveling through the Southwest, a friend advised me to not let my dog out at rest areas due to some nasty little spiky plants – foxtail and burdock. I figured she was exaggerating until I let Queezle out at one in Texas. In less than a minute she was holding her paws up alternately and looking miserable. I got her onto the pavement and carefully removed three or four tight burrs from between her pads. I’m not sure exactly what they were.

My friends’ suggestion was to get off the main roads to stop at a Cracker Barrel or other chain restaurant. Most of these establishments have sod planted, so your dog has a safe place to eliminate. Just be sure to pick up after your dog so that dogs don’t get banned, and consider buying a drink or something to reward the restaurant.

Signs posted at rest stops can be somewhat disturbing to people traveling with dogs.

You may find signs that are somewhat disturbing (at least to an easterner) at the rest stops – things like “Beware of Rattlesnakes” or “Rattlesnakes have been spotted here.” I have seen these in the Southwest and as far north as Montana. One Montana rest stop mentioned bears too.

At some of the turnpike stops in Massachusetts, fenced-off, grassy pens are available to let your dog loose in. The one in the western part of the state even has a fake fire hydrant for the boy dogs.

The Ohio Turnpike stops also tend to have fenced areas, generally with crushed stone. These are somewhat bigger, maybe 8-by-15 feet, and baggies are provided at many of these rest areas.

Most rest stops will have a clearly marked dog or pet area.

Most rest stops have clearly marked dog or pet areas. Try to stick to those for elimination purposes. We did walk our dogs over to the other areas for photo ops (it’s their own travelogue of states). Most rest areas were kept reasonably clean. Sadly, the big western states get the award for being the least clean. I guess since they have so many wide open spaces people figure they don’t need to pick up after their dogs.

The western states haven’t always had the cleanest rest stops, and they seem to see more than their fair share of dogs running loose.

We also encountered the most dogs running loose at those areas. That includes hotels. Sorry, but I am not happy about your intact male Labrador Retriever running loose in and around the hotel while I try to walk an in-heat Belgian Tervuren bitch!

Some of the western rest areas kindly offered watering stations for dogs. They were a great way to refill our travel jugs too. One Montana stop offered free coffee for travelers and free biscuits for all dogs – nice touch!

Clues that dogs are welcome can be as simple as a water pump and a terra cotta bowl.

Overall we’ve found most areas welcoming to our dogs. The pet policy at Motel 6 has clearly brought the chain plenty of business. Every time we stayed at one, there were multiple dog-owning travelers staying there. Just remember to pick up after your dog!