So many destinations in Texas welcome dogs with open paws. This state, which boasts the largest population of dogs in the country, is home to an estimated 7.2 million pups. Austin is frequently cited as one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country, closely followed by Houston, Dallas, and other Texas metropolitan areas. And rural Texas and Rovers go hand in paw as well. From ranch dogs working in traditional roles to dogs accompanying backpackers in exploration of Texas’s wildest locations, four-legged residents and visitors fill rural areas.
We enjoy traveling Texas with our own two dogs, Irie and Tiki. After a lifetime as Texans and exploration of much of the state for many, many guidebook projects, we have found renewed vigor in our travels thanks to our dogs. We rediscovered the joy in stops at the simplest parks and roadside stops.
In late 2013, we completed Dogtipper’s Texas with Dogs, a full-color guidebook that covers our suggestions for the best places in Texas to travel with your dog. This book is not a comprehensive guide to all dog-friendly facilities in this state that spans over 268,000 square miles but, instead, a guide to help point the way for you and your dog to plan a memorable vacation.
Here on TexasTripper, we’ve marked dog-friendly locations with a paw icon:
Safety Precautions for Traveling Texas with Dogs
As in many parts of the country, the coyote population has grown in recent years in Texas. Campers are urged to never leave a dog outside a tent at night when coyotes can attack. Daytime sightings are usually rare but, at night, coyotes will come close to look for a meal.
Texas is home to poisonous rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, and coral snakes. While these are typically shy creatures and would prefer to flee rather than bite, be wary when hiking with your dog. Don’t let your dog put his nose in rocky ledges, beneath logs, or in holes on the river bank. If you or your dog are bitten, seek veterinary attention immediately.
And, if you’re vacationing in East Texas or near the coast, please keep an eye out for alligators. Don’t let your dog swim in waters where alligator signs are posted and don’t walk your dog along the shoreline at dawn or dusk.
The state is also home to several nasty crawly creatures such as scorpions, tarantulas, and fire ants. And Africanized bees—killer bees—aren’t just the stuff of horror movies but a real problem. They typically nest in hollow trees and have been known to attack the sources of loud noise: chainsaws, lawn mowers—and barking dogs.
Flash flooding is another problem that literally sneaks up on many travelers. The rocky conditions in the Hill Country and western portions of the state mean that rains will run off quickly and flood what minutes earlier may have been a dry creek bed. Some parks, like Pedernales Falls State Park near Austin, have sirens to warn travelers to get away from the river when a flash flood approaches but most of the time you’ll be on your own to know when you and your dog need to get away from the water. Low water crossings kill many travelers every year as they attempt to drive across roads covered in water. “Turn around, don’t drown” is the NOAA weather campaign to urge travelers not to try to drive across flooded roads.
But the two most common hazards are perhaps the least exotic: heat and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes can be the most annoying insects during warm-weather months; pack dog-safe repellent for both you and your dog and make sure your dog is current on heartworm preventative, no matter what time of the year you visit. Heartworm can be contracted in the middle of the winter in this state so you definitely need for your dog to be current on preventative before you arrive. (Similarly fleas and ticks can be a year-around issue.)
And although it’s commonplace, heat remains the most deadly problem in Texas. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are risks for both you and your dog, especially for brachycephalic (short-nosed) dogs like bulldogs and pugs that have a more difficult time panting to cool their body temperature. Cool, fresh water is important to provide your dog frequently on your outings. And don’t forget that your dog is much closer to the hot pavement than you are and, unless you put protective booties on him, is always barefoot. Unless you’d feel comfortable walking on the pavement in bare feet, please keep your dog off the pavement.
NEVER leave a dog in the car in Texas. Temperatures can soar and your car can turn into an oven in the time it takes you to go in and order lunch. Many dogs die ever year in cars that their owners thought would be a comfortable place for them to wait.