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Traveling in the Car With Your Dog

by Dan Borja on February 25, 2020

Deciding to take your furry friend on a road trip may initially sound like a fabulous idea.  Having your pet along for a trip is wonderful but there are a few precautions, preparations, and details to tend to before you drive off.  These tips will help make the travel experience comfortable and easy for both of you.

Some pets are perfectly happy to go for a car ride while others are severely resistant. Equipping yourself with the right material and a positive attitude will ensure that you comfortably reach your destination.


First, make a list of everything you will need during the drive and at your destination.  Your list may vary but could include:


  • Water dish with removable cover
  • Pet food and dish
  • Collar or harness and leash
  • Pet carrier
  • Blankets
  • Pet calming aid
  • Pet shampoo
  • Brush
  • Pet wipes or an old towel
  • Litter box
  • Toys

After you make your list, place those items, save the pet carrier, in the car where they will be easily accessible.  Make sure you remember to reserve a place in the car where your pet will be secure, during the drive. 

Next, while it might not be sure to double-check your pet’s ID tag to make sure the name and phone number are clearly readable. Similarly, if your pet is microchipped, check to confirm that the associated information is current.

Driving far away from home can be disorienting for dogs, so make sure you have a leash for rest stops. It is also important to bring waste collection bags so you can responsibly cleanup after your pet. Bringing a water dish with a removable cover is handy while driving so you can cover the water container between stops to avoid spillage. 

If the weather is chilly a blanket may keep your pet warm. Car travel makes some pets nervous so a pet calming aid may be helpful for those pets.  Finally, I would recommend bringing along disposable wet wipes or an old rag for muddy paws.


Although it’s common to see dogs with their heads hanging out of a car window, this is not a good practice for your furry pals. This is not only unsafe for your pet but distracting or potentially the cause of an auto accident for you. A crate or restraint is the best way to make sure that your pet is transported safely. 

The crate needs to be large enough for your friend to easily turn around in. Additionally, a crate should be easy to clean and secured. A loose crate is just as unsafe as a loose pet in your car. A barrier is a great alternative for dogs, but make sure it can support your dog’s weight. 

These are usually placed in the trunk area of an SUV, making your pet much less of a distraction and giving them a comfortable area within which they can move.

Another restraint option is a pet seat belt or car harnesses. These restraints let pets enjoy sitting near the driver without confined to a carrier. The seat belts are made specifically to protect pets in case there is an accident. With any of these options, it is best to spend some time training your pet ahead of time.  

If you choose to travel with your pet in a carrier, it is best practice to put your pet into the carrier inside the home then carry the pet to the car while already in the carrier.


Like children, pets need to stop for food, water, & relief. Dogs, especially high-energy breeds, will need to be let out of the car to expend their extra energy. 

Even though you may be capable of driving for hours, your furry friend is not. Keeping them in the car for several hours without breaks will make them grumpy and increase the likelihood they could have an accident in the car.

At rest stops, make sure your pet is hydrated and feed them at their routine times. As you plan your route and are traveling with a dog it’s a great idea to find dog parks along your drive where you can stop to let your pooch run a bit.

Calming music will sometimes help an unsettled pet. My dog used to get extremely anxious with car rides. Once I figured out to put a large blanket over her carrier, she settled down almost immediately. Turns out, she was just stressed out by the constant change of scenery and eliminating the stimulation gave her a greater sense of calm.

Whatever you do, don’t leave your pet unattended in the car. This is completely unsafe for your pet. Double-check for pet-friendly restaurants and hotels along your route ahead of time. Bring Fido is an app that allows you to find pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, and parks.


Before finalizing travel plans make sure you consult your veterinarian about anything additional you may need to bring along. Your veterinarian will know specifically what to recommend if your pet gets anxious or how to help if your pet is prone to motion sickness. 

You may wish to bring your pet’s vaccination records with you, just in case. Your veterinarian can provide you with a current copy of these records.


Bringing along your furry friend may seem daunting at first. Follow these tips and you’re both sure to have a fantastic trip!

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