How to Travel Safely With Your Dog in the Car

Madelene Hissom · Dec 16, 2020

Traveling with your dog this holiday season? 

There are a few key pointers to keep in mind when you’re embarking on a road trip with a pet along for the ride. The most important is to carefully plan ahead to ensure that your pup will be comfortable, gets plenty of breaks, and won’t be left unattended at any point.  

 1) Go for test drives  

If you haven’t gone on many car rides with a puppy or new dog before, make sure to fit a few in before embarking on a holiday trip. It’s important to get your dog accustomed to the car, to make sure that they won’t interfere with your driving, and to see how they react to being in the car.  

To start, try letting your dog sit with you in the car, without leaving the driveway; then progress to shorter drives. Many dogs love car trips; others are less enthusiastic. Going for a test drive that mirrors the conditions of a long journey will help you prepare for holiday travel with your dog.  

2) Find the perfect crate or car harness 

It's time to buckle up, even for your dog! Depending on the kind of car you drive, the size of your dog, and whether they are crate trained or not, invest in a travel crate or car harness. 

The best travel crates are roomy enough that your dog can stand up, turn around, and lie down without feeling constricted. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution: small dog carriers and large dog carriers should be used as necessary for different breeds.  And a car harness is different than a walking harness. It comes with all the safety essentials needed for car travel and is designed to comfortably fit your dog while being buckled up.

3) Take breaks  

Second, you’ll want to plan to ensure that your dog has everything they’ll need throughout their journey. Just like the people on your trip, your dog will need regular breaks for food, water, exercise, and the bathroom. That means you’ll need to bring along their regular food as well as a leash, water bowls, and bags for cleaning up.  

When taking long trips on the highway, it’s helpful to check your route before you leave and identify the rest stops along the way. Some rest stops also have specific areas for dogs or even dog parks; these can be ideal places to give your dog an exercise break.  

Most importantly, whenever you take a break, don’t leave your dog in the car unattended, especially in very cold or warm areas.  

4) Keep your dog entertained 

Long car rides can quickly become dull--for dogs as well as people. Try to create a strategy ahead of time for the ways you’ll keep your dog happy and what you’ll do if they get agitated or upset.  

It’s a good idea to bring one of your dog’s favorite toys; keep it in his or her crate if you’re using one. Teasing or touching your dog too often during a car ride can be stressful for your dog; having a calm and quiet environment in the car is important for ensuring your dog is comfortable throughout.  

One tip to keep your dog occupied: give them a long-lasting chew. Bringing along your dog’s favorite flavor can help to give them a sense of familiar comfort and make the hours go by quicker on a longer journey.  

Follow these tips, and you’ll be ready for a safe and successful road trip with your dog! By keeping your pup comfortable, entertained, relaxed, and healthy throughout your journey, you’ll be able to enjoy holiday travel with your dog.