Skip to main content

PawTracks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Follow these tips for a fun — and safe — road trip with your dog

If you’ve ever kissed your dog goodbye before leaving on vacation, you know the heartbreak. Why not avoid it next time and take your pooch along for the ride? While your pup may be used to short trips to the park or pet store, it’s a good idea to extend the time spent in the car before embarking on a long road trip. Also, use positive reinforcement training to teach your dog to jump in and out of the car on command. This will pay off at rest stops once your trip is underway.

Think safety first when traveling with your dog

Keep your dog restrained while driving   

Don’t assume that because your dog sits or lies quietly in the car that she doesn’t need a restraint. A calm dog will be thrown with the same amount of force as an active dog in a crash or sudden stop. According to the AAA, if a car crashes at 25 mph, an airborne dog can develop projection forces equaling 40 times his or her weight.

When choosing a restraining device, it’s important to remember that there are no government standards for pet-safety products. The nonprofit Center for Pet Safety (CPS) does independent crash tests of crates, harnesses, and pet carriers using crash-test-dummy dogs. The organization offers a list of CPS-certified products for consumers.

Pet restraint options include:

  • Pet seat belts and harnesses – Some travel harnesses prevent distraction, while others protect your dog in case of an accident.
  • Crates and carriers ­– Experts at the Humane Society of the United States recommend crating dogs while traveling in cars.
  • Booster seats – These seats attach to the car seatback. Many include straps, which should be attached only to the dog’s harness and never the collar, as that poses a choking hazard. These seats should never be used in the front seat of the car where a deployed airbag could cause injury or even kill a small dog.
  • Barriers – Barriers come in a variety of sizes and materials and keep dogs from jumping — or being thrown — into the front of the car.
dog in harness in car
Andrey Popov/Shutterstock

Andrey Popov/Shutterstock

Don’t allow your dog’s head to hang out the car window 

While it certainly looks like fun, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) cautions against allowing dogs to stick their heads out of car windows while in motion. This puts them at high risk of eye, ear, face, and mouth injury from airborne objects. Additionally, dogs can fall out the window in a collision or abrupt turn and may jump out after prey.

Never leave your dog in a hot car

Every year, hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked cars. According to the AVMA, the temperature inside your car can rise almost 30 degrees within 20 minutes. Even on days that don’t seem hot to you, leaving your pet in a car can put her at serious risk of illness and even death.

Dealing with motion sickness 

Younger dogs are more likely to suffer from motion sickness. It’s believed this is because the parts of the inner ear involving balance aren’t fully developed. Symptoms of motion sickness include excessive drooling, restlessness, yawning, whining, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your dog does appear distressed, stopping to take a short walk may help relieve the symptoms. If your dog is susceptible to motion sickness, discuss medication options with your veterinarian before hitting the road.

To help avoid motion sickness:

  • Don’t feed your dog for 12 hours before hitting the road.
  • Keep the interior of the car cool.
  • Choose soft, calming music for the trip.
  • Place a T-shirt with your scent in the crate or carrier to help your dog relax.
man, girl and dog sitting beside a car
Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock

Before you leave for your trip

Check ID tags

Make sure contact information is current on collar ID tags. If your dog is microchipped, check that the information is current on the microchip registry site. Also, check your dog’s collar, harness, and leash to make sure there’s no fraying or damage that could cause them to break. Consider bringing backups of each just in case.

Your dog’s packing list should include:

  • Food and water bowls
  • Food
  • Water
  • Treats
  • Any necessary medications and a copy of your dog’s health records
  • Flea and tick preventatives and tick remover
  • Favorite toys
  • Clothing (depending on the time of year)
  • Favorite bed and blanket
  • Brush and dry shampoo
  • First-aid kit (you can find handy carry cases at major pet stores or online)
  • Poop bags
  • Towels for drying off the dog on wet days or cleaning up drool

Once on the road, you’ll need to plan a stop every two or three hours to allow your dog to take a bathroom break, grab a drink, and get in a walk. And finally, it’s so much fun hitting the road with your dog, be sure to enjoy every minute of the adventure.

Editors' Recommendations

Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
Why do you often find your dog with their tongue out? Here’s what vets say about the ‘blep’
This behavior may be cute, but what does it really mean?
A German shepherd puppy sticks out their tongue

There's nothing cuter than a "blep" but what does it mean? Whether you first heard the term blep on the internet (it is meme-worthy, after all), or are learning of it for the first time, you're in for a treat. Bleps are positively adorable. The term started gaining online traction in the late 2010s, though it's no less popular today. The common canine behavior it's based on, however, is a habit as old as time: sticking out a tongue. Yep, a dog with its tongue out is enough to break the internet!

It's pretty dang cute, after all, but it's not always easy to figure out why a dog's tongue is sticking out. Don't worry though, pet parents — this is a great place to start. This is everything you need to know about bleps and what they mean.

Read more
Is getting a puppy for Christmas a good idea? You can’t return them like an ugly sweater
Here's what to know before you bring a puppy home this holiday
Woman snuggling Samoyed puppy in front of the Christmas tree

Of all the viral holiday videos to make their way around the internet, there’s nothing quite as heartwarming (and adorable) as seeing a new puppy jump out of a box on Christmas morning. It’s easy to see why many families feel inspired to get this surprise present for their loved ones and show up with a new furry friend during the holidays!
Getting a puppy for Christmas can seem like a special, even life-changing gift, but the cleaning and work accompanying them aren’t as cute. Many families -- especially kids -- aren’t prepared for the effort and expense of raising a dog, which unfortunately leads to pets being dropped off at shelters not long after the holidays.
If you’re considering gifting a puppy to your family this Christmas, make sure you do the research and consider the obligations that pet parenthood entails. Here’s what to know.

Why getting a puppy for Christmas isn’t always smart
Although raising a dog can be a rewarding and joyful experience, it also requires work, patience, and responsibility. Is your family ready to take this on? Are you willing to pick up the slack if they prove that they're not?
According to the shelter staff at the Marion County Humane Society in West Virginia, shelter admissions tend to increase every year at the end of January. Unfortunately, many of these pets are Christmas gifts that families weren’t ready to care for.
“People that got a new puppy or a new kitten, and they expect their young child to take care of them,” one shelter tech told WDTV. "Of course, if the kid doesn't do it, the parent doesn't want to take care of them, either.”
A lack of research is also a huge factor in unsuccessful pet adoptions. Not all dog breeds will do well in all homes, so consulting an expert or doing some reading is vital before taking action. And remember — a cute, tiny puppy can still grow into a huge, rambunctious dog (depending on their breed), so you’ll need to be prepared.
It’s also important to consider where you’re adopting your new pup from because not all breeders are reliable. As awful as it is to acknowledge, some people sell sick and injured dogs for a quick buck. Needless to say, a dog with health concerns can be as loving of a companion as any other — after treatment, of course — but you have a right to be informed about the condition of your new friend, including information about the puppy's parents.
Shelters can help you get to know your pup a bit before bringing him home, but rescued dogs will still need some extra time to adjust to their surroundings. The honeymoon phase may not be as happy-go-lucky as you expect, especially if there has been any past trauma for your pup. If this is the case, don't be upset if your new dog isn't matching the holly jolly spirit!

Read more
Best reptile pets: These are the 5 most affectionate reptiles you can welcome into your home
These friendly reptiles will make great additions to your family
Basking Chinese water dragon

When you picture an adorable pet, you probably don't visualize an iguana. Reptiles aren't generally considered the cutest of animals, but that doesn't mean you can't find a cuddly one. Whether you're looking for a new buddy for yourself or for your lizard-obsessed kid, there's a reptilian beast out there that will work great in your home.

With proper socialization, these guys can learn to be handled daily, some even by children. If you want a new pet that enjoys human company, consider one of the most affectionate slitherers — they're the best reptile pets for handling.

Read more