Traveling with Your Dog 101: Car Trips

Planning a road trip? Thinking about bringing your K-9 companion? Awesome idea! Traveling with your dog can be an extremely rewarding and enjoyable experience. Traveling with your dog unprepared, however, can turn into a nightmare quickly. But have no fear, we at WonderWoof are here with some helpful tips on how to have an awesome and safe road trip with your dog.


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Before leaving on your trip it is crucial that your dog has received all proper vaccinations. If your dog hasn’t had vaccinations, you should bring him or her to your veterinarian immediately. If you are taking an extended trip, it is smart to bring your dog in for a checkup with your veterinarian first to review your destinations. Different destinations (like the desert vs. the beach) can present different dangers to your dog’s health. The open road is not the place you want to find out something is wrong. Do yourself a favor and get this done before your trip begins. Also, make sure you bring plenty of your dog’s normal food and treats as well as clean water and any medications your dog takes. If you take these important precautionary measures, you’ll ensure that you have a healthy dog that is ready to travel.

A crate is extremely useful when it comes to traveling with your dog and can be used in a variety of ways. One of the big reasons to get a crate is for car safety. It is unsafe to let your dog be loose in the car because if you were to get into an accident, your dog could sustain serious, life threatening injuries. Having your dog in a crate while traveling secures your dog, protecting him/her in the event of a crash. A crate is also useful for keeping your dog out of trouble at a host’s house or hotel room.

Here are some of the essential things you should look for when purchasing your crate:

  • It is large enough to allow your dog to move, stand, turn, and lie down.
  • A leak-proof bottom that is covered with absorbent material.
  • Ventilation on both sides of the crate to allow for airflow.
  • Make sure the crate is strong and has handles or grips.
  • Make sure the interior of the crate has no protrusions.
  • Make sure your crate is stocked with a comfortable mat, plenty of water, and your dog’s favorite toy. It is also wise to take your dog’s collar off while traveling in the crate to avoid any chance of it getting stuck on something inside the crate. After all of this is completed, you are ready to go!

    If a crate simply isn’t what you are looking for, there are alternatives that will allow your dog to stay safe and secure while traveling in your car. Their are different types of harnesses and straps that allow your dog to be strapped into the seatbelt of your car like a passenger would be. Some good versions of this product include the CHAMPION Canine Seat Belt System shown below and the original model of the Ruff Rider Roadie. There are also dog car seats available. The most important thing is that your dog is not loose in the car while you are driving.

    In the Car
    Traveling in a car is a new experience for a lot of dogs so it is important to get your dog acclimated to being in a car. This can be done by simply sitting with your dog in your car in your driveway. Once your dog is comfortable with that setup, take some short rides with your dog to get him/her used to being in a moving car. On the day of the trip, help avoid car sickness by having your dog travel on an empty stomach. Allow your dog to drink plenty of water, though! Make sure the car is well ventilated and that your dog’s crate is receiving fresh air. Do not let your dog stick his/her head out of the window. While it looks cute in all the car commercials, it could lead to eye damage. Stop frequently to allow your dog potty breaks and to give your dog some exercise. Also, never leave your dog in an unattended vehicle that is closed, especially during the hot summer months. If you have to leave your dog in the car, try to have someone stay with your dog. If you keep all of this in mind, your dog is bound to be healthy and happy for your road trip.

    Since you are taking your dog away from your home, it is essential that he/she is wearing a collar and has a sturdy leash. The identification tags on your dog’s collar should include the dog’s name, your name, your phone number, and a confirmation that your dog has received a rabies shot. In the event that you and your dog become separated, having proper identification could be the difference between reuniting quickly or a more emotionally trying time for the both of you. We also advise that you bring a picture of your dog with you just in case.

    If you plan on traveling with your dog frequently, you may want to consider a permanent form of identification like a microchip. More information about microchips for dogs can be found here on the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s website.

    If you take these precautions and get the proper supplies, you and your dog will not only be hitting the road in style but you will be hitting the road prepared, happy, and healthy. Our dogs are part of our families and should be a great part of our family road trips!

    Want more information for traveling with your dog in the car? Check out Cesar Millan’s (National Geographic TV’s The Dog Whisperer), travel tips here on his blog

    Happy travels & tail wags!