Essential Tips for Roadtripping With Your Dog

Embarking on a holiday road trip with your dog co-pilot? Ensure a safe and joyous journey with these top tips.

Updated December 1, 2023
smiling woman and her dog sitting the trunk of a car

Roadtrips with our dogs are exciting for all of us but not all doggos are perfect passengers. Especially on longer trips. Whether your furry companion can't sit still or gets car sick or anxious, we get it and we've been there. To make things a little easier this travel season we've put together some essential tips to make life easier for all of you while on the road!

Roadtripping Safety

Taking your dog on a road trip, especially during the holiday season, comes with its own set of risks. However, taking the right precautions can significantly reduce these risks and ensure a safer journey for you and your furry companion.

Dog in car with seatbelt

Secure With a Seat Belt or Harness

Invest in a dog seat belt or harness to keep your furry friend restrained and safe during the drive. This prevents unnecessary movement and potential injuries in case of sudden stops.

Use a Travel Crate or Carrier

For smaller dogs, opt for a travel crate or carrier. It provides a secure space, minimizing distractions and ensuring your pup's comfort throughout the trip.

Avoid Loose Items

Secure loose items in the car, including accessories and toys, to prevent them from becoming hazards during abrupt movements.

Pack Familiar Comforts

Bring along your dog's favorite blanket, toy, or bed to create a familiar environment and reduce anxiety during the trip.

Prep a Travel Kit

Assemble a doggy travel kit with essentials like food, water, bowls, waste bags, and any necessary medications. Being well-prepared ensures you can meet your dog's needs throughout the road trip.

Roadtrips With Nervous Dogs

Your dog may get anxious or fearful when traveling, but that's no reason to exclude them from the fun. If you have a restless dog that paces or looks for a comfortable place to hide, this can create a dangerous condition for the rest of the occupants of the vehicle. Any sharp turn or sudden stop can send your dog flying. This can result in a serious accident.

Create a Comfortable Space

Set up a familiar and cozy area in the car for your nervous dog. This could be their favorite blanket, toy, or bed. Having these familiar items can provide a sense of security and comfort, helping to alleviate anxiety during the journey.

Use Calming Products

Consider using calming products designed for dogs, such as pheromone sprays, calming collars, or anxiety wraps. These items can have a soothing effect on nervous dogs and help create a more relaxed atmosphere during travel.

Gradual Desensitization

If your dog is not accustomed to car travel, gradually expose them to the experience in a positive and gradual manner. Start with short trips around the block, offering treats and praise. Gradually increase the duration of the trips, making the car a place associated with positive experiences. This desensitization process can help reduce anxiety over time.

Stop and Take Frequent Breaks

woman on a road trip with her dog

When traveling with your dog, it's generally recommended to stop for a break every 2 to 4 hours. These breaks are not just for bathroom needs, but also for stretching, exercising, and reducing stress or anxiety, your dog might feel from being in a vehicle for an extended period. Just keep in mind that holidays usually mean increased travelers on the road, so plan extra time for meeting your dog's needs as you get through traffic or busy parking lots.

Here's what to consider during these breaks:

Time to go Potty

Give your dog a chance to relieve themselves. This is particularly important for young puppies and older dogs, who may need more frequent bathroom breaks.

Stretching and Exercise

A bit of walking or playtime helps to stretch their legs and release pent-up energy.

Food and Drink

Offer water to keep them hydrated, especially in warm weather. If it's a long journey, you might also need to provide a meal during one of these breaks.

Mental Exercises

A new environment, even just a roadside rest area, can provide mental stimulation through new smells and sights.

Reducing Stress

For some dogs, traveling can be stressful. Regular breaks can help them relax.

Find Pet-Friendly Accommodations Ahead of Time

Wherever you are going, be it a hotel, family's house, or house rental, get in touch before you go to make sure pets are welcome. Find out if there are any extra fees or deposits involved with your visit and whether or not they are refundable. For family visits, make sure to follow simple visitor etiquette to keep everything on the right paw. Find out if your dog is allowed to be in the room unattended. If the answer is yes, ask if he needs to be crated. You might even want to consider requesting a room on the ground floor. This will make those evening walks easier.

There are many hotels today that are pet-friendly. There are many bed-and-breakfasts that also welcome pets. 

Update Your Dog's Health

Before you travel, make sure your dog is up-to-date on their shots, and it's also a good idea to request a health certificate and keep it on hand. If your dog needs any prescriptions, make sure to pick them up before you leave.

If you are contemplating giving a prescription sedative, make sure you do it under your vet's supervision, and make sure to try it out before you leave so you can gauge your dog's reaction to it. If you aren't sure you will be able to find your dog's usual brand of food where you are going, be sure to bring enough along for the duration of the trip.

Products to Help Along the Way

Pet dog asleep in a dog bed on a road trip in a camper van

To guarantee the best possible safety for your dog, especially during activities like travel or outdoor adventures, there's a variety of products out there designed to help. By investing in these kinds of safety products, you not only provide an extra layer of protection for your furry friend but also peace of mind for yourself, knowing you're taking proactive steps to keep them safe and sound in various situations.

Dog Safety Seat

A wide range of dog safety seats are available on the market, catering to different sizes and preferences. These seats are designed for easy installation, with most models capable of being securely strapped into your car within just a few minutes. They not only provide a secure spot for your dog while traveling but also ensure their comfort during the journey. Many safety seats come with features like padded interiors and adjustable straps, allowing for a snug and safe fit. 

Need to Know

Safety seats can also help minimize distractions for the driver, making the drive safer for everyone in the car.

Dog Safety Belt

Dog safety belts are designed to easily attach to your car's existing seat belt system. Although they might seem a bit constraining at first glance, they're actually quite the opposite. These belts are engineered to offer enough flexibility for your pet to move comfortably. They can stand up, sit down, or even lie down, all while being securely fastened.

This setup ensures that your dog has the freedom to shift positions and stay comfortable during the ride without compromising on safety. By using a dog safety belt, you're providing a secure environment for your pet, reducing the risk of injury in the event of sudden stops or turns, and keeping them safely in one place, which is especially important during longer journeys.

Dog Carrier or Crate

Transporting a dog in a dog cage in the car

Nervous dogs naturally seek out secure, den-like spaces, feeling more comfortable in such environments. Since dogs are instinctively drawn to the safety of confined areas, a well-sized crate can provide them with a comforting den-like space. The right crate size offers a sense of security, similar to the dens their wild ancestors used.

This can be especially helpful in situations like travel, where your dog might feel anxious. By providing a crate, you're giving your dog a familiar, safe spot that can greatly help in soothing their nerves.

Need to Know

Dog crates can also help your anxious dog during thunderstorms, fireworks, and when they're feeling stressed about having too much company.

Full Spectrum Hemp Extract

I'm aware that this topic can be a bit controversial, but I often suggest using full-spectrum hemp extract as a means to alleviate anxiety and foster calmness in dogs, particularly when it comes to travel. It's something I regularly discuss with my clients. I advise them that, if they're open to it, giving full-spectrum hemp extract a shot could be beneficial.

It's been known to help soothe nerves and make stressful situations, like traveling, more manageable for dogs. However, I also emphasize that it's completely fine if they're not comfortable with this approach.

Train Your Dog to Ride

If the only time your dog gets to go in the car is to take a trip to the vet's, just popping him in the car and taking a long trip may not be a good idea. Acclimate your dog for the ride ahead by taking short trips. Start out with a trip around the block, then try a bit longer. This will show your dog that a car ride can be a fun experience, too.

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Essential Tips for Roadtripping With Your Dog