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Tips for Road Trips With Dogs

Road tripping with your four-legged family member? Peruse these dog car safety tips before hitting the road.

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You heard it here first: Traveling with dogs is the best! Cruise through these tips to make your road trip fun AND safe.

SAFELY SECURE YOUR PUP

First, you must decide what setup works best for your dog. No matter what method you choose, your pup should be in the backseat because they can be distracting up front. Remember: Always do your research and look into the manufacturers’ studies before making a decision on one of the methods below!

  • Crate or kennel: Look for straps or harnesses that will secure the crate or find a crate designed to have a seat belt strapped to it. Small and medium crates typically fit easily in the backseat, while larger crates might need to go in the cargo portion of your SUV. (First, check your car manufacturer's guide to ensure the trunk isn't in the crash zone.) Lastly, place your dog’s favorite blanket or toy inside so they are more at ease.
  • Travel harness: These harnesses are just like regular harnesses except they are specifically designed to withstand impact. The Center for Pet Safety (CPS) encourages dog parents to go for a quality crash-tested harness and skip the long extension tethers during travel.
  • Carrier (for small dogs): CPS recommends not to buckle the carrier in unless the manufacturer provides you with a crash test video. A seatbelt can actually crush a carrier if you get into an accident! Instead, place the small carrier on the car floor behind the passenger’s or driver’s seat.
Dog sitting in a passenger seat of a car.

TAKE SOME LAPS

The road trip prep doesn’t end once you’ve picked your pup’s setup! Next, you owe your pup some car rides...especially if the only ones they’ve been on lead to the vet.

  • To start: Simply secure your dog, turn your car on and sit in your driveway with them as this will help your dog get used to their harness/crate and the car environment. Make sure to reward them for getting in since the goal is to create a positive car experience! Do this however many times it takes for your pup to feel OK with their setup.
  • Next, go on short rides that lead to a fun location like a park! We don’t want to go from 0 to 100 with a dog that’s not used to a car.
  • Once you feel your pup is comfortable and no longer showing signs of stress, you can graduate to the highway.
Dog laying in grass.

By taking these steps, your dog will associate the car with the good stuff. PARK! YAY!

PACK THE BASICS

The OOO email has been sent and you’re all packed. Now, time to check off your dog’s packing list!

Pack these items and you’ll be good to go:

  • Food and water: AKA the essentials. Pack a few days’ worth of food just in case you aren’t able to find your dog’s faves at your final destination.
  • Collapsible doggie bowls: These compact bowls are great when you’re on-the-go.
  • Blanket: This will carry the familiar smells of your home and make your pup feel relaxed.
  • Favorite toy: Help your pup fight boredom on those long car rides. Leash: It seems like a no-brainer, but a leash will be your best friend on those pit stops.
  • Potty bags: Don’t be empty-handed when nature calls.
  • Dog crate cover: If you’re using a crate, a tight-fitting cover might help calm your pup calm down.
  • Car sickness medication: If your vet has given you meds to help ease your dog’s stomach, be sure to pack them!
Dog laying in the consul of a car.

HIT THE OPEN ROAD

Vacay, here you come! When planning out your trip, try to schedule stops and potty breaks every few hours.

Follow these other pointers and you’ll be cruising along in no time:

  • It's OK to feed your dog before leaving on a trip, just as long as it's not within the hour before you hit the road! This will give their food time to settle and prevent car sickness.
  • Take your pup for a walk the morning of your trip to tire them out for the car ride.
  • Consult your vet to see if spraying dog pheromones could help calm your pup even more. These pheromones mimic the odor of a nursing dog and come in the form of dog collars, sprays, or diffusers.
  • Keep your car well-ventilated for your pup.
  • To avoid car sickness, place your pup in the middle seat and have them facing the windshield. If this isn’t doable, look for a crate with solid side walls.
  • Though it’s fun to watch those ears flap in the breeze, don’t let your dog ride with their head sticking out of an open window since debris from the road could get into their eyes.
  • Never let your dog sit unattended in your car—especially in the hot months. (Keep in mind it’s OK to leave them alone for a minute while you snap a cute photo.)

Three dogs looking out a car window.

Happy (and safe) travels! One last of piece of advice: Rest stops make for the best photo ops.

 


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