Safety Tips for Car Travel with Your Dog

Safety travel tips for dog car travel

Dog owner or not, there may be nothing more endearing than seeing the excitement of a dog enjoying a car ride. However, improper car travel with your dog not only poses a danger to you and your pup, but to other drivers on the road. The tips below will help ensure car travel is safe and enjoyable for everyone!

#1: Transport Your Dog in a Crate

high-quality, crash-tested crate for pet travel

Although they can be a bit pricey, crates are the safest way to transport your dog in the car. In general, crates should be no more than 6 inches longer than your pup. A recent study by the Center for Pet Safety recommended the following high-quality, crash-tested crate for pet travel: Gunnar Kennels G1 Intermediate. Top-performing pet carriers included the PetEgo Forma Frame Jet Set carrier and the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed with the PPRS Handilock. Dogs should never be allowed to sit on your lap or ride in the back of a pick-up truck. If your dog is not crated, he or she should sit in the back seat of the car. Many dogs may attempt to join you or your passenger in the front seat, posing a dangerous distraction as you drive. Check out this back seat barrier that not only prevents your dog from wandering into the front seat, but also provides protection if you have to quickly put your foot on the brake.

#2: Disarm Power Windows

dog car window heads out

Disarm power windows: Although it can be tempting to allow your dog to stick his head out of the car window and enjoy the wind in his face, there are quite a few dangers associated with this activity. Dogs may jump from the car without warning or be thrown during a sharp turn or collision. Varied objects (think sticks, litter, cigarette ash, rocks) can strike a dog and cause considerable damage, particularly if you’re driving at high speeds. If they become lodged in a dog’s eye, nose, or ears, they can cause painful (and permanent) damage. Best to leave the windows rolled up during the ride, and better yet, disarm power windows (and locks!) if your car has them.

#3: Dogs Need Water & Food

Dog Travel Road Food Water and Toy Bowls

Road trip food, water, and toys: If you’re traveling across long distances, make sure you pack enough food, water, and snacks for your pup. These collapsable food and water bowls take up little space and make for easy clean-up after mealtimes. Long-lasting, durable, and great-smelling bones (like this one are inedible, mess-free, and provide a great way to keep your dog busy for hours in the car. Check out our other articles on toys for small and large to keep your dog entertained on the road!

#4: Take Frequent Breaks 

dog rest stop break

Take frequent, well-located breaks: Just like you, your pooch needs breaks to stretch their legs and use the bathroom. Dogs have different needs, however a brief 10-15 minute break every 2-3 hours may be enough for most dogs during long car trips. If you have the time, scope out local dog parks in advance. There may be a few places right of your route that can allow your dog to expend some energy (so that he or she can then spend the next several hours napping!).

california dog laws heat pet laws

Relatedly, it’s best to never leave your dog alone in the car, however this may be unavoidable in certain instances. If you need to go into a store or restaurant without your dog, take great care if you leave them unattended. Automobiles can quickly become too hot or too cold, posing serious danger to dogs. In California, a law was recently passed allowing concerned citizens to break into a car to rescue an animal if they appear to be at imminent risk due to excessive heat. Again, we recommend you search for pet-friendly stores and restaurants in advance of your trip, have food delivered to you, or use dog day care services when you need to be away from your pet for long periods of time while on the road.

#5: Bring Your Pup's Veterinary Records

Dog veterinary records

Bring along your pup’s veterinary records: In case of emergency, it’s best to be able to provide the veterinarian with as much information as possible about your dog’s health: Allergies, vaccination history, health problems, medications, etc. Ask your local veterinarian for paper or electronic copies of your dog’s health records before you hit the road.

#6: Prevent Motion Sickness

Prevent car sickness: Another ailment that dogs and humans share: Motion sickness! If your pooch tends to become ill during car rides, ask your veterinarian about anti-nausea medications. Avoid feeding your dog right before you leave, if possible, and keep his food/snacks consistent. Note that motion sickness can also be related to anxiety. If your dog seems to be anxious about car rides, spend some time preparing in advance before long car trips: Start with just sitting in the car (offering praise and treats throughout) and progress to short car rides that end up somewhere your dog enjoys (no vet visits if possible!).