Road Trip! 3 Tips for Traveling with Your Furry Co-Pilot

Prepare Your Dog Before the Trip

One of the best ways to get your dog comfortable in the car is to gradually get them used to it through short, positive trips. Start by sitting in a stationary car and giving your dog treats and praise for calm behavior. Once they are relaxed, go on short trips around the block, continuing to reward calmness. As your dog gets more comfortable, slowly build up to longer rides. The key is to make the car a fun place for your dog by associating it with praise, play, and treats. Eventually your dog will be excited to hop in the car!

a dog looking out a car window

It can also help to crate train your dog or use a dog seat belt restraint. This will keep your dog securely in place and prevent dangerous movements. Make sure your dog is comfortable in the crate or restraint before longer trips. Take them on local drives first so they can get used to being confined while in the car. Providing toys in the crate can also help keep your dog occupied and less anxious.


Teach Your Dog to Ride in the Car: Prevent Anxiety and Motion Sickness

Pack Properly for Your Dog

Bring all of your dog’s essentials on the road trip so your pet stays happy and healthy. The main items to include for your dog are:

Food – Pack enough food to feed your dog for the entire trip duration. Bring their regular kibble and cans of wet food. Portion the servings into individual ziplock bags for convenience.

Water and bowls – Bring a few bowls for water and food plus at least 1 gallon of water per dog for a full day of travel. Top off their water supply at every stop.

Poop bags – Pack plenty of waste bags for collecting doggie doo along the way. Also, bring paper towels and disinfectant in case of accidents.

Leash – Bring your dog’s regular leash or harness to keep them secure when out of the car.

Toys – Pack a few favorite toys to keep your dog entertained in the car.

Dog bed – Bring a comfy bed and blanket so your dog can nap during the trip.

dog items packed for a road trip

Medication – Don’t forget any medications your dog takes regularly.

Keep Your Dog Safe and Comfortable

One of the most important things when traveling with your dog in the car is keeping them safe and comfortable throughout the trip. Using a secured crate or doggy seatbelt is highly recommended to prevent your dog from wandering around the vehicle while driving (1). Make sure your dog has enough room to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably in their space. Bring familiar items like their bed, toys, and treats to help make them feel more at ease.

It’s also important to maintain a comfortable temperature in the car for your dog. Crack the windows for ventilation and fresh air, but not so much that it becomes drafty or cold (1). Take regular breaks to let your dog stretch their legs, go to the bathroom, and get water. Frequent stops every 2-3 hours will make the drive much more pleasant for your pup.

With some preparation and planning, you can keep your furry friend safe and content on your road trip adventure.



Plan Your Travel Route

One of the most important aspects of traveling with a dog by car is planning your route in advance. This involves mapping out where you will stop for rest, exercise, and overnight lodging that accommodates pets. According to Planning A Pet Friendly Road Trip, you should identify pet-friendly hotels at least every 4-6 hours along your route to give your dog a chance to stretch his legs, relieve himself, eat and drink.

Use apps like BringFido or GoPetFriendly to find hotels that allow pets. Call ahead to confirm their pet policies and any fees. You may also want to map out dog parks, trails, and rest areas along the way to give your dog potty and exercise breaks. Pack a travel water bowl so your dog can stay hydrated.

a dog at a pet friendly hotel

It’s also wise to locate emergency veterinarian clinics in every town or city you’ll pass through. Save the addresses and phone numbers in your phone so you can easily access them if needed. Having a plan for your stops and being prepared with pet-friendly lodging and emergency vet information will make for a smooth, stress-free trip.

Help Your Dog Avoid Motion Sickness

Motion sickness can make car rides unpleasant for dogs. Here are some tips to help prevent nausea and vomiting:

Avoid feeding your dog right before travel. An empty stomach can help reduce nausea. Withhold food for up to 8 hours before departure according to VCA Animal Hospitals.

Ask your veterinarian about anti-nausea medication. Prescription drugs like Cerenia can help with motion sickness according to the AKC.

Lower the car windows a few inches to equalize pressure and allow fresh air circulation. Even a small opening can help reduce nausea according to the AKC.

Distract your dog with toys. Chew toys and interactive puzzle toys can shift their focus away from the motion of the vehicle.

Keep Your Dog Hydrated

Dehydration is one of the most concerning risks for dogs on long car rides. To keep your dog hydrated throughout the trip:
– Bring plenty of water and a no-spill travel bowl. Use a bowl that attaches to the seatbelt or crate so your dog can access water freely. Consider a portable water bottle with a bowl attachment (Keep your dog hydrated while traveling: Use 5 expert tips).
– Offer water at every stop, especially if it is hot out. Let your dog drink as much as desired. Adding ice cubes to the water can help keep it cool (How to Keep Your Pet Hydrated when Traveling).

– Bring moist or wet dog food, as the water content helps with hydration.
– Monitor your dog for signs of dehydration like lethargy, excessive panting, dry gums or eyes, or loss of skin elasticity. If concerned, stop to provide water immediately.

Keeping your dog hydrated with frequent water breaks and access to water in the car is crucial for their health and comfort on road trips. Come prepared with supplies to help them stay hydrated.

Schedule Regular Potty & Exercise Breaks

It’s important to stop every 2-3 hours during road trips with your dog to allow them a chance to relieve themselves and get some exercise. According to veterinarians, dogs need a break at least every 4 hours when traveling long distances by car.

When stopping, be sure to walk your dog on a leash and bring clean-up bags. Let them sniff around and encourage them to go potty. Give them 10-15 minutes to relieve themselves before getting back in the vehicle. Taking your dog on a short walk at each stop will also help stretch their legs and prevent stiffness or anxiety from being cooped up in the car.

If possible, plan your route to include dog-friendly rest stops. Look for parks, trails, or open grassy areas where your dog can comfortably walk around and fully empty their bladder and bowels. Don’t rush your dog, but be ready to clean up immediately if they go potty in inappropriate places.

Scheduling regular breaks protects your dog’s health and comfort on longer trips. Preventing bladder strain and boredom will make the experience better for both of you.

Pack Activities to Prevent Boredom

Dogs can easily get bored on long car rides, leading to whining, barking, and destructive behavior. Keeping your dog mentally and physically engaged will make the trip more pleasant for both of you. Bring along plenty of interactive toys, durable chews, and activities to prevent restlessness and agitation.

Pack puzzle toys that require your dog to manipulate them to receive treats. Food puzzle toys provide mental stimulation as your dog figures out how to move pieces and uncover kibble. Rotate through a few different puzzles to keep your dog engaged. Also bring rope toys and balls that you can play interactive games together at stops.

Stock up on sturdy bones, bully sticks, and dental chews that will keep your dog happily gnawing and distracted. Make sure to supervise your dog with any consumable chew to prevent choking. Offer special high-value treats only available in the car to make the ride more positive.

Play calming music designed for dogs to help them relax during the drive. Talk to your dog, sing songs, and engage in games like “find it” by hiding treats around the seats. Prevent boredom by providing various forms of enrichment during your road trip.

dog treats and toys in a car


Be Ready to Handle Misbehavior

Dogs can sometimes act out during car rides due to anxiety, excitement, or boredom. It’s important to be prepared to handle any misbehavior calmly and appropriately.

For minor whining or restless behavior, it’s often best to simply ignore it – responding can reinforce the behavior. However, unsafe or disruptive behaviors like jumping around, clawing seats, or excessive barking/howling need to be addressed.

Start by correcting inappropriate behavior with a firm “no” command. You can also try distracting with a toy or treat. For persistent issues, consider using a crate or barrier to restrict access to seats or limit movement. As a last resort, speak to your vet about anxiety medications for severe cases.

Stay composed, don’t yell or punish physically, and pull over if needed. The goal is to get your dog to settle down and make the ride peaceful. Patience and consistency in addressing unwanted behaviors is key.

Make the Trip Fun and Rewarding

One of the best things you can do is praise and reward your dog for their good behavior during the trip. Keep tasty treats on hand and give your dog praise and a reward when they lay down calmly or don’t bark while driving. This positive reinforcement will help make the experience more enjoyable.

Whenever you stop, take the opportunity to let your dog get out of the car, stretch their legs, go to the bathroom, and play a little. Bring along some fun toys and play a quick game of fetch or tug of war. Your dog will appreciate the chance to release some energy.

Try to end the road trip on a positive note. Before the last leg of the drive, take your dog on a longer walk or go to a dog park so they can really burn off some energy. Then give them a special treat or chew toy for the final stretch. This will help make the end of the trip less stressful.

With plenty of praise, play, and rewards, you can make road trips an adventure your dog looks forward to rather than dreads. Focus on the positive experiences, and your dog will be excited to hop in the car with you next time.

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