Car Travel for Dogs: An Easy Ride

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Taking your dog on a road trip, or to run errands, can be enjoyable not only for you but for your dog as well.  I think the majority of dog owners will agree that most dogs get excited about going for a ride.  They get the taste of freedom and fresh air, all by the side of their favorite person – their owner.

However, as with most methods of animal transportation, there are steps to take in order to ensure a safe and comfortable ride for your pet.


Plan Ahead 

Make sure your dog is welcome at your destination.  Do a little research to learn the policies, if any, about dogs at the place in which you will be visiting or staying.  It is better to know what to expect, so you can have a better handle on your pet.  By knowing the attitudes and culture toward dogs, you will also be better prepared for the type of behavior you might receive from others at your destination.

Find out if there are any health concerns specific to the place you plan to take your pet.  Dogs can be carriers of certain bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, so it is a good rule of thumb to ask lots of questions and take preventable measures before arriving to a new location with your dog.

Before buckling up and driving off into the sunset, check to see if your pet is protected by your car insurance policy.  Some insurance companies recognize that pets are like family members and are willing to cover them up to a certain amount.

ID Tags

Keep your contact information up-to-date on your pet’s tags and check the tags for readability.  Over time, tags may chip or tarnish.  You want to make sure that your pet’s ID tags are easy to read, with the contact information current and correct.  Also, consider getting a microchip inserted in your dog and register the chip before you leave home.

Doggie Bag

Just as you might bring some items of comfort for yourself, bring your four-legged pal some comfort items too.  A chew toy might be all it takes to calm a fearful or bored pooch.   Check the toy first to make sure no part of the toy could detach and lodge itself in your dog’s throat.



Pet Bed Portable Bowls Food and Water Any Medications
Lease/Lead Waste scooper/bags Toys Pet First Aid Kit Cleaning Supplies (toenail clippers, de-shedder, ear drying solution, etc.)

Safety First

Each dog is different when it comes to their behavior inside a car, and admit it… you (their leader) have influenced their behavior.  If your dog rides calmly and stays in their designated area, then you may not have to worry much.  However, you may want to consider a harness or crate if you feel that your dog may get out of hand inside the car.  Harnesses and crates are especially useful on long road trips.  It is never a bad idea to restrain your dog inside a car.  In case of an accident, injury or death may be prevented.

A harness or crate may also stop your dog from sticking its head too far out the car window.  Now, I know that this is a guilty pleasure most dogs enjoy.  I am not saying to forbid your dog from enjoying the finer things in life… like the wind in your face; dogs can be susceptible to ear, eye and lung infections from outside dust and debris.  Letting your dog feel the wind on their face is one thing, but letting them hang their head outside a car window is another.  Use caution to avoid these preventable injuries.

Feeding Schedule

Do not feed your dog inside a moving vehicle, and only give treats during rest stops.  This will help avoid upset stomach.  Ideally, you want to try to schedule your trip around your pet’s feeding schedule, but that is often easier said than done.  Feed your dog 2-4 hours before departing, and do not feed them again until you have reached your destination or at least a lengthy rest period.

Heat and Cold

Do NOT leave your dog inside the car when it is hot outside.  Even if you leave the windows cracked, your dog can suffer from the heat.  Many studies have shown that the interior of a car can reach severe temperatures at a very quick rate. is a website that provides information and facts about the dangers of leaving dogs inside cars on hot days.  You can find alerts in your city by using’s  Weather Channel zip code finder to see if it is too hot for your dog to stay inside a car.

Cold temperatures are also dangerous.  It is just as important to know the dangers of cold, as it is to know the dangers of heat.  Small, short-hair, older and/or snub-nosed breed dogs can have a harder time in cold temperatures.  Small breed dogs do not have the mass needed to sustain a warm body temperature, whereas short-hair dogs lack the coat to protect them from certain cold-weather elements.  Older dogs may experience stiffness and tenderness in their joints.  Snub-nosed breeds can have difficulty breathing in colder temperatures, as well as regulating their core body temperature.


The overall health of your dog will affect how long they can withstand hot or cold temperatures, the changes in environment, stress and the ability to ride inside a car (or crate) for long period of time.  Medical ailments such as diabetes, hormonal imbalances, kidney and heart disease can present a higher health risk for your pet.  Always seek advice from your veterinarian about your dog’s health prior to taking a long road trip.  Get a health exam for your pet, make sure vaccines are up-to-date and give your dog a flea and tick treatment before your trip.

By following these simple guidelines, you and your dog will share in a memorable and enjoyable road trip together.  Have fun and be safe.

Helpful Links…

ASPCA – Car Travel Tips

USA Today – Pet Travel Safety

Progressive – Pet Travel Safety in the Car