Advice for Vacationing by Car With Your Dog

Updated on March 19, 2018
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I have owned dogs most of my life and know what it takes to keep them safe, healthy and happy when traveling with them.

If you plan to take road trips with your dog, there are some important things you need to know about how to keep him safe.

  • Health,
  • comfort,
  • feeding,
  • nurturing and
  • behavior

all play important roles in your dog's safety, so you must pay attention to all of them regularly.

This is no small task, so before you make the decision to take him with you, make sure you are willing to do whatever is necessary to give him the care he deserves.

Remember that although he will enjoy the excitement of doing something new and different, he also will not understand exactly what is going on, so there may be times when he becomes frightened and confused and can harm himself in so doing.

You need to protect your dog's safety when taking road trips.
You need to protect your dog's safety when taking road trips. | Source

Why Road Trips Are Best

Some people like to take their dogs with them when using modes of transportation other than automobiles and RVs.

However, this is never a good idea and often is unsafe for your pet because when doing this, you don't have complete control over your dog's situation.

You don't want to be following other people's rules or guidelines, and you certainly shouldn't want to leave your dog locked in a baggage bin or sedated because these things can be traumatic experiences for him.

If you travel in a vehicle, you’ll still have to set priorities, but at least you can have your dog with you, and you can do so without having to worry about stuffing dangerous medications down his throat or scaring him half to death.

Also, on road trips you can stop and go as you please, which gives your pet needed breaks for taking care of his business, getting water and other such behaviors.

Do whatever you can to keep your pet happy while traveling with him.
Do whatever you can to keep your pet happy while traveling with him. | Source

Travel Safety Tips

When traveling with your dog, there are many things you can do to keep him safe.

These include but are not limited to

  1. training your dog to obey voice and hand commands,
  2. never leaving your dog alone,
  3. keep identifying information on him at all times,
  4. leash him whenever he is in public places,
  5. using appropriate safety restraints during travel and
  6. keeping him away from other animals.


The most important way for you to protect your dog is to make sure he is properly trained.

  • Few people take their pets to training classes because doing so is expensive and time consuming.
  • Fewer still have the knowledge or time to train their dogs themselves.

However, a dog that you are unable to control with voice or hand commands can become a major danger to him, you and others.

You would feel awful if your baby ran in front of a car just because you neglected to teach him to stop when you told him to do so!

A well trained dog follows commands without question and can be a pleasure to take with you on vacations.

Doing this also keeps him safe and helps you to avoid problems such as lawsuits!

Never Leave Your Dog Alone

If you plan to leave your dog alone in vehicles or hotel rooms during your vacations, you would do better to leave him at home.

Animals become frightened or resentful when you do leave them to their own devices and can become quite destructive.

They can also injure themselves badly in the process.

Also, if their food or water runs out or if they have to relieve themselves, they can become quite upset and the stress can make them sick.

You may think it’s OK to leave them by themselves, but it isn’t. Please don’t do it!

Abandoning a dog for hours at a time creates problems for other travelers as well as the hotels and motels they visit.

If you must abandon him for a few hours, turn on the TV or radio so that he will not feel so lonely.

The bottom line here is that you must do what is best for all concerned when you are vacationing with your dog, even if this means being inconvenienced.

A dog that is left alone in a strange place becomes frightened.
A dog that is left alone in a strange place becomes frightened. | Source

Identify Your Dog

Sometimes dogs get lost or run away. To protect them, it’s a good idea to put identifying tags on them so that someone who finds them will know where to return them.

Tags also allow a new vet to have some of the information he may need in order to diagnose and treat your pet if he falls ill or becomes injured.

I like stainless steel dog tags because they allow you to put a great deal of information on them, are inexpensive and will serve your needs. In the past these are the tags my husband and I have used on our dogs, and have always been happy with them.

We did try the type that come in colors but found the engraving on them difficult to read.


Some people think it's fun to let their dogs run loose at rest stops, in hotel lobbies or in other open areas, but the truth is that this can lead to injuries and even death.

I know, because one of my dogs died years ago as the result of my own stupidity when it came to leashing her.

She was running free, ate some saw grass and died because the grass punctured her lung.

Simply keeping your dog leashed can help you avoid a similar sad event.


In 2012 several states quietly passed laws requiring people to secure their dogs when traveling in moving vehicles.

Many dog owners are not happy about the changes because they think it is ridiculous to ask people put seat belts on animals!

Although most would agree that allowing pets to travel unrestrained is dangerous, fewer than 20% actually take steps to limit the movement of their dogs while their vehicles are in motion.

However, now that these laws are already active in Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii and New Jersey, it is becoming obvious that people need to rethink their attitudes.

Two good reasons are that if they get caught breaking them, the fines will be significant, and if they ignore their responsibilities and then have an accident, both they and their dog could die!

The Safest Dog Harness to Use

To avoid having this problem, and to stay legal, you should always use a proven dog restraint.

The best one I know of is the SleepyPod Clickit brand, and it is the one that I now use. It has been proven in crash tests to be the most well-designed and safest way to restrain your dog when your vehicle is in motion.

When I traveled with my dogs years ago, I always used some sort of restraint for them, but after watching the attached video that showed crash tests that involved 16 other brands of dog harness, I quickly switched to this brand and have informed friends and family that for safety’s sake they should do the same.


Sometimes pets get sick while traveling.

Problems can be anything from bee stings to ingesting foreign objects that damage intestines and require surgery.

If the problem seems to be serious, don't hesitate to see a local vet as soon as possible.

Under normal circumstances, the best way to protect your dog's health is to

  • make sure he gets plenty of exercise,
  • vaccinate him before you leave home, and carry the certificates of proof with you when you go,
  • carry all of his flea, tick, heart worm and other medications, his medical history and his vet's phone number with you,
  • check daily for signs of travel stress such as refusal to eat or lack of energy, and deal with these issues as needed,
  • if he gets sick, stop and rest for a few days to give him time to recover. It's hard to get well when you're in a moving vehicle!

A sick dog that is not treated for his problems can become one that passes away. So take care to attend to your pup if the need arises.

Keep your dog safe, healthy and happy when traveling with him.
Keep your dog safe, healthy and happy when traveling with him. | Source


Your dog is comfortable at home because he knows your living patterns, but traveling from one place to another is a totally different situation for him.

The best ways to keep him comfortable are to

  • provide him with a small bed that you bring with you from home,
  • give him plenty of water to drink,
  • feed him regularly with foods he is used to eating and
  • make sure he has some of his toys available.

Hydration and Feeding

Hydration and good nutrition are actually more important for a dog when he is traveling than when he is home because of the energy he exerts due to excitement and stress.

For this reason you should maintain his normal feeding schedule and carry an ample supply of his every day food and treats so that you don't have to supplement his diet with scraps.

You should also keep plenty of water available for him.


Like humans, animals crave love and attention.

It's important to their well being that you hold, pet, talk to and play with them, rather than just having them "be there" for your own comfort.

Doing these things is fun and will be good for both of you!

Your dog did not ask to be taken on this vacation, so you owe it to him to make him feel as loved as possible.

Doing this will help to keep him safe because when he's getting attention and love, he is not restless or frustrated and is much less likely to get himself into trouble!

A well trained dog is a pleasure to have with you when you travel.
A well trained dog is a pleasure to have with you when you travel. | Source

Traveling With Dogs Requires Effort

Vacationing with dogs can be a great deal of fun, but doing so requires a fair amount of planning, sacrifice and hard work.

For this reason, you need to make sure that you are willing to do all that is necessary to provide for his needs while you're on the road.

If you do what you need to do to provide the care your dog needs, you'll find that both you and he will have great and memorable times together while traveling.

You'll be keeping him safe when you're on the road together, and you'll be protecting your own safety as well as that of other people as well.

Do you think traveling with your dog is worth the effort?

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© 2017 Sondra Rochelle


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