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Five Tips for Having a Safe Road Trip With Your Dog

My wife and I have traveled for several years with up to five dogs. Here are some of the things we do to keep our pets safe when traveling.

That can't be comfortable! Lulu Belle seems happy though, she's a dog on a road trip!

That can't be comfortable! Lulu Belle seems happy though, she's a dog on a road trip!

Step #1: Getting Ready for a Road Trip With Your Dog

We've been traveling with our dogs for more than twenty years now. While our pack has changed a bit over the years, the thrill of hitting the road, and the thrill our dogs get at the sound of jingling keys, is one of our biggest joys.

From the mountains of Colorado to British Columbia to Texas—and many places in between—we've had lots of amazing adventures and have learned a few things along the way. Here's where we start before taking a long trip.

Visit Your Veterinarian for a Checkup and Medication Refills

Before you head off on any road trip, it's a good idea to have your dog get a full examination by your trusted vet. A proper exam by a veterinarian may be able to find conditions that can be treated before traveling or help you decide if you should even bring your dog along or leave them with someone to care for them while you're away.

This is also a great time to see if your pet needs any medication refills or treatments, vaccinations, and heartworm preventatives. Make sure to get a full printout of your dog's health record should you need to visit a new veterinarian while on the road.

A comfy sweater, like the one Hank is wearing here, can be good to have if you're visiting cooler places on your road trip with your dog.

A comfy sweater, like the one Hank is wearing here, can be good to have if you're visiting cooler places on your road trip with your dog.

Step #2: Gather Your Dog's Supplies

The next step is to gather your dog's supplies in a sturdy travel bag.

  • Make sure that you bring food and water bowls, plenty of extra food, and gallon jugs of water that you can refill. (We prefer to use the BPA-free plastic water jugs that are available at camping stores since regular plastic containers (such as milk jugs) can degrade in sunlight and give off toxic chemicals that harm your pet).
  • Bring your dog's medications in a small insulated cooler to protect them from heat damage and sunlight.
  • Don't forget your dog's leash. (It's a good idea to bring an extra leash as well.)
  • Bring a comfy bed with a removable cover that you can wash.
  • Bring a pet lint roller and cleaning supplies in case they have an accident.
  • Don't forget your pet's favorite chew toy or lovey. This can help them feel more at ease in unfamiliar places.
  • Bring plenty of poop bags to pick up after your dog.

Step #3: Secure Your Dog Safely in the Car

In the photo above, our dog Lulu Belle is unrestrained in the backseat of our car. In this case, we're not yet in motion, but when we are, we use a dog harness that attaches to the rear seat belts to keep her safe.

The reason that we put seat belt harnesses on our dogs when we travel is a simple matter of physics. If you were to come to an abrupt stop, your unrestrained dog would keep traveling forward in the cab of the vehicle at the same speed that you were traveling, causing injury to both them and to passengers.

Imagine a 50-pound dog going 70 mph in the cab of your vehicle, and you get the idea of why seat belts for dogs are as important as they are for humans.

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Read More From Pethelpful

Seat belt dog harnesses work and they are easy to use. Below is an example of a dog restraint system that attaches to your car's rear seat belts.

A dog seatbelt harness can save their life in an accident.

A dog seatbelt harness can save their life in an accident.

Step #4 - Keep Your Dog From Getting Lost on Your Road Trip

One of the most important steps of all is that you keep your dog from getting lost on vacation. Here are the steps we take to ensure that our dogs don't become separated from us, and what to do if this happens.

  • Make sure your dog's tags are securely attached to their collar and that your contact info is up to date. Make sure the phone number on their tags will be reachable by someone finding your dog and make sure it includes the area code and your address.
  • Have your dog micro-chipped. If they are chipped already, make sure that your dog's microchip information includes your latest contact info. Most shelters now check to see if a dog has been microchipped when trying to locate the owner.
  • Keep your dog on a leash at all times. Don't trust them to run off leash in a new area.
  • If your dog does become lost, look on Facebook groups in the area where you are, as well as call the animal shelters and local veterinarian's offices.
  • Remain calm and have at least one person stay where the dog left from. Many times a dog will return to where they left, only to find the owner gone and out looking for them.
  • Make sure the fence is secure if staying in a new place with a fenced yard.
  • Consider a pet GPS tracker device, such as Whistle Go, which attaches to their collar and can tell you where they are located if they get separated from you. Most require a subscription and plans start at around $5 monthly.

The Whistle Go GPS dog tracker, which we use, can last up to three weeks without being recharged. We also use Fi GPS Collars.

Step #5: Maintain Your Normal Doggie Routines

The single most important thing you can do to keep your pet happy on a road trip is to follow the same routines that you do with them at home and give them plenty of love and attention to assure them that traveling is a fun activity to look forward to.

  • Try to feed your dog at the same time each day.
  • Make sure you and your dog go for walks and that they get lots of exercise.
  • Bring your dog's bed inside the room where you'll be staying. (Having an extra, clean zip-off cover is a good thing to have to prevent bringing in pet hair into your rental.)
  • If you must—and are allowed to— leave them unattended for short periods, consider leaving a TV or radio playing and monitor them with a doggie camera. There are models of dog cams that you can watch from your phone to make sure your pet is safe and behaving appropriately.
  • Lastly, give them extra love. Pets may feel anxious when traveling. Unlike you, they're not privy to the schedule and don't know what's coming next. By making each day fun and giving them lots of love, they'll have a great trip with you!

By following these simple tips for traveling with your dog you and you're furry friend will have a much happier and safer summer road trip.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Nolen Hart


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 22, 2021:

Your tips are all excellent ones! Most of our dogs loved riding in our cars.

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