5 Tips for Traveling With Dogs in a Car (Especially When They’re Big)

This post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy we may make a commission, at no additional charge to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more details.

traveling with dogs

For many families across the United States, their pets are seen as an extension of their family.

So it’s only natural that both children and adults alike would opt to take their canine friends along for the ride on their next family holiday.

However, there’s much to consider before exposing your dog to a long and, at times, uncomfortable travel environment inside a car.

So if you’re considering traveling with dogs in the near future, here are a few pointers to ensure their trip is as comfortable as possible.

Traveling with Dogs: What You Need to Know

Nowadays, traveling with a dog has become far more common-place than in previous years.

Many airlines, hotels, and other forms of transport have changed their policies to allow for furry family members during travel.

Despite this increase in popularity, what’s really important to consider is whether your dog is fit for travel and what they can withstand.

Just because they cannot physically voice their discomfort doesn’t mean that a dog cannot be traumatized by a travel experience. If you plan on traveling with your dogs by car on your next family holiday, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Preparing for Your Road Trip

If you do decide to take your canine companion along for the road trip, you’ll need to do some preparation beforehand.

Make sure to do some research on canine laws and travel restrictions in your state and the state you’re traveling to.

Check that the accommodation you’ll be holidaying at welcomes dogs and is briefed on the fact you’ll be bringing your dog along. This is especially important for larger breeds of dogs, as many accommodations may only allow smaller pets.

If you’re nervous about your dog getting lost in a new environment, it would be worthwhile having them microchipped.

During this pain-free process, a vet inserts a microchip just under the surface of their skin which contains all identification information. Alternatively, always ensure your dog is collared with a tag which includes contact and identification information.

Before your departure, take your dog to the vet for an overall health checkup and have them cleared for travel. Remember to pack their health and vaccination certificates with you.

Don’t forget to pack dog medicine, such as calming chews in the case of anxiety or motion sickness. Otherwise, consult with your vet on the best solutions for keeping your dog well during car travel.

For large dogs, it’s worth investing in a canine seat belt, such as the Mighty Paw Safety Belt to keep them in place during your journey.

traveling with dog in car

5 Top Tips For Car Travel with Dogs

If you’ve determined your dog can handle the trip, ok! Time to think about how to make the journey easiest. Hit the road with your furry family member in tow with these 5 simple tips to ensure they enjoy the journey too.

1. Store Pet Food With Care

If you’re traveling during the warmer months of spring and summer, beware of the dangers of pet food exposed to heat and direct sunlight.

Foods high in fat, with added oils and omega-3s, will spoil at a faster rate as the fats tend to break down in high heat.

This can make your dog sick and will not be a very pleasant experience inside your vehicle!

Make sure to store pet food in an airtight container and a cooler to keep it dry and cool. Don’t leave pet food in a hot car, take it inside with you.

If you don’t want to feed your pet human treats, pack a container of doggie treats so they feel included at pit stops.

2. Feed Your Dog Water Frequently

Dogs are highly susceptible to heatstroke inside a moving car – their air is stuffy and they tend to get hot easily. This is especially pertinent to large breeds of dogs.

Make sure to offer them water in a collapsible dog bowl every 2 hours, at least. Keep in mind that picky pets may not drink water that smells or tastes different from what they’re accustomed to.

If your dog is on the picky side, pack a few bottles filled with water from home. You will gradually have to introduce them to new tasting water along the journey.

Make sure to take regular breaks for a quick walk, potty break and the odd treat here and there!

Plan your stops around areas where you have access to walk freely for a few minutes.

car travel with dog

3. Avoid Opening Car Doors or Windows With Unrestrained Big Dogs

The urge to break free and run wild is innate for most larger breeds of dogs, especially when couped up in a small place such as a car.

The last thing you want is your big dog jumping out into the street, at risk of getting lost or worse, hit by a car.

Whenever you come to a pitstop, make sure their lead is attached or their dog seat belt is in place. Keeping the window ajar is advisable so they can poke their head out if need be.

4. Feed Your Dog Before Departure

In order to avoid unnecessary accidents in the car, it’s important to make sure your dog is fed at least a few hours before your departure.

Feeding a dog in a moving vehicle can only increase their chances of experiencing motion sickness.

Likewise with exercise. Ensure they have had their walk well in advance to your departure so they’re not hot and thirsty sitting in the car.

5. Avoid Transporting a Big Dog in a Truck Bed

If you have a pickup truck and think this is the easiest way to transport your canine companion, think again.

Unless the bed of your pickup truck is covered by a canopy, your dog is at risk of jumping out the back or being propelled out after one abrupt stop.

Additionally, the heat of summer can warm up the metal of the bed of your truck, which can actually burn your pet’s feet.

Is it a Good Idea to Take Your Dog?

It’s important to remember that if your dog is sick, injured or pregnant, traveling with them is not recommended unless it’s 100% necessary.

Likewise, if you have a dog that doesn’t respond well to change, is old and frail or easily over-stimulated, travel by car may not be the best option.

For these types of animals, a routine is normally the best thing for their health. Otherwise, your road trip could quickly turn into a traumatizing disaster for them.

Vets recommend leaving your dog in the care of a relative, friend or neighbor in an environment they are most comfortable.

traveling with dog in car

Looking for More Tips on Canine Care?

At Canine Weekly, we offer a plethora of useful information and resources on the best possible care for your canine.

For more tips on traveling with dogs, grooming care, nutrition or training and behavior, find everything you need to know on Canine Weekly.

You May Also Like…

Flying with Large Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

The Best Large Breed Dog Food

The 11 Best Large Dog Breeds for Families

10 Best Calming Treats for Dogs

Leave a Comment