Tips for taking your dog on summer car trips.

This is the time of year to jump in the car and head off to Yellowstone or Reno, or visit friends and family in Anywhere, USA. And taking our furry friends with us in the car is about as good as it gets. Or is it?

Driving with your dog can be a joyful ride to ‘fun city’ or a miserable trip to ‘stress town’. For some dogs, a road trip with their people is great fun, and they love it. But other dogs are just naturally more trip-averse, and will be need some extra TLC from you. Here’s what you need to know:


  1. Determine if your dog is anxious about car travel. Fussing, whining, non-stop barking, or drooling on short trips are obvious cues that your dog will need extra preparation for long trips.
  2. Before you take him on that long trip, take him on a couple day trips to get him oriented to travel.
  3. Don’t forget your dogs’ collar, with current ID (name and phone number). Be sure he is micro-chipped, and that all his info is updated.
  4. If you’re travelling to other states, be aware that some states require all dogs to be restrained while in the car. That could be a doggy car seat, a harness or a kennel/crate depending on size.
  5. Dogs are like kids—they want something to do on a long ride. Bring a stuffed KONG, or chewy toy or ‘stuffy’ on your trip. The chewing action can be quite calming.
  6. Make sure you keep the power windows ‘locked’ while on the road, as dogs have been known to hit the down button and jump out. Even if he just gets his head out the window, someone might hit the up button, which can choke or damage his neck/throat.
  7. Potty stops are welcome breaks for your dog (and you) to get out and stretch your legs. Make sure your pup is leashed up before you open the door. The last thing you want is for your dog to bolt out the door and off into the sunset!
  8. Most dogs can tolerate about 4 hours of drive time, so make sure your potty stops are scheduled accordingly. If you know your dog needs more frequent breaks, please adjust to his schedule.
  9. To help avoid car sickness, give your dog a light meal on the day of departure, and then you can give him little snacks when you stop along the way.
  10. Don’t forget to bring water and a bowl for your stops.
  11. If staying with friends or in a hotel/motel, check ahead to ensure that pets are ‘welcomed’.

Above all, be patient. Don’t be surprised if the first couple of road trips are a little rocky. It took a long time for my rescue dog, Tessa, to learn to trust the idea of riding in the car. I am convinced her previous experiences with her original owners were not very pleasant. In the beginning Tessa would whine and vomit anytime she had to be in the car. I once took her for a ride unrestrained (shame on me) and she jumped into the front seat in panic, and actually knocked my gear shift out of gear while I was on the highway. Dangerous!

She is much better now, but I try to make sure her car rides are to fun places, usually to see people who love her, or to be the ‘star’ at one of my training seminars. But it required patience, reassurance and lots of treats to create that good association between car trips and fun for her.

So have fun with your furry friend, too! Traveling with your dog can be a rewarding bonding experience if you plan carefully and take the time to prepare you dog for adventures on the road.