Tips for Traveling by Car with your Dog

Top Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

It never ceases to amaze me how many people are baffled by all the things and places Kendall goes with us. Yes, it is unusual to see an 80 pound dog sitting on the seat of an Boeing 757 but why is it so unusual to see her at a local hotel or a rest stop on I-95? Some people might think we go to extremes to include our dog in our travels but you’d do the same for a small child and after all, dogs are family so why not make sure they enjoy the holiday too.

In preparation for our upcoming road trip with Kendall, here’s some tips on traveling by car with your favourite four legged friend.

    Holiday planning is so much fun, probably one of my favourite things actually so when traveling with your dog make sure to set aside some time to plan activities for your dog too. Research some pet friendly hotels, parks, attractions and restaurants so your dog can be involved in the family memories.

    However, for days when your dog can’t be with you, spend some time researching a doggie daycare or camp near you, remember your dog didn’t spend all day or days in the car to sit in a hotel room and most hotels don’t allow your dog to be alone in the room.    
    If it’s your first big trip or if your dog is young spend some time making sure your dog is comfortable in the car. Start by loading your dog in the car in the driveway and allowing them to get comfortable in new surroundings, then move on to short drives (not to the vet – you want to start associating car drives with positive experiences). Try 20-30 minute rides to a locate park where your dog can get out and stretch their legs. Once they’re conformable getting in and out of the car by themselves, they’ll be less anxious during your trip.
    Before any extended trip make sure you get in touch with your vet to make sure your pet is up to date on all their shots and flea/tick prevention and then get a print out of your dog’s vaccinations in case you need to make an emergency trip you’ll have medical records. If you’re unsure about your dog in the car for long periods, talk to your vet about the possibility of calming medication.
    Think of your dog like a small child, they need to stop stretch their legs and pee – a lot. Have a lot at your route and try and stop every few hours. Now every dog is different, while I know Kendall can hold it for 8 hours I also know that she won’t drink while the car is moving so we stop every 3-4 hours to make sure she is hydrated.

    Some dogs might drink during the ride, which is great at keeping them hydrated but it means they’ll most likely need to pee more so again plan your stops. If you can try and find a dog park or road side stop with a known pet area so you can ensure there’s grass and enough space to walk your dog around for 10-15 minutes before getting back in the car.
    This always gets a laugh but Kendall has her own bag and she knows it too. It’s best to make a checklist, ours goes something like this:
    – water and food bowls
    – multiple leashes (short and long)
    – blankets (make your dog comfortable in the car and hotel with things that smell like home)
    – lots of poop bags!
    – old towels (you never know when your pit stop will be muddy or your dog will find a pond to jump in
    – any medicine required during your travels
    – copy of vaccination records
    – any toys that make your pet comfortable (i.e. Kendall has a favourite stuffed animal that makes most of our journeys)
    – bring your own water, to start with at least; the rationing behind this is simple not all local water is made the same and your dog’s bodies can be sensitive to sudden change so pack a large bottle of your water and as you empty that slowly fill it up with local water along the way to gradually change the type of water your dog is drinking
    – treats!! don’t forget your pets favorite snacks, if you’re traveling for a long time try introducing healthy ‘people’ foods that you could easily get along the way such as bananas, strawberries or blueberries.
    Most dogs are a creature of habit and even if your dog is the flexible type, sticking to their routine will make them feel more at ease and less anxious about new surroundings. If you always feed your dog at a specific time, stick to it as best as you can; if you have a walk at 3pm everyday try and schedule a pit stop or park visit during that time.  
    Trust me on this one, things come up. The weather messes up plans or the restaurant you researched is actually closed or your dog is desperate to go outside but your next scheduled pit stop isn’t for another hour. No worries, here’s a collection of my favourite apps to help you get through those times:
    – BringFido; an absolute must have for those traveling in the US
    – Dog Park Finder Plus; to help you find a last minute park to run around when your plans fall through
    – The Pet First Aid; developed by the Red Cross, the app will answer any concerns you have from bug bites to allergic reactions
About the author
Staci West is an obsessive compulsive traveller who is currently dealing with a chronic case of coffee addicition. Symptoms include blackouts from online shopping sessions, a ferocious passion for everything colourful and energy levels that exceed a normal human capacity. On the advice of her carer and companion, Kendall her yellow labrador, she created L&L, a down to Earth lifestyle blog, as a distraction for her pathological need for shoes.


  1. Great tips, most of them can be applied for road trips with my toddler, when they are 2 they don’t behave much different from doggies haha

    1. It’s so important, I’ve seen a huge difference in our dogs happiness during our travels when we’re really on top of her water source and when we’re unsure we always use filtered water.

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