Dog friendly travel: Four tips when traveling with dogs

John is the founder of Perfect Dog Breeds a magazine focused on helping match dog-parents and dog breeds.

Whether you have a long road trip planned or you’re just popping to see your aunt there are certain things to think about before you load Fido into that SUV.  Dog friendly travel is natural and easy for many pets, but there are times when dogs can get unsettled and stressed. We have put together our top tips for making any trips, long or short, as stress-free as possible for you and your pooch! Here’s what you need to know about traveling with dogs.

travel with pets

Image Credit: Well Pet Coach

For dog-friendly travel, get the right gear

We’re not talking snazzy collars or personalized water bowls for the car, we’re talking safety gear.  Fido needs to be restrained on all trips – no matter how long or short.

Some owners choose to crate train their pooch in the car, some choose to attach a specific car harness to the seatbelt.  This will largely depend on the style of your car – whether there is room in the trunk for a crate, or whether Fido has to go on the back seat.

If you choose the crate, it’s best to crate train him well before your first trip so he’s comfortable being locked in for periods of time.  Likewise, allow Fido to get used to wearing a harness outside of the car!  Lure Fido into the harness by holding a treat in the neck space.  Praise and reward him whilst he is wearing it and distract him with a chew or toy.  He’ll soon accept it when it’s associated with good things! 

For treats, make sure to pack the extra delicious meaty kind to keep your dog happily busy throughout the ride. Dogs that are not used to long car rides can easily get anxious on trips; it helps to keep them occupied with a tasty treat or their favorite toy since it aids in reducing their stress levels.

Don’t forget an emergency kit for your pet! When traveling with pets, the emergency kit should include:

  • First aid supplies
  • Necessary paperwork
  • Extra water
  • Extra food
  • Medications your pets might be taking
  • A leash for your pets
  • Treats or toys

Has Fido ever been in the car before?

Start slowly. If Fido hasn’t been in the car before, you need to plan well in advance to get him used to traveling! Open the trunk or the back doors and let Fido sniff around and explore.  If he’s going in a crate, open the crate and allow him to explore. Throw some treats into the crate.  Don’t lock him in, just let him get comfortable.

Give him a treat in the crate and close the door. Let him out as soon as he’s finished his chew. You want him to associate the crate with good experience. If he’s being attached to a harness, clip him in and praise and reward him. Give him a chew on the back seat; release him as soon as he’s finished.  Again, you want the same association.

Start With patience

After Fido has explored the car and isn’t really that bothered by it, start with a short journey – 5 minutes maybe.  Praise and reward Fido when you’ve reached your destination or when you’ve come back home.

Some owners give their dog chews during the journey but here you run the risk of Fido choking or even being sick due to the motion of the car. DogGear would always advise keeping the treats for when you stop.​

When traveling with dogs, easy does it

Slowly increase the length of your journeys.  Watch for signs that Fido isn’t coping for example, whining, crying, whimpering, pacing, excessive panting, yawning or foaming at the mouth. These are all signs that he is stressed, so pull over as soon as it’s safe and take Fido out of the car.  Let him calm down before you continue on your journey.

If possible, ask a helper to come along on your first few journeys so they can keep an eye on Fido’s behavior.  You can then keep your attention firmly on the road.  The last thing anyone wants is a lapse in your attention on the road because you are wondering what Fido is doing or if he’s OK. 

Plan ahead for dog friendly travel

Once you are confident that Fido is comfortable in the car, you can plan your trips.  Look for truck stops with open spaces where you can easily take Fido potty.  Remember to take your poo bags and some bottled water with a bowl.  Before you head off, take him for a walk and work on some mental stimulation.  This will likely tire him out so he’s more likely to settle and even sleep in the car!

Whilst most dogs happily tolerate traveling, these steps will certainly help you on your way to making those trips as stress-free as possible.  Plan ahead, get the right safety gear to restrain him and stock up on some tasty treats and chews to help Fido associate the car with good things!  He’ll soon realize that those car trips usually end up as a wonderful adventure (vet visits aside of course)!