Doing A Road Trip With Your Dog

Doing a road trip with your dog can seem like an unattainable thing or a huge hindrance.  It doesn’t always have to be, however. Vacations, like many other things these days, look different. Social distancing is difficult on flights, and cruises in the U.S. are on hold due to COVID-19 But a getaway isn’t out of the question — road trips provide a safer alternative. That’s good news for dogs because doing a road trip with your dog works for EVERYONE. No boarding fees and your dog will never complain about getting to tag along 🙂

My girlfriend and I recently took a road trip from New York to Arizona from one COVID assignment to another. Doing a road trip with your dog means adding a few items to your pre-ride itinerary. I wanted to mention some helpful info from Dr. Travis Arndt of Animal Medical Center of Mid-America who shared some helpful information to safely road trip with your dog.

Pack ALL Your Dogs Things In One Place

We actually got 1 bag to have EVERYTHING in it.  There are many dog bags on the market.  The one we personally have for Lilou can be found here. Food, water and food dishes and your pup’s favorite toys are no-brainers, but also take his license and registration and ID tags as well as ESA paperwork for Lilou. This bag also has mini bags inside of the bag to neatly categorize everything.  We especially like this because of the little red “dog medical bag”. This is especially great because we like to take our dog hiking The phone number you have on your pup’s tags matters.  It is always a good idea to microchip your dog as well when you travel just for good measure.

“Whether you are 20 minutes from home or 20 states away, you’ll have your cell phone,” Dr. Arndt says. “When people use the landline, it just slows down you being reunited with your pet.”  Dr. Travis says.

Securely Fasten Seatbelts

Road trip with your dog
Lilou in her emotional support vest. We got her certification from this company. It was fast and easy. They were also very helpful and responsive to questions and concerns. You can visit their site HERE.


We’ve all seen it. A goofy mutt with his head sticking out the window and tongue out. But while it may seem like the quintessential way to road-trip with your dog, it’s actually unsafe.

Most of the driving on a road trip is on a highway.  This is where in general it is not safe to have the windows wide open.  We actually got a huge rock flung at our windshield an hour into our trip!

“You have the wind and dust blowing in your face,” Dr. Arndt says. “We see a lot of dogs with corneal abrasions because they get dust in their eyes, and they get scratched up. Keeping them inside the vehicle is much safer. If the windows are too far down, they can jump out the window. If your car collides, it’s more likely they’ll be thrown from the car.”

Prepare For Anything

The last thing you need on your itinerary is a medical emergency, especially during a pandemic. Instead, Dr. Arndt suggests using a harness or kennel while in the car.  We have a chest harness for Lilou (pictured above in one of her ESA ones).  Her harness has rings to attach a seatbelt if need be to keep her safe.  We also have a dog “hammock” This has a mesh window on it so she can see what is going on but not tempted to hop upfront while you are driving. Driving on your lap is NOT recommended. many dogs get in the habit when they are small and then it is hard to shake.  Let them know their place is in the backseat!

Practice makes perfect

If you don’t always travel with your dog and they aren’t used to riding in a harness or kennel, Dr. Arndt recommends doing some short test runs first.

“Taking them to a park they are not used to going to that is 10 minutes away makes it an enjoyable experience,” Dr. Ardnit says. “See how your pet does on short trips.”

Best-case scenario, the dog will associate going in the harness and kennel in the car with positive things (a new adventure!). Worst-case: You find your dog doesn’t take to the car well. That doesn’t mean a trip with you pup is off the table, but you may need to try some other interventions. Anxiety shirts or vets (like Tundershirts), often used for separation anxiety and fireworks, can help. CBD is a great thing for dogs to promote relaxation as well in a natural way- (see below ElleVet for a great brand). If your pup has more severe car anxiety, a vet may prescribe medication like Trazodone. Talk to your vet before starting any dosage on prescription drugs.



Time The Spots To Strech 4 Legs Or 2 Legs

Most dogs get a little antsier staying in the car for long periods of time. It is good practice to try to stop for your furry friend every 4-6 hours if possible.  Maybe even less if you have an older dog or a very your puppy. You yourself may be able to rip 12 hours in a row straight to a destination, but not always the dog. Most of the time your dog wants and needs to run or they become very anxious.  Our puppy Lilou is very good in the car and likes to sleep- but once she wakes it is not always good news for our sanity up in front.

As much as possible try to keep them to the same outside schedule they are used to at home.   Then take about 2 hours off of that if they are either too anxious or excited in the car.  Remember, the more a dog travels and gets used to it, the better.

A simple rest stop will do and walk them around the parking lot real quick then you can be on your way.  It is also an opportunity to discover some cool dog parks along the way 🙂

Explore And Discover Great Places Along The Way

Though many places like parks are dog-friendly, that’s not always the case. Dr. Arndt suggests calling ahead to get the latest policy. Always also be ready for last-minute changes and not to get your hopes up too high just in case.

“Pets are very much like toddlers,” Dr. Ardnt says. “If you get them in an environment they are not familiar with plus they are overstimulated because of everything going on, they may not behave as well as they normally do when you’re at the park or down the street.”

Helpful Article: The Top Dog-Friendly Hotels Around the Country