Traveling with dogs in a car on a long-distance trip is undoubtedly a journey to remember. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s memorable.

That said, it does differ in many ways from traveling with a human companion. Think of it as traveling with a small toddler, one who has completely different needs, wants, and comfort than yours.

Preparing for a long-distance trip with your dog involves essential steps for a smooth journey. You can do it by organizing travel documents, a secure crate, and essential supplies. Keep them entertained and comfortable with breaks, toys, and treats. Prioritize safety by securing them properly and staying attentive to signs of stress. Let’s dive into the details!

Preparing Dog(s) for Car Travel

Before anything else, the first step is to prepare your dog(s) for car travel. This includes making sure that you’re all packed before going on your long-distance road trip with your dog.

  • Travel documents. Travel documents refer to any documentation that your dog may need while you’re on the trip, such as proof of vaccinations and health certificates.
  • Dog crate or carrier. Although you can travel with your dog loose in the car, it’s highly recommended to bring a crate or carrier.
  • Dog supplies. Supplies can include dog bowls, leashes, harnesses, vests, pads, and toys. If you’ve planned any outdoor excursions, you may also want to bring outdoor gear like boots, coats, and life jackets.
  • Medications. This goes without saying if your dog is prescribed medicines by the vet. However, you may also want to bring some over-the-counter medications, such as supplements, anti-sickness meds, or anti-anxiety meds.
  • First-aid kit. You never know what might happen out there. Make sure you have antiseptics, gauze pads, plasters, and other items to handle emergencies.

Keeping Dogs Comfortable During Car Travel

Think you’re done packing? Not yet! Here are some things to keep your dogs comfortable during car travels.

  • Collapsible bowls. While steel bowls are still our favorite type of dog bowl, collapsible bowls are much more convenient during road trips.
  • Bedding. Dogs also need something comfortable to lie down on in the car. It’s even better if you can bring their bedding from home, as it will already have their scent. Check out our article for more information about dog travel beds.
  • Toys and chews. Toys and chews don’t just make your dog more comfortable; they also distract them from any anxious thoughts.
  • Treats. If you’re looking for an instant way to make your dog comfortable, treats work like a charm.
  • Grooming supplies. This is especially important if you’ve got a long-haired breed. Even just a basic pair of grooming scissors and dog clippers should do.

Entertaining Dogs for Long-Distance Car Travel

Making sure that your beloved pooch is entertained during long-distance car travel is important in keeping them–and you–calm and stress-free throughout the entire trip.

Here are some tips on how you can keep them entertained.

  • Keep it fun. A boring trip makes a bored dog. Try to make it fun by playing music, giving them treats and toys, or even just having a conversation with them.
  • Take regular stops. Taking frequent breaks not only helps your pup stay active but also prevents fatigue and motion sickness during the trip.
  • Schedule potty breaks. Speaking of which, regular potty breaks during your stops can help keep them feeling comfortable and safe throughout the journey.
  • Encourage playtime. Playing with your dog and tiring them out will make them more likely to stay calm once the car gets moving again.
  • Make them comfortable. As mentioned above, bringing items that make your pet feel comfortable and at home is also a great way to keep them entertained.

Additional Tips for Dog Car Safety

You may think that your dog can handle the car ride, but it’s always important to be aware of potential risks.

  • Familiarize them with the car environment. Dogs are creatures of habit. If you give them the chance to familiarize themselves with the car environment, they’ll be more likely to settle down when it’s time for the long-distance trip.
  • Secure them properly inside the car. You can either use a dog seat belt harness or put them in a secure crate. This prevents them from moving around inside the car, which could either distract you or lead them to injure themselves.
  • Don’t let them get used to putting their head out the window. At least not without someone holding them. This may seem like a harmless, even cute behavior, but it’s really dangerous. If your dog thinks this is okay, they’ll try to do it while you’re driving.
  • Never leave your dog alone inside the car. This can be dangerous since the temperature inside cars can easily become too hot or too cold, depending on the weather. Also, if something happens to you outside the car, your dog will be left trapped inside. Keeping your dog cool in the car article will help you with best practices.
What are some signs that my dog is stressed during car travel?

The signs of a stressed dog during car travel are the same as when your dog is stressed in any other situation: panting, whining, drooling, shaking, hiding their tail between their legs, or trying to escape. If you notice any of these behaviors, take a break and allow your dog to relax.

Can I give my dog medication to calm them during a long car ride?

You can certainly give them some medications or supplements for anti-anxiety and anti-sickness, but we don’t recommend it. In general, we recommend exhausting every option before giving medications to dogs.

How often should I stop for my dog to take a break during a long car trip?

How often you should stop for your dog to take a break during a long car trip depends on how old your dog is. Older dogs typically only need up to 3-5 breaks per day, while younger dogs may need one at least every 1-3 hours.

Are there pet-friendly accommodations for me and my dog?

There are many pet-friendly accommodations for you and your dog. Your best bet is to search on Google, “pet-friendly hotel + [name of place]” before going anywhere. This should be part of the planning stage.


Indeed, traveling with dogs in the car on a long-distance trip is a unique adventure, sometimes requiring even more care and attention than traveling with humans.

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