Preparing for a Road Trip with Your Dog

You should be prepared with anything you may need on your road trip, and you should prepare your dog for his road trip as well.

So, you are preparing to go on a road trip with your dog.  Maybe you are off to the cottage, maybe to another city, maybe camping.  You should be prepared with anything you may need, and you should prepare your dog for his trip as well.  Last year, my family and I went on a 10-day road trip with our dog across the east coast. We were camping in many places, and visited family for a couple of days along the way.  Our dog had a great time exploring, hiking and spending a lot of family time with us.  It can be a lot of fun for everyone of you are well prepared.

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Before you leave, here is a list of things you should pack for your pup:

Car Seat: 

Car seats for dogs are available in all sizes.  If your dog has his own space where he can see out the window, he won’t feel the need to move around.  He can have his toys close; he has a comfortable place to sleep, he can see everyone and he can enjoy the view from the car window.

Be sure to choose a seat that can be strapped in using your car’s seat belt to keep it from moving or falling.

Seat Belt: 

If you are not going to use a car seat, you can opt for a seat belt harness for your pup.  These offer safety and comfort.  The vest harness allows for evenly distributed restraint should you have to stop fast.  This can save your pup from injury.  Having the seat belt attached securely to the car’s seat belt clip offers a certain amount of mobility within the vehicle without causing a distraction.

Car Seat Cover: 

Your dog will be getting in and out of your vehicle for pee breaks and to stretch his legs.  There is a strong possibility that he will track dirt, mud or wet feet into the car.  If you cover your seats with a seat cover or “hammock” your leather or upholstery will be protected.  These also offer a bit of a barrier between the front and back seat, which provide a clear division between front and back. This makes the seating arrangements clear for your pup.


Your dog is going to be away from home and may find his new surroundings frightening or stressful. Bringing his favorite blanket will offer something familiar to ease the discomfort.  The smells in the blanket will be those from your home and your will help to put your pup at ease.

Dog Bed: 

Having his own bed along for the ride will provide all the comforts of home.  If this is too much to carry along, try using the car seat once you arrive.  He will be very familiar with it by the time you arrive at your destination so it will be a comfortable sanctuary for him.


As with the blanket, familiar toys or stuffed animals will provide the familiarity of home.  A Kong or other small chew toy will keep your dog busy while driving long distances.  Once you arrive at your destination your dog may not understand all of the changes going on around him. These items will offer comfort in an otherwise confusing situation.

Medical Records: 

If you are crossing the border you will need your dog’s paperwork. In case of injury or illness while travelling a new vet will benefit from knowing your doggo’s medical history.

GPS Collar: 

When you are in a strange place, having a GPS collar will be a significant benefit should your dog become lost.  These collars are crucial when trying to find a lost dog.  They allow you to track your dog’s location on your cell phone for a quick and safe return. See: GPS Trackers for Dogs and Cats

Micro Chip:  

Having your dog micro chipped also increases the likelihood of having your dog returned should he become lost.  It is a quick procedure done in your vet’s office.  Your dog has a microchip inserted between his shoulder blades that contains pertinent information about you.  Should someone find your dog, this information will help a vet or shelter find you.

Collar with Tags:  

Make sure your dog is wearing his tags.  This is the first thing someone will look for if your pup is found.  Make sure your current cell phone number is on the tags as you will not be home to answer a landline.

You will need your dog’s leash and harness for pee breaks and hikes while on your road trip.

Your dog’s leash and harness will be needed for pee breaks while travelling.  You will also need it to go for walks or hikes while you are on vacation. 


If you are at the cottage or staying with friends, you may want to bring a lead so that you can let your dog out without worrying about him wandering off.  You should always watch him while he is out on the lead, but this gives him a little bit of freedom from the house and the leash.  The lead is longer and he can move about more freely.


If your dog is crate trained, you will want to bring a crate that folds flat.  You will need it at your destination, but the ability to lay in flat in the vehicle makes it easier to pack.


Bring along 2 unbreakable bowls.  These will be used when you take driving breaks, so you want to make sure they are not going to fall and break.  Something with a lid is even better, as you may want to offer your pup food or water while on the go (of course, this would be done by a passenger and not the driver.) If they can be stored with the contents in them, it saves a lot of fussing with water bottles and food bags.  You should make sure that the bowls are easily accessible so that nobody removes a seat belt while the vehicle is moving. 


Bring some nutritious treats along.  If your pup becomes restless or needs to be coaxed back into the vehicle on one of the breaks, a treat will help.  You will want to have them for your vacation as well.  Your dog will be in an unfamiliar place and may require some refresher training with regards to social skills or recall.  The treats will be helpful.


Always carry bottled water.  Should you have car trouble, weather issues that cause delays or even find that the water where you are staying is a little sketchy, you will be glad you have some extra water.  If you are heading to the beach, always have fresh water available so that your dog does not consume salt water.  This can be fatal.  See Dogs and Salt Water.


Bring enough food to last 3-4 days longer than you expect to be there.  You never know what can happen with weather, vehicle issues or any other any unexpected occurrence could prolong your stay.  Make sure you have a little extra to tide you over.

Poop Bags: 

Throw some extra poop bag rolls in his doggy bag.  It never hurts to have too many!

Jacket and Boots: 

Depending on the time of year, you may need a warm jacket and boots to protect your pup from the elements.  Even when it is warm out, you your doggo may require a raincoat.  If you are into hiking or long walks, it would be more comfortable for him to stay as dry as possible.


You never know what you will experience while on the road.  On any stop along the way the ground may be muddy or wet.  When you are vacationing, you may be walking in a multitude of situations.  Having a towel to wipe muddy paws before reentering the car or house/hotel will make things much more pleasant for everyone.


When you are out with you pup, you may run into a lot of messy situations.  You may be playing or swimming at the beach.  At the end of your day, when you return to your vacation home, your pup may need a bath.  Lake water, salt water, sand and mud should all be washed from your dog’s fur to avoid skin issues.  Should you be in a cottage environment, you may want to carry the ingredients needed for skunk smell removal.  You never know who/what you dog will come in contact with.  See: Best Skunk Smell Removal Recipe for Dogs

Bug Repellent:  

Just like humans, dogs can get bitten by mosquitoes and other bugs.  There are a number of repellents specific to dogs available.  There are also natural remedies to help repel bugs.  Be sure to check labels and ingredients before using anything on your dog.

Road trips can be a lot of fun with your pup.  Being prepared makes everything run smoothly.  Grab your doggy bag and enjoy your trip!

Pet parenting is an ongoing learning experience. It’s always nice to know that others are experiencing the same milestones, challenges, and celebrations that you are. Keep in touch with The Doggo Files by signing up for our biweekly emails!

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