Last Updated: January 21, 2024 by Lisa Melillo
Few things in life are as fun or rewarding as going on a long road trip with your dog in tow – however, there’s a lot of things to consider before going on a long trip with your dog. The bigger and greater the numbers of dogs you’re taking with you, the more difficult it become! We’ve taken our 140+ lbs of dogs on long multi-day road trips across the US and Canada, so we wanted to share what we have learned to make your road trips easier.
Let’s start out with this infographic we put together of our top tips to make your road trip as stress-free as possible. Afterwards, we’ll talk about the products we use that make our road trips much easier.
Always be sure to store your food in a great dog food storage container to avoid spoilage on the road!
Stress-Free Road Trip With Your Dog Infographic
We compiled our best tips for reducing the stress of your trip into one helpful infographic! Take a look and feel free to share!
Want to share this image on your site? Just copy and paste the embed code below:
Here’s some of the biggest challenges of long car rides with a dog, and what you can do to make life easier.
1. Keeping Your Dogs Safe
Above all else, keeping yourself and your dogs safe in the event of an accident is the top priority for long road trips. This means finding a way to safely secure your dogs so they won’t go flying in the event of a crash. Humans have seat belts to prevent this, but what about dogs?
The Harness and Seat Belt Method
The most popular method for securing your dog in a car is through the use of a harness and seat belt buckle.
You should look to use a harness, preferably with wide padding, so that the impact of a crash is distributed more evenly over your dogs chest versus a collar, where it would be all on the neck.
Here’s a Kurgo harness that utilizes your existing seat belts to secure your pooch in the backseat, which is the safest method to use. Kurgo also crash-tests their designs to ensure the safety of your pet in the worst case scenarios.
The strap to the buckle is adjustable so you can give your dog more or less slack based on their size. You want to give as little slack as possible while still keeping your dog comfortable, because in the event of a crash they will gather less forward momentum/speed before being stopped.
Secured Dog Crate Method
If you travel with your dog in a crate, that can be a sufficient way to keep it safe as long as the crate itself is secure and sturdy.
The most safe option for transporting your dog is the 4Pets ProLine Dog Crates. These are heavy-duty dog crates that have been crash tested to ensure they’ll keep your dog safe in the event of an accident.
Featuring a sturdy aluminum frame, you can feel safe with your dog in one of these. They have many different models and sizes for the different sizes of your dog and car. They also have a great sizing tool to help you determine what will work best for you.
Simple Barrier Method
If you typically travel with your dog in the rear of the vehicle, like the back of a station wagon or SUV, one option you can use is a secure pet barrier to keep your dog from flying over the seats.
While this method can be effective at stopping your pet from coming forward, you’ll need to make sure you secure the barrier tightly so it won’t dislodge in the event of a crash. Also keep in mind that if you are rear-ended, your dog could still be impacted from the back of the vehicle so it’s not as safe as having them in a sturdy crate.
2. Feeding/Watering Time
When you’re doing long car rides, feeding and watering your dogs can be a challenge. Bringing along your regular food and water bowls might work for some people, but they take up more room than necessary. For our road trips, we rely on these convenient collapsible dog bowls.
They can hold roughly 2 cups of water or food, and folds flat when not in use. The BPA-Free plastic is safe and easy to clean, making them ideal for on-the-go use.
When it comes to water, you’re going to want something that holds enough for a long drive but also allows for you to easily give water to your dog. We’ve found the perfect solution – the Doggear Kong H2O dog water bottle. This is incredibly unique water bottle is perfect for car rides.
Holding 25 ounces of water in a stainless steel bottle, what really makes this special is what Doggear has designed for the lid.
The durable plastic lid twists off to form a special water bowl for your pooch. The unique shape of the lid is designed to fit the natural way dogs drink water.
Another nice feature for traveling is the lid features a loop you can use to clip it anywhere you may need (to a backpack, for instance) and it also comes with a carabiner for just that purpose. Doggear also makes other water bottles if different shapes and sizes and carrying slings, you can view their full product listings here.
When it comes to transporting dog food, you’re going to want to keep it sealed up tight so it doesn’t get stale and doesn’t spill all over your car. We have found that the best storage containers for dog food road trips are Vittles Vault!
These containers have lids that screw on tight, so you’ll be certain no accidents happen.
Vaults come in 25 lb, 40 lb, and 60 lb sizes to match however much kibble you need to take with your on the road.
3. Bathroom Breaks
Just like humans, your dogs are going to need some bathroom breaks along the way! Most gas stations off the highways will have some grassy or mulch areas where you can allow your dog to relieve themselves. If you’re going to be travel into or through a major city, be sure to find a stop before so that your dog has some place they can use the bathroom.
Here’s a few practical items to consider for when you’re on the road –
- If your dog is already wearing a harness for their seat belt, you can easily clip a leash onto it, then unhook the seat belt connector to safely transition your dog out of the car. Be sure to keep a close eye on your dog in parking lots – no retractable leashes!
- Always keep poop bags or a pooper scooper on hand! You’ll feel like a jerk if you’re caught without them as other people watch you leave your dogs mess behind. This gives dog owners a bad reputation, so don’t do it!
- Listen to your dog’s cues. Our dogs never really whine in the car – but when they do, they’re telling us they have to go! Be sure to listen for whining or any fidgeting that’s abnormal for your pet as signs that they might need a break.
4. Dog Hair Everywhere!
When traveling with a husky and a golden retriever mix, there’s no mystery in why dog hair is the biggest challenge I face with road trips! Even with a good, long brushing before the trip (which I highly recommend), I always have tons of dog hair and slobber all over my car by the time it’s all over.
If you will be keeping your dog in a crate in the rear of your vehicle, then you should keep most of the mess and dog hair contained easily. You might want to throw something like a cargo liner down (see image below) which should help keep things easily cleanable.
In my case, I put my dogs in the rear seats with harnesses and seat belts, so protecting the interior of the car becomes more difficult. Finding ways to prevent this has become a passion of mine, and I now have a setup that works pretty well that involves multiple layers of protection around any areas my dogs can touch.
If you’d like to get a more in-depth read of how I tackle dog hair, check out our how to remove dog hair from your car guide.
Step 1: Seat Covers
Seat covers are going to be your last line of defense against dog hair getting into your seats. You have two main choices here – go for an expensive, custom-fit solution like Cover King or go for a much cheaper option from Amazon, Walmart, etc.
Since I use other layers of defense and I don’t want to spend $300-500 on seat covers that are going to be covered with dog hair, I opt for the cheap variety. These car seat covers cost ~$30 and fit most any vehicle. They aren’t fun or easy to set up the first time, but once you get the hang of them they aren’t too difficult to manage. They can be washed at home which is nice, too.
You may be wondering if seat covers on the front seats are important. In the case of my dogs, they are because the dogs will often rest their heads/chins on the shoulder section, placing some nice drool and slobber down!
Step 2: Dog Hammock
Next up, the dog hammock! This product is a rectangle that features 4 loops at each corner. Every loop goes over a headrest and tightens to form a “hammock” of sorts for your dogs to be in while they are in the back seat.
There’s a few big advantages of this –
- Another layer of dirt/dog hair/slobber protection for your seats.
- Keeps your dog from trying to climb into the front seat (depends on the ambition of your dog)
- Keeps your dog from getting into anything you place on the floor of the car.
There are way too many dog hammocks available online to go through and list, but they all provide a similar function. Find whichever has the right features/price point that work best for you. You likely won’t need to spend more than $30 to find something that works.
Step 3: Car Door Covers
To complete the layers of protection for your car, look into getting some car door protectors such as these pictured below –
These serve two main purposes. The first is that they protect your doors from dog hair and scraping nails. The second added benefit which you might not think about, is that it helps prevent your dog from putting the windows down!
Our devilish Pidgy loves to step around on the arm rest of the door, often finding the window control and giving herself some fresh air when we aren’t paying attention.
5. Plan Your Overnight Trips
If you’re going away someplace for a few days, it’s important that you plan according for your dog.
The biggest issues you can run into is running out of dog food, or forgetting it altogether. This can be especially bad if your dog is on a special diet, or hard-to-find dog food. It’s not great to switch your dogs diet immediately, as most experts you give your dog at least 4 days to adjust to their new food.
The other important thing to remember is to plan out your stays, and make sure they allow dogs before you show up!
Sites like Airbnb have “pets allowed” filters, but you’ll need to check with each host to make sure they don’t have breed or size restrictions.
The same applies for hotels – be sure to get your accommodations ahead of time and call about your pets.
The following hotel chains almost always allow pets, and have locations nation-wide. When in doubt, look for one of these options!
- La Quinta
- Best Western
- Red Roof Inn
6. Fighting Doggy Boredom
If your dog is bored in the car, they’ll likely find some bad ways to entertain themselves. This can include destructive behaviors like digging into seats, or chewing seat belts!
The best way to deal with this is to take some more frequent stops for longer periods of time, allowing them to burn off some energy and stimulate their minds. Another option is to get them some great mind stimulating toys.
These toys let them work towards earning treats and keeps them engaged in non-destructive tasks!
7. Cleaning Up
When the road trip is all said and done and the car is unpacked, you can’t relax just yet. Now is the pivotal moment in cleaning your car to get it back to “like new” as possible.
The first thing you should do is remove all of the covers you have in your car – dog hammocks, seat covers, etc. Shake them out the best you can, vacuum them if there is a lot of dog hair left, then send them to the washing machine.
Next, get in your car with a vacuum and suck out all the dirt and dog hair. Be sure to get under seats and in between seat cushions. Check out all the cup holders and any other ledges in your car, as it’s easy to miss the accumulation of dog hair that falls into them.
We suggest something like a Shop Vac, is it has a much more powerful suction system than a typical home vacuum cleaner and won’t get clogged up by the pet hair.
No products found.
No products found.
Another option is to take your car to a car wash, which it probably needs anyways. Most car washes have vacuums you can use on-site after the wash, some for free even.
Once that’s done, you’ll probably need to wipe down the insides of your windows from all the dog slobber that has been placed on it! Don’t forget that professional auto detailing is an option.
Finally, if your car still has a bit of dog smell to it, getting an air freshener for your car can’t help. Febreze will work good , too.
Have Some Road Trip Tips to Share?
Let us know in the comments below if you have some tips of your own that make going on road trips with dogs easier. We’re always looking for new ways to make car rides with our dogs better!