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Can Dogs Travel Long Distances in a Car?

It’s an exciting time – you’re planning your next big road trip or maybe packing up to move across the country; the only issue is you’re bringing your dog (or dogs) and want to make sure you go about it the right way. 

Many questions may be buzzing around your head: is it safe to travel a long distance with my dog? What should I bring to make my dog more comfortable on a long car ride? This article will cover all your questions and more so you can feel at ease when you begin your adventure on the road. 

The short answer is yes, dogs are able to travel long distances in a car. Before you begin your trip, it’s important to take several factors into consideration so that you can be properly equipped for your adventure. 

What To Pack for Your Dog - Roadtrip Essentials

Before beginning on your journey, you’ll want to make sure you pack these essentials for your dog: 

  1. Food and water
    1. This one may be a no-brainer, but make sure you pack lots of food (kibble or wet) and water for your dog. You may prefer to keep the water in canisters instead of plastic jugs since it will be sitting in the car for a long period of time. 
  2. Dog bed and blanket
    1. Bring your dog’s bed and blanket along for the ride! You may want to bring a bed and blanket they’re currently using so they have a familiar scent. Put in in the back of the car or set them up on the rear seats. 
  3. Poop bags and doggy pads
    1. Just as you would on a walk, you’ll want to make sure you pack enough poop bags so you can clean up after your dog. If you have a puppy that is still potty training, it may be wise to bring doggy pads as well so they know where to go. 
  4. Leash/harness
    1.  Make sure you grab their leash and a harness. You may want to keep it up front with you so when it’s time to pull over for a break, you can easily attach it to your dog and exit the car. 
  5. Car seat cover
    1. Not everyone uses car seat covers, but they’re a great idea to have, especially when traveling long distances! Why?
      1. They reduce the amount of dog hair that gets in your car
      2. May prevent damage to your seats
      3. Gives your dog more room than a carrier or crate does
      4. Keeps your pup from sliding around

*It’s important to note that your dog should have a pet seatbelt for their safety

  1. Toys and treats
    1. Each dog is unique in their own way; some may respond well to long car rides whereas others may experience anxiety. Either way, bringing their favorite toys and treats is a great way to keep them happy and distracted!

Want more? Download our free road trip essentials checklist so you don’t miss a thing! 

How often should I stop on a road trip with my dog?

So now that you know what you’re bringing, the next question is how often should you stop to give them a break. A general rule of thumb when traveling long distances with your dog is to stop every 2-3 hours to let them use the restroom and stretch their legs. 

Many travelers find it helpful to plan ahead which parks to stop off at to let their dogs out of the car. If a park is not along your route, grocery store or gas station parking lots often have a grassy patch nearby so your dog knows it’s a good time and place to go!

What if my dog is a puppy?

If you’re traveling with a puppy, keep in mind that they cannot hold their bladders for as long as full-sized dogs can. In this case, you’ll want to stop off every 30 minutes to an hour. Bring a puppy pad and place it in a nice shady area for your puppy to relieve themselves. 

Can I travel with a pregnant dog in the car long distance?

Traveling with your pregnant dog can be safe, as long as you take the correct precautionary measures. 

First off, you should not travel with your pregnant dog within the first three weeks or last 2 weeks of her pregnancy, as this is when she’s most vulnerable to giving premature birth. It’s also important to note, if your dog has high anxiety, you should avoid long car rides as anxiety and stress can also trigger a premature birth. 

Here are a few tips on traveling with your pregnant dog: 

  • Set her up in a nice comfortable cool spot to ease her stress levels.
  • Let her relieve herself often, as pregnancy can make dogs urinate more. 
  • Allow for frequent stops to let your dog walk around – it’s important for expecting mothers to get an adequate amount of exercise.
  • Pregnant dogs need to eat more, so ensure you’re giving her small nutritious meals frequently. 
  • Most importantly, talk to your vet before you go so that they can give you the best course of action to keep your pregnant dog safe

What if my dog is highly anxious?

Taking a dog out of its familiar place can be stressful, especially if they’re already highly anxious. 

First off, properly exercise your dog beforehand so that they deplete their energy and can sleep comfortably during the ride. Let them out to stretch and run around a bit every couple of hours on your trip. Remember, less energy will equal less anxiety. 

Also, bring some familiar toys, blankets, and beds so they can resonate with the scent. You may want to even try playing calming music, such as classical, to help ease your dog’s worries. 

Check out more information on how to keep a dog calm on a long car ride.

Preventing car sickness in dogs

If you have a dog that’s prone to getting car sick, there are a few steps you can take to prevent it:

  1. Try searching for dog-specific motion sickness supplements online.
  2. Avoid feeding your dog before the drive. Traveling on an empty stomach can prevent nausea and throwing up. It’s not a bad idea to let them have a bite or two of food, but avoid big meals before you start your journey.
  3. Stop often and let your pup walk around outside. 
  4. Just like humans, fresh air can make all the difference. Try rolling down the windows every so often and letting a breeze roll through. 
  5. Try not to obstruct the window. Letting your dog look outside can help prevent nausea. 
  6. And of course, make sure your dog is buckled up! By using a dog seatbelt or a booster seat with attachments, you should prevent your pup from moving around too much; keeping them stable will help mitigate sickness. 

In summary

Traveling can be an adventure and who wouldn’t want to take their furry child along for the ride? While it is completely possible to have a safe and successful long-distance car ride with your dog, it’s important to be completely prepared for the journey. From bringing the essential items to stopping off every couple of hours, you and your pup can have a low-stress journey. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures – safe travel furiends! 

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