Have a Safe Road Trip With Your Dog this Holiday Season

Lara Rosenbaum
Published on November 23, 2020

With the holidays coming up, you might be wondering how to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic to see family. And while flying has proven to be relatively safe during this time, potential travelers are considering road trips—to avoid close proximity with others. So how do you prepare for a winter road trip with your dog? Here are five tactics to take, to ensure a safe ride.

car travel with dogs

A road trip with your dog can be a great bonding experience.

Get the Right Gear

You’ll want to purchase a restraining device for your dog, to keep everyone in the car safe. (If your pup happens to walk up front or get by your feet while you’re driving, you’ll endanger everyone else on the road, too.)

Look for a harness, safety belt, or pet carrier, and introduce your dog to it before you leave. Smaller dogs may love booster seats which double as plush ‘beds,’ and feature an attachment that secures them to your car’s seat belt.

Place new crates or booster seats in your home for a few days before the trip, and let your dog relax with the new items. If you have a safety harness, take a few prep rides before longer travel, and be sure to reward your dog with treats when secured in your car, so they associate all the new items with a positive experience.

Create Comfort

Even though your dog will be riding in your warm car, you may want to purchase a sweater or fleece for him to wear during travel. The mercury can drop into the single digits, and not all car heaters can keep up. You’ll also need to stop to take your dog out for potty breaks and something warm can help your pup feel more comfortable for quick trips outside.

Finally, having warm items on hand is essential in case of emergency, and you need to stop for long periods of time. Be sure to place a fleece pad in crates, and have a blanket on hand for your pup. You’ll want a blanket and plenty of warm items for yourself, too, and may even want to invest in a heated blanket (complete with 12-V adaptor) for long drives.

Take Breaks

Stretching tight legs can help both you and your dog. (For you, a short walk can help keep you awake. For your dog: It can help keep them calm.) Be sure to take potty breaks every two hours or so, to allow your dog to relieve himself and unwind. Park somewhere off the road (residential areas with sidewalks, hotels with dog-walking areas and parks are safe bets) and take your dog for a short walk.

It’s also a good idea to offer water during this time. Be sure to bring extra bottles and a water dish for your pup.

cute dog in car mirrorKeep Calm

Your dog may or may not experience travel anxiety, yet even so, it’s always a good idea to maintain a soothing environment within your car. Your pup will not just like it, she’ll want to continue on as your road-trip companion. Bring your dog’s favorite toys and consider filling hollow chew items with frozen yogurt or peanut butter.

You may also want to swap your favorite metal tunes for an audiobook or soothing folk music, depending on how your dog is handling the ride.

Supplement if Needed

Some dogs are simply too nervous for travel, and in these cases, it may be kindest to leave them home with a sitter. If you need to bring an anxious pup on your travels, supplementing with a calming aid could help. Look for ingredients like L-tryptophan (which is the component in turkey that makes you feel sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal), and valerian root. Hemp & Harmony includes calming ingredients along with ginger root, which can help relieve mild nausea. As always, consult your veterinarian before administering any supplements or over-the-counter medications.



Lara Rosenbaum
Lara Rosenbaum is an award-winning journalist and writer, and one of the founding editors of Women's Health magazine. A longtime shelter volunteer and animal advocate, Lara is dog mom to Rosie, a small mix, and Toby, a mini poodle. She is also the human companion to a 31-year-old ex-racehorse named Wiz.

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