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5 Things You Must Know About Traveling With Dogs

Updated on August 16, 2013

On the road again - my travel with 2 of my dogs from Maryland to Key West, Florida

I write this Squidoo article "5 things you must know about traveling with dogs" from pure experience. You see, my darling Mother whom I cared for 5 years died just last month at the ripe old age of 95. In the plans for a long time was an extended trip to Key West with two of my 6 dogs. But, if I had thought it through better, the road trip probably would have been more comfortable for my dogs and me and my friend, Sharyn, who came along.

Regardless, along the way, I picked up a tip (or 5) about traveling with pets. I'd like to share them with you below and give you a slight bonus of some fun pics I snapped along our journey. Come along for the ride (pun fully intended).

As you can see in the picture, Gizmo is usually fully contained while in my convertible. On this longer road trip to Florida though, we didn't have room for her own seat (I barely had room to pack her cool doggles!).

travelling with dogs
travelling with dogs

5 things you must know about traveling with dogs

Lesson #1: Keep your dogs safe in the car.

Keeping your pets safe while you travel should be the very first thing you think about when you pack up. For car travel, keeping pets safe means containing them (listen to what I type, not what I did...).

In the picture to the right, you can see that Killian, my Australian Shepherd, is contained in the back of my SUV behind a pet barrier (that's the thing to the right of his head - you'll see a full picture later in the Amazon link below, but wee Gizmo is, well, not. Gizmo is so small that she rode in the passenger's lap most of the way until we humans got antsy. Gizmo doesn't like being awakened so, if we're moving around too much in the car, she finds her own spot - perched on top of whatever that was she was lying on.

Note: one thing I learned is that riding in the lap of a passenger in a car is not the safest traveling spot for a pet. On the ride back, I will strap her into the seat with a seatbelt.

NEVER leave your dog in a closed up car - EVER! The inside of a car heats up much faster than you realize.

Pet harnesses for the car

I use a pet harness for my larger dogs while driving around in the convertible. It is imperative that dogs be safely contained when riding in convertibles or pick up trucks - there are many horror stories of dogs either being ejected from a vehicle or jumping out while the car is moving. Killian wears a seat belt always when in the back of the convertible.

Petco Premium Zipline Dog Seat Belt

Petco Premium Seat Belt Harness

Harness Dog Car Safety Seat Belt system Sm/Med 12-28

Pet tether for seat belt

When Killian is in the back of the convertible, I sometimes use this type of pet tether to attach him to the seatbelt clip.

PetBuckle Kwik-Connect Tether for the Universal Travel Harness Pet Seat Belt, 1-Inch by 20-Inch
PetBuckle Kwik-Connect Tether for the Universal Travel Harness Pet Seat Belt, 1-Inch by 20-Inch

Note: this type of pet containment product will allow your dog to move around more than a pet harness so make sure that you're comfortable with that.


If you have an SUV, a pet containment gate might be just what you need

Killian rode in the back of my SUV behind a pet containment gate like the ones shown below. The benefit of this type of pet containment system for traveling is that he had more freedom to move around yet was safely contained to the back of the car. Just make sure you put these things in the right way - they work on spring systems and they must be TIGHT in order to keep your dog back there (word of experience speaking here).

For small dogs, there's some interesting travel pet containment articles on the market

As can be seen in the picture at the top of this article, my littlest dog, Gizmo, rides in style. She's in a booster seat as she can't see out of the windows otherwise. The below are all wonderful ways to keep your little dogs comfortable for a long car ride. All of these dog booster seats have a clip which keeps your dog secure in the seat. They can sit or lie down.

Kyjen Outward Hound Pet Car Booster Seat, Deluxe Faux-Leather, Small, Gray

Solvit Tagalong Pet Booster Seat, Standard, Medium

Kurgo 00044 Skybox Pet Booster Seat

traveling with dogs
traveling with dogs

5 things you must know about traveling with dogs

Lesson #2: Plan for plenty of rest stops

Particularly if you're traveling with your dog in a convertible, or driving with the windows down, you dog may get easily dehydrated so plenty of rest stops are in order. At each stop, find the proper place to let your dog relieve himself - underneath a picnic table is not the appropriate spot. Most highway rest stops have a designated area to walk your dog. And, please, clean up after you dog. In fact, if you wander into an area where someone didn't clean up after their dog, do us all a favor and pick that up too.

Plan enough time at the rest stop to allow your dog to drain some energy. In the picture below, I put a backpack on Killian to help do exactly that so he wasn't quite as antsy in the car. In fact, he carries his own poop bags and water bottle.

At each rest stop, make sure to give your dog fresh water. The below items make it easy to feed and water your pets while you're on the road.

Tip: Pet fees are usually negotiable. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Traveling with dogs. Do you?

This trip to Key West is my longest trip with dogs - I previously took Killian to Vermont to a dog camp for a week but that was only 11 hours. This trip was 23 total!

Have you ever traveled with your dog(s)?

See results
pet friendly hotels
pet friendly hotels

5 things you must know about traveling with dogs

Lesson #3: Be prepared for additional fees for overnight hotel stays

Boy, was I ill prepared for this one! I had absolutely NO idea that it was so expensive to take a dog along to a hotel! I ran into fees as high as $80 in Atlanta to bring Gizmo and Killian into the hotel. If I had been better prepared, I could have saved some money but I wasn't so I did! You don't have to be though. Here's a few excellent links to help you plan your pet friendly hotel stay - call beforehand and check the pet fee. Note: if the hotel personnel mention a "pet deposit," you'd better ask if you get it back after your stay. Some pet deposits are just "pet fees."

Allow plenty of time for rest stops - after all, the journey is half the fun.

Allow plenty of time for rest stops - after all, the journey is half the fun.
Allow plenty of time for rest stops - after all, the journey is half the fun.

5 things you must know about traveling with pets

Lesson #4: Don't let your dog hang out the window of the car when you drive

Contrary to the picture shown, I do not allow my dogs to hang their heads out the windows of my cars (that picture was taken on the way to my very secluded cabin in WV at about 5 mph which doesn't matter - but, Killian does love a good sunroof). Anyway, when I take the dogs in the convertible, top down, I always protect their eyes with goggles.

Don't just buy a pair of goggles though, put them on the dog and expect them to stay - they won't. You must acclimate the dog to the goggles - do this by putting them on the dog and immediately giving them something to eat that will take them a while, such as peanut butter or a tasty bone.

It's all fun and games until somebody ends up in a cone

It's all fun and games until somebody ends up in a cone
It's all fun and games until somebody ends up in a cone

5 things you must know about traveling with dogs

Lesson #5: Understand that your dog may not know what's going on

On the way to Key West, Killian (who is extremely smart) became very clingy to and protective of me. As I started to correct his behavior, it dawned on me that he was unsure of his current role. After all, I'd put him in a car, driven 8 hours a day for 2 days and expected him to act in a normal manner when we stopped. Instead of strongly correcting him, I started just ignored some of the bad behavior and it went extinguished itself. He is slowly becoming more confident as we sit in our house in Key West. In fact, about 20 minutes ago, he got pecks by a chicken who was protecting her chicks (I didn't see her coming) and all he did was look at me like "shouldn't you be handling these situations?"

Your dog may also revert a bit in a new environment so, if you're renting a place, walk your dog through the home or room on a lead and do not allow him or her to spot. There night have been other dogs in the house which will make your dog want to cover the scent but make SURE to not allow it. In fact, you'd be better off taking Fido for a long walk before even entering the house so that he or she is at least "empty."

Some good books about traveling with pets

I am always a fan of education and studied up a bit before we hit the road and started traveling down 95S with my dogs. The below are great books on the subject.

My other articles about dogs

Dogs have always been a very important part of my life. So is writing. So, when you mix the two, you end up with the below articles:

travelling with dogs
travelling with dogs

Dealing with carsick dogs

I received an excellent comment on this article from Chazz - what do you do about pets who become carsick? I'm lucky in that all 6 of my dogs travel well but here's a few tips if you're not quite as lucky.

1. Make sure your dog can see out a window. This works with people who get motion sickness also - it helps to see the horizon. If you have a small dog, make sure to get one of those booster seats I show above.

2. If you know your dog gets carsick, see a vet. There are some items on the market with which you can per-medicate your pet before your trip to help relive carsickness.

3. To help a dog who gets carsick, start with very small trips, like around your block and work up to longer distances. If you see your dog start to drool, pull over and walk him for a bit before continuing the journey.

4. Keep a baggie of wet paper towels handy to clean up accidents if they happen. Also, a stack of newspaper on the car seat or floor may help the clean up process.

5. Get a cover for your car seat, like those shown below. These covers protect your upholstery from accidents, mud, water, you name it.

Pet covers for your car's seats

If you do have dogs who become carsick, you should invest in at least 2 of these seat covers - if one becomes soiled, simply put on the other one. These covers are great if your dog lives to wallow in mud or get into the water too.

We safely made our 1250 mile journey to Key West where we will stay for 6 wonderful weeks. Please leave me comments and I'll give Gizmo and Killian a bone for each one.

Got dogs?

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    • mariacarbonara profile image


      5 years ago

      Pet harnesses are a good idea. Makes sense thinking about it, if people need seat belts then pets do too. Good lens

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      6 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Really enjoyed this. Our dog travels all over the island with us, but the only other mode of transportation we would have is either by plane or boat.

    • chezchazz profile image


      7 years ago from New York

      Great tips and adorable photos - I would add that even if it is not the first trip you're making with a dog, s/he may get carsick so be prepared just in case.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      or a better title for the next article: A Dog's Guide to Key West.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      If you get lots of comments, then Gizmo and Killian are going to get plump.

      You've covered the topic well. (next article: Key West for Dogs)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Terrific article with great tips for traveling. I love the photos of your dogs especially the intro one. Priceless! Blessed!


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