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Road Trip Tips for Your Dog

Updated on November 27, 2011

Casey our dog

Casey's First vacation

The holidays are coming soon and we got invited to go to the windy city,"Chicago." The logistics were simple before we got Casey. Now we have to plan either to kennel her or to take her on a road trip. The drive could potentially be 5-6 hours. My kids think we should kennel Casey. My host said we could bring the dog and crate her in her home. She is making an exception because Casey is so well behaved.

We will be staying in a hotel downtown. The hotel we are staying at does not allow dogs. My girlfriend has a dog named Lucy, who is about the same size and temperament, so they should get along well. But this will be the first time the two dogs meet. Casey has never traveled out of state by car, we have no idea how she will do. To ease my concerns of travel, I called my vet to ask for advice about travel. My vet recommended a soft crate. I had no idea they were used for travel. So I went online, did some research.

Soft Crate for Dog Travel

I chose the Canine Camper because of the various sizes it came in. Some of the crate reviews I read by users said, "Measure your dog height and length when laying down to know what size to get. They do not need space to walk around, but allow enough to lay and stretch." I like the idea that it folded flat for storage when not in use. You can also use it indoor or outdoor. It's narrow in width, which would allow me to fit 4- small suitcases in my Subaru my hatch-back. My soft crate from Amazon will be arrive sin several days.

Canine camper

We opened the doggie camper and it was easy to assemble. It took all of 5 minutes to pop the soft crate up. My dog is 25 lbs so I ordered the medium size one. I would recommend airing it out. It has a strong plastic smell. It has a handle on the top to open. There are removeable side flaps that attach by velcro for privacy and plenty of side pockets for bowl, toys and treats. Both ends zip up easily.

Casey was very reserved when she first saw it. I also had to think of a name to call this other crate.I discovered that it was a bit tricky to lead her inside. I had to pick a one syllable reference in order for her to learn the command. Casey knows the word crate. Will naming a second crate ,"crate confuse her?" I could call it,'Go Green!" I have to find a one syllable word to train her. You can name it anything, but keep it simple.

I am giving myself 4 weeks to get her aclimated, that means handing her 2 mini-treats each day and time she goes in and out of crate, 5 minute intervals of just 3x a day. The crate will be open in the family room so that she sees this as a positive experience. Then i will move the crate to my car and get her accustomed to the crate there.

Dog Travel Tips

Below are tips that I want to share with NEW pet owners

Tip 1: Take your dog on short car rides to run errands. Be sure not to leave the dog in the car in hot weather. The dog could suffocate from the heat.

Tip 2: Use a harness or a crate or soft crate. Dogs who sleep in their crates will feel more security in their crate when traveling long distance.

Tip 3: The vet can medicate the dog for travel but it may prove to be worse for the dog

Tip 4: Make sure you have the dogs shot up to date and bring a copy with you just incase you end up with a dog emergency.

Tip 5: Feed your Dog early, but keep it light and give your pet some water, 2 hours before the trip

Tip 6: Rehearse with the dog using the new soft crate or harness. This helps them aclimate to the new idea of travel. leave the harness out, have the dog sleep in the crate indoors and then more it to the car with her favorite blanket and toys.

Tip 7: Please stop every 2 hours to pee and stretch with the dog.

Tip 8: Do not let the dog stick its head out the window. If an accident were to occur your dog would be severly injured.

Tip 9: Pack your dog food in zip lock bags and bring a gallon of water. Do not allow your dog to drink road side rain puddles. It could be laden with parasites and oil slick from the road.

Tip 10: Do not feed the dog any food while the car is in motion. You could short stop and the dog could choke.

* Dab some lavendar oil on a small pillow and place it in the crate with your dog. The scent acts like aroma therapy and is calming for your pet.

Snafu about dog zipper

When I took the dog on a driving, test-run, somehow the dog managed to use her teeth and nose to push through a gap at zipper closing. She actually ruined the zipper and got out as I was driving. So now I am having Amazon send me another Canine Camper due to for a zipper defect.

Teeth ruined zipper. Zipper did not stay zipped.
Teeth ruined zipper. Zipper did not stay zipped.

Other Alternatives

I looked at dog seat-buckles with a tether. I think those are great if you want your dog to sit in the back seat. The dog can sit or laydown with a buckle on. It is great especially if you are at a rest stop and open the door. Your dog can not bolt out! BUT, with 2 kids in the back seat, it would not a be a comfortable long ride. The buckle system is great if I were traveling solo or running local errands to the store.

You can also vacation in hotels that allow pets. I haven't considered going that route yet. But I know others have.

Test Run Tidbit

Ok I would rather be know I can travel with my dog, than not for a 5-6 hour trip. I purchased a tether after she chewed the zipper. Casey does much better in a car with a harness and tether. Most suv's have a tether hook in the back. I shorted the tether to give her just enough slack to sit and laydown. You want to use a harness so that she doesn't choke in the back.

Also I am having Casey sleep in the camper the next several weeks at home."Repetition and feeling safe is my goal." The first night she slept in the soft crate was a huge success. She did not cry or wimper, or chew up anything. I think your pet has to have complete trust before all this can work. Casey trusts me as I am her Alpha leader. Once you have mastered this, I think it is a home run, no matter where you go on vacation, your pet knows the soft crate is indeed her save haven.

Calming aids

Some dogs just can't relax when a car is in motion. They pant. They pace. They are a wreck.

I discovered lavendar oil! You dab it near the nose area and on a small pillow or something soft she can lay on in the car. The aroma is therapeutic. Lavendar is a all natural remedy. It also works on people who need to relax. Many massage therapists use it for a relaxing massage.

Please do not put it on its paws. The dog will lick it away.


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    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 

      7 years ago from Sweden

      Many wonderful and useful tips here. I especially like how you write about the necessity to go slow and let them get acclimated. But it can be hard work to teach them if they are not used to being confined in small spaces.

      I hope the journey turned out well for you all! Voted up, useful and well done!


    • anupma profile image

      Dr Anupma Srivastava 

      7 years ago from India

      Fantastic tips that will be really helpful. Thanks for sharing.

    • alphagirl profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks so much for your comments. I want to be prepared. Dogs are unpredictable when they have fear. So my goal is to teach her calm and trust in a long car ride.I wonder what the dog whisperer would do?

    • jacqui2011 profile image


      7 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      Wow these are fantastic tips. You can tell that you care so much about your dog. Casey is a beautiful dog and lucky to have an owner like you, if only everyone treated their pets as you do the world would be a better place. Great idea getting your dog used to the soft crate before the day of travel. I have bookmarked for my friend. Wonderful hub which every dog owner should read. Voted up and useful.


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