Driving Long-Distance with Your Dog

Best practices for safe long-distance travel with your dog in a car.


If you’ve made the decision to drive long-distance with your dog, you should be aware that there are a number of factors that can make car travel fairly dangerous for your dog. Keep your dog safe during car travel by employing the following travel tips:

  • Make sure your dog is safely restrained in a quality pet-restraint car harness and seat belt or a properly strapped-down travel crate. This keeps everyone safer, as your dog can’t accidentally interfere with the driver, and your dog is considerably safer in the event of an accident. (See WDJ’s dog car harness review in the May 2021 issue. Owners of small dogs should check out “Small Dog Car Safety” for a review of the safest small dog car seat on the market.)

The safest travel crates differ significantly from ordinary household crates, and are designed to withstand being crushed or flying apart in car crashes. Some have “escape doors” built into the front sides, in case the back of a car has been hit in a rear-end collision. All of them are meant to be used in conjunction with a car’s safety anchors. These crates provide the maximum security for a dog in a car.

  • Make sure your dog is wearing current identification and has a microchip registered with your current information.
  • Carry a copy of vaccine records, medical history, and a current photo – just in case your dog needs medical care, or worse, is lost while traveling. Research options for veterinary care at your destination in advance.
  • Keep your dog on a leash whenever you are outside of safely enclosed areas. You never know what might frighten away or attract your dog in a new place.
  • It should go without saying, but do not leave your dog alone in the car in warm or hot weather. It’s best not to leave your dog alone in the car at all, but if you must, for very short periods, only do so in cool weather, and make sure your dog will remain safely in the vehicle.
  • Offer frequent potty breaks and opportunities for your dog to stretch his legs. Consider splitting long trips into shorter stops that allow you both to enjoy the journey a bit more.

If spending several days on the road with your dog seems like it would be hard on him (or you!), you may want to reconsider air travel. See “How to Travel With a Dog on a Plane” for more information.