Top 10 Tips for Travelling Long Distances in the Car with Your Dog

June 27th, 2017 by Daniel Mudrick

Visiting friends and family, taking a road trip, or scoping out a new city – long car trips are part of life in Ontario.

Whether you’re going for a day, a weekend, or several weeks, lots of pet parents want to take their pup along for the trip rather than getting a dog-sitter (or putting Rover up in a fancy dog-hotel). After all, having your dog with you makes the trip more fun and saves you the worry of whether they’re being properly cared for back at home.

We’re all for including your dog in your adventures, and we want to help you get your furry friend from point A to B safely. Check out our tips below!

10 Tips for Driving Long Distances with Your Dog

     1. Crate Your Dog (Or Use an Effective Harness/Seat Belt)

Your dog may be used to roaming free in the car on short trips around your neighbourhood, but for long distances (and truly, we would recommend this for always) it’s a good idea to crate them. It’s safer for them and less distracting for you.

If you’re using a crate, make sure it’s well secured and not sliding around.

     2. Never Leave Your Dog in a Parked Car

Cars get really hot in hot weather and they get really cold during cold weather. Dogs left alone in cars can die from the heat or freeze to death, depending on the season – so just don’t do it. 

      3. Bring Bedding and Toys

You’ll need them when you get to your destination, but if it’s a long trip make sure your pup has something comfortable to sit on and something fun to chew on (but nothing that will be distracting for you – we’re looking at you, squeaky toys).

     4. Don’t Let Your Dog Near the Antifreeze or Windshield Fluid

You need these chemicals for driving, but they’re deadly to your dog if they consume it. Keep your dog away from the antifreeze and windshield fluid bottles at all times; make sure they aren’t able to get at them in the back seat or the trunk.

     5. Don’t Feed Right Before Travel

A dog with a full tummy can get sick during a long car ride, so try to feed them at least four hours before you head out on the road. If you’re on-the-go and it’s time for your dog’s dinner, make a stop and give you dog a bit of time to digest before getting back in the car.

     6. Take Your Pup for a Long Walk Before You Go (and Along the Way)

A long walk or some running around in the dog park will give your dog much-needed exercise before they are stuck in a car for hours on end. With enough playtime beforehand, they may be happy to sleep for most of the trip! You’ll also want to take them out for a bathroom break right before you leave.

Of course, frequent bathroom breaks along the way are also helpful.

     7. Use Medication-Free Anti-Anxiety Solutions

We recommend using anti-anxiety treatments for your dog for the trip, if they get nervous or anxious. This is the same for many people who are ‘white knuckle fliers’ – sometimes you need something to help with the upset.

If your dog gets anxious on long car trips, we also suggest a ThunderShirt. It’s a fear-free, medication-free method of calming your dog that helps them relax when stressed. It is a shirt that applies gentle, constant pressure on a dog’s torso. Learn more about the ThunderShirt.

     8. Treat Car Sickness, If That’s a Problem for Your Dog

Most dogs are perfectly happy on car trips, but some dogs get car sick just like people. If your dog has had car sickness in the past, ask your vet about anti-nausea medication ahead of time. Remember, we can feel nausea without actually vomiting, so read your dog’s body language.

     9. Plan for Pet-Friendly Accommodations

With a dog on-board, you’ll want to make sure any hotels, motels, or campsites you’ll be stopping at along your way are pet-friendly, so research beforehand! Some places have specific rules for pets, restrictions on certain types of pets, or fees.

     10. Update Your Dog’s ID

You don’t want to worry about a missing dog on your trip – but if your dog does go missing somewhere far from home, it’s critical for them to have current ID. Make sure the ID has your cell number on it.  

Also double-check that their microchip identification is tied to your current phone numbers and email. At our vet hospital, we place a microchip in all dogs and cats at the time of spay/neuter, at no additional cost, for the best chance of return in case your loved one gets lost.

Have Fun!

With these tips, you’ll be able to have a great road trip with your furry buddy and enjoy all the adventures that await you both!


Clarkson Village Animal Hospital is open 24/7 for pet emergencies – whether you are a regular client or a road-tripping visitor from far away. If you are about to go on a trip with your dog, book a check-up before you leave!

Check out our step-by-step guide: How to Introduce Cats and Dogs So They’ll Get Along!

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About Daniel Mudrick

I'm the owner and founder of Clarkson Village Animal Hospital, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital that's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Clarkson Village Animal Hospital has always been a dream of mine, and by caring for one patient at a time, the hospital has continued to grow. During those rare times when I'm not at the hospital, I'm at yoga, hiking, gardening, and spending time with my family. I also enjoy reading to stay current on the most recent advances in veterinary medicine.

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