Traveling with Your Dog in the Car

Most dogs love traveling by car. Dogs are natural nomads; and they want to be with their humans all day long. The car is like a house on wheels for them. Learn how to travel with your dog by car and how to make it safe so that you and your dog will look forward to the open road.

Safe car travel is best achieved by using a sturdy carrier. The carrier, for small dogs can be either a soft sided pet airline carry-on bag or a small crate and either should be strapped to the seatbelt so it cannot move in the case of an accident or a swerve. The back center seat is the safest location. Larger dogs can be secured in the cargo area of a van, SUV or station wagon by the installation of a safe, strong wire mesh fence that prevents them from being launched into the seating area in the case of a sudden stop.

Seating: No ordinances govern traveling with your dog in a car, but allowing your dog to sit on your lap is probably not giving him the safest place. He will be crushed between the airbag and yourself in case of a collision. Allowing him to roam about makes for instability for him and distractions for you. Various pet product companies make comfortable, padded, high-sided travel seats that can be seat belted down and these present a comfortable travel platform. Whichever carrier or seating you use, introduce it to you dog cheerfully and use it consistently.

Dog Seat Belts: Various companies manufacture padded, seat belt straps for dogs that are similar to the "Y" straps on infant car seats. None of these have proven to be entirely safe as the straps can dig into the dog's skin during an accident.

Windows: Under no circumstances should you dog be allowed to drive with his head outside the window. Yes, dogs love the feel of wind on their faces and they love their tongues flapping in the breeze, but particles of grit in the air can damage your dog's corneas and an unexpected bump could throw a front-heavy dog from the car. The open cargo bed of a pick up truck is a simply unacceptable and irresponsible location for a dog no matter how many Hollywood films depict this method. If you have a convertible, put the top up when traveling with all but the most docile dogs.

Motion Sickness: Some dogs get car sick. There are few car travel tips that will help dogs who find car travel nauseating. Unless you must transport an easily nauseated dog by car, do think twice about taking such a doggy anywhere. It's just torture. If you must take such a dog out, make sure he has eaten no more than 5 hours before the drive and try to keep him calm and focused by giving him a new toy. If he can lie quietly chewing on a rubber kong, he might not become as sick. Your vet can help with meds when necessary.

Food And Water: Do remember to bring a snack, water and a bowel for your dog. The excitement of car travel makes your dog pant, panting makes him need to drink.

Walks: Drinking makes him want to take a walk. Before opening the car door to walk a traveling pet, make sure his leash is secure and scan the area for other traveling dogs. Hole the leash tightly as you get out. You do not want anything to cause him to bolt, especially near a roadway.

Leaving Your Dog In The Car: Don't do it. If you absolutely must, do crack the windows, but not enough for an arm to enter and release your dog from your custody. Since dogs left alone in a car have come to so many undesirable fates, you will have to think very carefully and monitor all conditions wisely before leaving your dog in the car, even for a few minutes.

About the Author: Helen Fazio and her dog Raja blog on pet travel and related topics at In their first book, "The Journey of the Shih Tzu," Raja tells the wolf to woof story of the development of this amazing breed. They are working on forthcoming titles.

Photo: Br1