Summer Road Trips with Your Dog—What You Need to Know

Factoring your dog’s health, safety and comfort into your travel plans makes for a summer road trip that’s fun and stress-free.

Over 100 million Americans will be taking road trips with their dogs this summer. If you’re among them, boning up on your canine travel IQ will help your best friend stay safe, healthy, and comfortable. With the right preparations and a few precautions, you and your four-legged friend will be able to relax and enjoy your time on the road, wherever you’re headed.


It’s important to answer the following four questions when considering a road trip for you and your dog.

  1. Is your dog healthy and able to travel with you? It’s a good idea to have her checked over by your veterinarian before taking her on a road trip, just to be sure she’s fit and well. Dogs that are very young, elderly or frail, as well as those suffering from chronic disorders like heart, liver, and kidney disease, are best left at home in the care of a trusted friend or family member.
  2. Is she well trained? Basic obedience is essential. Your dog should be well-behaved, able to walk calmly on a loose leash, and come promptly when called. She should also be able to wait at doors for your permission to enter and exit, so she doesn’t run other people down.
  3. Will you be staying at accommodations either en route or at your destination? If so, check ahead of time to make sure they accept animals. A growing number of hotels, motels, parks, campgrounds, and resorts have opened their doors to animals, and many offer canine-friendly perks that run the gamut from designer pet pillows and “gourmutt” menus to canine yoga and other activities for dogs. Wherever you’re going, familiarize yourself with the rules and protocols surrounding canine guests.
  4. Do you have everything you’ll need for your dog’s health and safety? Make a checklist and include the following when you pack:
  • ID tags with your home address and the address of your destination
  • Collar, harness and leash
  • Veterinary records
  • Necessary medications and/or supplements
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Supply of your dog’s regular food and water
  • A health certificate from your vet, if you’re travelling out of state

Hint: Many accommodations require up-to-date vaccines. Find out beforehand if they will accept titer testing in lieu of annual boosters.


Today’s canine travel gear is designed to optimize your dog’s safety and comfort while riding in the car. Take your time choosing travel accessories, including a good quality doggy seatbelt and/or a crate or carrier (depending on the size of your dog). Dogs should not be loose inside the car. Not only can this cause driver distraction, but it could result in the dog being seriously injured or even killed in the event of an accident.

Hint: Other canine travel accessories include spill-free water bowls that attach to your car’s interior.

Finally, grab a few of your dog’s favorite toys and a favorite blanket or two. Having something familiar in the back seat with her will help your dog relax and enjoy the trip more.


Get your dog accustomed to his seatbelt or carrier before heading out on your trip, so he’ll be as calm and comfortable as possible. This is invaluable and helps reduce stress for both your dog and yourself, whether you’re traveling to the next town or across the country. Take a few short drives around the neighbourhood in the days or weeks leading up to the trip so your dog gets used to his crate or seatbelt.

Hint: Another way to help reduce stress is to allow extra time for stops every few hours, so your dog can take a potty break and stretch his legs (be sure to clean up after him!)

If your dog is still anxious or overexcited in the car, consider these holistic remedies:

  • A combination of Chamomile and Blue Cypress essential oils (highest quality oils only!) works like a charm for many anxious dogs. Apply a few drops to your dog’s coat two or three times a day as needed.
  • Rescue Remedy or Bach’s Five Flower Formula are safe and effective flower essences. A few drops can be added to your dog’s food or water. You can also administer the drops directly into his mouth, or rub them into the hairless inner part of his ears.
  • Offer your dog a piece of ginger snap – it makes a tasty treat and helps relieve nausea.

Hint: Avoid tranquilizers, if possible. They lower blood pressure, which can be risky, especially for older dogs and those with heart problems.


If you’re staying at a hotel or other form of accommodation with your dog, be courteous and follow the rules so animals will continue to be welcomed. Before you leave home, give her a good grooming and trim her nails so she’s clean and neat. Your dog should also be obedient and quiet, and not be allowed to bark excessively. Again, remember to always pick up after her, especially if she has an accident indoors.

Hint: The bottom line is: don’t let your dog be a nuisance, say thank you, and tip generously.

A summer road trip with your dog is a great way to strengthen your bond and spend quality time together. By making proper plans and preparations in advance, ensuring your dog is trained and well-behaved, and providing him with everything he needs to stay safe, comfortable and happy, both on the road and at your destination, you’ll have a great time and come home barkin’ for more!


Carol Osborne, DVM

Veterinarian Dr. Carol Osborne is a Board-Certified Diplomate of the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine, and has pioneered the exploration of new therapies for the treatment and prevention of age-related degenerative disease, as well as optimum health and performance for pets. She created and patented PAAWS (Pet Anti-Aging Wellness System) and authored Naturally Healthy Dogs and Naturally Healthy Cats. An Emmy-nominated television journalist, she has made frequent appearances on Good Day L.A., Discovery\’s Animal Planet and more. She operates the Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center & Pet Clinic in Ohio (, 440-247-5901 or [email protected]).

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