A Guide to Bringing the Dog Along for the Family Road Trip

Summer is just around the corner and this year, thousands of people will hit the road for the next family vacation. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are approximately 77.5 million dogs living in American households meaning that 39 percent of U.S. households have at least one dog. With statistics like these, the odds are likely that you may have a fun loving canine of your own. Dogs are great to have around but can sometimes pose a problem when it comes to travel. You could always board your beloved pet while you are away on vacation but more and more people each year choose to take their dogs with them when they travel. If you have never traveled with your dog before, or even if you have and need a refresher, please read the tips below to ensure that you and your beloved companion have the most enjoyable and stress free trip possible.

Health and Safety

You wouldn’t enjoy a vacation if your children were ill and not feeling well and the same goes for your dog. While you can’t always prevent things from happening while on your trip, you can take the best precautions before you leave to ensure that everyone is healthy and happy. The most important things to remember regarding your pet’s health is to ensure that they are current on their vaccinations. You will be stopping several times along the way to let your dog out to stretch his legs and take potty breaks and you have to keep in mind that other travelers are doing the same thing with their dogs. Whether we like it or not, not all pet owners keep their dogs up to date on vaccinations and because of this, your dog could come into contact with diseases and parasites left behind by previous dogs. It’s also a good idea to take your dog to the vet for a wellness check and make sure to pack any special medications or food. Also keep in mind that traveling will be slightly stressful for your dog and he may become car or motion sick along the journey. If this happens, do not make a big deal of it and do not punish the dog as it is something that he has no control over. One way to possibly eliminate or avoid car sickness is to allow the dog to ride on an empty stomach but make sure to keep him properly hydrated.

A crate is a great way of keeping your dog safe in the car and can also be transferred to your hotel room as a safe place for him to stay during the day and sleep at night, this will keep him from tearing the hotel room up when you can’t keep a constant eye on him! It is important however, to note that if your dog is not previously crate trained, now is not the time to do so.

In the car

If your dog has not been acclimated to the car, you may want to take some time to do this. The car is not a natural thing for dogs and, while some of them take to it quickly, they do not all immediately enjoy riding in the car. You may want to start by putting the dog in the car with you and just sitting stationery for a few moments. After the dog has calmed down and enters and exits the car with ease, you can start taking him on short trips. While in motion, do not allow him to stick his head out the window as this can lead to eye and nasal injuries. Make sure that you stop frequently to allow of potty breaks and a chance to stretch. This is just as important for you as it is the dog and he will travel happier and more relaxed if he is allowed several breaks throughout the trip. Finally, and most importantly, NEVER leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle regardless of the temperature outside. While there will be certain times that you can not take the dog out of the car, make sure to designate at least one adult to stay with the dog until you have returned.


Make sure that you have checked prior to departure that the lodging of your choice allows dogs. More and more hotel chains are becoming pet friendly and will welcome your pet to stay, usually with some sort of fee or deposit that may or may not be refundable. Also keep in mind that it’s probably not a good idea to leave the dog unattended in the hotel room unless completely necessary. A hotel room is unfamiliar territory to your dog and is full of new sights, sounds, and smells. It’s a plethora of exciting new things to explore and your pooch will want to check everything out at once and may not have any respect for the hotel draperies or carpet in the midst of discovering new things. Hotels can also be scary places for dogs and they may react to every sound and smell in an unwanted manner. Many dogs feel like they are the protector of the family and, because of this, may feel threatened by any odd sounds or smells and may bark or whine excessively in an attempt to “defend” his temporary dwelling.


No one likes to think about it but the fact of the matter is, when traveling with your dog, there is always a chance that he may become lost. We all hope that we don’t have to deal with this but it’s best to be prepared in the event that we are faced with a situation where we become separated from our beloved pet. Making sure that your dog is properly identified is your first step to increasing your chance of recovery in the event your dog is lost. Make sure that your pet is wearing a sturdy collar that can not easily slip off his head and has the proper identification tags attached. At the very minimum the collar should have a copy of the rabies tag given to you after you have your dog vaccinated. This tag has the contact information for your vet as well as a number that is entered in a database and linked to your contact information. In addition to the rabies tag, you can also purchase personalized tags from many pet stores that allow you to put the dogs name and your contact information directly on the tag. You may also want to consider a more permanent form of identification such as a microchip which is painlessly imbedded under the dog’s skin and can be scanned by any vet clinic or animal shelter which will automatically alert them of your name, phone number, and address.

Taking the family dog along on vacation can be fun for everyone, including the dog. If you take advice from some of the tips stated above, your trip can not only be fun and adventurous, but safe and stress free as well!

“US Pet Ownership Statistics”, The Humane Society of the US.