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How To Travel Long Distance With A Dog in the Car

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Some dogs love long road trips, while others quiver at the very thought of getting into a car.

Either way, if you want to travel long distance with your dog in a car, then careful planning and attentiveness before and during the trip is needed.

Read on for our tips on how to travel long distances with a dog in the car.

How To Travel Long Distance With A Dog in the Car

Before travelling…

Ensure you’ve packed everything on your dog travel packing list

To keep your dog comfortable during the long road trip and once you’ve finally arrived at your destination, you need to ensure you’ve packed everything they’ll need during their trip.

To help, we’ve published a dog travel packing list, which you can even print off if you want to.

If travelling with puppies, wait until their vaccinations are complete

Although it’s okay to travel with puppies providing you get them used to car journeys ahead of any long road trips, you must wait until all their vaccinations are complete.

This will normally be by the time they’re roughly 14 weeks old.

It’s also recommended to wait until your puppy is fully house-trained so that you don’t rack up a huge hotel bill!

Get them used to shorter road trips first

A quick drive to the shops, to the vets, to a different doggie park or even to puppy training classes ensures that your dog gets used to car journeys as best as they can.

And ideally, some trips should take them somewhere fun and exciting, so that they learn that the car is a good thing.

You should spend 1-2 months ahead of your trip getting your dog used to being in the car and driving around.

What to Wear in Bude, Cornwall

Use a windscreen shade before getting in the car

Even if it’s not a particularly hot day, temperatures inside cars can still be much higher than outside temperatures.

Therefore, it’s recommended to place a sunshade inside your windscreen ahead of travelling (ideally the night before) so that it’s a bit cooler inside the car.

Use sunshades for your back windows too

You should also get some sunshades for the back windows as well so that your dog won’t be sitting in patches of sun during the car journey.

As above for windscreens, install these the night before your trip.

Tire your dog out ahead of the journey

By ensuring your dog has used up all of their pent-up energy, he’ll be more likely to just go to sleep in the car.

So encourage your dog to let off some steam in the local doggie park or field — play ball, fetch, chase, anything you can think of to get them sprinting around!

Kai & Scott at Oldbury Court Estate

While travelling…

Keep them entertained

If you’ve not been able to tire your dog out before the journey, then they’ll need to be kept thoroughly entertained.

Keep the radio on if you’re not talking for the whole journey, and let your dog chew on an antler bone, a kong filled with tasty treats or another of their favourite toys.

The act of chewing alone should tire them out after a while.

Have lots of toilet breaks!

Unlike children, dogs can’t tell us when they need to do their business, but dogs also need more fresh air when travelling than humans as they can’t cool themselves down.

Therefore, have lots of toilet breaks along the way (every 90 minutes to 2 hours is a good rule of thumb to have, although this will need to be shortened if your dog is less used to long road trips).

When you arrive, you should also let your dog do their business as soon as possible — even the most toilet-trained dogs might go inside if they’re desperate.

We mention this last point as it’s very easy to forget this when all you want to do is unpack your car and grab a cup of tea!

Kai chewing his bone

Carry plenty of water

When travelling in cars, dogs will likely need lots of water. You should ensure you have enough to cover the full journey plus some extra in case of traffic or delays.

We usually travel with a full 2-litre bottle (just for our dog), plus a bit extra in a travel water bottle.

And while we’re on the subject, it’ll make things easier for you if you buy a bottle that has a bowl compartment attached to it so the dog can almost drink straight from the bottle.

Safety first! Don’t forget your doggie seatbelt or car hammock

Safety should always come first!

There are a number of products out there that are perfect for dogs and their car safety.

For short car trips, dog seat belts are easy (and quick) to put on and take off, while longer trips call for a full harness or a car hammock (the latter being the safest and most comfortable option for your dog).

Keep them comfortable with a blanket or bed

You’d be surprised at how much easier it will be for your dog to settle down in your car if they’ve got something comfortable and soft with their smell on with them.

You could pop their bed or their blanket into the car with them and let them snuggle into it, or you could also try a specialist boot/travel dog bed like this one from Scruffs®.

It’s ever so plush and has a cover that rolls down in order to protect your car when your dog jumps into it. 

And when you arrive at your dog friendly destination…

Take it easy!

If this is your dog’s first trip, or if you’re travelling with a puppy, then be sure to take it easy when you arrive at your destination.

Your dog will need some time to get used to the new smells that come with a hotel, B&B or other dog friendly accommodation. They’ll also need plenty of naps throughout the holiday.

Treat the first few holidays like a staycation

It also helps to treat your first few holidays like a staycation.

By all means, have some days out, but keep them to a half-day with plenty of rest (and a couple of dog walks) throughout the rest of the day.

Keep your dog cool

When travelling in warmer weather, your dog may need a helping hand to keep cool.

We used to take electric fans with us, which did work well, but we’ve since tested out this cool mat, which is even better. Unlike an electric fan, it doesn’t need to be plugged in and lays flat.

If it starts to lose its coolness, all you need to do is leave it at room temperature for about an hour and it naturally cools right down again. Our dog loves it!

A Few Final Words

Scruffs® kindly gifted us the boot/travel dog bed and cooling mat we’ve mentioned above in exchange for this blog post.

However, we would never recommend something to you that we haven’t used or love ourselves.

As always, what we have written about these products and everything else in this blog post is entirely our opinion and based on our own rigorous product testing!

We hope these tips are useful for your next long road trip with your dog. We’d love to know where you’re travelling to with your dog in the car — just pop a few notes down in the comments below!

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Justine Jenkins

Justine is one half of the married couple behind the Wanderers of the World travel blog. She lives in Bristol, UK and has travelled extensively within Europe and beyond since 2013. After her trips, she shares detailed travel itineraries, helpful travel guides and inspiring blog posts about the places she's been to. When she's not travelling overseas, you'll find her joining her husband, Scott on various day trips, weekend getaways and walks within the UK, which she also writes about on Wanderers of the World. Aside from travelling and writing, she also loves reading, crafting and learning about nature.

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