Tips for Taking Your Dog on a Road Trip

National Dog Day is August 26; here are some important reminders on how to travel safely with your beloved fur baby.



A family are posing for a picture in the countryside at the back of their car. Mother and dad are posing with their two children and their dog. A scenic landscape can be seen in the background.

Photo by: SolStock


By: Jacquelyn McGilvray

If you and your family – four-legged members included – plan on taking an end-of-summer trip, make sure you’ve got what you need to ensure the trip is comfortable for your pet.

3 Reasons to Make a Trip to the Vet First

Reason one: Make sure your dog is up-to-date on their vaccines and flea treatments. You don’t want worry about if his rabies shot is still good after he has an accidental skirmish with some wildlife, or in case he meets up with a sick pup at a rest stop. Reason two: Get an extra copy of those immunization records and bring them with you. In case your pooch does get sick, you’ll be ready if you have to visit another vet while away from home. Also, if you plan on camping, many state parks require proof of immunizations in order to stay there. Reason three: If it’s your pet is prone to car sickness, you can pick up some anti-nausea medicine. 

Photo by: Alison Turner

Alison Turner

Get Them Use to the Car

If your dog isn’t a frequent traveler, get him use to the backseat by making small trips around the neighborhood or to the dog park. Dr. Jason Nicholas, president and Chief Medical Officer of, suggests making time for some pre-trip games in the car: "With the car turned off, just take their favorite toy and throw it in the car and let them get it. Then, give them a treat when they get out." He suggests doing that for a few minutes every day for a few days leading up to the trip. "You just want them to start seeing the car as a fun thing, because it should be."

Tips for Traveling With Pets 01:01

Watch these tips on keeping your pet safe and happy during a road trip.

Buckle Up

Pets love fresh air, and we all giggle a little at the sight of a furry face and sloppy tongue drooling out the window. But don’t do it. Buy a harness or carrier that can be belted in, or a crate and have your dogs seated in the backseat or cargo area. This will keep them and you safe. Dr. Nicholas says it's the safest place for your pet. "Unrestrained dogs are a huge, huge safety risk." 



A portrait of a purebred Dachshund sitting in the early morning grass looking at the camera. She is a short haired dappled piebald color of brown and white, she also has blue eyes. She is a rescue and living happily ever after with her new mom, her name is Pretzel.

Photo by: cmannphoto


Tag + Chips

Before you set out, make sure your pooch's microchip is up to date (if you haven't gotten your little one chipped, do that ASAP.) Also, get an additional tag for the trip, one that has your cell phone number and perhaps a friend or family member in the area you're visiting. 

 Travel with dogs

Travel with dogs

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Pack Their Suitcase

It’ll make your life easier if you keep all of your pet’s needs in one bag. Including food, toys, poop bags, brush, treats, as well as their favorite bed or blanket. Having familiar items like their favorite blanket or nap rug will help comfort your pet if the trip becomes stressful. 

Don’t Forget Your Pet’s First-Aid Kit

Add a few things to your human first-aid kit to make it pet-ready. suggests you stock it with an ACE bandage, blood-clotting powder (ClotIt is a favorite of vets), a flea comb and tick remover, Benadryl, a bottle of saline eye rinse and tweezers and gauze. Download the American Red Cross's Pet First Aid app, it gives suggestions on what to do in a number of common pet emergency situations, and includes a list of veterinary medical providers across the United States.



German Shorthaired Pointer drinking water after field training

Photo by: studioportosabbia


Know the Weather

Your dog can get overheated fast in summer months, faster than you do. It’s important to keep them cool and supply them more water than you think is necessary. And obviously, don’t leave your pet in a hot car. For winter months, remember to bring extra blankets and doggie sweaters. 

Enjoying the Sunset at Factory Buttes of Utah

Enjoying the Sunset at Factory Buttes of Utah

Max and I stumbled across a huge amount of public lands in Utah near Coral Reef National Park. Here we are enjoying the sunset on top of Campy in the Factory Buttes of Utah.

Photo by: Alison Turner

Alison Turner

Get Out of the Car, Often

Traveling with a pet means you are not going to make your land-speed record to your destination. Don’t even think of it. Your dog needs time to get out and stretch their legs. Experts suggest a 15- to 30-minute break every four hours. Having a routine is important to your pet. So, try to keep to your regular walking times and feeding times. If your dog is a social creature, there are several free apps out there that will help you find dog parks along your route.

Make Sure Pets Are Allowed

More often than not, dogs are not allowed at national and state parks. Do your research so you won’t be disappointed about the restrictions when you get there. National forests and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) properties are more likely to allow pets. You can find out via their website at

Camping with Your Dog

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Travel photographer Alison Turner shares her favorite dog-friendly camping spots.

Camping With Dogs

Not all state and National Parks campgrounds allow dogs but many do. It's not covered in standard park admission, but, for an additional fee, you can pitch a tent and cuddle up with your best furry friend.

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

This is one of the few National Monuments that allow dogs to backcountry camp with you. For just $3, Max and I snuggled in our tent and watched the sunset.

Photo By: Alison Turner

Tahoe National Forest, California

The William Kent Campground ($28 per night) in Tahoe National Forest is a great camping spot for dogs. After a long day of traveling, Max and I took a hammock break to swing between the trees.

Photo By: Alison Turner

Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley is a magical place. It's even more magical since camping with your dog is free at the Wildrose Campground.

California Coast

Kirk Creek campsite in Big Sur is situated over a bluff. Camping along the California coast is pricey (around $35) but the views are worth it. Max checked out the view here from the pop top.

Hot Springs in California

Along Highway 395 in Northern California, you can find many hot springs that are free and open to the public. The hunt to find them is worth the reward of lounging in the natural hot tub.

The Wave, Arizona

Some parks and attractions are so popular they offer camping permits through a lottery system. Max and I went to the ranger station early one morning at The Wave and were lucky enough to win one of 10 permits given out that day. Dogs are welcome at The Wave with an additional fee. The three-mile hike each way was completely worth taking the chance on the lottery.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

For a $10 entrance fee and $20 camping fee, we got to wake up with this sunrise at the Valley of Fire. Max prefered watching comfortably inside of the pop top while I got a better view outside perched up on a red rock.

Photo By: Alison Turner

Alvord Dessert, Oregon

Max loves wide open spaces with sand. When we're traveling, I will seek out these types of places so he can run around and I don’t have to worry about coyotes or cars. This was the case here at the Alvord Desert in Southeast Oregon. Even better: It's free to camp with a dog.

Jasper National Park, Canada

I have a life jacket in the van at all times for Max in case we are able to rent a boat or go swimming. At Honeymoon Lake, you can rent canoes and your dog can ride with you. For $15.70 plus entrance fee, it's worth it. Life jackets for humans are provided for free. Jackets for dogs are not mandatory but it's always a good idea for your pup, espesially if they're not a good swimmer.

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