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How To Safely Travel with a Puppy in My Car: 8 Expert Tips

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

Dog relaxing while sticking head head out of the car window

Traveling with your puppy in your car can seem a bit overwhelming. However, with some extra planning, you can make the process go as smoothly as possible.

There are tons of things to consider when traveling with your puppy. It is very easy to forget something, so having a plan is important. Without one, you’re bound to forget at least one thing, which could make your puppy less safe and your ride much less enjoyable.

Below are several tips to make your trip safer and your puppy more comfortable.

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The 4 Tips to Prepare for the Trip

Having a great trip starts before you even leave the house. Planning plays a huge role in ensuring your trip is safe and enjoyable.

1. Schedule a Vet Checkup

The stress that comes with traveling tends to exacerbate health problems. Therefore, you must get your puppy checked out by a vet before you go on a long trip. Even if you think your puppy is healthy, slightly inconvenient illnesses can cause serious traveling problems.

Luckily, your puppy will probably visit the vet frequently for vaccinations and checkups. If your puppy has a visit near the trip, simply let the vet know at that appointment that you plan to travel. The vet may recommend some extra tests or vaccinations just in case.

If your puppy is on medication, you should pick up extra at this appointment to ensure that you have plenty for your trip.

2. Train Your Puppy

Before heading out, you need to desensitize your puppy to the car. Some puppies do fine in the car from the second they’re in it. Others need more time to warm up to the idea of travel. Either way, you should take your puppy on several car rides leading up to the trip to ensure they’re comfortable.

Start by taking very short trips. You can run down the road to a local park, for instance. Make sure your puppy associates the car with good things. Don’t only take them to the vet. Teaching some basic commands like “sit” can also be very helpful for car rides, even if your puppy travels in a carrier.

vet examining pomeranian puppy
Image Credit: mrmohock, Shutterstock

3. Choose the Right Crate or Carrier

Your puppy should be in a crate or carrier for the trip to keep everyone safe. It’s dangerous and often illegal to have a puppy unsecured while you’re driving. The dog could jump on you while driving, causing an accident.

However, not just any carrier will do. You need one that works for your puppy. For the most part, this depends on the size of your puppy—your dog should be able to lie down and turn around. However, it shouldn’t be much larger than that.

The crate should also be well-ventilated to ensure the puppy doesn’t overheat while in the car. It should be secure, too—sudden breakouts while you’re driving can be dangerous.

4. Pack for Your Puppy

Don’t forget to pack everything your puppy needs for the trip, including water, food, toys, and medication. It helps to make a list and leave it to stew for a few days, adding more things as you think of them.

Ensuring you have everything on hand makes everything go much smoother.

City dog names suitcase
Image credit: Pxfuel

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The 4 Safety Tips While Driving

5. Secure Your Puppy

It may be tempting to let the puppy run around inside the car while you’re driving. However, this can be dangerous and illegal. As we’ve stated, many states have laws against letting dogs wander the car unsupervised while you’re driving, as it increases the chance of an accident.

Preferably, you should keep your dog in a crate or carrier. You should already have one picked out, as we’ve described above. However, now is the time to use it. If you feel your dog needs to stretch its legs, stop and take it for a short walk somewhere safe. Don’t let the dog roam around the car.

Training helps in this regard, as it can ensure your dog is comfortable with the crate before you start your trip.

6. Never Leave Your Puppy Alone

You should never leave your puppy alone in the car. Cars can heat up very fast, even on mild days. It only takes minutes for a car to become too hot for a puppy. Running into a store for only a second can be disastrous for your dog.

For this reason, leaving your puppy alone inside a car is dangerous and should be avoided. Ensure that you won’t have to stop on the trip and if you do, you’ll need someone to stay in the car with the puppy, so bring a friend.

maltese in carrier riding a car
Image Credit: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock

7. Take Frequent Breaks

Puppies need to use the bathroom regularly. Therefore, it’s important to make frequent stops, even if they make your trip take longer. Young dogs aren’t made to sit still for hours and need plenty of time to run around.

You can stop at pet-friendly rest stops along the way. If you’re taking a particularly long trip, stopping at a dog-friendly park halfway through is often advisable to give your puppy some time to run around. You can use this time to eat lunch or stretch your legs.

8. Don’t Feed Your Puppy in the Car

Never feed your puppy in the car, as it can cause motion sickness. Plan to feed your puppy well before you hit the road and again when you arrive at your destination.

Of course, you should avoid keeping food from your puppy for too long. Smaller breeds are prone to low blood sugar if the puppy goes too long between meals. These dogs should be fed as needed.

For puppies with very bad motion sickness, there is medication available that can help. Speak to your vet if your puppy falls into this category before your trip.

man stealing a puppy and putting it at the back of his car
Image Credit: Daisy Daisy, Shutterstock

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Traveling safely with your puppy doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does require some extra planning and foresight. You should only travel if your puppy is healthy enough, which can be determined by a trip to the vet. Don’t forget to keep your dog secure the whole time you’re driving, which is often done best in a carrier or crate.

Never leave your dog alone in a car, as they can heat up quickly—even in mild weather. This heat can make your puppy develop heat stroke, which is often deadly.

Featured Image Credit: Ignacio Amenábar, Unsplash

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