Moving? A Road Trip Guide to Keeping Your Dog Safe & Comfortable


photo courtesy of @von.jakoba

It has been said that “The world is filled with adventure —all you have to do is find it.” That is so true, especially when you have dogs! While we certainly enjoy activities and travels with our canine companions, they not only enjoy it, but some crave the adventures. Dogs love not only outdoor activities, but many love the excitement of jumping into your car and heading off for parts unknown with you.

Dogs have such keen senses, that they can pick up on our energy and excitement. Once they are safely in the vehicle, there’s the thrill of the wind blowing in their faces and curiosity as to what your destination will be. It doesn’t matter if you are heading, or even moving, to a new destination, or you are driving to a familiar location such as the dog park, favorite hiking or urban mushing trail, restaurant, or out for a paddle in your kayak; dogs simply love spending time with their humans. Whatever your excursion may be, it will not only bring enjoyment to you both, but it really reinforces the amazing human-canine bond. But, before you head out on your travels, there are some safety checks you’ll need to do first.

Dog Health

Before you embark on any type of travel, whether it is across town or across the country, always be sure your dog is healthy and ready to travel. Before hitting the road, have your veterinarian do a check-up, or at least have a conversation with the vet who knows your dog’s health history to be sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations, medications, anti-anxiety aids, etc., and is able and ready to travel.

Tip: Ask your vet for a copy of your dog’s health record to take with you, whether in print form or digital.

photo courtesy of @von.jakoba

Pre-Trip Planning

Whether you are headed out to a familiar place, or someplace entirely new, a little pre-planning before pulling away from your driveway makes sense. Check out the routes to your destination to know where dog-friendly stops are, including but not limited to rest stops, parks, restaurants, and lodgings. If a long-distance trip is on your map, also put a pin in where the nearest veterinarian offices or ER clinics are.

Tip: A great website to check for dog-friendly travel is Bring Fido. It boasts how you can  “Explore over 500,000 places to stay, play, and eat with your dog” offering listings for hotels and restaurants that welcome dogs, a search menu for customizing places to go at your desired location, and even a listing for world-wide dog events.

Pet First Aid

While road tripping with your dog, you always hope the ride will be a safe one. But we never know if or when an illness, injury, or accident could happen and if it does, time is of the essence. What if an incident happens after hours? Or, while you are traveling with your dog, you are not near a veterinarian office or animal ER? Knowing Pet First Aid and CPR are important skills to learn and very helpful for immediate care in case of an emergency. Before you plan that road trip, consider enrolling in a Pet First Aid and CPR program near you, and downloading a First Aid app to your phone.

Tip: There is a FREE American Red Cross Pet First Aid App. Visit the Apple App Store or Google Play to Download. You can also Text "GETPET" to 90999.

Update Microchip and Tags

Be sure to verify with both your veterinarian’s office and the microchip company that they have your current contact information in the event that your dog becomes lost during your travels.

Tip: If your dog has a health condition, for example s/he is an epileptic, make a tag that states Epileptic On Medication and add it with your other tags to your dog’s collar or harness.

Dog ID Card

When heading out on the road, just as we carry a driver’s license, create an ID card made up for your dog that contains the dog’s name, breed, markings/description, home address, microchip and rabies numbers, any medical condition(s), your cell phone number, home vet phone number, and a recent photo of your dog. Print it out in color and keep it in your glove compartment.

Tip: If dog has a health condition, such as epilepsy, and requires medication, it’s a good idea to also have a dog tag made up with that information.

Pack a Dog Bag

While you are packing your suitcase, be sure to pack a bag for your dog! Key items to include are:

  • Pet First Aid kit ( include any medications and supplements they need)
  • Dog’s medical/vaccine records
  • Dog food and treats 
  • Portable dishes 
  • BYO Bottle Water (sometimes a change in water can cause GI upset, so bring your own!)
  • Favorite toys and puzzles 
  • Poop bags
  • Extra leashes
  • Camera (whether you use a digital camera or smartphone, don’t forget the chargers for some memorable photos and movies!)
  • SpotOn GPS Fence (this is an app-enabled, accurate, reliable, easy-to-use GPS dog fence made in the USA that allows you to easily set up wireless boundaries anywhere you stop on your trip that will allow your dog to exercise after long stretches in the car).

Tip: The SpotOn GPS Fence can also track your dog. This is an important option allowing you to locate your dog if it runs away in an unfamiliar area during the trip.


After you conduct your usual pre-trip vehicle safety inspection, it’s time to be sure it is also dog ready. Just as we need to buckle-up for our safety, so do our dogs. While pet restraint laws vary state to state, we know that dogs can suddenly become a distraction in our vehicle. Whether it is a car ride across town or across the country, the AAA recommends, “Using pet restraints like dog car seats or seat belts help keep them safe in the case of a car accident.”

  • Dog Seat Belt: The 4Knines Dog Seat Belt is universal to fit most passenger vehicles and is easy to use. Simply attach to your pet’s harness and insert clip into the seat belt receiver. It has a 360° swivel clasp. Always use a durable harness with sturdy connectors. Do not attach to your dog’s collar as this may cause injury.
  • Dog Harness: Securely anchor your canine in place using a no pull/no choke designed harness featuring quick-release buckles and reflective straps.
  • Dog Deterrent Barrier: This barrier helps keep your pet safely in the rear seat and deters them from jumping onto the front seat, causing a distraction while you are driving. The sturdy mesh center provides good visibility and airflow for your dog.
  • Dog Carrier: If you use a crate, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) advises folks to NOT buckle up a pet’s carrier with the seat belt, “Unless the manufacturer provides you with crash test video to illustrate structural integrity. Using a seat belt to secure a carrier can actually crush the carrier if you get into an accident. Instead – put the small carrier on the floor of the vehicle behind the front passenger or driver seat.”

Tip: A machine washable travel/crate bed and/or back seat cover are added help when traveling with your dog. These  covers can help protect your vehicles interior in case your dog gets car sick or had a little too much fun having zoomies in muddy puddles. Both are machine washable, too.

Car Safety

While you may be tempted to leave your dog in the car for just a few minutes while you run into a store or to get out to talk with someone, especially on a warm day, please don’t. Did you know that according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) your car’s interior temperature can rise almost 20 degrees in just 10 minutes? Their statistics show that on a 70-degree day, within 10 minutes the estimated interior of a car with its windows up can heat up to almost 90 degrees, and in 20 minutes it is roasting at nearly 100 degrees. Even if you crack open the window, the AVMA states that “makes no difference” and you’ve put your beloved dog at risk of a serious illness or even death. While most vehicles now have air conditioning, they can malfunction and even turn off, yet again leaving a dog in a dangerous and possibly fatal situation.

Tip: On warm and hot days, please just leave your dog safely at home.


Dogs are curious by nature, and their noses can lead them into unforeseen dangers. If you’re traveling and stop your car to walk your dog to stretch his/her legs or for a bathroom break, be mindful of the surroundings, including fauna, flora, shrubbery, and discarded items that if your dog comes in contact with, inhales, or ingests, could be poisonous and create an emergency situation.

photo courtesy of @von.jakoba

Tip: Program the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center number in your phone in case of any type of poison emergency. The number is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number is (888) 426-4435. (Note: There may be a consultation fee for the phone call, but safe is better than sorry).

Lost & Found

While traveling with your canine best friend, the unthinkable happens. They escape from your car, campsite, hotel, or destination spot. Knowing what to do beforehand saves precious time. The first place to start is with help from Lost Dogs of America. This is an extensive informational site that also has a network of Lost Dog Facebook pages across America that includes all 50 states and the District of DC. This is a FREE service. If your dog becomes lost, immediately report it to the site that is a FREE database for both lost and found dogs, and has links to create a flyer. Keep these sites programmed into your phone and or tablet.

Tip: For more lost and found information, resources, and to listen to the FREE FiveSibes The Sibe Vibe podcast with the co-found of Lost Dogs of America, visit HERE.

Author Bio:
Dorothy Wills-Raftery is an award-winning book author and photojournalist. Her long-time canine blog FiveSibes™  and #LiveGibStrong K9 Epilepsy Online Resource Library were inspired by her five Siberian Huskies and recently received the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Medallion of Excellence. She is the administrator for her FiveSibes: Siberian Husky K9 News & Reviews Facebook dog community page, and also a contributing writer for Her writing has appeared in many publications, and she is an official International Purple Day® for (K9) Epilepsy Ambassador since 2012 in an effort to help bring accurate information and resources to families caring for dogs with epilepsy.

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