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How to Transport a Dog in a Car: 8 Must-Follow Tips

Moving by car with your four-legged friend? Following best practices for how to transport a dog in a car is important for reducing both safety risks and stress. A move can be a tricky situation when there’s a canine companion to consider, since you need to make sure to balance their needs with all of the other tasks on your to do list. But your dog should always be a top priority during your move, especially once you hit the road.

Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, follow the tips below on how to transport a dog in a car to keep everyone (including yourself) more relaxed in transit.


  1. Figure Out Where Your Dog Will Sit Ahead of Time

    Your dog won’t be getting in the car until everything is already packed in there, so it’s important to plan ahead and leave them enough room. This is true whether they’re traveling in a crate or in a car restraint. If they’re going to be uncrated, leave them enough room to sit and lay down comfortably, and also don’t leave any objects around them that can pose a safety risk—such as anything sharp or anything they could choke on. If you’re going to be traveling a long distance, make their spot extra cozy by putting their favorite blanket and toy down where they’ll be sitting.

    Note that your dog should not be sitting in the front seat, since a deployed air bag could cause them serious—and even fatal—harm. Opt for the backseat of the car or the boot.

  2. Choose Your Restraint Option

    No pet parent ever plans to get in an accident when their dog is in the car, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. To protect your beloved furry friend and yourself, you need to figure out a restraint option. There are a few to consider:

      • Harness seat belts
      • Zipline harnesses
      • Carry boxes with harness attachments

    All of the options above either serve as harnesses themselves or attach to your dog’s existing harness to keep them safer in the event of impact. Other options include:

      • Crates
      • Back seat hammocks
      • Back seat barriers
      • Dog guards (if your dog will be in the boot of your car)

    While the options above are all better alternatives to having no restraint at all, a harness will keep your pup as secure as possible. Keep in mind that if you live in New Jersey, car restraints are required under the state’s animal cruelty laws. And in Hawaii, you can face a fine for driving with your dog in your lap or letting them stick their head out the window while the car is in motion.

  3. Don’t Feed Right Before You Go

    Keeping your dog on a routine is advised during a move to help mitigate stress, but part of how to transport a dog in a car is adjusting that routine as needed for their own well-being. That is particularly true when it comes to food.

    Eating right before a long trip in the car can result in an upset tummy for your pup, and possibly, a mess for you. So even if it means eating earlier than usual, feed your dog his or her pre-travel meal at least three hours before you get going.

  4. Plan For Stress

    Try as you might, it’s pretty hard—and maybe even impossible—to completely remove all of your dog’s stress during transport. The next best thing you can do then is to be prepared for it. If your dog is prone to stress (and especially car-related stress), talk to your vet at least a month before your move date and make a plan. They may be able to prescribe an anti-anxiety medication that can keep your dog as calm and placated as possible during transport.

    Other tips for limiting stress on your dog in the car, as well as all stages of your move, include:

      • Remaining as calm as you can yourself, even if you’re not feeling it. Dogs are very in-tune with their humans’ body language and can easily pick up on your own stress.
      • Providing them with familiar objects during transport, such as setting up their area with their go-to blanket and toy.
      • Trying out non-prescription anxiety aids for dogs like CBD treats. To be safe though, test how your dog responds to these before moving day so that you know what to expect.
  5. Make Time For Breaks

    Balancing your own preferences with your dog’s needs is part and parcel of how to transport a dog in a car. So while you might just want to drive straight to your next location, you’re going to need to arrange for periodic stops so your dog can go potty and get out some energy.

    Aim to find a rest stop every two or three hours and leash your dog up to explore for at least 15 to 20 minutes. It may set you back a little bit on your arrival time, but your furry friend will be very grateful for it. Plus, it will give you an opportunity to check in and ensure that your dog is feeling okay.

  6. Limit Treats During Your Journey

    We know, we know—treats are the key to a dog’s heart. But when you’re in transit, stick to verbal praise unless you’re on one of your designated breaks. Dogs can choke on treats when they eat them in a moving car, including both small bites and chew bones, and too many treats is another path that can lead to that aforementioned upset tummy. On top of that, it’s dangerous to distract yourself by digging around in a treat bag and then reaching back to hand it to your dog. So resist the urge to give treats while you’re actively driving, and take solace in the fact that you can more than make up for it once you arrive at your new home.

  7. Keep the Interior Comfortable

    Pay attention to the temperature in the car so that you can be sure your dog is as comfy as possible. That means keeping the AC going in the summer, and keeping it warm (but not too warm) in the winter. It’s okay to open the windows for some fresh air, but they should never be down all the way—or even far enough down for your dog to fit her whole head out there. You should avoid ever leaving a dog alone in a car, but if you have to run into a gas station or convenience store on your drive, leave the windows up and the car on, and hurry so you’re gone for the least amount of time possible.

  8. Pack an Essentials Bag

    You probably already know that you should pack an essentials bag for yourself, but don’t forget to pack one for your dog too. This bag should contain all of the items your dog might need during the trip and on the first day and night in your new home. By keeping these items in one easy to spot bag, you make your life a lot easier and help keep things from getting misplaced.

    Here’s what to include:

      • Harness and leash (if not on and/or by your dog already)
      • Travel food and water dish
      • Enough food for the trip and first 24 hours in your new home, plus a little extra just in case
      • A bottle of water in case your dog gets thirsty when you’re not near a store or drinking fountain
      • Any medications that your pet takes
      • Any medical records that your vet provided you with
      • Extra waste bags
      • Important tags that aren’t on your dog’s harness already
      • A couple toys
      • Treats
      • Package of disinfecting wipes

    Keep this bag in an easy-to-access area, such as on the passenger seat or front and center in your trunk.

  9. The key to how to transport a dog in a car is planning ahead. There’s no such thing as winging it when it comes to making a long move with your canine friend, since you need to accommodate their needs as much as possible during the trip. If the drive is going to take multiple days, arrange for a stay at a dog-friendly hotel along the way (or multiple hotels, if your trip will take more than two days) instead of just hoping you’ll come across one. The more details you can anticipate and cover in advance, the easier of a time you’ll have on the road.

    Looking for more advice on moving with dogs? Check out our articles on helping your pup adjust to a new home and transferring your pet to a new veterinarian.

Published Wednesday, April 22, 2020 7:48 AM by Gold Real Estate Real Estate

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