Safe driving with dogs


For many dog owners and professional pet sitters, hitting the road with their furry companions is an exciting adventure. Whether it’s a short trip to the dog park or a cross-country journey, ensuring your pet’s safety during travel is paramount.

Traveling with dogs requires some preparation and consideration, especially when it comes to road safety.

If your dog isn’t accustomed to car travel, take some short practice drives to help them acclimate to being in the car. Start with brief trips around the block and gradually increase the duration as your dog becomes more comfortable.

Use positive reinforcement and treats to create a favorable association with car rides.


Just as humans wear seatbelts for safety, dogs need to be properly restrained in the car.  Unrestrained dogs can be a distraction to the driver and can be seriously injured in the event of a sudden stop or accident.

Invest in a sturdy harness or pet carrier designed for car travel. Avoid letting your dog ride in the front seat, as airbags can pose a danger to them if deployed.

Your dog should be kept secure in the back seat, with either a ventilated crate (if crate trained) or at a minimum, a pet safety belt or travel harness. Ideally, his crate will be large enough to allow him to sit, stand, lie down and turn around.

Never let your dog hang his head out the window!


While many dogs love feeling the wind in their face, allowing them to stick their head out of the car window is risky.  Debris from the road or passing cars can cause eye injuries.

Sudden stops or swerves could cause your dog to fall out the window and become injured. Keep the windows cracked open just enough to provide ventilation only.

It’s never safe to leave your dog unattended, especially in hot weather. Even with the windows cracked open, temperatures inside a car can quickly reach dangerous levels, leading to heatstroke and even death. Ideally, you have a human travel companion to stay with the dogs in your air-conditioned car while you make gas and fast-food breaks.

You might want to research Veterinarians and 24/7 clinics in the area you plan to visit. Hope you don’t need those resources, yet in the interest of safety and preparedness it’s a good idea.

Professional pet sitters should be trained in Pet CPR & First Aid. Pet sitter certification not only sets you apart from your competition, it is a useful skill should you encounter an emergency while traveling with your pet. Editor’s note: our Members Only section offers member discounts for essential training courses.




Before hitting the road for the first time, it’s a good idea to practice first with short trips. This will help your dog adjust to a longer car ride and lets you know if your dog is prone to motion sickness.

If that’s the case, talk to your Vet about anti-nausea medication. Your pet should eat a light meal 3-4 hours prior to departure.

Consider the locations you will be visiting and talk to your Vet about possible threats in those areas. While your dog may be updated on routine vaccinations, there may be other “lifestyle” vaccinations to consider when entering new terrain, such as Lyme disease or Leptospirosis.


Comfort objects from home, such as a favorite toy and pet bed, will help with the change of scenery. In addition to plenty of food and treats, you should also bring:

  • portable water and drinking bowls
  • a pet first aid kit
  • medications
  • proof of vaccinations
  • ID tags
  • collar, leash and/or harness
  • bottled or tap water in large jugs (recommended to avoid bacteria ingestion from unreliable public sources).

Check the weather forecast in advance. Weather-related accessories may be required if you’re traveling to a different climate. If your dog is used to year-round sunshine and you’re headed to the mountains, consider a dog sweater or raincoat.

If you are headed to open spaces, such as a campground, an extra precaution might be a GPS Whistle tracker to place on your dog’s collar. The GPS function will track any on-the-loose dog within 3000 miles. Editor’s note: If you’re considering putting an AirTag on your dog’s collar, don’t — the risks outweigh the rewards. Read this article for the risks associated with AirTags:



Puppies and senior dogs will need more frequent restroom breaks. Stopping every 2-3 hours is a good rule of thumb and will allow all of you to stretch your legs and stay awake, especially if you plan to cover long distances in a day.

There are many pet-friendly hotels that will accommodate your overnight stays, to break up the time spent in the car. Plan ahead and book reservations in advance. Hotel policies vary, including extra fees and weight or breed limitations.

A great website to find dog-friendly hotels, restaurants and local events and venues (ex: dog parks and hiking trails):

State-run rest stops off the interstates might offer a designated pet area for your pit stops. Keep plenty of doo bags with you and always keep your dog on a leash when out of the car.

Traffic is busy, including large, long-distance trucks that can spook a dog. Some states have breed restrictions, so research the states you plan to travel in to ensure you’re not entering an area that doesn’t appreciate your dog’s heritage.



If you plan to attend a day-long event, such as a wedding or graduation upon arrival, look up dog day-care or dog boarding facilities nearby. Some dogs can’t be left alone for long periods, particularly in an unfamiliar place. Be sure to call ahead to confirm pet resort availability! Pet resorts have specific vaccination requirements that your dog may or may not have. 

Once you arrive at your destination, do your best to maintain established routines while also enjoying your vacation getaway.

Hit the road with happy hearts and wagging tails!

Join us for more helpful tips and tools as a professional pet sitter @ Join Us – Association of Pet Professionals

Photo credits: young couple with dog: RDNE on pexels and dog behind car wheel: Justin Choi on pexels