Smart Collars

No GPS

Accessories

Tips for a safe road trip with your dog

Does this sound familiar?

I was so excited the first time I took a road trip with my dog, Eddie. He was 5 months old at the time, and we were driving two hours away from home so that he could meet my parents. I imagined blissfully cruising down the highway with my copilot gleefully staring out the window. But Eddie had other plans.

About 20 minutes into the trip, he puked all over my car’s center console, getting regurgitated gunk in hard-to-reach places. He also whined, drooled, and just generally looked freaked out the entire time. I tried rolling down the windows, rolling up the windows, singing to him, being completely quiet, and attempting to soothe him with gentle pats on the back while trying to get us to our destination ASAP. Nothing worked. My husband and I later learned that road trips were definitely not Eddie’s thing, and that they required careful planning, along with some medication from my vet, to help ease his anxiety. 

At the time, I had no clue that any sort of planning was necessary to ensure my pup was a happy copilot. I just assumed we could all hop into the car, drive, and everything would be easy-peasy. But, while that tactic may work for some dog families, it definitely doesn’t work for mine. Apparently, I’m not alone in that.

Dr. Angela Hughes, DVM, PhD, Senior Manager of Global Scientific Advocacy Relations at Mars Petcare, says a little advance planning can go a long way in making your journey a smooth one.‍

Planning a road trip with your dog?

Here are some important things to consider: 

Check that your pet is travel-ready. 

Dr. Hughes recommends checking in with your vet to make sure you're up to date on dog vaccinations, proper parasite control (including heartworm, intestinal worm, and tick medications), and any medications they’re taking. And, right now, it’s also a good idea to be mindful of any quarantine requirements you might face when you travel out of state, including how that might impact your pet.

Do a trial run before a long trek. 

After all, you don’t want to end up on the freeway in a fully-packed car when you discover that your dog gets carsick. “It is always good to do a practice trip around town,” Dr. Hughes says. In fact, a few of these shorter trial trips might be helpful for getting your dog more comfortable with car rides in general. 

Plan for plenty of rest stops. 

How often you’ll need to take potty breaks depends on a dog’s personal preferences—and yours, of course. But Dr. Hughes recommends planning to stop every two hours for everyone to stretch their legs. “Note that this may need to be more frequent if your dog is very young or older or has a need to get out more frequently,” she says.

Make sure you won’t need to leave your pet unattended in the car. 

“A dog should never be left alone in a hot car—or even a warm car as it can become hot very quickly,” Dr. Hughes says. If this is going to be tough, it’s worth reconsidering your route so that you can stop at a pet-friendly place, or traveling with another person who can keep your dog company while you run inside to grab something to eat or hit the restroom.

Properly secure your pup. 

Just like you use a seatbelt in the car, dogs need to be properly restrained, too—for both their safety and yours. There are a few different options to choose from, including crates or seat belt harnesses. It really comes down to what fits in your car and what your dog likes best. 

Help them relax and enjoy the ride. 

If your dog seems especially stressed out about the ride, there are a few things you can do to help calm them down. Dr. Hughes recommends adding a worn T-shirt or sweatshirt to your dog’s crate or near their harness to have your scent close by. You can also use pheromone collars or sprays to help keep your dog calm, she says. And, if you know your dog is prone to anxiety, Dr. Hughes recommends talking to your veterinarian about other options, including medications.

Make sure your pet’s GPS tracker is on and fully charged for the trip.

In the unlikely but stressful event that your dog gets separated from you while you’re on the road, you’ll want to have a way to find them ASAP. Whistle Health & GPS has real-time location tracking through the app. Whistle Health & GPS even has a built-in nightlight that you can turn on with the app to help you spot your pup if they wander off. Even if your dog will be lounging in the car for the next few hours, keep that collar on. You never know what might catch their eye as soon as you open the door at the first rest stop. 

Get your pet microchipped and keep your information up-to-date. 

In addition to a GPS tracker, microchipping can add another level of security in case your dog gets separated from you on a trip—as long as you keep it updated with your current phone number and address. Keep in mind that microchips are only useful if your dog gets picked up and taken to a nearby vet or shelter; the technology won’t allow you to track your dog in real-time if they somehow get separated from you at a rest stop. That’s why a combination of microchipping and a GPS tracker is your best bet—especially if you have one of the top bolting breeds

Pack all your pet’s essentials. 

 

You probably already know that your dog’s leash is important to pack, but it’s also a good idea to bring a spare in case one gets lost or broken, Dr. Hughes says. Other crucial things to have handy on your trip: 

  • Food and treats
  • Water (ideally water from home that your dog is familiar with) 
  • A water and food bowl 
  • Poop bags 
  • Towels to clean or dry your dog, if needed 
  • Bedding 
  • Other toys that your dog is familiar with to make them more comfortable 

Don’t forget your canine first-aid kit. 

Odds are your pet will be just fine on the road, but you’ll still want to be prepared for emergencies or injuries, just in case. That’s why Dr. Hughes recommends having a canine first-aid kit handy. Banfield Pet Hospital suggests packing yours with the following supplies: 

  • Phone numbers for both your vet and a local emergency animal hospital near your destination
  • Rolled gauze
  • Elastic bandage
  • Scissors
  • Milk of magnesia or activated charcoal
  • Digital thermometer 
  • Eye dropper
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Diphenhydramine (an antihistamine)

And don’t forget that if a question comes up while you’re on the road, you can always use the Chat With a Vet feature from your Whistle app. 

Listen to your dog.

You probably know your pet well enough to tell if they’re absolutely hating this. If your dog just doesn’t enjoy the car no matter how well you prepare, Dr. Hughes recommends considering alternative options. That could mean leaving your dog with a trusted friend or family member, or boarding them while you’re away from home. Not all dogs are car enthusiasts, and that’s OK. 

-- 

Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Prevention, Women’s Health, Yahoo, Parade, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University and lives by the beach with her family.

Related articles
  • National Walk Your Dog Week - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    National Walk Your Dog Week

    Whether you leash up your pup for a walk around the block or go off road and explore local trails, there are some doggone big benefits to walking your dog.
  • 7 Ways to Celebrate National Dog Day - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    7 Ways to Celebrate National Dog Day

    Whether you already share your life with a dog or want to adopt, here are seven ideas for how to celebrate National Dog Day 2022.
  • New Year, New Pet: 4 Ways to Make Pet Wellness a Priority in the New Year - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    New Year, New Pet: 4 Ways to Make Pet Wellness a Priority in the New Year

    The New Year is the perfect time to make a resolution to prioritize good health. In 2022, follow these four simple strategies for a happier, healthier pet.
  • The 5 Winter Safety Tips All Pet Parents Need to Know - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    The 5 Winter Safety Tips All Pet Parents Need to Know

    When the Mercury drops and snow starts to fall, it’s important to know how to keep your dog safe from the elements. This winter, follow these five winter safety tips. 

  • 5 Halloween Safety Tips for Pets - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    5 Halloween Safety Tips for Pets

    These simple Halloween pet safety tips will ensure you won’t spook your pooch on the scariest night of the year.
  • Leaf Peeping with Your Puppers: 5 tips for hiking with dogs this fall - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    Leaf Peeping with Your Puppers: 5 tips for hiking with dogs this fall

    With a little preparation and the right gear, you’ll make great memories hiking with your dog this fall.
  • A guide for new & foster pet parents - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    A guide for new & foster pet parents

    Shelters across the country are looking for people to help foster a dog and provide them a loving home during this time.
  • 5 tips for pet safety during a natural disaster - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    5 tips for pet safety during a natural disaster

    Protect your pet in the event of a natural disaster. Read our quick tips for keeping them safe during an emergency.
  • Quick guide to making your holiday pawsome - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    Quick guide to making your holiday pawsome

    While you’re trimming the tree, lighting the menorah, or engaging in other festive traditions, your best bud will be by your side and just as excited for the celebrations.
  • 5 fire safety tips for your pet - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    5 fire safety tips for your pet

    Make your pet part of your emergency plan with these safety tips
  • 6 tips to keep your dog safe for july 4th - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    6 tips to keep your dog safe for july 4th

    July is National Lost Pet Prevention Month and we want to make sure this never happens to your beloved pet by keeping these 6 tips in mind.
  • Is your backyard safe for your pet? - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    Is your backyard safe for your pet?

    Take a minute to check your summer hangout for these potentially pet-harming hazards.
  • 4 tips for holiday travel with your pet - Whistle
    Tips & Tricks

    4 tips for holiday travel with your pet

    If your holiday adventures include taking your pet on any plane, train, or automobile, these 4 tips from your friends at Whistle will help reduce stress and anxiety for you and your pet.
  • Share your love of Whistle. Get a $50 gift card.

    For a limited time, when you refer a friend, they’ll get $20 off a smart device and you’ll get a $50 Amazon gift card.

    Refer a friend
    Questions?

    We’re here 10am - 6:30pm EST every day.
    Phone: 1-855-999-0471

    1-year warranty

    If you experience any technical issues within one year of purchase, we'll troubleshoot and replace the device without charge if necessary. 

    Read more on our FAQ page

    Health monitoring 

    Track licking, scratching, eating, drinking, and sleeping to get a comprehensive picture of your pet’s health.

    Fitness features

    Set personalized activity goals based on breed, weight, and age. Track distance traveled, calories burned, and hours of rest.

    GPS tracking

    Know your pet’s exact location with GPS tracking powered by AT&T's 4G LTE-M network. Subscription plan required.

    Ask a vet

    Have a pet care question? Get free access to vet expertise through chat, call, video, and email.

    24-Hour timeline

    Get a detailed breakdown of their day to see when they were resting, playing, and exercising. 

    Food calculator

    Find out exactly how much food to give them based on their breed, weight, age, and brand of dog food.