Help This Reader! How Do You Handle Long Road Trips With A Dog?

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Check out this reader question from Sabine:

I am in need of some advice from all your awesome readers. Tomorrow my husband, 7 year old son and I will be traveling 6 hours round trip to pick up our first family dog (miniature pincher) we are beyond excited, yet a little nervous.

We have never traveled with a puppy that long in a car and are wondering what your readers would recommend us bring/do to make this an easy trip for the whole family and the new fur baby.

We know the obvious of food, bottle water, and a blanket but other than that we are out of our element on how to bring the new addition home. Thank you for any advise you all may have.

What tips do you have to share? 🐾🐶

Join The Discussion

Comments 37

  1. Nicole

    If you plan to crate train, bring the crate and let him/her ride in the crate. They feel more secure that way. Congratulations!

  2. Deanna Gestner

    Hi Sabine–please remember to stop every hour or so depending on the age of your new fur baby. I always listen to my dog -she talks more when she need to pee. Every dog is a bit different so try to learn your pup’s signs that a bathroom break is needed ..and please remember to use a poop bag to pick up any messes. Also -bring a leash! 🙂

  3. Rocketdog

    A dog kennel/cage, collar & leash. We frequently travel with 3 little dogs & started placing them in a cage which keeps the dog & passengers safer. It prevents them from accidentally jumping out when the door is opened until they have been secured with a leash first. We stopped every 4-6 hrs or if they just seem to not settle down & need to burn some energy. Most will just sleep the entire time.

  4. Taylor S.

    I don’t know if you have third row, but we made a cross country trip with a dog and two cats 😬 If you have a spare row, we folded down our back row so the animals had free range to move around!

  5. Monica

    You can use a plastic bin or laundry basket lined with blankets. The pup may just fall asleep.

    • magziem

      I would recommend this as a new puppy may get carsick or have accidents

  6. Emily

    Little puppies need to pee every 2 hours. As long as you stop for potty breaks, you will be fine. The dog will curl up and sleep. When it wakes up, you will need to pull off and take it for a short walk.

    We have walked our dog outside restaurants, rest areas, emergency pulloffs, etc.

    The tricky part will be if it is hot outside and you go inside somewhere to eat. Your car will get very hot, very fast.

    On super long trips (12 hours) that we have taken, we will stop at a state park or google dog parks to find a place where we can go for a long walk or she can run.

    Other puppy pro-tips: Invest in a spot bot if you have carpet. The best pet carpet shampoo is Natures Miracle. I ordered it from Amazon when mine was little and it was the only one to clean her favorite pee spot when she was housebroken but going back to one spot inside. Used this shampoo and the problem was finally gone.

    Nylabone teething bones, mine loved the chicken flavored one and it kept her occupied for long periods. We bought a ton of clearance after-halloween toys at the pet store and pulled a new one out anytime she acted out chewinh things. In puppy school they said new toys would keep their mind active and keep them from looking for trouble. It worked for us. She didn’t care that she got a mummy toy in April!

    Get a paw print kit to make a Christmas ornament (if you celebrate) and hang her baby puppy paw on the tree each year. My ornament makes me so happy.

    Sign up for puppy school if you can and learn about any free classes. Our Petco offers puppy playtime to help properly socialize pups.

  7. Kat

    I agree! Stop and let your puppy have a bathroom break every hour and some snuggle time. They are going to be nervous and scared leaving their mother and litter mates so it’s a new experience for them! A water bottle filled with warm water wrapped in towel can be comforting to them as well if you plan to put them in a crate.
    DONT give them treats or food until you get home since they may get car sick, but do let them have water when you break to let them use the bathroom.
    Remember a collar and leash!
    DONT let strangers be all over your puppy during breaks – a simple “I would rather you not pet him since he’s so little” will do. Puppies are like kids – strangers can get them sick and you are the one that has to deal with a sick puppy. Plus you DONT want to be responsible if your new puppy bites a stranger!

    Good luck!

  8. Jana

    Awe, we have a min-pin too. She likes to be a lap dog, even in the car (we drive from mo to MN, 12 hrs). I have noticed when traveling, try as I might, I can’t get her to eat.

    If you notice your puppy seems nervous, you can administer benadryl, but I’d check with the vet on dosing.

    Things to take: her regular food, treats, collapsible bowl for food and water, leash and harness, kennel, and potty bags.

  9. Monique

    One of our dogs does really well in the car and will just look out the window or lay on your lap. The other dog cries the entire time like she is being tortured. We talked to the vet and he prescribed meds for the dog that has anxiety it helps a ton. We let our dogs fall asleep or just chill on our seats. Even though they are both crate trained we rarely use crates anymore. Maybe bringing your dogs favorite toy…also I agree with the dog bags to pick up after them when they go potty. Also maybe a few treats for good behavior wouldn’t hurt. Good luck and safe traveling 🙂

  10. Sarah

    My last boy hated car rides! If he had to be in the car he wanted someone holding him and to comfort him. We tried to avoid it as much as possible

  11. Juanita

    There’s a great app “dog goes” that has dog friendly rest stops, parks, and restaurants. I use it all the time when I travel with my pups. Makes it a lot easier to stop where we are welcome and safe. You might also pack a little clean up kit (paper towels, carpet cleaner, water, trash bag, etc. ) For accidents given you aren’t super familiar with how your new pup travels. Congrats! Enjoy! And safe travels!!

  12. Shaz

    Most important than anything, get your dog a seat belt! They have them for cheap. I got mine from Centinela Pet and it clips into the seat belt holder and then has a clamp to hook on your dog’s harness. Don’t make the mistake I made: when someone slammed on their breaks in front of me, I did as well and my poor dog went flying into the dash board. It split his forehead and he needed stitches. I felt like the worst dog owner ever. And, a friend of a friend just had her dog ejected from the car during a bad accident. Unfortunately, it didn’t survive.

    Make sure that your dog is tagged and chipped. And, make sure you give your dog plenty of water throughout the trip.

    • Kelly

      Absolutely this!! We have harnesses that strap to the seats for our two small dogs. It’s the safest for everyone in case of an accident and they can’t jump out when doors are open as well. My pets are also my children. Please restrain them either in a crate or seatbelt made for dogs.

    • Judi

      Thanks, Shaz! I have wanted to get a seat restraint for my dogs but they have special harnesses and leashes (the leash attaches many different ways, including at the front and back as a double leash for more security and control) and never considered that only the belt clip part, and not the entire harness, could be purchased.

  13. Ann

    Search out pet friendly parks along your route. There are actually parks that don’t allow dogs. Also be sure to have good leashes, harnesses, collars for times when you stop at gas stations which can be loud and crazy. And I made sure it was my kids (supervised) doing the dirty work in order to learn responsibility. We held our puppies on their first trip which was 7 hours. They didn’t have an accident because we stopped a lot. Puppies actually slept, and my kids loved that snuggle bonding time. Crate training came later.

  14. holly

    I remember when I got my pup years ago. The drive was 2-3 hours round trip. The breeder gave us a blanket and a teddy bear that smelt like her litter mates, and a bag of food. Other than that, I bought water, a bowl, and leash + collar. She sat on someone lap in the back. She did vomit!! That was to be expected with a dog that has never been in a car before. We made 2-3 stops. Honestly, the fact that she sat on someone made her quiet.

    But everyone’s comments are great!! Don’t feed the pup until you get home (ie: new, car situation or new food = an upset stomach or worse, diarrhea!). And limit the pups surface/floor exposure time. I recall the vet saying prior to vaccinations, little ones can catch things.

  15. Nicole

    We bought a puppy last year and had a 6 hour ride back also. We did bring a crate to put him in which made it easier not having to worry about holding him or if he’s climbing on anything. I would also bring a towel/blanket or even a tshirt so he will feel safe. Also, our breeder gave us a little chew toy just for him to chew on if he wanted. Good luck, and congrats! Just remember that you might hear a lot of crying the whole way back!

  16. Babymair

    I always bring the little poop bags, I pack a travel bag w/ treats ,water bowl (metal) keeps water cold ,blankets, a wet wash cloth in a baggie (in case they get mud on there feet) leashes, toys .babyblock,for their nose…I use a mesh beach bag ,w/pockets,it’s perfect.. travel bottles,w/puppy shampoo, the rug spot remover,(if accident ) and fabreeze,.. we travei w/a greatdane ..a,begal mix, a Chihuahua,and a kitten (r rescued family ) hope that helps ,and have a great time .

  17. Janet

    Take some ginger snaps and feed a couple to him prior to the trip home. Ginger is a known car sickness remedy

  18. Julie S.

    Bully sticks! They aren’t so expensive at Wal Mart. Just enjoy your sweet new family member. Dogs are the best. (Cats are cool, too.) Your dog is lucky to have a good home. Thanks!

  19. Rebecca

    I have a 2.5 year old Yorkie mix who gets carsick & we make a 13 hr trip(one-way!) a couple times a year. She has her own little seat buckled in between the kids in the back, and her harness hooks into that. She’s usually anxious the first hour or two then she will settle down & sleep mostly. Since she gets carsick, I’ve found just putting puppy pads down in her seat makes it easy to clean up. We generally stop every 3-4 hours, which works for her. We always hit up a drive thru & pack a cooler with snacks & drink, as I’m not comfortable with leaving her in the truck, even when it’s not hot.

    Also she wears a different tag when we go, stating she’s traveling. Still has our name & #, but also has an email address I made for her which I keep in vacation mode. So it will send back an email with more information, the general area she may have been in, more phone numbers, etc. Gives me piece of mind in case we are somewhere where we don’t get cell service. She is chipped, wears a harness & collar, but she’s also tiny & fast, better safe than sorry.

  20. suz

    You have some great advice! When I was on an 8 hr road trip with my 2 dogs, I learned the hard way that my little one gets car sick. Take frequent breaks and have plastic bags and tissue ready in case of vomiting. You can prepare by having your vet prescribe your dog medication but it doesn’t always help my dog. Oh! Placing your dog’s favorite blanket or toy can help him feel comfortable.

  21. MrsFelix1004

    Good luck with your new pup! Off topic but….Do check out Pinterest for homemade dog treats and look into a really good place to find high quality food and add coconut oil to their food to help their skin and coats stay shiny. If you get a high quality food it doesn’t mean spend a ton but look at the ingredients. We have a service dog and have learned so much about diet and nutrition. We also learned a lot about training dogs by using dog treats as a reward. Typically you reduce their breakfast and dinner amount and make up do it trough out the day by rewarding good behavior with treats and praises. You don’t always give a treat, you mix it up to get better results.

  22. jill

    Lots of good tips. I second the caution that if it’s a young dog they may get car sick. One of mine did for her first year (and then grew out of it) for any ride 20 minutes or longer. I had to just not feed her anything for 1 hour before and only let her have small amounts of water at a time. The Benedryl works for most dogs but there are a few that instead of making sleepy it makes them hyper so the first car trip may not be the best time to see how your dog does. I still crate my now 11 year old dog for her safety on car trips, even short ones. She just chills out or plays with a toy. I had dog seat belts for previous dogs but then I started to worry about the airbag hitting them wrong if there were a serious accident so now I crate. I’ve noticed that just like people have different ‘love languages’ so do dogs. Many dogs love a belly rub by just about anyone but I had one that seemed as though that was too personal and preferred a chest rub but only by people he knew. Another dog I had would not eat outside – even a piece of steak in her food dish but she’d gobble it up if you fed her inside. All of my dogs have been big fans of the sweetie talk — just nice words in a happy voice. My friend adopted a dog that was a constant barker but she was able to resolve that by giving her dog a ball to carry. Pesto was such a ball dog that she just carried the ball on walks and no longer barked. All this to say don’t feel like a failure if anything you try doesn’t work, just try something else. Congrats! Enjoy!

  23. mckeeversmom

    I don’t know if someone else mentioned this or not, but take a small blanket or a towel and when you pick up your puppy, see if you can rub the blanket on the puppy’s mother. It will then have her scent on it and help your new puppy make the adjustment to leaving mom.

  24. Jane

    Whoops! Sorry! Should have said rescue one closer to home! That’s to far to drive for a “fur baby.” Good night! Go to your local shelter and call it a day!

    • A

      They’re clearly already getting the dog. Why respond at all if you’re just going to be critical?

  25. HP

    While they are tiny, until they’ve had all their shots, they are susceptible to catching many diseases, including parvo.
    I traveled with my puppy (11.5) hours and brought puppy pads for her to piddle on.We travel a lot. She does great in the car, I realize not every dog is like that.
    I second the dog seatbelt suggestion. Keeps you safe too,rather than messing with a loose dog.
    I tried to stop at not so public places. No dog parks, public places until the pup has had all their required shots.
    Congrats! Enjoy it! Accidents will happen, just say oops, put them outside and clean it up with natures miracle.

  26. Jesse

    Get an id tag made now (often available at Walmart, Fred Meyer, local pet supply store)- with your cell phone, husband’s cell phone, address if you’re comfortable. If puppy is microchipped be sure to register your info to the chip asap. Collar with tags on at all times. Good luck! Min Pins have lots of energy and like to talk- we fostered quite a few with our local rescue. Enjoy your new family member.

  27. Michelle

    For what it’s worth…Benadryl and the appropriate dosage for you sized puppy! And extra towels/blankets! People assume dogs like to travel, and most do. But mine gets car sick easily, so I’ve learned to be prepared!

  28. Andrea

    We brought a pillow when we picked up our pup 6 hours away. I put the pillow on my lap and she slept on it the whole way home.

  29. amanda

    I have to agree about probably having the dog on your lap. Every puppy we’ve ever gotten (and we’ve had 4!) was more comfortable ON US for the first several car rides. Our lab we picked up when we were visiting family 12 hours away and did the drive back. She slept most of the way, we made bathroom breaks/walks every 2 hours, offered plenty of water, and gave her the option of sleeping in a crate as well. Enjoy your new pup!

  30. Sabine

    Thank you all for your wonderful comments. These were all of great help. I have learned so much and now feel so much more comfortable making the trip! We are hoping he just lays back and enjoys the ride but now we are ready if he has other plans. I didn’t know about not feeding him in the car or when we stop for breaks so thank you for not assuming everyone knows and Sharing that information!

  31. Jackie

    Min pins are the BEST dogs! We have two that just turned 9 years old in April; we’ve had the little men since they were 8 weeks old. They are burrowers – we have the best luck with cat beds, they have higher sides so they can really snuggle down in there, and fleece blankets. Since y’all are getting a puppy – you may even have good luck traveling in a hoodie – that pup will snuggle right into the front pocket! Also, they are crazy tough chewers – so don’t bother with any bones/toys that aren’t made specifically for extreme chewers. Ours love the Kong toys as well – with the treat they have to work to get out!

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