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We love taking our dogs with us everywhere we go. They are part of our family. We take the dogs with us when we travel for holidays, go camping, or plan to spend any extended time away from home.

Whether you are traveling for the day, the weekend, or the entire week, bringing your dog along has so many benefits. You won’t have to leave them home alone all day or put them in a boarding facility.

We took our dogs, Bear and Ginger, with us on a canoe trip on the Kickapoo River several years ago. They had a blast and certainly made our trip exciting. Bear tipped over the canoe trying to climb in and Ginger insisted on swimming the entire river (watch her in the video below).

More recently we’ve been driving 200 to 650 miles dog agility events… I use these tips and the checklist below to ensure our trip goes smoothly.

In some cases taking your dog with you is not reasonable, so in those times, find a trusted family member, friend, or boarding facility to take good care of your dog.

Tip #1: Exercise your dog BEFORE you leave

A dog that is well exercised, mentally and physically, will be more likely to be calm during the travel time. If your dog is full of energy and bouncing off the walls before you leave, how do you think he’s going to be in the car?

Your goal is a tired and calm dog before you walk out the door. So exercise your dog the day before and the day of your travels. A tired dog creates a peaceful quiet ride for everyone.

Read How Often Should I Walk My Dog and Why?

Tip #2: Use a checklist to pack for your dog

Want to know what to bring when traveling with dogs? Just as you pack for yourself, you need to pack for your dog. And you know you always forget something, right? So use our traveling checklist to help you remember everything your dog will need.

How much you’ll need to pack will depend on the destination and length of your travel. But the basics will always be the same, food, water, collar, leash, and don’t forget the poop bags.

Here is your dog traveling checklist:

  1. Leash, collar, and ID Tag
  2. Training collar
  3. GPS tracker
  4. Tie-out or long line
  5. Any prescription medicine your dog may be taking
  6. Vaccination papers and your vet’s phone number (Our “My Dog’s Health Planner” is perfect for traveling)
  7. Dry food in zip lock bags
  8. Water and food bowls
  9. Treats
  10. Waste Bags
  11. Travel Crate
  12. Blanket from home
  13. Busy toys, chew toys
  14. Doggy First Aid Kit
  15. Brush
  16. Dog Shampoo
  17. Towel
  18. Accident Cleaner

Although there are travel-sized bowls and supplies available, I recommend, whenever possible, packing items the dog is accustomed to using regularly. This will help your dog feel more comfortable while away from home. If you want to purchase travel-sized items, use them at home for a week or two before you leave.

Pin the image below to your Pinterest Board for quick reference:

How to Travel with Your Dog Stress-Free

Tip #3: Get a GPS tracker for your dog

Dogs can easily get spooked when in unfamiliar places, and if your dog decides to run off while you are away from home, a GPS tracker can help you find him immediately.

Even if your dog is microchipped, a GPS can be very useful when traveling. A microchip, which is inserted into the dog’s skin, is great if he gets lost and is turned into a vet or shelter. But can’t help you locate him on the run as a GPS tracker can.

6 Essential Tips when Traveling with Your Dog

Tip #4: Practice riding in the car well before your travel date

Traveling with dogs in the car shouldn’t be stressful for you or the dog! Take your dog for short car rides regularly before heading out for a long trip. Observe how well your dog does in the car. Does he get car sick, does he jump in your lap while driving, or does he calmly lay in the back seat? Your dog needs to learn car riding manners before you plan a long trip with him.

We travel with our two large dogs in the dog car all the time. They take up the entire back of my SUV! If you have a small dog, you may want to consider a travel crate to ensure his safety. You can read about our recommended crates at Best Dog Crates.

Plan on making several pit stops to let your dog go potty. There are usually rest stops with pet areas on major expressways. Please be sure to clean up after your dog.

Never leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle. Even 5 minutes in mild weather temperatures, your car can be a death chamber. If you need to run into a store or something, have a family member stay with the dog. This would be an ideal time to let the dog out to stretch his legs too, just remember to keep him on a leash.

Traveling with your dog in a plane

Tip #5: If traveling by airplane check with the airline for any regulations

We will be traveling abroad by airplane next month, so stay tuned for everything I learn.

But in the meantime here is a great article from Smart Travel, Flying with a Dog? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Tip #6: Prepare for dogs with high-anxiety

If you are taking your dog on an airplane or an extra-long car ride, you may want to consider a prescription calming medication. Talk to your vet.

You may also want to try a calming collar, such as Comfort Zone Adaptil Collars. Don’t wait until you are ready to hop in the car, put the collar on your dog several days to a week before leaving.

Where to go from here

I would love for you to leave a comment below and share any tips and tricks you may have when traveling with your dog.

About the Author


Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.

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  1. Love this article, thank you.
    Our two rescue dogs aren’t crate trained (and our car is too small for two crates) but do now love the car. We use dog seat belts that clip to their body harness (never clip to a neck collar) as this stops them from climbing over to the driver’s area plus it protects them should we have an accident. One dog can unbuckle her belt from a standard seat belt clip so her belt is the sort fixed to the head restraint.

    For long journeys I fill the footwell in the back seat area with luggage and have a foam slab that fits across the seat and footwell space. This gives the pooches much more space to lie down as they’re medium sized dogs. We can then take the foam bed into a hotel or tent etc for their dog bed when we are staying away overnight.

    I also make my own apple and ginger dog cookies for travel treats as the ginger settles any motion sickness.

    Works for us! Happy dogs make happy holidays.

      1. Happy to share the recipe if anyone would like it. The cookies can be frozen and eaten straight from the freezer in hot weather as they stay slightly chewy.

  2. Your heads up about how your dog may have high anxiety really helped to read. If there's one thing I really want to avoid, it's my dog running off on its own in a crowded place and having trouble finding it. To make sure we know how to prevent this, I'll go look for a veterinarian I can consult right away.

  3. Our recently adopted 6 year old Golden is afraid of getting in the car. We had to force her to get home from the shelter. Now what? We like to travel to see kids and grands, up to 6 hours on the road. We enjoy taking our dog on small trips around town too.

    1. First I’d allow her a few days to get comfortable with her new home. Read the 3-3-3 Rule. Then you will slowly work on the car. Start working with the car not on, just parked in your garage or driveway. Find out what really motivates her, whether it be a favorite toy or special treats and use those to make the car a happy place. Play with her jumping in and out, give her treats, lots of praise.

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