Hitting the Road Over the Holidays With Your Dog

Cindy SmithDog Health, Senior Dogs

We all love our pets like family members. With COVID and the risks of flying, the transportation industry estimates that more people will be taking to the roads over the holidays. That means that more pets will be going too!

Before you put your dog (or cat) in the car, consider the cons of traveling versus having a pet sitter staying in your home. It’s about what would make your dog happier – the stress of being in the car (albeit with you) or laying on his favorite couch?

According to a survey by Pet Products, 45% of pet parents bring their dogs along when they hit the road. Here’s some things to consider as you hit the highways.


The dog may want to sit in the front seat with you. At a minimum, he should wear a seatbelt or harness or be in a car seat designed for dogs. If he is positioned in the front seat, know that should an air bag deploy, it could seriously injure your dog. The best place for a dog is in the back seat in a hard crate that is very secure.

The worst thing you can do is have your dog on your lap and pet him along the way. Ths can be a major distraction for you! For instance, 300 pounds is the amount of force exerted by an unrestrained 10-lb dog in a car accident when traveling only 30 miles per hour! Imagine that flying at you.

Truck Bed

The worst place you can place your dog is unsecured in a truck bed. According to the Humane Society, 100,000 dogs are killed each year in accidents involving riding in truck beds. In addition, veterinarians see numerous cases of dogs being injured because they jumped out or were thrown from the bed of a pickup truck. This can lead to broken bones and joint injuries. It is illegal in California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine to drive on public roads in open bed vehicles.

Pets whose head hang out of windows also risk injury. Anything close to the vehicle, like other cars, trees, signs, or poles can injure your dog. Dirt, insects, rocks, and more could fly into their eyes, nose, mouth, or ears – potentially resulting in a trip to the vet.

Did You Know? There is a $200 fine in Rhode Island for driving with an unrestrained dog? The state requires dogs to ride in an enclosed area and be secured within a crate, restrained with a harness or pet seat belt, or under the physical control of someone other than the driver.

Hot or Cold Cars

Depending on where you live in the country, temperatures can quickly hit extremes. Know that it only takes 20 minutes for the interior of a car to reach 99 degrees Fahrenheit if it is 70 degrees outside. Conversely, when temperatures start to fall below 45°F, some cold-averse breeds will get uncomfortable and will need protection. For owners of small breeds, puppies, senior dogs, or thin haired breeds, anytime the temperature outside feels at or below 32°F, pull out the sweaters, coats and boots may be a necessity!

Rest Stops/Toilet Breaks

Visit rest stops at a minimum of every four hours to let your dog have a drink, go to the bathroom, and stretch his legs. Rest stops are often used by a lot of other dogs, so be careful what your dog is putting in his mouth! Always leash your dog before getting out of the car. The unfamiliar environment may cause your dog to run away to explore. Having a leash will make it easier for you to manage where your dog is going.

Remember that your dog will be seeing a lot of new faces. The more you can socialize him before the trip, the better. If your dog is afraid of car rides, consider hiring a dog trainer who can help your dog get over the anxiety before your trip.

Most importantly, have fun!!