Top tips for travelling with your dog

The colder months are drawing in, but staycations are still on the cards! Many of us have opted to stay in the UK and go on staycations over recent months, and there’s no better time to get away than during the changing seasons. 

So if you’re planning a trip with your family and you’re taking your dog with you, there are some things you should be aware of before setting off down the motorway!

Take them for a test drive

In an ideal world, your pet will be used to travelling in the car. If you have a small dog, they might get comfy in a zip up carrier or if you have a large dog, you could have your boot specially set up so that they can sit in the back when you take them out and about. If your dog is familiar with the car and travelling, you probably won’t need to take them for a test drive but if your dog has no or little experience in the car, it’s best to practice before setting off on a long journey.

Depending on the size of your dog and how you plan to keep them secure in the car, you might also want to practice getting them in and out of a carrier, cage or the boot. Some dogs can become nervous when they are put into a small space – especially if they only travel to go to the vets! – so practising little and often for a few weeks before a long trip will make the experience less stressful for everyone.

You’ll want to offer lots of positive reinforcement when your dog goes into their space and travels well. While it might be tempting to give them lots of treats to reward them, keep them to a minimum. Especially if you’re unsure how your dog’s stomach will react to being in the car! You can then take your dog out for short trips, maybe starting at five minutes and building it up over time. They’ll soon become accustomed to the car and they’ll be more comfortable and confident on the day of your journey.

Stock up on essentials

Every road trip needs food, drinks and entertainment. That goes for people and pets! If you’re going on a long journey, you should make sure you have enough fresh water and food (plus travel bowls, if needed) to keep your dog hydrated and stave off hunger. Avoid giving your dog too many treats or human food while you’re in the car as this could upset their stomach. 

If your dog occupies the boot or is secured in the back seat while you travel, you can also bring along some chew toys, a blanket and their bed so they can be as comfortable as possible. Every dog reacts differently to being in the car, so knowing in advance how your dog likes to spend their time while you travel (maybe they love to fall straight to sleep, watch the world go by or need to be entertained by passengers) is a good way to determine what they need.

It’s also a good idea to bring along any anti-sickness medicine that you might need. You should speak to your vet about the options available before you travel.

Try out calming supplements

While we can do our best to give our dog plenty of practice in the car and make them as comfortable as possible, some dogs simply don’t travel well. They might find the experience extremely stressful, especially if they require a lot of attention from you and you’re the driver. So in circumstances where you know your dog will be stressed and anxious, it’s worth considering giving them calming supplements.

Of course if travel makes your dog unwell and extremely stressed, you should consider whether they need to be travelling at all. However if they just need a bit of extra help, calming supplements such as Zylkene Capsules are worth considering.

Safety first! 

Dogs can be unpredictable passengers, so it’s crucial that you take every step to ensure your dog is secure in the car so they can’t get free and cause distractions to the driver. Not only is this common sense, but it can carry a penalty if you’re caught with an unrestrained dog in your car. 

It’s completely legal to take your dog with you in the car – as long as they’re properly restrained. Your dog can’t sit in the front seat and despite what films show you, they shouldn’t have their head out of the window either! Your dog should be securely fastened into the back seat with a seat belt harness, be kept inside a pet carrier or behind a pet guard in the boot. 

It can also impact your car insurance if your pet is found to have caused or contributed to an accident, so be sure to plan how your dog is going to travel before you start your journey.

Plan ahead 

Whether your journey is going to be one hour or five, you should consider how travelling with your dog will impact the journey. Your pet will need sufficient bathroom breaks plus a chance to stretch their legs and get some fresh air – especially if they don’t travel very well or tend to be uncomfortable in the car. All dogs, from tiny chihuahuas to energetic labradors, will need a break from travelling so it’s a good idea to plan ahead so you can work out when and where to take a pit stop. This is really important if you’re going to be on long stretches of motorway – you don’t want to leave it to chance and struggle to find somewhere to stop during rush hour! 

There might be a few service stations on your route that will provide the perfect opportunity to walk your dog, give them some food and water and give them some time out of the car. Aim to stop every hour to ensure your dog has the best journey possible! It’s a bit easier if you’re taking a rural route, which will provide plenty of options to pull over safely.

Phil’s top tips

  • Don’t take too many animals in the car with you at once! If you have three big dogs, consider travelling in two cars to avoid overcrowding and having too many distractions while you drive.
  • Take a human travel companion if you can. Having more hands will make it much easier to travel with your dog, especially if you’re driving. Your fellow traveller can keep an eye on your dog and keep them soothed and occupied. 
  • Avoid feeding your pet a big meal at least two to three hours before travelling. If your dog is hungry, give them a small portion of their regular food to keep them going and take them for a walk before setting off.