It’s always a great adventure when you get to take your dog out into the big wide world, whether it’s to a local park, on a long forest hike, to the sandy beach, or on a full vacation.
You want to make sure you keep a few basic essentials ready if you ever do travel with a dog. These are things like a car seat cover, poop bags and water. But did you know that there are many, many more things to pack that will make trips easier for you and your dog?
Here’s a complete guide to pretty much anything and everything needed for dog travel. Take a look and set up your own ‘pet travel pack’ in your car, so you’re ready to hop in and go whenever an opportunity comes along.
Keeping your car clean when traveling with dogs
1. Car seat cover
This one’s first on my list because this is an absolute must-have in my opinion when traveling with pets.
A car seat cover will protect your seats from dog hair, scratches, and muddy paws. They say that prevention is better than cure, and this is a perfect example of that!
Once those dog hairs get into the fibers of your car seats, it can be a huge job trying to get them out.
Keep wipes in the car and use them to clean up messes or spills, wipe paws, or for anything else you need to clean. You even get grooming wipes for wiping down a dog’s coat.
Be sure to get dog-friendly wipes, baby wipes, or hypoallergenic wipes that won’t irritate your dog’s skin.
Don’t buy scented wipes and don’t wipe too close to your dog’s eyes – the liquid could burn and hurt the sensitive eye area.
3. Hand sanitizer
This is more for you than for your dog. Use sanitizer on the trip to clean your hands when you need to and before you eat.
Don’t ever use hand sanitizer on your dog or to clean your dog’s paws. The sanitizer soaks into the skin and can be toxic for your dog.
4. Small vacuum cleaner
I’ve got cleaning on my mind…
Investing in a small handheld vacuum cleaner can make it much, much easier to keep your car clean.
Give the seats or car seat cover a quick vacuum after your dog has been in the car or when you think it needs it. This should keep the fur and dirt under control.
Keeping your dog safe and secure in the car
5. Non-slip mat
I find that my dogs slip around on the car seat cover when I turn corners or go over bumps.
What’s helped is putting a non-slip mat on the car seat cover. I managed to get a cheap, clear non-slip shower mat from Kmart for less than $10.
The good news is that a non-slip shower mat makes it even easier to keep your car clean when traveling with pets – just take out the mat, shake it off, then spray it down with a disinfectant and wipe dry.
Now the dogs can sit, stand or lie down in the backseat without slipping and sliding around.
6. Seatbelt lock
A seatbelt lock is a very handy and cheap tool that makes driving in a car much safer for your dog.
It’s basically a very short leash with a seatbelt clip. One end of the leash clips into the backseat seatbelt. The other end of the leash is attached to your dog’s harness.
This seatbelt lock keeps your dog safe and secure in one place, so they can’t run around or try to climb to the front of the car. It also keeps your dog in the backseat if there’s ever an accident, so they don’t go flying forward.
If you have a car seat cover you won’t be able to clip the seatbelt lock in because the seat cover hides the seatbelt lock. There are dog safety harnesses that tie around the headrest of the back seat, so this is a good option if you have a car seat cover.
7. Front seat barrier
Dogs are inquisitive creatures and often want to climb over to join you in the front seat. Mine likes to slowly sneak his way forward, a little at a time, thinking I won’t notice the furball touching my arm.
A great solution for front seat sneakers is a barrier. The barrier runs across the open area between the two front seats, so the dog can see through the windscreen but can’t climb through.
Keeping your dog in the backseat is safer for you and the dog.
Essentials for your dog
8. Harness and leash
You’ll always want to have a harness and leash ready for walks and bathroom breaks. Consider getting an extra-long leash so you can let your dog stretch his or her legs a bit when you stop.
We like to keep an extra leash in the car in case one of ours breaks or goes missing – this happened to me once and I had to use a belt as a makeshift leash.
A ground stake also comes in handy if you ever go camping or for a picnic and your dog needs to stay on a leash. Just secure the leash to the stake and then stick it in the ground. Your dog can move around a bit but won’t be able to run off.
9. Water and water bowl
Water is an absolute essential when traveling with your dog.
Each day, your dog needs to drink about 1 ounce of water for every pound of dog weight. That’s 30 ml for every kilogram of doggy weight.
So, if your dog weighs 60 pounds, he/she will need at least 60 ounces or 7.5 cups of water a day.
You may need to give your dog even more water if they’re running around and active, or if the weather is hot.
Be sure to pack a water bowl and enough water for the outing. You can bring a little extra water in case you need to rinse off dirty paws along the way.
10. Food and travel bowl
Remember to pack enough dog food for the trip.
The amount of food you bring will depend on the dog food brand and the size and age of your dog. Puppies need to be fed several smaller meals a day, while adult dogs do well on two meals a day.
When traveling, try to stick with your dog’s regular mealtime routine. If she eats every morning and evening at 7, then be sure to feed her as close to 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. as you can.
You’ll probably also need a food bowl for feeding times, but in a pinch just use the water bowl and wash it out well when your dog is finished eating.
Use clean water to wash out the food bowl after feeding, not hand sanitizer or similar products.
Who doesn’t like a little treat now and then?
Pack some of your dog’s favorite treats to surprise them along the way.
I like to do a little training with my dogs in new environments when we travel, to give them confidence and teach them how to handle new environments. Treats are always part of the training program to say a big well done when I get a sit or a lie down.
12. Chew toy
Are we there yet?
There’s still a long way to go!
Just as kids get bored on long trips so can dogs. If your pup likes to chew, bring along some chew toys to keep him/her busy on the drive.
In fact, it doesn’t have to be a chew toy – any soft toy or other favorite toy will help to keep your dog occupied.
13. Poop bags
You can’t skip the poop bags and you’ll be sorry if you run out. I have rolls and rolls of poop bags in the car and in my backpack. Luckily, they’re cheap.
I don’t bother with a bag dispenser, but you can always get one if you want one. Maybe I should too because sometimes I drop the roll and it unravels, then I spend ages rolling everything up again.
The easiest way to use a dog poop bag is to stick one hand into the poop bag, to make a plastic glove. Scoop up the poop with this covered hand, then roll the top of the bag back over the poop, so the bag is inside out. Tie the top and throw the bag in a bin.
If your dog is on any medication, pack some in the car so you never leave home without it.
I recommend keeping a flashlight in your pet travel pack.
This comes in very handy when you need to venture out at night for a bathroom break.
16. Life jacket
Have a water fur baby like me? Think about getting a doggy life jacket for those days in the water.
Mine swims very well but he swallows a lot of water, which can be dangerous for dogs. I find that a life jacket keeps him higher in the water, so he swallows less water when he wears it.
I tie a long leash to the life jacket. He swims along having fun and I pull him in whenever I think he’s getting brave and going out too far.
17. A towel
A towel is a great thing to have around when you have a dog that loves to swim. I have a pack of small microfiber towels in my car at all times.
I use these towels to rub the dogs down before they get into the car, especially when we’ve been to the beach and they’re wet and full of sand.
18. Dog on board sign
This isn’t essential but a nice-to-have.
A cute sticker or sign in the back window lets the world know that your pet is traveling with you and enjoying the fun!
Being prepared for emergencies
19. First aid kit
You won’t be grateful you packed bandages and first aid supplies until the day you need them.
Make sure you have bandages, adhesive cloth tape, gloves, and an antibiotic ointment such as Bactroban ready for emergencies.
You can never have enough tweezers in your life or in your doggy travel pack.
Use them to remove thorns and anything that gets stuck in your dog’s paws.
You can also never have enough pairs of scissors.
I like to keep a small pair of nail scissors and one pair of scissors with blunt ends in my pet travel pack. Use them to cut bandages or to cut out burrs and other silly things that cling to dog fur like glue.
22. Vet contact information
You never know when you might need a vet. My dog recently swallowed a bone that the birds dropped in my yard and we were off to the vet at midnight getting X-rays done.
Keep the contact details for your personal vet and a 24-hour emergency vet clinic in your car, in case you ever need them.
23. Council registration number
If you live in a state where your dog must be registered with the council, be sure to keep a copy of the license number in your travel pack.
If someone from the council ever stops you and asks you for these details, you’ll be able to give them the registration number (and probably avoid a fine).
24. Microchip details
Microchips are injected between a dog’s shoulder blades by a vet. Click here to read my article on getting your dog microchipped.
If your dog has a microchip, make sure you set up and complete a profile for your dog. Keep your contact details up to date. Write down or save the log-in details before you leave for your trip.
If your dog ever goes missing while you’re away, log into the website to get your dog’s details. Share these details with vets and locals in the area, so you have the best chance of finding your dog.
Keeping your dog calm and happy in the car
Pack a blanket or two for cold weather. Dogs also love snuggling in blankets when they’re tired or away from home.
26. Cooling mat
If you’re traveling in hot weather, then a cooling mat can really help to keep your dog cool. Your dog can lie on it in the car or when you reach your destination.
The mat works by absorbing the heat from your dog’s skin and releasing it where the dog isn’t sitting. It gets cool in the area where your dog sits, which cools down your dog. And all of this is done without any electricity or batteries.
It’s quite amazing!
27. UV window shades
Window shades are a great and cost-effective way to keep out a lot of glaring sun for your dog. If it’s a hot, sunny day, and the car trip is a long one, stick some window shades on the back windows to keep the area cooler for your dog.
If your dog tends to get overexcited or anxious, these shades may help to keep your dog calmer by limiting the amount of sunlight and window distractions that overstimulate your dog.
28. Calming collar
If your dog is the anxious type or doesn’t like traveling, speak to your vet or local pet store about trying a calming collar.
These collars have pheromones in them that are similar to the natural chemicals a mother makes to calm her puppies. These pheromones are thought to calm adult dogs too.
Be sure to give your dog time to get used to the collar before putting him/her in the car. You don’t want to introduce a new collar a few minutes before a big trip.
29. Dog music or dog TV
Have you seen all the doggy videos and calming music on YouTube?
Your dog will either love them or ignore them.
If you find your dog enjoys listening to calming music, nature sounds, or watching a little doggy TV, play these videos on long road trips to keep your dog calm and entertained.
Staying organized when traveling with pets
Keep a backpack packed and ready to go on hikes or long dog walks.
At the very least, carry tissues, poop bags, water and a water bowl in the backpack with you.
31. Travel pack organizer
Now that you’ve got all your travel goodies together, be sure to get a trunk organizer or backseat organizer to store all of these essentials neatly in your car.
If you get organized now, you’ll have everything ready for whenever you travel with your fur kids.