Tips when planning a road trip with your dog

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If you’re a dog owner and heading away on holidays this festive season, you’ll need to consider what is best for your dog. If you do choose to take your dog with you on a road trip, then this can be a fun and exciting time for you both  - although there are a few things you need to consider to ensure your dog is safe and comfortable during the trip.

The first thing you need to consider is making sure your dog is used to traveling by car before making any plans. If they are comfortable, you can move on to planning what you will need to take during your trip.

Read on for some tips on how to prepare for your road trip and what to consider while you’re on the road.


Creating a checklist is a great way to ensure you’re prepared and you know everything you need to pack for your dog.

To get you started, your checklist should include your dog’s regular food and treats (don’t forget a can opener if the food is tinned), familiar bedding and/or a travel crate to sleep in, food and water bowls (carry some extra bottles of fresh water in case you can’t find a tap), collar/harness and lead, any favourite toys, grooming equipment,  towels in case your dog gets wet, a vehicle restraint, a ‘pooper scooper’ and/or poo bags to clean up after your dog, any required medications, and a first aid kit.

If you are using a container or crate, make sure this are secured within the car. Transport containers should allow your dog to lie down comfortably in a natural position, stand, sit up, turn around, and stretch with space.

During the trip

Depending on the length of your trip, your dog may need to toilet, so make sure you stop for plenty of toilet breaks so they don't get uncomfortable-  this will also help avoid your dog accidentally toileting in your car.

Even the most well-trained dog can behave a bit unpredictably in a new, exciting environment. When outside of the car, ensure you keep your dog on a leash to make sure they are safe and secure.

Remember, don’t ever leave any animal unattended in a car or vehicle as this can cause heatstroke. Temperatures in a car can reach more than double the outside temperature even on mild days, and parking in the shade or leaving the windows open doesn’t really help. Dogs can also overheat when left on the back of a ute or other open vehicle, and can also burn their feet or other body parts on the ute tray.

Take precautions

Whether your dog is coming with you on the road or staying home, take the precaution of ensuring they are microchipped and ensure that your contact details are up to date on the microchip register. If you can't remember your pet's microchip number, contact your veterinarian or the database your pet's microchip is registered with if known, and they will be able to assist. Ensure your dog is wearing an ID tag with your up to date contact details.

You should also have the contact details of the local vet at your end destination or vet clinics along the way (if it’s a long trip) at hand in case you need to make an appointment. It’s important to know the emergency clinics that will open out of hours and on public holidays.

Make sure that your dog is healthy enough to travel and that all of their vaccinations, worming and flea treatment is up to date before setting off.

It’s also a good idea to check the laws that apply to transporting dogs by road in the relevant states. In particular, laws on transporting dogs in vehicles, and what sort of restraints are required, vary by state and territory, so check the laws in the relevant jurisdiction first.

By taking precautions and preparing before your road trip, you’ll be on track to having a safe and happy road trip with your dog.


For further information, you can visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase


This piece was originally published in Australian Community Media newspapers