16 Items Every Dog Owner Needs in Their Car for a Safe Road Trip
Whether you travel across town or cross country, a dog's comfort and safety depends on what you take along. Here are 16 dog road trip essentials to make the journey a tail-wagging good time.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
RD.COM, VIA MERCHANT (3)
This article is brought to you by The Pet Collective, the happy place for animal lovers. We’re here to entertain, pet-ucate and offer the very best pet product recommendations to keep your furry family member healthy, happy and, dare we say, spoiled? Find us here on Reader’s Digest and follow us on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Each year, pet lovers hit the road with their BFF (best furry friend) for fun in the sun, paddling on dog-friendly beaches, camping at national parks or exploring other outdoor venues. To get from here to there, chances are you’ll need to spend a night or two at a pet-friendly hotel along the way. What kind of dog road trip essentials do you need?
Even if your trip only takes you across town to Grandma’s house, there are pet products every dog owner needs to include in the car. As a longtime pet professional, safety always comes first for me, so I’ve rounded up 16 of the best dog road trip essentials, along with suggestions for making sure your fun away from home enriches you both.
A dog crate keeps pups safe while driving—and prevents Fido from climbing in your lap or under your feet. Martin Wright, founder and owner of Argos Dog Training in Boston, agrees: “Dog crates are dog road trip essentials, as it keeps your dog safe while you drive, as well as protects you both in the event of an accident.” While you’re at it, also learn how long a dog can stay in a crate too.
The Diggs Revol Dog Crate is perfect for travel. It collapses for easy storage, comes in three colors and fits both small and large dogs. You can also check out these other dog carriers and dog car hammocks designed with your pup’s comfort and safety in mind.
Safety harness and seat belt
Also at the top of the list of dog road trip essentials is a seat belt and safety harness. For dogs that don’t fit inside a crate or carrier, a safety harness keeps your pup nice and secure while on the road. These thick vests are similar to a regular dog harness, but it also features short, detachable leads that work with your car’s seatbelts.
The Kurgo Tru Fit is my favorite because it has undergone crash tests to provide dog lovers true peace of mind. It comes in five colors and five sizes for the perfect fit. They help keep your dog from trying to get on your lap while you’re driving (a definite safety hazard!) and locks them safely in place in the event of an accident.
Portable dog water bottle
A trip in the car can turn into thirsty business for your dog. Sun through the window heats up the temperature and dogs often require extra water to maintain hydration. Also, a change in water can upset tummies. Drinking out of streams and rivers or lakes, or even a different faucet, may prompt digestive issues.
The MalsiPree is a portable dog water bottle that makes it easy to provide your dog with a spill-proof drink while in the car, hiking or anywhere else on-the-go. And once at your destination, you can avoid sloppy messes with these no-spill water bowls.
Collapsible dog bowl
Among the important dog road trip essentials (in addition to portable water bottles): A collapsible bowl so your pup has a clean place to drink and eat once you reach your destination. A pop-up bowl is compact and easily fits in your backpack or purse for an easy way to give your dog food or water away from home.
This Boots & Barkley bowl is less than $10 and holds almost four cups of water (or vet-recommended dog food), then collapses for easy storage. The clip also makes it convenient to attach to your belt while you hike.
Harness and leash
A leash is also on the list of dog road trip essentials to ensure your pup doesn’t jump out of the car when you open the door, and a no-pull harness helps curb the tugging excitement of visiting new places. They must fit correctly, though, to work well and not hurt your dog (or your hands).
Experts recommend the Blue-9 Buckle-Neck Balance Harness for its customizable fit. Available in leather or fabric, the six-foot length is perfect for keeping pups nearby while they do their business.
Dog car barrier
During long car journeys, dogs crave a designated space of their own. This highly-rated dog car barrier, boasting nearly 4,000 five-star Amazon reviews, offers an essential solution tailored for SUVs. Its adjustable design ensures compatibility with your vehicle, while its near-universal fit effectively contains rambunctious pets in the rear. Plus, installing it requires no tools, rendering it incredibly user-friendly.
Dog life jacket
Some dogs adore the water—like Labradors and Poodles—while others avoid or even fear it. When your destination includes the lake or sharing the pontoon boat with your furry friend, don’t forget safety around the water. The Outward Hound vest is one of the best dog life jackets. It features a flotation vest, bright neon colors to easily track Fido in the water and a handy grip to pull him out.
Pet first aid kit
Ensure you’re prepared for summer safety emergencies by having a dog first aid kit on hand. These dog road trip essentials should include fundamental items such as bandages, gloves, gauzes and antiseptic.
The Kurgo 49-piece kit stands out as a personal favorite, as it was expertly crafted by canine professionals and features a convenient wearable tote. Your dog can even carry their own travel bag, specially designed for their comfort. There’s also additional space to include extras like your dog’s medical records or medications.
Treats are important to keep in your car. They come in handy when you want to reward your dog for good behavior or for going to the bathroom in a new place. Just remember that not all human treats are good for dogs. So, instead of sharing yours, offer him some delicious dog-specific Campfire S’mores from Bocce’s Bakery. They’re equally perfect for long road trips or camping excursions (speaking of, you might like to check out these dog camping gear essentials, too).
Having your dog’s favorite blanket handy is a sensitive step to keeping them comfortable in the car. It is also practical for preventing hair from getting all over the back seat, or to handle any accidents they have in their crate.
I love the Muddy Paws Towel Shammy that doubles as a bed and a towel. You’ll also want to stock up on a convenient dog paw cleaner to keep your car, boat, hotel—and Grandma’s house—free of tracked-in debris.
Accidents (of the stinky kind) happen when you travel with dogs. Stock up on cleaning supplies including paper towels, antibacterial multipurpose cleaner, water and plastic bags. A spot cleaner like Rocco & Roxie Oxy Stain Remover will help to neutralize germs and odors left behind.
I love it for its quick effectiveness, and the non-aerosol pump spray makes it convenient to take on the road. It is also chlorine-free and color-safe—so it’s safe to use around pets and kids. For a more thorough clean-up, the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser offers an excellent option.
If you are taking your dog on a longer car ride, you’ll need to stop for a bathroom break. Although some rest stops provide free bags, you should always carry a supply of dog poop bags in your car.
Many states have laws that require you to pick up after your pet and dispose of the waste—besides, it’s just good dog owner etiquette. My favorite, Earth Rated Dog Poop Bags, have a pleasant lavender scent, are leakproof and come in economical bundles of 120- or 270-count packages.
A dog chew toy will help keep your pup busy in the back seat. They also distract stressed-out pups so they aren’t focused on traveling. These Kong toys are my top recommendation because they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to suit every dog.
As a responsible pet parent, you should microchip your dog. If they were to get lost while on the road, the information might quickly reunite you with your buddy. As a backup, include a visible tag on the dog’s collar that tells people Fido belongs to you. Or, better yet, buy a smart dog tag like the PawScout—it connects to an app on your phone and alerts you if your pup wanders outside a specified range.
Health records and medication
The American Kennel Club recommends pet owners check in with their vet to make sure their pet’s vaccinations are current. If you are traveling a distance, you may want to bring your dog’s health records with you.
Don’t forget to take along a few days’ worth of your dog’s regular medicine, in case you get stuck away from home longer than expected. Once you get to your destination, research the nearest 24-hour veterinary hospital in the event of an emergency, just in case.
Music has a powerful effect to calm stressed dogs. It helps keep antsy dogs respectful while on the road, and encourages them to settle down or sleep in an unfamiliar place during your stay. The Pet Tunes Bluetooth Speaker comes preloaded with soothing tunes you can play anywhere. If music isn’t your dog’s jam, there are plenty other helpful dog anxiety products on the market to try.
- Martin Wright, founder and owner of Argos Dog Training
Craving more paw-some content? Get hilarious videos, heartwarming stories and editor-vetted product recommendations for every type of pet delivered right to your inbox. Sign up for The Scoop newsletter.