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15 Items Every Dog Owner Needs in Their Car

Road trips—short and long—can be fun for both pet parents and their four-legged friends. Here's everything you need to bring along to keep your pooch happy, healthy, and safe.

4pets ProLine Crash Tested Dog Crate with Aluminum Frame, Falcon Mediumvia amazon.com

Crate

Keeping a crate in the car is a smart idea as it keeps your dog safe while you are driving as well as protects it in the event of an accident, says Martin Wright, founder and owner of Argos Dog Training in Boston. If the crate is already in the car and you have to run out quickly with your dog, he will always have a safe place to cruise along. Look for one that has been crash-tested and designed with car travel in mind. Discover 12 of the most dog-friendly beaches your pooch will love.

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PAWABOO Dog Safety Vest Harness, Pet Dog Adjustable Car Safety Mesh Harness Travel Strap Vest with Car Seat Belt Lead Clip.via amazon.com

Safety harness

If you don’t have enough room in the backseat of your car for a crate, a safety harness is the next best thing. These are thick vests that your dog wears with short, detachable leads that work with your car’s seatbelts. These 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. If you’re visiting a dangerous attraction on your road trip, don’t fret. Your dog will keep you safe–and might even save your life. 

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Nestlé Pure Life Bottled Purified Water, 16.9 oz. Bottles, 24/Casevia amazon.com

Bottled water

It’s essential to always have bottled water on hand for your pooch, notes Brooks Williams, owner of Creature Comforts and Pawsitively Marblehead. Her team transports 60 dogs daily to doggie daycare and she makes sure that her drivers always have water for the dogs on their buses. Why is this so critical, even for short hauls? Your ride could break down or when you’re traveling to a new place or are headed far away, you can’t count on there being a readily available water supply. Find out the reasons behind your dog’s anxiety.

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Collapsible Dog Bowl - 2 Pack Travel Dog Bowl, Water and Food Bowls for Dogs - Portable Pet Hiking Accessoriesvia amazon.com

Collapsible dog bowl

You’ll want to bring along a collapsible bowl as well, so your pup has a clean place to drink that water. A pop-up bowl is compact and can easily fit in your backpack or purse for an easy way to give your dog food or water on the go.

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Perfectmade Dog Leashvia amazon.com

Leash

A leash is essential for making sure your dog does not jump out of the car when you open the door as well as keeping it from running away from you when are out and about. Just be sure to take the leash off before putting your dog in the crate; otherwise, it could get tangled and turn into a potential strangling hazard.

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Pawscout Smarter Pet Tag New Version 2.0 - Lost Pet Alerts, Medical Profile, Outdoor Virtual Pet Leash, Walk Tracker, Pet Points of Interest, No Monthly Feesvia amazon.com

Dog tag

Of course, as a responsible pet parent, your dog always wears a dog tag so that he can be readily identified and returned to you in the case that he wanders. This is doubly important when you’re out of town and your dog is in unfamiliar surroundings. Check your pup’s ID to make sure the info is up-to-date, or, better yet, invest in a smart dog tag that connects to an app on your phone. You’ll receive alerts if your pup wanders outside a specified range, find local vets, and more.

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Young latina woman working as veterinary, vet talking to dog owner during house call. Animal doctor writing note for pet prescription medicine at home. Close-up of hand holding penDiego Cervo/Shutterstock

Health records

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. (It’s a good idea to make a copy of the records.) Once you get to your destination, research the nearest 24-hour veterinary hospital in the event of an emergency, just in case.

GREENIES PILL POCKETS Capsule Size Dog Treats Chicken Flavor, 15.8 oz. Value Pack (60 Treats)via amazon.com

Medication

If your dog is on regular medication, be sure to keep a supply in your car. Susan Kemp of Worldly Pets recalls that when she lived in Reno, Nevada, she worked 50 miles away from home and once got stranded with her dog. “After that experience, I always keep a few extra doses of my dog’s medication in my car.” Hiding oral medication in a tasty pill pocket can help the medicine go down. Be sure you’re not guilty of these 14 behaviors your dog actually hates.

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Pet First Aid Kit Dog – Vet Approved and is Perfect for Bleeding Nails, Clean, Dress Wounds. Self Adhering Bandage Will Not Stick to Hair. Hiking Dog First Aid Kit for Backpacking, Camping, Travel via amazon.com

Pet first aid kit

Always be prepared for an accident or emergency with a dog first aid emergency kit. The kit should contain the basics including bandages, gloves, gauzes, and antiseptic.

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Zuke's Mini Naturals Dog Treatsvia amazon.com

Treats

Treats are important to keep in your car according to Martin. They come in handy when you want to reward your dog for good behavior when going through a tollbooth or going to the bathroom in a new place.

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Comsmart Pet Blanket Warm Dog Cat Fleece Blankets Sleep Mat Pad Bed Cover with Paw Print Soft Blanket for Kitten Puppy and Other Small Animalsvia amazon.com

Dog blanket

Having your dog’s favorite blanket handy is a sensitive step to keeping your pup comfortable when in the car. It is also practical to keep one of the blankets on hand in the event your dog has an accident in his crate or to keep dog hair from getting all over the back seat of your car.

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Nature’s Miracle (2 Pack) 24oz Foaming Cleaner Spray Bottle Of Pet Pee Stain & Odor Remover, Safe & Natural For Cat & Dog Urine, Feces & Vomit On Carpeting, Clothes & Furniturevia amazon.com

Cleaning supplies

Paper towels, antibacterial multipurpose cleaner, water, and plastic bags are important to carry in your trunk in the event your dog gets sick or has an accident, shares Williams. A spot cleaner will help to neutralize germs and odors left behind.

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Earth Rated Dog Poop Bags, Extra Thick and Strong Poop Bags for Dogs, Guaranteed Leak-Proofvia amazon.com

Poop bags

If you are taking your dog on a longer car ride, you’ll need to stop for a bathroom break. Although some rest stops are equipped with bags, you should always carry a supply in your car. Many states have laws that require that you pick up after your pet and dispose of the waste—besides, it’s just good dog owner etiquette. Find out the other rules for being a responsible pet owner.

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Nylabone Dura Chew Regular Original Flavored Wishbone Dog Chew Toy, Up to 35 LBSvia amazon.com

Dog chews

A dog chew toy will help keep your pup busy in the back seat. “Dogs can get anxious sitting in a car,” Wright says. “If your dog has extra energy, a dog chew like a Nyla bone is a great way to stimulate his mind and keep him busy,”

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Kruuse Task for Buster Activity Mat, Springrollvia amazon.com

Toys and games

A favorite toy or game can help keep your pet occupied, so you can keep your eyes on the road. “I have three dogs and lots of experience of traveling with them in the car,” Wright says. “I always have toys and games on hand to keep them occupied.” An activity mat is a great choice since it’s flat and easy to store and offers different types of challenges. Read on for the 30 things your dog wishes you knew.

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Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Stacey Marcus
Stacey Marcus is a regular contributor to RD.com where she covers subjects ranging from penguin secrets to Jeopardy! conundrums. Stacey’s work has also appeared on FamilyHandyman.com and TheHealthy.com as well as in top regional and national outlets including Boston magazine, Boston Common Magazine, Destination I Do, Ocean Home Magazine, and Playboy.com. She earned a BA in Communications from Simmons University.