Taking a Puppy On a Long Car Trip

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Congratulations, you've finally found a family pet! But bringing a puppy home in the car can be a challenge. And then each time you visit a faraway relative or take a vacation, you'll also probably have this little guy in tow. Indeed, traveling with a puppy in a car can be tedious and stressful — for the both of you. The fix: lots of preparation. In fact, a little planning, careful packing, and acclimation ahead of time will help keep your puppy comfy and safe on your car ride together. Here's what you need to know about what to do on a long car ride with a new puppy.

Take your new puppies on practice drives.

Practice before driving

If your puppy's not used to riding in the car, a long journey is bound to be scary and uncomfortable for him. To address this concern, start preparing a couple of weeks before your departure and let him sit in the car in his travel crate without going anywhere or even turning the car on. The idea is to allow your puppy to get used to the car's environment. Next, gradually work up to turning on the ignition to get him accustomed to the noise and vibrations and then take him for short rides.

Pack a puppy bag

Wondering how to travel with a puppy? For maximum puppy comfort, make sure you pack everything your new dog may need on his long trip. As part of your puppy's travel bag, food, water, bowls, a collar, and a leash are the basics for the journey. Along with these items, you may want to include your puppy's favorite blanket to keep him calm and cozy, some toys to distract him, treats for good behavior, a doggy first aid kit, and some grooming supplies.

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It's important that your puppy is restrained for a car journey, even though it's fun to let your pup hang out the window.
Image Credit: kosziv/iStock/GettyImages

Restrain your puppy

When you're transporting a puppy in a car, it's important that your puppy is restrained for a car journey to ensure his own safety as well as that of the driver and other passengers. If he's free to roam about the car, you might become distracted, increasing the risk of an accident. And if you stomp on the brakes or swerve suddenly, you risk injuring your dog. A crate-trained puppy will ride safely and securely inside his carrier for the duration of the ride. Add a soft blanket and his favorite toy for snuggling en route.

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If your puppy isn't crate-trained, you might consider trying a specialized doggy car harness. Traveling with a puppy in a car who's wearing a harness is far safer than having him loose in your vehicle. These devices typically fit around the chest area so they won't pull on his neck if your car jolts or you stop abruptly. A leash-like clip is attached to a ring on the harness, which plugs into the belt socket, creating a cute puppy seat belt.

Take breaks on the road

Puppies need to relieve themselves — a lot — so make time to stop for regular bathroom breaks every couple of hours. In addition to letting your pet do his business, you should also take him for a short walk and maybe even have a quick game of fetch or tug of war to work off his pent-up puppy energy. If you tire him out, he's more likely to snooze in the car, making the road trip with your puppy seem quicker and more pleasant for everyone.

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Don't leave your puppy behind

Never leave your puppy in the car alone.
Image Credit: Sally Anscombe/DigitalVision/GettyImages

When you're stopping for a break in your trip, whether it's to grab a coffee or a quick bite, never leave your puppy in the car alone. The temperature inside a vehicle can soar to dangerous levels even on a relatively mild day. Even if you crack your car's windows to allow for some air to circulate, it can take just 10 minutes for the car to heat up to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, always travel with a leash in your car and take your pup with you when you exit.

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