How Long Is Too Long for a Dog to Be in a Car?

Planning a road trip with a dog can get any pet parent excited! The thought of having your best canine pal by your side as you discover new places can bring a whole new level of fun to the adventure. And with so many destinations increasing their dog-friendly spaces, there’s never been a better time to pack up your pup and hit the road!

You’ve already started looking up dog-friendly road trip ideas. You’ve scoured the internet for the best planning guide to get ready for the journey. And most likely, you’ve already started packing. But while you are getting ready to give your dog an adventure of a lifetime, don’t furget to be prepared for the hours in the car getting to your destination.

While some trips with dogs may only take a few hours, others can be much longer. If you are driving cross country with a dog, you’ll need to do some extra planning, as your pooch may need a lot more stops than you do. While you may be able to drive continuously for long hours, most dogs can’t go all day without a break. But just how long is too long for a dog to be in a car? Read on to discover how to plan your journey with your dog’s needs in mind.

How Long is Too Long?

With some coffee or an energy drink, and some good tunes, the miles can just fly by. But for your dog, being stuck in the car for too long can be tortuous! Not only do dogs need to take frequent potty breaks, but they’ll also need to stretch their legs and get out some of their energy to be able to relax in the car. Stops are also good times to give your dog some food and water, as having those available in a moving vehicle could be messy!

Knowing how long your dog can be in the car can depend on a few factors, such as your dog’s age or condition. Ideally, you should try to match your dog’s normal routine for potty breaks and meals while on the road, but this may be difficult to do. On average, you should give your dog a break every 2 to 4 hours for about 15 to 30 minutes each, and plan on driving no more than 7 hours per day.

Factors that can alter your planned stops can include:

  • Younger puppies who may still be learning to “hold it”, and may need more frequent potty breaks, which may mean every 2 hours or less.
  • Elderly dogs who may be losing their ability to “hold it” for long periods, and may also need to stop more often.
  • Dogs who have certain medical conditions, or are on medications which increase their elimination.
  • Dogs who suffer from motion sickness, and may need several stops due to the nausea.
  • Dogs who have travel anxiety, and can only handle short periods in a moving car.

When taking a dog on a road trip, it’s always a good idea to do some test drives beforehand to see how your dog reacts. You may able to discover if your dog has conditions which can be treated, such as travel anxiety or motion sickness. With a few simple remedies, your dog’s travel sickness and anxiety could be stopped before it starts, which means less frequent breaks and more fun for both of you!

Fun Travel Tips for Dogs

One way to ensure your dog gets plenty of stops along the way is to plan your route ahead of time. This can help you find dog-friendly spaces where your pup can get food, water, take any needed medications, stretch those legs, and even have some fun! The more your dog can move and exercise, the more they can relax when back in the car. After all, a snoozing dog is much better than a whining or anxious one!

Here are some pawsome ideas for stops your dog will love:

  • State-run rest areas often have grassy sections set aside for leashed dogs to wander. A few even have fenced in areas where your dog can ditch the leash, though you still may want to use caution when cars and trucks are frequently going by.
  • Dog parks, state parks and community parks are furbulous places to run that energy out of your pooch! You’ll want to bring along any immunization records if you plan on visiting a dog park, but your pup is sure to have a blast sniffing out the locals!
  • Dog-friendly beaches are truly a treat! If you are traveling with your dog near coastlines or lakes, be sure to stop here for an afternoon snack with a great view, and a splash in the water. Bring a towel to wipe off the sand before jumping back into the car.
  • Hiking a local trail can put a wag in any adventure pup’s tail! With urban routes through cityscapes, to forest paths, and even mountain passes, you can find the pawfect trek to get the wiggles out of your pooch. And if you lose track of time, check out local campsites where you can get in some camping with your dog under the stars.
  • Dog-friendly restaurants can provide great places to stop for lunch or dinner that doesn’t leave your dog alone in the car, and some even have their own dog parks attached!

A Few More Considerations

While planning the ultimutt road trip with your dog, be sure to keep safety in mind. Always have a dog first aid kit on hand to take care of any unexpected injuries. Practice car safety by using crates, booster seats, pet seat belts and harnesses to keep your dog secure.

And most importantly, never leave your dog alone in the car. A dog locked in a hot car can suffer heatstroke, or can freeze in cold temperatures. Even in mild weather, being in an unfamiliar place without you can cause undue stress on your beloved pal, which could result in harm to them or your car. If you are visiting a humans-only venue, hire a dog walker or dog sitter to keep your precious pooch safe while you are away.

Whether you are planning a day’s journey, or an expedition across the country, remember that the best trips for your dog are the ones with you! 

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