How to transport a dog in a car? 10 Simple Steps

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated February 23, 2024

Ensure Your Furry Friend's Comfort!

  • Fast and easy
  • Only pay when you book

If you are planning on moving houses soon, and you happen to have a dog, you may find yourself in a difficult situation when it comes to the transportation of a dog. Everyone knows that moving with a dog in the car can be stressful for the animals as well as their humans. But there are certain steps you can take that minimize, if not completely eliminate, the stress and safety risks for your canine companion as well as you. 

Check out these tips below before you hit the road to make the move relaxed and stress-free for everyone. 

Here’s How to transport a dog in the car?

1. Plan where your dog will sit beforehand

Whether your dog will be traveling in a car restraint or a crate, you need to figure out where they will be sitting beforehand. If they are not going to be in a crate, ensure there is enough space for them to move around and there are no objects that can be hazardous. If the road trip is going to be long, try to make it extra cozy by laying down their favorite blanket and some toys. 

Since your dog will be getting in the car at the very last moment just before you leave, make sure you have all these things placed in there beforehand. You should also remember not to have your dog in the front seat. This is because, in case of an accident, the airbags can seriously hurt them. Always choose the back seat or the boot for your furry friend to keep your dog safe.

2. Pick the restraint carefully

If you are not transporting your dog in a crate, you will need a restraint for them. This is to make sure that no harm comes to your beloved pet in case of an accident. There are a couple of restraint options that you can choose from, depending on your preferences. Some of them include zipline harnesses, carry boxes that come with harness attachments, and harness seat belts. 

There are other alternatives to harnesses, of course, like back seat hammocks and barriers, dog guards, and crates. While these options are better than nothing, they are not as effective as restraints. You should also check the local laws in your state to know if it is allowed to travel with a dog in a car without any restraints. 

3. Don’t feed the dog just before you have to go

Dog guides usually advise owners to maintain their routine no matter what. In most cases, this advice is accurate, but in certain special instances like when traveling, you may need to make some adjustments. 

This is especially true when it comes to feeding them because some people are struggling with motion sickness. If your dog eats just before traveling, it is likely that they may get an upset stomach during the journey, and there may be a horrible mess on your back seat for you to clean up for you. This is particularly the case for puppies and younger dogs. 

Therefore, you might have to break the routine a little bit and feed your dog a couple of hours earlier. Ideally, it is advised to finish any pre-travel meal or feeding at least 3 hours before you have to go. 

4. Plan ahead

No matter how much you try to reduce any stress-related problems for your dog, it is impossible to eliminate them completely. That is why you must prepare for the eventuality. If your dog has had stress issues previously, talk to your vet about it a month before the travel date and make arrangements accordingly. You may be able to get some anti-anxiety medicines to keep your dog calm. 

You can also limit stress issues during the journey by following these tips:

  • Dogs are fine tuned to their owners’ moods and body language. Remain calm and stress-free during the move, so that your dog can too. 
  • Make sure your dog has his favorite toys and blankets with him. 
  • Experiment with non prescription anti-anxiety drugs to see if they help. Try them before the moving day so you have an idea regarding their effects on the dog. 

5. Plan the journey with plenty of breaks

Moving your dog in a van means balancing your preferences with his. This can mean that sometimes you may have to do things for the dog that you may not otherwise. For instance, you might prefer to travel all the way without any stops in between. 

But this can be very stressful for dogs, especially if it is a long journey. You also need these breaks so that the dog can go potty, take short walks, and burn off some excess energy. 

Your goal should be taking a break every two or three hours for 15 to 20 minutes. It might mean that you will be a little bit late, but these few minutes of exploration will keep your dog very happy. You can also use this time to check if your four-legged friend is okay otherwise. 

6. Make sure you use crates that are right for your dog

If you are going to use a crate instead of restraint, pick one that is not only the right size for your dog, but has also been certified when it comes to safety. This means they should be crash-tested and made of the right material.

The most durable materials for crates are plastic and aluminum reinforced fiberglass. There should be some ventilation for air circulation and good insulation for comfort during all seasons. Always buy from reputable brands that offer products made with strict safety guidelines. 

For extra safety, you can pick products that come with crash bags installed within the crate. Additionally, you can also buy a ramp or steps to help your dog climb in, especially if you have a small dog or a puppy. This will help them get into the car and out of it without any help from you.

7. Do not give your dog excess treats during the journey

All dogs love treats, without a question. And you love your dog, so you might be tempted to keep them happy and distracted during the journey by offering some extra treats. However, it is advised to keep the praise to verbal encouragement during traveling. 

This is because there are several problems that can arise when you give food to your dog when they are in a moving car. They can choke on the food, or may get an upset tummy. It is also not very safe to be distracted while driving. Reaching for the treat bag, and then turning around to the back seat to give it to your dog can be very dangerous, as you may not be able to keep your eyes on the road during this. 

Therefore, it is advisable to avoid giving your dog any treats when you are traveling or driving. 

8. Maintain the interior temperature of the car so that your dog is comfortable

Your dog has a higher sensitivity to temperature than you. To keep your dog safe, this means that you have to pay attention to the interior of your car to make sure your dog is comfortable at all times. This can mean that you have to keep the air conditioning running during the summers, and keep the interior warm during the winters. 

In the summer air, you can also open the window for a little while to make sure that there is some fresh air in the car. However, don’t put it all the way down, so that your dog cannot stick their head out the window. You should also never leave your dog alone in the car for an extended period of time. 

If you do have to run to a convenience store quickly, make sure you crank the back seat window open a little bit and get back as soon as possible. 

9. Pack a bag of essentials things

Just like we pack an essentials bag for ourselves when we are travelling, you need to have one for your dog as well. This bag should have all the items that your dog might need during the journey, as well as on their first night and day in the new place. This will make things easier for both of you and you will not have to unpack everything to find something your dog might not. 

Some of the things you can pack in the essentials bag include:

  • Leash and harness
  • Medicines that your dog might be on
  • Travel food 
  • Just enough food to sustain during the trip and the first day at the new place
  • Medical records in case you need to take them to a vet
  • Waste bags
  • Some toys and treats
  • Disinfecting material 

Make sure that this bag is somewhere you can reach it easily, like the glove compartment.

10. Don’t forget to pack a dish and water

Although most places have water fountains and accessible places for pets to drink water, it is a good idea to not rely on these things completely. It is possible that you may need to give your dog some water on the road, when there is no gas station or convenience store in sight. 

To avoid problems, make sure you pack some water and a water dish for your dog when you know the journey is going to be long. Although you can let your dog drink water out of your cupped hands, a water bowl is good to have on hand. 

Remember that your furry friends cannot speak and ask for water. It is your duty to make sure that your dog is not thirsty during the trip. 


The bottom line is that in order to make sure that the road trip is pleasant, or at the very least, not too stressful, you need to make sure you plan everything ahead. Dogs are extremely sensitive animals and you cannot take their safety and mental health lightly, especially during a move. We’re sure now you have the answer for: How do you transport a dog in a car or even a van?

Try to anticipate their needs and their problems and do as much as you can to limit them. Also make sure you check the laws regarding the same, especially in cases where you will be moving between state lines. This is essential not only for the safety of your dog but your own as well.