Even with the best-behaved pets, the right travel gear makes a trip easier. You don’t want your golden retriever climbing into your lap while you’re driving, or your rescue pup who’s never flown before shivering with anxiety in his crate.
A few of these products can turn a stressful pet travel experience into a fun adventure. Be sure to test them out before you tackle a long journey, so you can make adjustments if needed.
Car Travel Gear for your Pet
You wouldn’t let a child ride in the car without securing him in his seat—likewise, your dog needs protection. Look for a safety harness rated for the size and weight of your pet. It should be rated by the Center for Pet Safety or another reputable safety rating organization. For example, Best Car Seat Hub ranks harnesses (as well as human car seats) based on opinions from road safety experts, laboratory crash-test results, consumers and manufacturers. Check their current independent review and safety test rankings to find the best restraint for your canine companion.
The American Kennel Club suggests crating your dog, citing a study from the Center for Pet Safety that found some dogs in harnesses were still thrown from their seats during accidents and sudden stops. They recommend using a crate made from a strong material, such as aluminum. Put the crate on the back floorboard of your car or in the open storage area. For extra security, strap it so it won’t shift around. Be sure it’s well ventilated and big enough for your dog to comfortably stand, lay and move around.
Save your back, and use a ramp to help you dog enter and exit the car. Some collapse or fold up, so they’re easy to transport and store.
A crated dog is safer than one riding unrestrained in your cargo area. If you choose not to crate or harness, opt for a vehicle barrier, like this one. And a cargo liner with a textured and/or padded surface helps prevent slipping and sliding.
You’ll find quilted or waterproof pet seat covers for almost any vehicle. While they’ll keep your seats clean, they don’t have safety benefits. The same is true of dog hammocks, although they may give your pet a more comfortable ride.
Editor’s Note: When traveling by car with your pooch, keep these car safety tips for dogs in mind.
Airplane Travel Gear for your Pet
If you have a short-haired dog traveling in the cabin with you, consider bringing a sweater for him. Just as passengers get chilled from air conditioning, pets can, too. Remove it when the cabin warms up, so he won’t overheat.
If you think your pet will be stressed while flying, talk to your veterinarian about medication before you go. Also, some airlines require a wellness exam and current vaccination records before allowing your pet to fly.
Don’t want to medicate your dog? A Thundershirt may relax him. These wraps gently swaddle your dog, much as a blanket swaddles a baby. Give it a few test runs during thunderstorms before you rely on it completely.
Other Pet Gear and Gadgets
Folding water and food bowls
Any special food your dog needs
A stroller for senior dogs or those who tire easily (add a weather cover to ward off rain)
Dog booties to protect paws from rough, wet, cold or slippery terrain
Towels to dry off coats and wipe feet
Handy Gear for Pet Parents
Car door protectors don’t do anything for your pet, but they’ll help keep your doors from getting scratched and dirty
A canine first aid kit
A squeegee for cleaning off nose prints on your car windows
Finally, toss in some dog toys to entertain your furry pal. After all, you don’t just want the trip to be safe—you want it to be fun, too.
Lynn Coulter is owned by two rescue dogs—Molly and Miss Paws—and occasionally blogs at LynnCoulter.com. She’s also the author of three books and a freelancer who writes about travel, gardening and more. She and her husband live in metro Atlanta, where they cheer for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and spend their money on dog biscuits.