Poodle  Junction dot com
Car Trips & Traveling:
Table of Contents

Most dogs are excellent travelers and Poodles want to be with their people whether it's a trip to the store or across country.

Caution: Do not let your dogs ride on your lap or in the front seat of a car equipped with air bags. Air bag deployment can seriously injure or kill a small dog.

Small dogs should be restrained in the car for your safety and for theirs. These tykes will fly right off the seat if you hit the breaks or even take a corner fast. Also, a dog roaming around the car can distract you enough to cause an accident.

There are car seats available for small dogs that work fine (and some that don't) if you have an extra $70 or $80 to spend on one. My car seat isn't as pretty but it works as well as any and better than some. It's made from a plastic "milk carton" type crate and can be secured in a couple different ways depending on how your car seats are configured. It's also easy to remove and easy to clean. (See Car Seat page for details.)

Some puppies get car sick. They usually outgrow this if they get used to riding in the car. If your pup gets car sick don't stop taking her for rides. Instead, take her for more rides but short ones and do so when she has not eaten in a couple of hours. (Remember to take a roll of paper towels with you.) Fasten her into her seat which will make her feel secure and will keep any mess in the seat which will be a lot easier to clean than your car's seat or floor mats are. Put an old towel in the bottom of her seat. When she's a veteran traveler you can replace this with a cute pillow but for now you want the most easily washable (or disposable) padding. If she does get car sick talk softly to her. Don't ever let a puppy think she did a bad thing by getting sick. It will only make her more nervous about traveling in the car. If she's gotten car sick, take her out of the car IN the car seat, put the whole seat in the bath tub. Take her out of it and give her a bath or a rinse, depending on the mess level. Then rinse (or toss) the towel and wash off the car seat.

If you put your pup in her car seat from the start she'll love it. Skidget jumps right into her seat every time I open the car door. Even older dogs aren't hard to train to car seats. Just be consistent about making them ride in it and pretty soon they'll be very proprietary about it. One tip: don't put stuff in the seat that doesn't belong there. Many years ago my husband left a can of screws in the dog seat. Poo (my poodle at that time) was so offended to find junk in his seat that he didn't want to get in it and wouldn't look at me for the whole ride after I removed the junk. You can only apologize to a dog so many times before you start getting that "eccentric dog person" feeling.

If you travel often with a dog it's always a good idea to keep a "doggie kit" in the car. If your car seat rests on a box that's the perfect place to keep these handy items:

  • A new (sealed) bottle of water in case a quick trip turns into a long one. 
  • A small bowl (I keep a few disposable plastic bowls in the car.)
  • Wet wipes and/or paper towels
  • Poop bags (cheap plastic sandwich bags work great)
  • An extra leash

Leaving a Dog in a Car

There are many opinions about whether or not a dog should ever be left in a car. Some states and/or municipalities have laws against it. (In Colorado it is against the law to leave a dog in the car. It is also illegal for a hotel to refuse to allow dogs although they can charge you extra for it.)

Aside from legalities the main issues are temperature and theft. Even on a mildly hot day the interior of a car reaches temperatures that can cause heat stroke in a dog. I do leave my dogs in the car on occasions when the weather is cool and I'm making a quick stop at a store they can't enter. (Most stores that don't sell food have no problems with well behaved dogs being carried in or riding in shopping carts.)

Keep in mind that you need to keep the windows open at least a couple of inches but not so far that a thief could reach in and open the door. I really don't care so much if my car gets stolen but if my dogs got stolen I'd have a heart attack.

If you need to leave a dog in a car use good judgment and err on the side of caution.

If you're traveling to a cool or cold climate be sure to take a sweater for the pup. These little dogs are used to the South and will shiver their tails off in cold weather.

Traveling longer distances

No matter how well behaved your dog is never let it off leash while on the road!

When traveling longer distances always bring the dog's crate, a travel crate or a fold down crate even if you don't think you'll need it. If you have room a baby gate can be a handy thing to have with you. Take enough dog food to last for the whole trip. Traveling is the last thing you want to be doing when you change the dog's regular diet. Bottled water (which your dog has gotten used to before the trip) isn't a bad idea either since water quality can vary a lot from place to place.

Most books will tell you not to feed dogs while on the road. I always try to feed them because I'm afraid they'll be hungry but they never eat on the road anyway so I guess this is good advice. I give them water at stops even though they generally don't drink very much on the road.

Although traveling can wear you all out be sure to give some good loving to the pups when stopping for the night. Let them have time to settle down, go for a walk and generally chill then feed them their dinner. Make sure they have their favorite toys and throw the tennis ball a few extra times. Traveling pooches deserve it! 

Hotels & Motels

When I travel up the East Coast I never make motel reservations ahead of time because I'm only going to stop when I'm tired. I have found that for any motel that doesn't allow dogs there is one a short distance away that does.  The extra charge - in 2003 - has been about $25 a night on a room that is normally $75 to $100. I believe that Motel 6 allows dogs at all of its locations.

If you're making advance reservations be sure to find out what the additional charge is. I was once hit with a whopping $100 additional charge at a hotel in Colorado.


Most campgrounds allow dogs but not all. Be sure to check ahead of time. Any campgrounds that do allow dogs will almost certainly require them to be on a leash at all times and to relieve themselves in the proper locations.

Friends & Family

Sometimes the hardest place to stay with your pet is at the home of a friend or family member. More than once I've been told "Oh sure. Bring the dog." only to find myself in a really stressful situation where the dog is welcome as long as she doesn't pee, doesn't lick, doesn't shed, doesn't bark, doesn't drool, doesn't beg for food, doesn't get on the furniture and doesn't in any way act like a dog. These situations make me so nervous I could pee on the floor! If your dog is ever going to misbehave it's likely to be at this person's house.

At times like this you will be really glad that your dog is trained to sleep in a crate where she can't possibly get (you) into any trouble.

This is also one of those situations where you might consider diapering your dog.

The best way to deal with a situation like this is by avoiding it which you can only do by being sure what will be expected of you and your dog before you get there. There are, sadly, some people who "love dogs" but expect you to be able to banish them to the back yard where they won't interfere with your visit.

Airline Travel

Small dogs can travel in the cabin with you on many major airlines but this must be approved and scheduled in advance. Check with your airline. 

International (& Hawaiian) Travel

When traveling overseas there are many regulations regarding dogs. Some dogs are not allowed in some countries and many places require a long quarantine for arriving dogs. Be sure to check this out before planning a trip.

Leaving the Dog Behind

Some trips are better taken without your dog. I would never leave any of my dogs home overnight without a person in attendance. They are too used to constant companionship and I'd be a wreck while I was away. In many areas of the country there are pet sitters & boarders. These are people who will care for your dog in your home or theirs while you are away. The advantage to some of these types of services is that unlike leaving your dog with a vet or a kennel it will not be caged all the time you are away. Do a web search to find people in your area or ask local Groomers and Vets if they know of any.

Revised: 05/28/05.
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