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Paws & Seatbelts: A Guide to Safe Road Trips with Your Four-Legged Friends 

Dog smiling with its seat belt on inside a car in front of the steering wheel - Cheap car insurance

Do you love taking your furry, four-legged best friend with you on the road? Traveling with your dog can be extremely fun and rewarding, but there are also some dangers involved. It’s important to take certain steps to keep your pup safe and comfortable, especially if you’re in the car for a while. Along with having auto insurance for your vehicle and pet insurance for your dog, you need to take several factors into consideration before embarking on a road trip. 

Many dogs aren’t used to being in a moving vehicle, so preparing your furry friend for a car ride is the key to making any trip a success. With the right planning, you can make road trips with your pet a fun, safe, and stress-free experience for both you and your canine friend. 

Preparing Your Dog for the Car Ride 

Successfully traveling with your dog by car starts well before you embark on your trip. Start by planning your dog’s overall training, schedule, and vehicle setup. 


Well-trained animals are much easier to control on the road. You don’t want to have to worry about your dog lunging at the window or jumping into the driver’s seat while you’re driving. Lay the groundwork for a successful trip by teaching your dog simple commands like “stay” and “lie down.” 

Once you have the basics taken care of, try practicing these commands in the car while parked. First, this can help your dog get comfortable being in a car before the added stress of being in a moving vehicle. Rewarding your pet for successfully completing a command can encourage a positive association with car trips in general. Once they get comfortable and start successfully responding to your instructions in a parked car, try taking short trips around the neighborhood to get in even more practice. 


Turning your car into a comfortable environment for your dog can make a huge difference in their road trip experience. Place a dog bed and plush blankets in the area where you want them to sit to encourage them to snuggle up and relax. If possible, use items they’re already familiar with to add an extra layer of comfort. 

Another factor to consider is the temperature in your vehicle. Dogs can be sensitive to hot and cold environments, so try to maintain a comfortable temperature with your car’s heat and air conditioning system. Look for signs of overheating, such as heavy panting, and adjust the temperature as necessary to keep them feeling good. 


If you’re like most pet owners, you probably have a basic feeding schedule for your dog. Keep in mind that your dog will most likely expect to eat at the same time when they’re out and about on a road trip. Before you embark on a long trip that spans mealtimes for your dog, plan pit stops where you can take a break and feed your pet. By timing your breaks properly, you can maintain your dog’s feeding schedule and keep them content while on the road. Don’t forget to pack a few extra treats to tide them over if you get stuck in traffic. 


Every pet owner knows that accidents happen. Some dogs get carsick, while others may not be able to wait for the next rest stop when nature comes calling. Lay down a seat cover and some disposable pee pads to make cleanup easy if an accident does happen. A seat cover or even a simple blanket can also help you save time when removing pet hair from your car

Choosing the Right Restraint 

Just like you should wear a seatbelt to protect yourself in the event of an accident, it’s also important to know how to secure your dog in the car. Setting up a crate or restraint system in your car when traveling with your dog allows you to buckle up your four-legged friend and keep them secure. However, different restraints may work better for certain dogs than others, so reviewing your options is important. 

Safety Harnesses and Seatbelts 

You can find safety harnesses that hook up to the seatbelts in your car. Seatbelts are designed for humans, so it’s a good idea to find a design specifically made for dogs or other pets. A good harness will support your dog’s full torso to avoid tugging at their collar when you brake. Make sure the option you choose is crash-tested and approved for dogs within your pup’s weight range. 

Seatbelt harnesses give your dogs some freedom to stretch and move while still keeping them secure. However, airbags can be dangerous to dogs, so it’s best to set their restraints up in your back seat. 

Travel Crates 

If you have a smaller dog, a travel crate can also be a great option. Crates are safe and secure, and they prevent your dog from falling between the seats and the floor of your car. You can even buckle the crate in with a seatbelt or extra straps for added security. When choosing travel crates, give your dog time to get comfortable hanging out in their crate before you embark on your next trip. 


You can also set up barriers that confine your dog to the back seat, ensuring they won’t interfere with your driving. Barriers may be less secure than crates and harnesses, but they work well for big dogs who need more room to be comfortable. Pairing a barrier with a harness is also a great way to take extra precautions and uphold dog car safety. 

Dachshund dogs sitting in a car with their seat belts fastened - Cheap car insurance

Preventing Distractions 

Traveling with your dog in the car can be distracting, so it’s up to you to be proactive about staying focused. The following are some tips for safely driving your dog and avoiding distractions during car travel with pets. 

Keeping Heads Inside 

Everyone knows that dogs love sticking their heads out the window to feel the breeze. But when you’re driving, seeing your pup’s head hanging out of the window can be distracting. You might feel like you need to constantly monitor your dog to ensure they don’t lean out too far. With bigger dogs, they can even block your view. If you do decide to crack your windows, make sure you only leave a small gap so your pet can’t fit their head out of the vehicle. 

Chew Toys 

Avoid barking and whining by giving your dog a chew toy. Toys can keep your dog occupied, reducing stress and anxiety during a drive. When picking out a toy, choose an option that doesn’t have a squeaker to keep your drive quiet and peaceful. You can even look for silent squeaker options that only dogs can hear so your pup will be entertained without disrupting your ride. 

Pit Stops: The Essentials 

Planning for breaks is just as important as preparing for the car ride itself. Having all your supplies in order will make pit stops easy, even for longer road trips. 

Regular Breaks 

Map out places to take breaks along your route. Research which cities and states have the best rest areas as you plan your trip. Both you and your dog will be able to stretch your legs, get fresh air, eat a snack, or use the bathroom. To prepare for your breaks, bring along a pet travel kit that includes a leash and pet waste bags. 


Give your dog the opportunity to drink water during breaks so they can regulate their temperature and stay hydrated. Pack a travel bowl and bottles of water to ensure your dog has something to drink, even if the rest stop doesn’t have a water fountain. 

ID & Microchipping 

Before you head out on the road, you want to prepare for all possibilities — including the chance that your dog may get out at a rest stop. Make sure your dog is microchipped so you can be easily reunited if they escape. It’s also important to update the contact information on your dog’s collar with your current phone number. 

Coping With Car Anxiety in Dogs 

Many dogs get anxious in the car. To combat any stress, consider placing a towel or blanket over their crate to prevent overstimulation. Gentle, relaxing music can also help your animal calm down and drown out noise from the road. If car anxiety is a consistent problem, you can even talk to your vet about calming medications or supplements for extra support when traveling with your dog. 

How Carrying Pets in the Car Might Affect Your Car Insurance Policy 

Having animals in your car won’t influence your car insurance rates outright. However, an unrestrained animal can be a distraction and potentially increases your risk of getting into an accident. If you cause an accident because you were distracted by your pup, then you will have to deal with a rate increase. Actively securing your dog and staying focused on the road is the best way to keep your car insurance rates low. 

But what happens if you do get into an accident and it injures your pet? Some car insurance policies cover injuries to your pet that occur because of an accident. This is because pets qualify as property, so you may be able to make a property damage claim. However, getting pet insurance is the best way to ensure your furry friend is fully covered. Pet insurance is important because it can cover your pet wherever they are and fill in gaps in your auto insurance. You can even bundle your pet and auto policies together to qualify for discounts on your insurance. 

Make Sure Your Pets Are Covered at Home and on the Road 

At Freeway Insurance, we know that your pets are your family. That’s why we have both auto and pet insurance to cover your furry friends anywhere you go. 

Visit your local Freeway Insurance office, get a free quote online, or call 800-777-5620 to learn how we can protect your pup on your next road trip with your dog. 

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