Car Rides Safe & Fun for Dogs - 2 Dads with Baggage
Man helps small dogs into back seat of car while parked curbside in neighborhood, San Diego, CA

Car Rides Safe & Fun for Dogs

This post about dog car safety is sponsored by Autotrader; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

George, who’s 10, and 7-year-old Alice are our rescue dogs, but you’d think they were people the way our girls treat them! They’ve been with us since they were puppies, each adopted from the San Diego Humane Society. Now grown and fully members of our family, George and Alice love to go where we go. Since we take dog car safety very seriously, we bring them along for car rides but make sure they are safe and secure.

Their feet hardly touch the ground sometimes, since the girls like to carry them around like babies. I think if we still had strollers, George and Alice would ride in those rather than walk down the sidewalk. So of course rides in the car would make sense. Since National Dog Day is August 26th, we’re working with Autotrader to help families find the perfect solutions for themselves and their pets.

two rescue dogs look directly at camera while sitting on wood deck

Looking For The Perfect Dog For Your Family?

If you’ve been thinking about dog adoption, now’s a great time with National Dog Day coming up! will make a donation to to help get dogs out of shelters and with families who will give them lots of love. You can search for specific breeds for adoption near your ZIP code, find shelters close to you, and get more tips on how to pick the best cars for dogs.

Safe Car Rides for Dogs

When we brought Alice home from the adoption fair, she was so tiny she had to be held in Sophia’s lap. George was the big older brother, so protective of her on the car ride home. Now that both are active adults, safe car rides have become a different story. Once they bonded and Alice was old enough to keep up, the two were absolute maniacs in the car. Jumping from the back seat to the front and back again. Sticking their heads out the window so far we were afraid they would tumble out. Rubbing wet noses on literally every surface of the car interior. So much energy and activity!

poodle mix dressed in a Dorothy from Wizard of Oz Halloween costume next to a huge pumpkin

Make Sure Your Car is Pup-Approved

We needed to make sure our car was puppy-proofed. One way to celebrate National Dog Day is to find a perfect fit for your family when car shopping. That includes your dogs. Autotrader suggests looking for accessories like:

  • Rear cargo attachment tie-downs to keep items in place
  • Tinted windows to help reduce heat and UV penetration 
  • Rear air vents to keep cooling air on your dog
  • A level cargo floor to help your dog get in and out – it also helps with storing a crate or a dog bed

Autotrader has created a list of great cars for dogs and their owners. Check out their recommendations here.

Dog Car Safety Tools

With George and Alice in the family, we quickly learned some dog car safety rules were needed. After all, we buckle in our kids and selves to make sure our precious cargo is safe and secure on car rides. Why wouldn’t we want that for our dogs too?

two dogs play at Dog Beach in Ocean Beach, San Diego, CA

George and Alice’s favorite trip is heading to Ocean Beach to run off-leash, splash in the waves and play with other dogs. Just as important as heading out to the beach early when it’s cool and uncrowded, before it gets hot? Making sure our dog family members are safe when we transport them in the car. National Dog Day is August 26th. A great way we can all celebrate? Make sure we have pet-friendly cars to keep all occupants safe. 

Harnesses vs. Collars: This is a hot debate amongst our friends, and we are firmly in the harness camp. When we need George and Alice to be secured to a leash or object, the harness clips are located on their backs rather than around their throats. If there is a sudden stop or they are jerked aside, the harness protects them without harming their necks.

Car Safety Seats: Since our dogs love to hang out of the windows, we’ve found a solution where they can do this safely. Car seats for dogs fasten them securely to the seats but still allow some leeway. We snap the seat straps onto their harness rings so they can’t go too far. There is still enough room for them to do what dogs love most – sticking their noses out the window for the wind to blow in their faces!

two dogs safely strapped into dog booster seats in back seat of car

Packing A Car for Traveling with Dogs

Traveling with your four-legged family members means remembering to include a few things to make their trip easier. 

Bring a Blanket: Consider using a blanket or quilt to cover the floor of your hatchback or your back seat. Having a cover helps deal with pet hair. It can also make your dog feel more comfortable. Summer activities at our house involve lots of sand and water. Having that covering helps when we’re cleaning out the car back at home.

Pack the Essentials: For longer rides, we bring along George and Alice’s favorite toys to keep them occupied. We always carry a portable water bowl for after we go to the beach or while we’re on a road trip. Dogs can’t tell you when they’re thirsty, so having accessible water and a water bowl handy are necessities. And don’t forget doggy waste bags to clean up after your dog. We like the earth-friendly biodegradable bags that don’t add more waste to our landfills.

Consider a Ramp: Have you ever seen a dog try to jump into a car hatchback or backseat and not make it? If your dog has trouble jumping in, consider a ramp to help them climb. Make sure that you don’t go for the least expensive ramp, either. Take your dog’s weight into account and make sure the ramp is sturdy enough. And if it’s wobbly when they’re walking on it, it could frighten your pup.

Secure the Luggage: When packing your car with luggage for a road trip, be sure that it is secured and can’t move around and injure your dog. Place the bags in the back seat if your dog rides in the hatchback. If your dog sits in the back seat like ours, put your luggage in the hatchback or trunk.

family with two dads and two teen daughters hold two dogs while smiling for camera in San Diego, CA

Dog Car Safety Tools

Consider a pet barrier if you have an SUV and your dog is a wanderer. Having a dog moving over the seats while you’re driving is a safety hazard. Make sure you’re aware of how your dog will respond to a car ride before you get on the road.

If your dog loves to hang their head out the window (and what car riding dog doesn’t?), consider dog eye googles. It might seem a little silly. However, dirt and rocks flying in the road have the possibility of injuring your dog. And sometimes, eye injuries can lead to blindness. If you wouldn’t consider riding a motorcycle without eye protection, think about getting a pair for your dog’s next car ride.

Win A Dog Vest from

Autotrader’s dog-focused website, is hosting a contest to celebrate National Dog Day! From August 24 to September 14, 2020, you can go to and enter to win a limited-edition dog vest to make clean-up of dog hair for a car ride even easier.

two rescue dogs relax on freshly cut lawn

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