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Traveling with Poodle By Road. Tips For Ensuring a Successful Trip


I recently took my Standard Poodle on a road trip from Houston, Texas to Whitefish, Montana. Then from Montana to Washington State, then from Washington, back to Houston, Texas. The road trip took us about two weeks altogether.

In this article, I will tell you what I learned when it comes to taking a poodle on a road trip. To learn about flying a poodle on a plane, read my article on flying with a poodle on an airplane.

When taking your poodle on a road trip, you’ll have to make some provisions. Standard poodles will take up more room than a toy or miniature, and may require more space to run when you stop for breaks. If you’re traveling with your poodle, you will want to map out some dog parks along your route, prepare your vehicle, plan to stop every couple of hours, book a pet-friendly hotel, if required. 

Do Poodles Travel Well? 

Poodles are not all the same. Some travel better than others. However, my poodle is a very good traveler.

When you are looking for your new companion, it is important to ask about how that specific poodle travels. It may be hard to know this information if you are buying a puppy, but you can ask if either dog has an issue with traveling. If you plan to travel often, these are important questions to ask. If you already have your poodle buddy and you are looking into traveling, you will want to plan a trip that is not too far away for your first few trips so that you can watch your poodle and see how she travels. 

WIth practice, a poodle that does not like to travel will learn how to travel. Furthermore, a poodle will choose traveling with you over being home alone without you. Therefore, when a poodle knows that car rides mean being together with you on an `adventure`, your poodle will learn to love car rides.

Poodles like road trips because they like to be close to their owners

Can A Poodle Be a Good Travel Buddy?

Poodles can be good travel buddies! Most poodles just love being next to their owners, so most of them love going on a road trip because it means they get to be next to their owners for an extended period. 

John Steinbeck, who won a Nobel Price in Literature and a Pulitzer Price, found an excellent travel companion in a Standard Poodle named Charly. John and Charly traveled across the USA together. John Steinbeck wrote about his experience traveling around the United States with his Standard Poodle in the book Travels with Charley.

A book about a man`s travels across America with his standard poodle

How to Prepare Your Poodle for a Road Trip

If you have never taken your poodle on a road trip, prepare her by taking her on short drives in the weeks leading up to your trip. You may want to take your poodle for a 20-minute drive a couple of days a week to get her used to being in the car with you if she is not already used to traveling. 

How to Prepare your Car for a Trip with a Poodle

When you’re planning your road trip, you’ll want to put appropriate covers on the seats of your vehicle to avoid your seats becoming scratched or soiled. Once you find appropriate pet car seat covers, you can fit your vehicle with them so you don’t have to worry about your poodle riding in the car with you and ruining your seats. Normally, poodles will not have an accident in the car or get car sick, but it is best to be prepared! Having a good pet car seat cover will give you the confidence to take your poodle on a long trip without fearing wear and tear to your vehicle`s seats.  

Poodle in back seat of a car

Do Poodles like car rides?

Usually, poodles love car rides! They are notorious for loving to be right next to their owners at all times, and long road trips mean that your poodle will get to be right by your side for an extended period. Most poodles love this. 

Do Poodles get Car Sick?

Occasionally, a poodle will get carsick. In these cases, they may not enjoy the car ride as much as other poodles. However, you can give your dog medicine for motion sickness. This helps your poodle enjoy the road trip more if he tends to get sick on car rides. Always check with your vet before giving your poodle over-the-counter medicine of any kind. Be careful to check the dosing and give your poodle the right amount of medicine according to his weight. 

How to Calm Your Poodle’s Anxiety in a Car

When your poodle is afraid of traveling, there are a few things you can do to remedy the situation. If your poodle’s hesitancy to travel is related to a physical illness, taking care of the motion sickness is the first step. If your poodle is not sick because of the movement, but rather because of anxiety, you can help your poodle out by trying out an anxiety coat. If your poodle has high anxiety that shows up on road trips, chances are that he has anxiety in other situations as well, and if this is the case, an anxiety coat can help your poodle cope not only on road trips but in other situations that cause his anxiety to rise. You may want to talk with your vet about your other options for treating your poodle’s anxiety, especially if the coat does not seem to do the trick. 

What to do When your poodle is Afraid of Car Rides

Maybe your poodle does not necessarily have high anxiety, but she is specifically afraid to get into a car. There could be any number of reasons for this, but it could be because car rides have been associated with negative experiences for your poodle. If you (or a previous owner) only took her into the car when she was going to the vet or the groomer, she likely has come to associated car rides with painful, uncomfortable, or otherwise negative experiences. If you suspect that this is the case, consider taking your poodle on very short car rides to places she will enjoy such as going for a walk on a trail, to a dog park, or even to get her a special dog treat at a drive-thru. You can bring your poodle’s favorite treats to give her periodically throughout the short drive to encourage her to associate the car with the treats. Some poodles respond better to affection than to treats. If your poodle is like this, you will want to continue petting and praising her throughout the drive. Begin with very short drives, under 10 minutes, and continue to do this kind of positive reinforcement throughout it. When you notice she has become more comfortable with the short drives, you can slowly increase the driving time. During this time, you may want to avoid driving her to the vet or groomer or other places she may not like. Consider getting her all caught up at the vet before you begin this process. You could learn some grooming tips and do her grooming on your own for a while until your poodle learns to associate the car with positive experiences. If you have implemented these tactics and still see no improvement, consider consulted your vet and/or a professional dog trainer in your area who can interact with your poodle and help you figure out ways to help. A vet will be able to rule out any physical reason for your poodle’s behavior. Then, if there is no medical concern, a professional trainer will be able to evaluate your poodle and address any behavioral issues that might be causing your poodle to have anxiety about getting into a vehicle. 

Most poodles will not have a fear of vehicles, and usually, they love to be near their owners and go on road trips with them. However, occasionally, a poodle may have had too many negative experiences associated with car rides. In these cases, it may take some patience and perseverance to undo this association and help your poodle associate car rides with positive experiences. Poodles are very smart, and they are quick learners, so when you begin this positive reinforcement training, they should learn rather quickly. The size of your poodle does not necessarily impact the time it will take to train your poodle to enjoy car rides again. However, some owners of multiple sizes have indicated that standard poodles seem to pick up on training a little more quickly than the smaller sizes. All sizes of poodle are typically eager to please and easy to train, however, so you should be able to help your poodle overcome his fear of car rides through positive reinforcement and positive association. 

Bathroom Breaks for Poodles When on Road Trip

One of the most important parts of planning a road trip with your poodle is to make sure that you have places where you can stop and take her out to relieve herself. Not all places have grassy areas dogs can use, and this is especially true when driving through big cities and metropolitan areas. You may want to map out your trip to avoid stopping in those busy areas and opt for stopping in the suburbs or at truck stops along the countryside. If you’re traveling with a toy or a miniature poodle, a small area of grass will probably suffice. If you have a standard poodle, you might want to look for places with larger areas for your poodle to stretch his legs on your breaks. You may even look at a map and search for dog parks to stop at along the way so your poodle can run and play. This is a good decision for, especially long car rides. 

How often should you stop on a road trip with a Poodle?

How often you stop does depend on the size of your poodle. Standard poodles can typically last longer without a bathroom break whereas toy poodles will need to stop at least every couple of hours. You know your dog best, and you know how often he needs to go outside when you are at home. Think about how often your poodle needs to go outside when you are at home and plan to stop around the same time. If you can keep your poodle on a familiar schedule for eating and going outside, that will make traveling easier. 

Will a Poodle Jump out the Window of a Car? 

Your poodle will probably not jump out the window of a moving car, but if you are afraid this will happen, just keep the window halfway shut so there isn’t enough room for him to jump out. Most poodles just want to hang their heads out the window and enjoy the fresh air, like any other dog. If you strongly suspect that your poodle would jump out the window, of course, you will want to keep her window half shut! The smaller the poodle, the less open the window should be because of course, a smaller poodle can fit through a smaller opening. 

However, a poodle may jump out of the window of a parked car if you leave your poodle inside the car. This once happened to me at Yellowstone national park. I left my poodle in the car with the windows down. I left the car to get a closer view of the Bisons by the road. However, my poodle jumped out of the car to meet me. Poodles do not like to be left alone. Poodles will go the extra mile to make sure they are close to you.

Poodle in a car

How To Reduce the Stress of Travel on your Poodle

If you want your poodle to enjoy traveling, do everything you can to reduce her stress levels when going for a car ride. This includes petting her and praising her throughout the ride, offering treats on occasion, and planning for plenty of stops where your poodle can stretch her legs and use the bathroom. 

How Often Should I Offer My Poodle Water on a Car Ride? 

You will want to have water available for your poodle whenever he needs it. Poodles who have some anxiety about traveling may especially need water throughout the trip. You probably won’t want to stop every time you want to offer your poodle water. It’s a good idea to stop and let your poodle relieve herself about an hour or an hour and a half after you have offered her water. This makes it hard to stop both for offering water and for potty breaks unless you plan on stopping for long periods of time. You want to drive safely, and pouring water into a bowl and offering it to your poodle without spilling is not exactly conducive to driving. There are several options for portable water bowls to make it easy to offer your poodle water while driving without diverting your attention away from the road or causing you to have to make too many stops. 

How Often Should I Offer My Poodle Food on a Car Ride? 

Your poodle can continue to eat on her regular schedule when you are traveling. You may want to schedule your longer stops so that your poodle can eat a meal and go potty all at the same stop. If you prefer to feed your poodle in the car and then stop, there are portable dog food containers that you can take along with you to make meals in the vehicle mess-free. 

Should I Crate My Poodle in the Car?

Whether or not you should travel with your poodle in a crate depends on your poodle’s preference. If you notice that your poodle is more comfortable traveling in a crate with a comfy blanket and some toys, then feel free to travel that way. Most poodles, however, will prefer to be near their owners and out of a crate on road trips. You should do whatever you feel is best for you and your poodle. You will be able to tell if your poodle feels more comfortable in a crate inside the vehicle or loose in the car. You can try it both ways for short trips and observe your poodle’s behavior. If she seems calmer in the crate and is happy to jump into the crate in the vehicle, she might prefer to travel that way. However, if she seems nervous in the crate, barks excessively, or refuses to get into the crate, these are good signs that she is more comfortable outside of the crate next to you. There are times when you will need to make your poodle travel in a crate even if she doesn’t like it, and that is if your poodle insists on getting into your lap while you are driving. If this happens, your driving is compromised and it puts both you and your poodle at risk of getting into an accident. A toy poodle and some small miniature poodles may be able to travel on your lap without causing a problem. Larger Miniature and Standard poodles are too large to travel on your lap safely. If your poodle refuses to stop trying to climb into your lap while you are behind the wheel, you may need to consider having her ride in a crate or finding a dog seat belt for her. 

Should I Use a Dog Seat Belt?

There are no laws dictating the use of seat belts for dogs. However, more and more owners are choosing to use safety belts that might protect their dogs in the case of a car accident. Whether or not you use these belts depends on if your poodle will sit in them without trying to get out. If you can get your poodle to sit in a dog seat belt next to you without 

Final thoughts: Things to Help Your Poodle Unwind when you Reach your Final Destination

Your poodle will probably be thrilled just to be with you, wherever you are, but if you have a poodle who struggles to adjust to new surroundings, make him feel comfortable by having some familiar things around him such as his dog bed and favorite toy. Allow for some time to unwind at your vacation spot. Take some time to just sit with your poodle and enjoy each other. Don’t rush to the first activity, especially if you notice that your poodle seems unsure of himself in this new location. Most likely, in a couple of hours, your poodle will have sniffed out his surroundings and adjusted to them. Then you will both be ready to enjoy your vacation!