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Dog Traveling in the Car?

 Reviewed 17 June 2018 share-a-picture Or go to discussion?join-the-discussion

==> Bon Voyage with your GSD!

How to Travel with your Dog the Pleasant Way

German Shepherd Traveling

A trip with your German Shepherd could end up being one of the most memorable, fun-filled and exciting trips of all time!

Whether you just need to drop a parcel at the post office, or you are going on a holiday trip abroad with your family, if you know more about Traveling with your dog you are likely to enjoy each moment much more. And your dog too. Plus, you and your dog will be safer as well.

German Shepherd On Board SignYou know that your GSD is, or at least should be, so much an integral part of the family that leaving your dog behind is not an option. In general, this would also be UNWISE since you can have much more fun if your dog is with you and a German Shepherd on board is likely to avert more problems than it may create.

This MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL can assist you right from planning, preparing and packing, to dog-on-board tips and choosing the best pet-friendly accommodation while traveling.

First things first:

Be aware that while most GSDs enjoy traveling, some GSDs may get sick when they travel. Therefore, first test your dog's sensitivity to traveling by taking him or her on a short and easy trip. Only increase travel distance and travel complexity if your GSD responds well to traveling.

Travel distance and travel complexity can cover anything from say the 3-mile car trip to the local butcher (not complex, and a feast for your dog) to the round-the-world trip that includes sub-trips by car, plane, helicopter, yacht, and rikscha (very complex and stressful for your dog).

The three most important points to remember when traveling with your German Shepherd are to ensure hydration, regular exercise, and regular potty times! The fourth and fifth most important points are to ensure consistent meal times and consistent diet.


1 Keep your dog well-hydrated! (eg if in the car, keep a non-spill water bowl next to your dog, and keep it filled)
2 Regular exercise (after every 2 hours MAX)
3 Regular potty times (works perfectly well together with the exercise times)
4 Consistent meal times (like at home)
5 Consistent diet (any change must be introduced gradually)


Especially in the car, but also in every other means of transport, your GSD needs to drink MORE than when at home. Don't deny your dog water, instead encourage your dog to drink a lot (see below, flushing the bladder).

Check here right now with our unique German Shepherd Dog Online Health Assessment tool how much water specifically your GSD needs each day.

And note that Dehydration is a life-threatening state for your dog. Also, like with people, when your dog gets dehydrated (s)he will lack not only existential fluids but will also lack existential electrolytes. By the time an ordinary dog owner realizes that the dog is dehydrated, the dog often is so much dehydrated that an emergency trip to the vet may be the only chance to keep the dog alive!

If you do notice your dog's dehydration early, Rehydrate may save the trip to the vet. Since dogs dehydrate in the car much quicker than in the house, taking a few of these tablets with you on road trips can be a smart choice.

Regular Exercise

You must NOT force your dog eg to sit in the back of the car as long as you can sit in the car seat. Even IF your dog does not start to whine, a GERMAN SHEPHERD is not a CHIHUAHUA.

size comparisonRemember that the GSD has been specifically bred to run around all day long to keep a sheep herd together(!), while say the Chihuahua has been bred rather to sit on your lap all day long. So, while the Chihuahua may be your ideal partner on long continuous car journeys, the GSD certainly is not.

This doesn't mean that you can't take your GSD on long car journeys, but it means that if you do so you MUST let your German Shepherd RUN AROUND after two hours MAX. After EVERY two hours.

Regular Potty Times

Regular potty times are crucial because a dog's bladder is far more susceptible to infections than the human bladder. Now some of you may think "Where should the infection come from when I keep the car windows closed?!"

Well, the latent infection is already in the urinary tract of every dog, and if the bladder is not frequently flushed (drink a lot and pee a lot) then these bacteria build up quickly and infect the bladder. And you don't want THAT to happen to your GSD (can be VERY painful)!

A dog in the wild will pee every 20 to 30 minutes MAX, a domesticated adult dog must be allowed to pee after 3 hours MAX during the day, and after 6 hours MAX at night (a puppy after 60 minutes during the day, and after 3 hours at night). A GERMAN SHEPHERD rather more frequently than less.

Consistent Meal Times and Consistent Diet

Consistent meal times and consistent diet are certainly less important than Hydration, Regular Exercise, and Regular Potty Times.

However, if you divert much from your dog's typical meal times or typical diet then this may upset your dog's digestive system (GSDs have a very sensitive GI tract!). This may result in anything from Digestive Disorder, Farting, Vomiting or Diarrhea, to Bloat, Allergies, or Bladder Infection etc.

I just realized that we should address the topic of dog farting as well at some point in the future; own experience is everything! grin

As we have now discussed the most crucial points to remember when traveling with your German Shepherd, next we can address further points of preparation before traveling with your dog.

Things to get done before leaving

Before you leave for a trip with your dog to far off places (other regions, states, or countries) it is necessary to prepare for a few things:

Dog Passport

Pet immigration has different rules in different countries and you need to know about the requirements of your destination prior to your journey. A pet passport may be necessary if you travel abroad. Many countries also require that your dog has some form of identification like a readable tattoo or a microchip (see further below).

GSD Vaccination

Make sure that your German Shepherd is appropriately vaccinated. With 'appropriately' we mean, don't over-vaccinate your GSD(!), but do what is sensible, both prior to the journey and in general! Canine vaccination is such an important topic in its own right that we will feature this in a separate MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL.

In terms of travel vaccination, 'appropriately vaccinated' means that you consider WHERE your GSD will go, and WHAT (s)he will be exposed to. Because, for obvious reasons, the appropriate vaccination of a German Shepherd that is going to explore the countryside is different from the appropriate vaccination of a German Shepherd that is going to stay with you in a hotel and will only be taken out for walks on the leash.

In the first case, vaccination against Rabies is highly advisable - but this is a legal requirement in most countries anyway.

In the second case, a good indication is whether YOU need any travel vaccination for your planned journey. If you don't, most likely your GSD shouldn't get one either (of course unless legally required).

Personally, we don't give any voluntary travel vaccination as long as we know that we will closely observe our dogs.

If your destination does legally require certain vaccination, then you must take with you the vaccination certificate for your dog to enter the target country. However, note that the vaccination certificate must also fulfil all legal requirements of the transit countries your dog sets a foot on.


Getting your German Shepherd a dog micro-chip identification under the skin is worth considering - whether you are going to travel with your German Shepherd or not. Again, this is an important topic in its own right and we will feature this in a separate MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL.

Stuff to Pack

As you will have realized already, planning ahead of time is really important if you want to make a trip with your dog. Next we will discuss the preparation you can defer up until a few days before actually leaving: What to pack for your German Shepherd.

Strong Leash

Take a good strong leash with you for your German Shepherd. Also take a light long line with you. You'll need both. - If you go backpacking and space is taken up, a strong retractable leash can be an acceptable alternative.

Dog Collar

On ANY trip away from home your dog should wear a soft but strong leather collar with a flat-attaching, non-come-off name tag and your full (international) phone number on it - but NOT your address.

While at home, you may rightfully argue "My dog always stays with me anyway". However, life experience shows that on a holiday or business trip we sometimes may have to change our routine and even leave our principles behind.

If you visit other states or countries, make sure that you write the country and/or area code in a way that even an undiscerning local would know which number sequence to press to reach you on the phone.

For example, even the internationally recognized syntax "+44 (0)20 7777 8888" is not clear to the majority of people. If say you live in the UK but travel to the USA, write "0044 20 7777 8888" instead (note that in some countries you only 'dial' one leading zero).

Ideally, the dog collar should be made of soft but strong leather (metal is tabu). In addition, take a strong reflective collar with you for night strolls and when visibility is poor.

Regarding leash and collar think this way: An extra leather strap can be extremely useful (or even critical) in many situations (that may have nothing to do with your dog), and one too much has never done any harm. wink

Foldable Travel Crate

A Collapsible Dog Crate is one of the things you may be glad to have while traveling (or you may miss it!) - even if you are only away for one night.

A durable crate which provides ample space for your GSD to be comfortable but doesn't take up much room when not needed is one of those never-regret investments. Well, for the small price Amazon charges for this TOP CRATE, the word 'investment' is a bit overblown anyway.

Especially when traveling, a comfy dog crate can make the difference between a calm and balanced German Shepherd versus an agitated and stressed German Shepherd.

Consider this: In a new environment all the more, your GSD seeks to feel safe when snoozing as well as at night. If you deprive your dog of this safety zone then (s)he will be restless moving around all the time, and will be stressed and exhausted the next day too.

Dog food

As mentioned in the beginning, a consistent diet is one of the crucial dog travel arrangements. Therefore ensure that you either can buy all ingredients of your dog's diet at your destination, or take sufficient food with you.

Depending on your situation it may be helpful to gradually adapt your dog's diet towards dry food (plus plenty of water!) for the time of traveling. However, this should be initiated 7 to 10 days before you begin your journey, in order to avoid the typical implications of changes in diet (eg Diarrhea on a holiday is neither pleasant for you nor for your dog).

'Gradually adapt' the diet means to exchange an increasing part of each meal's original diet for the new diet. A good rule of thumb is to replace a quarter more per day, in which case the NEW DIET will be a QUARTER of the first meal, and on Day 4 the entire meal will be the new diet.

Typically, the implications of changes in diet will materialize a few days later - which is why this process should be initiated 7 to 10 days before the journey.

starstarstar Don't make unnecessary changes in your GSD's diet during the journey, as this may upset your dog's gastrointestinal tract starstarstar

IF your dog is used to getting food treats every now and then (no need to!) then also keep some greenies and/or top chewy dog biscuits in a treat pouch with you. Particularly chews can help to reduce travel stress as they keep your dog occupied and reduce boredom during the journey.

Grooming essentials

Depending on the duration of your travel you may wish to bring along appropriate grooming tools and supplies. These will help to keep your German Shepherd clean, pleasant and happy, and may also prevent issues like fur felting, fleas, ticks etc.

Essential grooming tools and supplies for your German Shepherd are usually the furminator, a small comb, a flea comb, a pin-headed rubber brush, the love glove, toothbrush and toothpaste, paw wax, and pet and paw wipes.

Taking these few items with you can save you time during your journey and allows you to take care of your German Shepherd like you do at home.

Chew Toys

While food chews aren't essential, chew toys are essential. Ensure your GSD is occupied and happy on its own by taking your dog's favourite chew toys with you.

If (at least) one of the chew toys can also be used for fetch games both during travel and at your destination, regardless of the environment, then all the better! Westpaw's Hurley is such a chew toy, it even floats on the water when you toss it in.

I'd say, a couple of good chew toys and plenty of drinking water in a no-spill bowl are crucial to keep your German Shepherd both happy and healthy. These two items will also drastically reduce if not eliminate any potential whining, ie keep YOU relaxed too.

Pet-friendly Accomodation

The first point to note is that many who advertise "pet-friendly accomodation" did not have a full-grown GERMAN SHEPHERD in mind when they advertised. In other words, you may often find that a presumably "pet-friendly" house is NOT friendly towards your GSD - and this is regardless how well-behaved your GSD actually is. sad

When we were more inexperienced in the beginning and just booked say a cottage or whatever that advertised "pet-friendly", some owners of the accommodation refused us entry when we surprised them with two GSDs. They said: "THAT dog is NOT a pet!"

Of course, we can't disagree here; a German Shepherd is not a "pet" in the traditional sense ("lap-dog or cat").

Now, with all the experience, we immediately make clear upon booking what kind of "pet" we will bring. - But we also make sure to mention:

"This is not about 'a dog', think of the two most well-behaved ADULT FRIENDS that you have, because this is who we will bring."

This generally convinces them. And those who are NOT convinced really aren't the kind of place and people we would want to go to anyway. Maybe this is the kind of attitude you should have too: "If they still don't want, they aren't worth us".

But note that I used the word "booked" above. This is crucial: You really need to BOOK accomodation in advance if you bring your GSD along. Although, we've had instances where we had NOT booked but when the owners SAW how well-behaved our dogs were they welcomed us anyway.

starstarstar WITHOUT booking you rely on luck. WITH booking you may be turned down. starstarstar

Yes, sounds odd, but that's the truth.

Overall, "pet-friendly" has improved though. For example, some hotels will not only welcome your (trained & tranquil!) GSD, but offer "pet room service", special eating bowls, dog walking, dog grooming, and even dog spa! - Of course, all of this has its price though.

How to find Dog Accomodation is a site that lists worldwide dog accommodation. The positive is: it's worldwide. The negatives are: The site almost exclusively lists those that ADVERTISE on the site, ie those that have PAID for the listing. As you will find out when you try the site, this means:

  • Many only wanted the advertisement but don't actually want your GSD!
  • You won't find ALL those who WANT your GSD but didn't want to advertise on that site!

Therefore, at MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG we are thinking about building another directory, "German Shepherd Accommodation Directory", but this will take time. In the meantime, the best tip we can give you is:

Do a Google search with:

starstarstar "large dog" accommodation [region] starstarstar

So, enclose large dog in quotation marks ("large dog"), then type the word accommodation, and then the region or city where you want to stay for the night.

This way, ANYONE that offers accommodation to a LARGE DOG will show up in the results. Not just those who advertised ANYWHERE, but also those who are merely listed say in "Google Places" or whatever.

Practice and Training

It is advisable to practice traveling with your German Shepherd before you undertake the real, potentially long and complex, journey (see in the beginning). In other words, you can really make use of "travel training" to avoid any problems related to your dog having to adjust to new situations and environments.

One aspect of "Travel Practice" or "Travel Training" is to keep your GSD in the Travel Crate for a while each day and at night, again starting about 7 - 10 days before departure.

This will allow your dog to get used to being in the crate and feeling safe and comfortable, instead of becoming stressed or even starting to panic when using it first time when you travel.

Adapting the diet gradually is another aspect of Travel Training (see in the beginning). Likewise, to take your GSD on shorter car trips with all the actual travel equipment inside (see the summary below) is great Travel Practice too, because your dog will get used to everything.

Another aspect of Travel Training is that you actually practice with your dog the sequence of (say in the case of car travel):

Driving for a while - Stopping and getting out of the car - Running around or playing a few rounds of Fetch - Getting back into the car - [Repeat]

Although each such sequence is of course much shorter than during "the real thing", still your GSD will get "the hang of it", which is excellent practice! Plus, this can prevent dog travel sickness when you certainly don't want it!

Traveling in the Car

Now when it comes to traveling in the car with your dog, there are a few things you should do to make the journey nice and easy:

Take all the travel equipment with you: the no-spill water bowl, the travel crate, and the Hurley.

You may also want to get this waterproof bench seat cover for your car, even if your dog goes in the back. Because this cover sheet is designed in a way to provide your dog with the best ride and at the same time to protect the inside of your car from hair and dander, spills and dirt. Dogs' claws don't do it any harm either, and most likely your dog will LOVE the feel of this blanket.

Ideally your GSD should go in the back of the car (if you have an estate) because this is much safer than having your dog on the rear bench. It's also much more comfortable too. But IF you keep your GSD on the seat, get this dog seat belt to ensure your dog is safe!

While inside the car and tied to this harness, TAKE OFF the leash - but put it back on BEFORE your dog can jump out and onto the road.

starstarstar NO window seat for your GSD! starstarstar

Although many car-and-dog owners seem to be immune to common-sense advice, I'll say it anyway: A dog must NOT get a "window seat" (window is open and dog is leaning out its head) as this is insanely dangerous:

Not only in the (rare but nonetheless possible) event that another car, truck, or wideload rips off your dog's head(!), but in the (common!) event that an insect or other flying object SHATTERS your dog's eye (yes SHATTERS, at the combined speed of your car and the flying object).

starstarstar NO car for your GSD without you! starstarstar

Another crucial point is that you must NOT leave your dog alone in the car, even if only for a few minutes (according to your plan). A typical characteristic of a PLAN is that it is sometimes being revised without notice!

It is actually worse than what the vet accidentally says here ("when the weather is gonna be hot"). You must not even take your German Shepherd with you in the car if the inside of the car, where your dog is lying, might get warmer than 24 degrees Celsius or 75 Fahrenheit.

If your car hasn't got air condition that can keep the temperature reliably at or below this threshold, then don't take your dog in the car.

You can make this experiment yourself:

Even when the weather is going to be cold (ZERO degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit!), and even if the sky is overcast(!), the permeating sunrays can HEAT UP the inside of a car to over 30 degrees Celsius or over 86 degrees Fahrenheit! The reason is the car's metal chassis.

Mark what the vet says here: "At 2 degrees over normal body temperature a dog faces BRAIN DAMAGE or DEATH". - The average body temperature of a healthy dog is 38 degrees Celsius or 100 Fahrenheit.

In summary: Your dog might end up being in the car longer than you wanted, and longer than your dog can bear - the consequences of which can be disastrous (in-car temperature, by-passers terrifying your dog, another car hitting your car, your dog "going wild" in the car, etc).

More about Dog Traveling?

A useful book is this book about Traveling with your pet, although obviously not all advice is applicable to our German Shepherds. Great about this however is that it also comprises a long list of dog-friendly accommodation, as well as tips for border-crossing, etc.

In any case, once you have taken note of all the tips you've found in this MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL, you're ready to have loads more FUN traveling with your GSD!

Traveling with your dog really can be one of the most memorable, fun-filled and exciting trips you're going to make. ENJOY your dog!



  • When traveling with your dog, MOST IMPORTANT are:
    • Hydration
    • Regular exercise
    • Regular potty times
    • Consistent meal times
    • Consistent diet
  • Try always to take your dog with you (particularly when leaving the car!)
  • Gradually increase travel distance and travel complexity
  • Give your dog "travel practice" or "travel training"
  • What to organise:
    • Dog Passport
    • Dog Vaccination
    • Micro-chipping
    • German Shepherd-friendly accommodation
  • Stuff to pack:
  • How to find Dog Accomodation: see above
  • Tips for GSD Traveling in the Car: see above
  • An absolute MUST when you travel with your dog: Spill-proof dog drinking bowl
  • Useful Dog Traveling book: Traveling with your pet
  • Never leave your dog alone in the car (heat stroke/ death!)

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