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What To Consider When Planning A Long Road Trip With Your Chihuahua

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Group of chihuahuas in a car window.

A report by Volvo Car USA, in collaboration with Harris Poll, found that about 97% of dog owners drive with their dogs in a vehicle, but only 48% have safety gear for their pets.

While some dog breeds quiver at the idea of traveling in a car, some, especially chihuahuas, love going on road trips. A road trip allows them the opportunity to interact with new animals and people, which helps in reducing separation anxiety.

Road trips are a travel interest chihuahuas share with their owners, as it stimulates their prey-hunting skills. However, taking a long trip with a chihuahua presents a set of unique challenges and needs. For your trip to be fun and memorable, you will need to learn the basics of how to travel with your chihuahua.

When planning a road trip with your chihuahua, it’s important to understand and adhere to both legal requirements and best practices to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for everyone involved. Here are key points to consider:

  1. Restraint Laws: Many states have specific laws requiring pets to be secured in vehicles. While laws vary, the general rule is that pets should not be allowed to roam freely in the car. Using a crash-tested pet carrier or a pet seatbelt is often mandatory to prevent injury in case of an accident and to avoid distractions for the driver.
  2. ID and Vaccination Records: Always carry your chihuahua’s identification, which should include a tag with your contact information and a microchip if possible. It’s also wise to carry up-to-date vaccination records, as some states require proof of rabies vaccination at checkpoints, especially when crossing some state lines.
  3. Temperature Regulations: Leaving pets in parked cars is legally restricted in several states, particularly under conditions that could constitute cruelty due to extreme temperatures. Always ensure your pet is not left alone in a car, especially in hot or very cold weather.

Best Practices

  1. Regular Breaks: Plan to stop every 2-3 hours to allow your chihuahua to stretch, relieve themselves, and drink water. This not only helps to keep them comfortable but also reduces anxiety and restlessness.
  2. Temperature Control: Maintain a comfortable temperature in the vehicle. Avoid overly cold or hot conditions, and never leave your chihuahua in the car unattended.
  3. Feeding Schedule: Feed your chihuahua a light meal about 3 hours before you set off to avoid motion sickness. Avoid feeding them while on the move, but keep them hydrated with small amounts of water during breaks. If the trip is long, (6 hours or longer) feed small amounts of food during breaks.
  4. Use of Calming Aids: If your chihuahua is nervous about traveling, consider natural calming aids like pheromone diffusers or calming treats. These can help soothe anxiety and make the journey more comfortable for your pet.
  5. Preparation and Familiarization: Before embarking on a long trip, take several shorter drives to get your chihuahua used to the car’s environment and the routine of traveling. This can help mitigate anxiety and make the longer trip smoother.

Doing these things will help make your trip easier and more enjoyable.

Always check the specific laws for each state you will be traveling through to ensure compliance with all local regulations.

Chihuahua in car wearing coat with stars.

Choose a Pet-Friendly Vehicle

Like humans, pets desire to ride in comfortable and safe vehicles. It is, therefore, important to consider your pet’s comfort and safety when choosing between dog-friendly cars.

With a variety of automobile choices, it can be challenging to determine which one is best. But the task is never impossible if you take the time to compare vehicles based on similarities and differences in terms of features, performance, and price.

Keep in mind that your car choice will depend highly on the breed. In this case, driving a Honda Fit is an excellent idea.

This model has a spacious interior and comes equipped with dog-friendly features, including a wide hatch and large, flat cargo hold for pet carriers.

Alternatively, you may choose the Chrysler Pacifica minivan that comes with sliding side doors and low-loading floors. These features make it easy for chihuahuas and other small-breeds like Pomeranians, Yorkshire terriers, or Japanese Chins to jump in and out of the car.

Prioritize Safety For Everyone

Chihuahua looking out the window in red car.

Chihuahuas love jumping on laps, licking faces, and playing around, and that can significantly affect your safety on the road. Diverting your attention for two seconds only increases road accident risks by 24%.

That is why you need to invest in the right pet car travel accessories. Harnesses, car seats, and crates will restrain your chi, improving their safety as well as your driving experience.

You may need other items like pet treats, dog bed, chew toys, and cooling pad, portable water bottle, and a food bowl.

I am actually planning a 14-hour car trip to Kentucky and am taking 2 of my dogs. Below is my list:

  • Dog bed (they will share one bed)
  • blanket
  • 3 dog bowls (one for water, 2 for food)
  • travel water bottle
  • shelf stable dog food
  • dog treats
  • harnesses
  • rabies tags on personalized collars with my phone number on the collars (they are micro-chipped too)
  • Vaccination records
  • leashes
  • potty pads
  • belly bands (I don’t trust my male in strange buildings-he may feel the need to mark)
  • cheap sanitary pads (I cut these in half and put in the belly bands)
  • First aid kit
  • bully sticks or collagen sticks (my dogs love collagen sticks)
  • sweater if the weather turns chilly
  • poop bags
  • dog car seat
  • baby wipes
  • paper towels
  • a few grocery bags for trash

Black and white chihuahua in car looking over shoulder.

Behavioral Training Tips for Road Trips with Your Chihuahua

Taking a road trip with your chihuahua can be an enjoyable experience for both of you, but it requires some preparation, especially when it comes to ensuring your pet is comfortable with traveling.

Here are some behavioral training tips to help your chihuahua adapt to and enjoy car rides:

  1. Start with Short Journeys: Begin by taking your chihuahua on short car trips to nearby places they enjoy, like a local park or a pet-friendly store. This helps them associate the car with positive experiences. Gradually increase the length of the trips as they become more comfortable.
  2. Create a Comfortable Space: Use a pet carrier or a car seat designed for small dogs. Make it inviting and comfortable by adding their favorite blanket or toys. This space should feel like a safe haven for them during the drive.
  3. Consistent Conditioning: Consistency is key in training. Try to take your chihuahua on a car ride at least once a week. Regular exposure will help minimize anxiety and build familiarity with the car’s environment.
  4. Reward Calm Behavior: Whenever your chihuahua remains calm and settled in the car, reward them with treats or affection. Positive reinforcement encourages good behavior and helps them understand that calmness in the car leads to rewards.
  5. Practice Loading and Unloading: Teach your chihuahua to get in and out of the car safely and calmly. Use commands they are familiar with, or introduce new commands like “car” for getting in and “out” for exiting. Reward them each time they follow the commands correctly.
  6. Desensitize to Car Noises: Cars make a variety of noises that can scare pets. While at home, play recordings of car sounds at a low volume to acclimate your chihuahua to these noises. Gradually increase the volume as they get more comfortable, always observing their reaction and ensuring they do not become stressed
  7. Address Anxiety Medically: If your chihuahua shows extreme anxiety about car travel despite gradual conditioning, consult your veterinarian. They may recommend medications or supplements that can help reduce anxiety levels.

By following these behavioral training tips, you can help ensure that road trips are a stress-free, enjoyable experience for you and your chihuahua. With patience and consistent training, your pet can learn to love their journeys in the car.

Chihuahua looking out car window.

If you are wondering if you should not take your dog on your trip, this post will show you what else you can do with your dog when you travel.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with traveling with your dogs. Are there any tips you can share with us to make our road trips easier? Share in the comments!
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Cathy signature with cartoon chihuahua
blond woman holding white chihuahua

Cathy Bendzunas

Pet Blogger

I have had dogs all my life. I have been a pet groomer, worked in a pet hotel, and a kennel, and have bred and showed dogs.


Saturday 27th of April 2024

I'm not sure if this is the right place to send this, but my chihuahua, Pie Dee did much better with a ramp then stairs.

Cathy Bendzunas

Saturday 27th of April 2024

I may try that. We have always used the steps and the other dogs use them without issues but Lucy will not use them even though she knows how.

Jane F

Friday 2nd of June 2023

Shew! That bath for the white Chi puppy was too long and too rough. No soothing sounds from the lady giving the bath either. A pup that small needs a fast soap up and a thorough rinse. And then a quick gentle wrap up in a warm soft towel.

Cathy Bendzunas

Friday 2nd of June 2023

Yeah it does seem a little too long and rough.