Those of us who love our canine companions know that dogs are grrrreat at doing many things: being improbable basketball starsmusical prodigies, and even hip urbanites.

That said, when it comes to riding along in a car, your furry four-legged friend needs a little help to make sure that it’s a safe experience. Whether it’s a trip to the park, to a doggy-café, a Snoop Dogg concert, or a double-bill screening of All Dogs Go to Heaven and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, we’ve got plenty of veterinarian-approved doggie do’s and doggie don’ts to offer. After all, when it comes to your dog’s safety, we take every paw-portunity to make canine car travel anything but a ruff ride.

Thanks to veterinarian Dr. Michelle Cutler for her expert advice and safety tips.

Safety disclaimer: the dog in this photo shoot was happy, safe, and treated to lots of cookies for his time. 

Doggie Do’s

1. Just like humans, dogs require a seatbelt if they’re riding along with you. Use a harness seatbelt that has been fitted to your dog’s proper size and measurements to ensure they’re safe and snug.

Outfit your dog in a safety harness – dogs need to buckle up for road trips too!

2. Nothing beats a good, ol’ leg stretch after you’ve been driving for hours, right? Well, the same rule applies for your dog. In fact, it’s important to give your pet lots of exercise and a chance to use the bathroom even before a long car ride begins. A good run in the park ought to tire them out. Once on the road, be sure to stop every few hours for a walk and a doggie bathroom break.

Give your dog lots of exercise before embarking on a long car ride.

Give your dog lots of exercise before embarking on a long car ride.

3. It’s always nice to enjoy fresh air on the road, so roll down your dog’s window (just not so much that they can jump out) and let the wind do the rest. Also, you can pamper your pet in your Ford Escape with appropriately pointed air vents to regulate their body temperature (while making sure they’re comfortable and not feeling anxious about being in a vehicle).

Roll the windows down for your dog so they can enjoy some fresh air and stay cool.

Doggie Don’ts

1. Dogs may be great car paw-sengers, but they don’t belong on your lap behind the wheel. Likewise, make sure your pooch isn’t able to roam around from seat to seat—they could inhibit your ability to drive or even hurt the both of you if you come to a sudden stop.

Don’t let your dog roam around the car when you drive. This is unsafe and can hurt you and your pet.

2. Most dog owners know not to leave their pets alone in hot cars, but that rule also extends to the winter months when cars get extremely cold as well. Be sure to never leave your dogs alone in a vehicle when weather can be harmful.

For your pet’s safety, don’t leave your dog alone in a car.

3. A safety harness is necessary for your dog, but it needs to be attached properly to be effective. Don’t ever attach a restraining device to your dog’s collar, and always ensure that the safety harness isn’t simply looped to the collar as well.

For your dog’s safety, don’t attach their safety restraints to their collar

With those tips in play, you’re ready to hit the road. Don’t forget the cookies!