How To Safely Drive With A Shiba Inu (Detailed Guide)


shiba inu sitting in a man's lap while he is driving

Most pets I’ve been around preferred to be secured in the back seat, but not mine. Faith strongly preferred being right in my lap, the whole trip, regardless of who else was in the car. Making me wonder if there were any rules around that.

While it’s legal to drive with a pet in your lap in some states, that doesn’t mean it is safe. Dogs and other pets get suffer from balance and stress issues during car rides, before factoring in any potential accidents. Which is why some states have strict driving laws around pets.

Got it, where I’m at it’s legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe or even how I prefer to drive with her. Taking that question further led me to ask “How should I be preparing and driving with my Shiba Inu?”.

The results of that research being the rest of this post below.

How To Safely Drive With A Shiba Inu

While driving around is an everyday part of our lives the same isn’t true for your pets.

Shiba Inus, like other dogs, aren’t use to car rides. The constant motion, changing sights, road noise, vehicles, bumps, and turns tend to stress them out and put them on edge.

Thankfully there are a handful of simple steps you can take to set you and your Shiba up for a safe car ride. Those steps being:
1) Prepare a travel bag and bathroom schedule. It’s better to be over prepared at the beginning than under prepared and panicking somewhere in the middle. A small baggy of food, treats, 2 toys, a bowl, a bottle of water, their crate or harness, a blanket, and paper towels. (Break schedule detailed below)
2) Get them use to the car. Pet’s often find cars confusing and claustrophobic, a great way to avoid that is by getting them use to being in your car.
3) Once they are comfortable in the car, secure them in their designated seat or spot. They’ll need some time to get use to this, just like the car at first. (More on this below)
4) Start with small trips then build your way up. They need to get use to not only being in the car and secured, but to the car being in motion.

Motion or car sickness is common for dogs, especially when they aren’t use to car rides. I go into detail on motion sickness at the very end. Along with a breakdown on different ways Shiba Inus respond and act on car rides, and the meaning behind them.

Now, step 3 above goes over securing your Shiba Inu so they are safe during their adventure. Your pet’s health and safety is the #1 concern, so let’s go into more detail about that.

It’s best to drive with your pet secured inside the vehicle, so no joy rides in the truck of a car or bed of a truck.

Most Shiba owners go one of 4 different ways when it comes to securing their pets:

Crates

If your Shiba Inu is still a puppy it’s best to secure them in a travel crate or pet carrier. This keeps them in one spot, out of trouble, and out of the way if they love to explore. Be sure to give them a blanket so they don’t bounce around and rub on the metal, plastic, or rough cloth sides.

Dog Hammocks

Larger, or adult, Shiba Inus fair better in a dog hammock. They work by turning the seat into a makeshift crate, minus the wasted space and extra hassle. It even gives them room to stretch out and laydown.

Seatbelts / Harnesses

There are special dog safe car harnesses for keeping them in their see and safe not only while on the move but during accidents. That function like a doggy seatbelt. It’s best to set them up in the back seat, there’s less space for them to investigate or bounce around in if anything happens.

An empty lap***

While this isn’t for everyone, pet, or even state. Some people, and pets, prefer to be in someone’s lap. There are dogs that find it more flexible and comfortable, but there are risks if an accident happens. Another thing some people may overlook at their local laws regarding safe pet travel.

Check Your Local And State Laws Before Driving With Your Pet

Each state and local county are different and have their own laws, rules, and regulations around traveling with pets.

In some states, like California and Maryland, it’s perfectly legal to drive around with your dog in your lap. Pet owners driving around in Hawaii and New Jersey will be fined if they are found driving with their pet in their laps.

New Jersey states any pet in a moving vehicle must be secured be a seatbelt or carrier. Rhode Island is a bit more on the lax side stating your pet only needs to be under “physical control” by another person or restraint.

Be sure to check your specific state to see what rules they have around safe pet travel:

Type of LawStates InvolvedSummary
Active restrains neededConnecticut (CT)
Maine (ME)
Massachusetts (MA)
Minnesota (MN)
New Hampshire (NH)
Rhode Island (RI)
Has a law specifically touching on pet travel and safety related to driving.
No present lawAlaska (AK)
Arkansas (AR)
Colorado (CO)
Delaware (DE)
District of Columbia (DC)
Georgia (GA)
Idaho (ID)
Kansas (KS)
Kentucky (KY)
Missouri (MO)
Montana (MT)
Nebraska (NE)
Nevada (NV)
New Mexico (NM)
South Dakota (SD)
West Virginia (WV)
Wyoming (WY)
Has no current or proposed law related to driving with a pet, or other animal, directly or indirectly. For this situation.
AmbiguousAlabama (AL)
Arizona (AZ)
Hawaii (HI)
Iowa (IA)
Mississippi (MS)
North Dakota (ND)
Ohio (OH)
Oklahoma (OK)
South Carolina (SC)
Tennessee (TN)
Texas (TX)
Utah (UT)
Vermont (VT)
Virginia (VA)
Washington (WA)
Wisconsin (WI)
Does not have a direct law on driving with a pet, or other animal, but there are other laws that police and courts may cite for fines.
ProposedFlorida (FL)
Maryland (MD)
Michigan (MI)
North Carolina (NC)
Oregon (OR)
Pennsylvania (PA)
A new law regarding driving with a pet, or other animal, has been proposed.
Law removedCalifornia (CA)
Illinois (IL)
Indiana (IN)
Louisiana (LA)
New Jersey (NJ)
New York (NY)
Previously had a law on the books on this topic, but was removed.
Data is courtesy of: news.orvis.comOpens in a new tab.

Incorporate Breaks Into Your Driving Schedule

While we as the driver can make a pitstop to get something to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom our Shiba Inus unfortunately can’t.

Adult dogs need a 15 to 30 minute break once every 2 to 4 hours to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, or stretch while on a road trip. Puppies and elderly dogs need a 15 minute break once every hour for the same reasons, but have less control over their bladders.

Making regular stops also gives your Shiba Inu a chance to de-stress and recover from any potential motion sickness. You also want to offer your pet water at least once every 2 hours.

A simple break schedule you can follow is:

Trip LengthPuppyAdultSenior
1 HourBreakBreak
2 HoursBreak / WaterBreak / WaterBreak / Water
3 HoursBreakBreak
4 HoursBreak / WaterBreak / WaterBreak / Water
5 HoursBreakBreak
6 HoursBreak / WaterBreak / WaterBreak / Water
7 HoursBreakBreak
8 HoursBreak / WaterBreak / WaterBreak / Water
9 HoursBreakBreak
10 HoursBreak / WaterBreak / WaterBreak / Water
11 HoursBreakBreak
12 HoursBreak / WaterBreak / WaterBreak / Water

You can reduce the chance of motion sickness or vomiting by not feeding them a regular meal right before leaving. It’s safe to feed your Shiba Inu a light meal, with a normal amount of water, 4 hours before going on a road trip.

Where you take your breaks matters just as much as when you take them. You want to pull into and park in a parking lot with plenty of grass. If you are struggling to find one you can head to the closest pet store. The vast majority have bathrooms that are pet friendly or have grassy patches around the store.

What To Do If You Need To Leave The Car

Things happen and there will be times you need to leave your Shiba in the car, sometimes unsupervised.

The best case scenario would be leaving your car while somebody is there to watch your pet. But that isn’t always possible. The next best thing would be taking an extra moment to set your Shiba Inu up to be both safe and comfortable.

While you may only need to leave for a moment, it feels like an eternity to your pet. This often stresses them out and causes them to panic.

Some things you can do to help reduce stress or health risks are:
1) Make it very very quick. It’s not safe to leave your Shiba locked in a car alone for more than 5 minutes for several reasons. The biggest two being panic and the temperature.
2) Check the temperature outside. it’s “safe” to leave your dog in the car for 5 minutes if it’s below 70 degrees but above 40 degrees. Anything above or below that range you’ll want to blast the AC or heat for a minute or two before getting out.
3) Ventilation is key. While we may be perfectly fine sitting in a car alone, as adults, for several dozen minutes kids and pets don’t have that luxury. Whenever you need to step away make sure you have a few windows cracked and the fans on to help circulate any hot or cold air around.
4) Keep the car locked. While you know you’ll only be gone for a few minutes, at max, your pet doesn’t. Every dog reacts differently but most will end up poking around. The last thing you want them to do is turn off the AC, turn on the windshield wipers, or open a door and run off.
5) A little thing you can do that helps some pets destress and relax is leave some music on. Some familiar sounds and noises, at a lower volume, can help calm and distract your Shiba some.

Again, the best situation to be in is having a travel buddy that can keep an eye on your Shiba Inu.

How fast you are, and the temperature outside, determine how big of a risk you are taking with your pet. The inside of a car can heat up or cool off, depending on the weather, to problematic or even fatal temps in as little as 10 minutes.

Which is why 5 minutes should always be your max. Any longer than that and you’ll need to go back to check on your pet.

How To Safely Drive With A Shiba Inu Puppy

Driving with an adult dog verses a puppy while on the surface are similar, their are some key differences. The supplies you’ll want to bring and the timings for their breaks will be different.

It’s better to be over prepare than underprepared. The supplies you’ll want to bring while driving with or picking up your Shiba Inu puppy are:

  • Their pet carrier
  • A blanket
  • Their collar & leash
  • Doggy bags (or plastic bags)
  • A small bowl (plastic, glass, or metal works)
  • A bottle of water
  • A handful of treats
  • 1 or 2 chew toys
  • And a role of paper towels (incase they have an accident)

Another great addition to the list about is a second person to keep them entertained and occupied during the ride.

While adults dogs need a 15 to 30 minute break once every 2-3 hours, puppies struggle to last that long. It’s best to take a 15 minute break once every hour while driving with a puppy.

You want to avoid feeding them any solid food 2-3 hours before going on your trip to reduce the likelihood of motion sickness and vomiting. Offer them water once every 2 hours, or every other break.

It’s long enough to let them go to the bathroom, unwind and destress, and gives them time to recover from any motion sickness. It’s also often enough that they should, on average, have fewer accidents. Puppies have less control over their bladder, requiring more frequent breaks than adults.

While adults have a range, puppies don’t, but you can extend the time between breaks if they’re asleep. But in return you’ll need to take a 15 minute break when they wake up.

If driving is going to be a regular thing for both you and your Shiba Inu you’ll want to start getting them use to your car ASAP. It’s best to start while they are young, just like with training or socializing.

Some steps you can take to get your puppy use to traveling are:
1) Introduce them to your car –
Let them get in and investigate while your car is off and parked.
2) Get them use to “buckling up” – If you have a pet carrier you plan on using, or specific spot you plan on leashing them, strap them in. Start the car but leave it parked, let both of you sit there for a few minutes and see what they do.
3) Start taking short trips around the block – Once you are comfortable and confident your puppy is getting use to being strapped in, take a short trip around your neighborhood and gage their response.
4) Slow and steady progress – When they are quiet and comfortable on the short trips you can gradually start extending the length of them.

The general steps are the same for any dog, adult or puppy, but everyone responds differently.

Signs To Look Out For While Driving With A Shiba Inu

shiba inu laying down in a parked car

Some dogs will find road trips fun and exciting while other get motion sick and are panicking the entire time. Every Shiba is different and will respond to driving differently.

Understanding how your Shiba Inu is feeling can help reduce accidents, stress, and a number of other things. Some common things Shiba Inus do while on a car ride are:

Barking

Barking while driving has two primary causes, stress or excitement. Stressed dogs usually share their displeasure by whining and crying but some will start barking if it’s too much for them. Others will have the opposite response and get worked up, which generally shows as constant shifting or barking.

Crying / Whining

Car rides can be a stressful experience for dogs, commonly causing fear, anxiety, discomfort, or motion sickness. Dogs usually display this by crying or whining, especially if they aren’t use to car rides.

Excessive panting

Some Shibas will start panting in the car because it’s warm or their worked up, others may be sensitive to the movement of the vehicle. Pets that are hypersensitive to changing sights and smells may become overwhelmed and start to pant, shake, or whine from displeasure.

Shaking

Shaking, just like crying and whining, is usually a sign of stress. While some Shibas may start whining or crying before anything has even happened others will begin to shake and pant due to fear or anxiety. This is common for pets that haven’t been on many car rides.

Sitting Backwards

Dogs generally shift and adjust constantly on a car ride, the constant turns and bumps messes with their balance. Some Shibas will find sitting backwards, towards the seat, more comfortable. Others will do so to watch something you just passed.

Yawning, Lip smacking, or Excessive drooling

All of the above are a sign of stress, but are a potential warning sign of motion sickness. Dogs can get motion sickness just like us, and Shiba Inus aren’t exempt from that possibility. More details on motion sickness below.

Signs Of Motion Sickness

Motion, or car sickness, is a common problem for dogs, Shiba Inus included. This issue typically hits puppies harder than adult dogs though.

While most puppies will “grow out” of getting car sick as the grow, develop, and mature into adults. That’s due to how motion sickness is usually caused, balance.

Balance plays a massive role in either getting or not getting car sick for puppies, and that’s because their ears haven’t finished developing yet.

Thankfully there are a a few ways to spot and manage motion sickness if you believe your Shiba Inu is suffering. Some tell tale signs are:

  • Constant lip licking or smacking
  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive panting
  • Shaking
  • vomiting
  • Whining while pacing
  • Yawning non-stop

A few ways you can manage and remedy Shiba Inu car sickness are:
1) Limit your pet’s food and water a few hours before driving.
2) Take your Shiba on a 15 to 20 minute walk to wear out and de-stress them.
3) Make sure they are secure and comfortable in the car.
4) Turn on the AC and open a window or two. Cooler air and the additional ventilation can help sooth them.
5) If the above issues persist, contact your vet.

While some Shiba Inus will be just fine, others will be hit hard by car sickness. With varying symptoms and severities. There are some common medications people give their pets before or during the ride, but it’s best to check with your vet first.

Get your vet’s opinion on what they believe is the best course of action, or medication, for you and your Shiba Inu. Don’t give your Shiba Benadryl, Xanax, Trazodone, Gabapentin, or Alprazolam before talking to a vet.

Colby Adkins

I am a proud Shiba Inu owner who is just looking to share any tips, tricks, or advice I have to help others.

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