Safety should be your primary concern when it comes to car travel. Don't let your poodle ride in the front seat if you have passenger-side airbags. If the airbags inflate, they could seriously injure or suffocate him — no matter which variety he is. And certainly don't let your poodle ride in your lap while you drive!
No matter what size your poodle is, he should be restrained in your car. You can do that with a crate, a carrier that's belted in with the car's shoulder belt, or a seat belt harness.
Crates and Carriers
The safest way you can transport your poodle in the car is in a hard-sided crate that is affixed to the car's interior. A plastic airline-style crate is useful for all three sizes of poodles. This will protect your dog from being thrown around inside the car, in the event of a traffic accident, and also protect her from being crushed. And your dog will be contained if rescue workers must come to your car after an accident.
It's not safe to let your poodle hang his head out the open window when the car's moving. A pebble could hit him in the eye. No matter how much he loves it, keep those windows closed enough to make it impossible or buy specially made goggles (called Doggles) that will protect his eyes.
It can be a challenge to secure crates in the car. If your crate is small and has a handle on top, you can thread the seat belt through the handle. The Kennel Cab, from PetMate, features a seatbelt slot in the roof to help secure it. It comes in sizes suitable for Toys and Miniatures. For a larger crate, try threading the seat belt through the wire in the side or side grate. If you have a sports utility vehicle, you can use bungee cords to affix the crate, since most SUVs have cargo hooks or other places to anchor a cord.
Seat Belt Harnesses
If your car is too small to hold a crate for your poodle, or she simply cannot stand to be crated, a seatbelt harness can provide some security. There are several types on the market, but each type puts a secure line between your dog and the car's seat belt. These belts provide security in the event of an accident (the seat belt freezes when the brakes are applied suddenly) but allow the dog some mobility when the car is moving normally.
Look for a belt that doesn't rely on plastic quick-release buckles to stay fastened in the event of an accident. Metal is much stronger. One especially sturdy harness is the Champion Canine Seat Belt System.
When you travel with your poodle, you should make sure that you and your dog are exemplary guests. The restrictions that are placed on dogs are often the result of poor behavior on the part of prior canine and human visitors. Do your part for all canine travelers, and let your poodle be an ambassador for her species.
Your poodle might get twisted in the seat belt harness initially, but don't let this make you give up on it. She should quickly get the hang of moving around without getting tangled. Even if you have to keep pulling over in the beginning to untangle her, in the long run it's worth the trouble to keep her safe!
If your small poodle likes to look out the window but can't because she's too low in the seat, you can purchase a booster seat for her to sit in. This fleece-lined seat is secured by a seat belt and also has a safety strap that attaches to your dog's harness. This option isn't as protective as a hard-sided crate, but it might make travel more enjoyable for your little poodle.
Rest areas can pose a special challenge when you're traveling alone with dogs. If it's warm out, you don't want to leave your poodle in the car. Yet most rest areas forbid pets from entering the building.
Don't leave your poodle in the car with the engine running. It might be too tempting for a would-be thief who may not be deterred by your poodle. It would be terrible to have your car stolen — but think how much worse it would be if your dog were in it!
If your poodle is a Toy or small Mini, and you have a soft-sided carrier that looks like an ordinary duffle, you can try bringing your dog with you into the restroom. Probably no one will even notice you have a dog with you.
Larger dogs are trickier, though. You may have no choice but to leave her in the car while you race in and use the facilities. Blast the air conditioning as you pull in, and try to park in the shade. Do your business quickly, then race back to the car to give your poodle her turn.
Dealing with a Car-Sick Dog
Some dogs, particularly puppies, get nauseous in the car, which can put a damper on car travel. If your poodle gets motion sickness or overanxious and needs a little help feeling well in the car, opening your windows a crack to let some fresh air in might make her feel better. Don't open them far enough for her to stick her head out, though!
You can also try some ground ginger (either in capsules from the health-food store or in tasty ginger snaps), or the Bach flower remedy called Rescue Remedy, which is calming. In severe cases, your veterinarian might want to prescribe a tranquilizer.
Motion sickness is a disturbance in your dog's balance center. It's not uncommon for puppies, in particular, to start salivating, then throw up when the car is in motion. The good news is that most pups eventually grow out of it. So if your puppy vomits in the car, don't minimize car rides his whole life.
If you think your dog may get sick, feed a smaller-than-normal meal before embarking on a trip. Cover your seats with towels to make potential cleanup easier. It's a good idea to keep paper towels, plastic bags, odor-eliminating cleaner, and some paper plates (which make good scoops) in the trunk of your car for emergency cleanups.
If you have a dog prone to motion sickness and you're preparing to take a long trip, try taking her on short trips in advance to acclimate her to the motion. If you increase the length of your trip gradually, she'll be more likely to be more comfortable on your trip, which will be more pleasant for all concerned.