How To Be Zen When Your Car Breaks Down With Your Dog

It’s important to stay calm when disaster hits, including a car breaking down, in the heat with your dog. With the summer heat comes more travel and fun activities. Is the beach or mountain calling to you and your dog? But what do you do if you’re on your way to a fun outing, and then suddenly your car stops? Yep, the nightmare when your car breaks down with your dog in tow.

For example, my car recently broke down on the hot highway with my dog. Trust me, it’s not exactly the best place for your car to quit. However, I always like making lemonades out of lemons, including my lemon car. In this article, I’ll walk you through how to stay calm when your car breaks down and your dog is with you. 

*Updated: January 11, 2024

Budget Tip:

With a bit of planning, you will be prepared for an incident. I like to have a bag in my car with dog treats, towel, water, etc. I will change it out with the seasons. It's an emergency bag. You never know when you'll hit a major traffic jam. So, while there's not much to add to the budget, the benefits of being prepared and calm are priceless. And that's a major win-win!

Here’s what I learned you should do if you and your dog find yourself in a similar situation:

This may be just pulling as far off the road or over to the side as possible. In my case, there was a small shoulder on the bridge of the highway where I quickly parked. Use your best judgment and park safely for you, your dog, and those around you. If you can try to get to a shady spot, especially if it’s hot.

We don’t often use our hazard lights. And to be honest, I had to look for mine. But, it’s really important to put them on when your car breaks down. This alerts other drivers that you’re not moving and broken down. This will hopefully slow traffic around you. It will also allow roadside service to find you more easily. 

doggie in car broken

If you have roadside service, this is the time to call them. Make sure to tell them you’re in a dangerous place (if you are), which moves you up in line. You should still expect to wait a while. I waited an hour for any help to arrive and I was on a dangerous high-traffic bridge. 

Now, turn to your dog. Is there any safe place in the shade for your dog to be outside your car? If not, then:

Want more easy ways to bond with your dog? In this article, I share free ways to build a great relationship with your pup.

If you find your car broken down with your dog in an unsafe area, like a bridge, move to a shadier area in your car and wait inside your car with your dog. It’s safer to be inside than outside with fast-moving traffic or on a bridge with no sidewalks. 

My dog, Henry loves his cooling vests. I’m always surprised at how long it will stay wet and cool. Truly an amazing invention.

To learn more about cooling vests for dogs, check out this article!

cooling vest in action on Henry, a dark colored cockapoo
Henry sporting his shammy cooling vest.

Especially if it’s a hot day, don’t forget to drink water. As I mentioned earlier, you may have to wait for an hour or more for roadside service to arrive. If you don’t have a lot of water, pace yourself and make sure you share with your dog. Remember help is coming. 

Want to learn how to keep your dog cool in the summer? In this article, I share easy steps to keep your pooch chilling when the temperature skyrockets. 

Remember to breathe. While being stuck in a weird spot with your dog feels very uncomfortable, remember that it’s only temporary and rescue is on its way. It can be scary to be broken down in your car and not in control of the situation. Try to focus on your dog and what you’ll do when you get home. Think of the situation as a memory although it’s in the present. Put yourself ahead in time with your dog, sitting on your couch, and enjoying a cool glass of tea. 

Want to learn how to meditate with your dog? In this article, I share the benefits of meditation with your dog.

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Summary of how to successfully handle a car breakdown with your dog 

While a car breaking down can happen anytime or anywhere, breaking down in the heat with your dog on a busy freeway bridge is a challenge to anyone’s zen. With just a few easy steps you’ll be able to handle any breakdown your car hands you. These steps include getting to as safe a place as possible, putting your hazard lights on, calling for help, making sure your dog is safe and reassured, staying in your car, drinking water, and breathing. 

Of course, these steps are simple. However, it’s amazing how in the middle of a crisis you can easily forget them. 

Have you ever broken down in your car with your dog? What did you do to stay calm?

About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

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