Traveling with Your Dog, The Complete Guide (2019 Edited)
Owning a dog is a wonderful experience. They make us laugh, they give us a shoulder to cry on and they are amazing travel companion that can make a road trip even more meaningful. Let’s face it, our pups can be our world and we want to explore it with them.
However, travelling with your pup does come with some obstacles and every owner should be prepared for emergencies or unexpected obstacles. That is why we are going to take the time to really look at traveling with your pup in this complete guide.
It’s all About Pre-planning
Before we get into the different ways to travel with your pup, it’s important to start well in advance to your travel plans. If you are traveling by car for a weekend or a short trip within your country, there isn’t a lot of extra planning you need to consider, although we will add a few tips for those quick weekend travel plans with your pup.
But regardless of whether your trip is for a few weeks or a few days, there are plenty of things that you need to do so both you and your pet can have an enjoyable trip.
Number One: Learn the Regulations
Before you travel anywhere, it is important that you know the regulations of where you are going. Some states have breed specific legislation that prohibit some breeds from even visiting the states. Others have leash rules and if you are travelling out of the county, you will need to know what the laws are.
Generally, most countries require up to date vaccinations as well as a vet certificate indicating that your pup is healthy at the time of travel. However, some require a pet passport that can take a bit of time to create before you travel.
By knowing the regulations well before your travel date, you will be able to ensure that your pup won’t be detained and your holiday turning into a nightmare.
Number Two: Schedule a Check Up
As I already mentioned, even for a short trip, it is recommended that you schedule a check up with your veterinarian, so you dog has all of his proper vaccinations. You may have to schedule two check ups depending on how soon your pup must have his vaccinations by. For rabies, many countries require that the dog have been vaccinated no sooner than 30 days from the date of travel and up to 30 days from the booster date.
If you need to update vaccinations, you want to have the proper window, so you aren’t turned back, or your pup placed in quarantine.
Once you have the vaccinations, get a health certificate.
Number Three: Prepare a Doggy Passport
Whether you need to have a doggy passport or not, I always recommend putting one together for your travels. This is important for several reasons.
- You will have all the important information for your pup if something happens.
- You can access it easily.
- Your passport will have current photos to help with a search if he happens to run away.
And that is the number one reason why I always say to take a doggy passport, safety. In the passport, you should have a file folder or book that contains the following:
- Pet photo: Take several current photos of your pup and have them printed out in high resolution. You can keep some on your phone, obviously, but a hard copy is much easier to share in the event that your pup goes missing.
- Microchip Information: For some countries, microchipping is compulsory if you are visiting. If your pup doesn’t have a microchip, get one when you go for your vet check up. If he does, write down his microchip number in the doggy passport. Also make sure that all of your contact information is current with the microchip database.
- Vaccinations: Take a copy of your pup’s vaccination records. This is important for several reasons including crossing borders and if your pup is picked up by local animal control. You can prove that your pup has been properly vaccinated.
- Rabies Record: If you are given rabies tags in your area, be sure to photocopy the tag and place that copy in your doggy passport. In addition, make sure that his collar has his rabies tag as well.
You usually only need one copy but if you are travelling with several people, it is good for you to carry more than one copy. That way, if one copy is lost or damaged, you will have a back up copy.
Number Four: Do a Dry Run
If your pup is going to be in a car for a long period of time, I recommend that you take the time to do a few dry runs before your trip. While you can’t prepare your pup for plane travel without having access to a plane, you can get him prepared by having him in a crate in the car.
The month leading up to your travel date, take the time to go out in the car on a daily basis. Start with short trips, down to the corner store or over to the dog park. Always have him exit the vehicle and if he needs to stay in the crate, take the crate out while he is in it.
As the date draws closer, increase the amount of time that you travel with your pup. Doing dry runs will help alleviate the stress for your pup and will prepare you both for the longer journey.
Number Five: Research the Health Risks
Finally, take the time to research the health risks for your area. You should do this for yourself as well as your pup. Some areas have higher problems with parasites such as ticks, and tapeworm and others may have an outbreak in certain diseases such as kennel cough.
Go onto local pet boards or contact a vet in the area you are visiting. Ask them what recommendations they have for vaccinations as well as tick and flea protection. They can let you know of any concerns and you can prepare with the proper treatments and vaccinations before you leave.
The main point of preparing for your travel is to think about all the unexpected hurdles you may be faced with. If you are ready with everything from vaccinations to paperwork, your vacation will be smoother and much more enjoyable.
Before we get into what to pack for travel, I want to take the time to mention travelling abroad. Most of what we’ve covered already applies to travelling abroad but there are also a few other considerations that you should be aware of. These include:
- Quarantine Policies: Regardless of how you are travelling, if you are going into a different country, be aware of the quarantine policies. Some countries require a 1 to 3-month quarantine regardless of how long you will be in the country. If they have tight quarantine policies, it may be better to leave your pup at home.
- Airline Policies: We will go over this in greater detail when we look at actual traveling by plane, but it is important to contact your airline to find out the policies. Will the dog ride with you? Will it need to be in the cargo hold? Are there certain crates you need to use?
- Transferring Policies: This is tied into contacting the airline but make sure you discuss the transfers. Remember that each country you transfer through will have stipulations in regards to dogs entering, even to shuffle to the next plane. Make sure your pup meets all of the criteria regardless of whether you are staying for a few days or simply a few hours to switch planes.
- Titering: This ties in with vaccinations but in some countries, you need to have both the vaccination records and an up-to-date blood test called a titer. This will determine the level of immunity the dog has to various diseases. The test is usually necessary 21 to 30 days before travel dates.
- Pet Passport: I’ve already mentioned doing your own but with traveling abroad, your pup will require an official pet passport. In Europe and the UK, you can purchase a pet passport for about £200 and it will have everything you need to pass through the EU without any problems. If you are flying into Europe from North America, you will need a health certificate from a USDA or CFIA accredited vet that is done within 10 days from date of entry.
- Additional Vaccines: Every country has a list of vaccinations your pup should have so be sure to check them. A list of vaccines that you may need are:
- Canine Influenza
- Ehrlicia Canis
Traveling abroad can be very easy with your pup and it all comes down to how well you plan ahead of the travel.
Packing for Travel
So, you’ve prepped for your travel and now is the time to get packed up. What you bring will vary on where you are going but there is a universal packing list regardless of whether you are traveling abroad with your pup or packing light for a weekend trip in your area.
Before we look at the list, remember that pet passports and all of his paperwork should be the very first thing you pack in your carry on. After that, make sure you pack the following items.
Number One: Leash and Collar
Obviously, you are going to want to have a leash and collar for your pup. Make sure you have a sturdy leash and collar that won’t break while you are traveling. The last thing you want is for your pup to get lost in a strange place.
In addition to the leash and collar, you may need to buy a muzzle. In some areas, dogs can go on trains, buses and subways but only if they are muzzled. I always recommend having one on hand when traveling to a new city because policies can change and may not be updated before you leave on your trip.
Finally, make sure you have proper identification on your pup’s collar and include your phone number while you are traveling; even if it is to your hotel. This will make it much easier to find your pup if he does go missing.
Number Two: Food, Treats and Water
Water may not be a problem if you are flying as most flights ask for no food or water in the crates. However, if you are traveling by car, always have a container of water available that you can refill.
Food should be packed up and make sure you take more than you need for the trip since you may find it difficult to find the correct food brand for your pup if you run out.
Finally, always have some tried and true treats for your pup to help him when he is feeling stressed or when you need him to behave. While you can often find treats where you are visiting, I recommend that you focus on treats you know won’t upset his tummy. The last thing you want is a sick pup from an unknown treat when you are traveling.
Number Three: Crate
A crate is necessary for travel if you are traveling by plane, but it can also be an important item to pack even if you are traveling by car. If by car, I recommend one that can fold down so you have more room. Then you only must pull it out at the hotel if you are going out without your pup.
For airlines, only hard case crates are accepted in the cargo area. Be sure to check with your airline on what type of crate you need for travel and whether your pup is flying in the cabin or in the cargo bay. Crates should be:
- USDA-Approved Crate
- Hard sides with excellent ventilation. Do not purchase one that is solid plastic.
- Measurements should be proper for your pup, so he should be able to lie down, stand and turn around easily.
- Strong handles for moving. Do not purchase them on wheels as they do not want the crate to move easily during turbulence.
- Leak proof bottom.
- No protrusions or broken pieces on the crate both inside or outside.
You may need to supply zip ties for the crate doors to be secured so it can’t be open. In addition, you may be allowed to put in a secured container of water, I recommend freezing it so it melts gradually as your pup is thirsty, however, check with the airline policy first.
Finally, make sure your crate has all the proper information including how to reach you while you are traveling.
Number Four: Toys
Dogs can get bored when they are traveling so it is always important to bring some extra toys for him to play with. These can be small chew toys for in the hotel or even fetching toys for when your pup needs to burn off some energy.
You don’t have to bring a huge assortment, but I always recommend about three to five different toys to help keep your pup entertained on his travels.
Number Five: Poop Bags
Although it isn’t always the top of the list, I always recommend bringing poop bags along with you. Remember that you are a visitor so always pick up after your pup. Also, try to choose biodegradable poop bags so your pup is being eco friendly as well as a good visitor.
Number Six: Dog Bed and Blankets
While you often think of beds and blankets with the crate, I like to mention them separately. This will vary depending on how your pup and you are traveling. If your pup will be in a crate for the travel, give him blankets and a comfortable crate pad. If he is in a car and hotel, bring an easy to carry pet bed and some blankets to make his journey and his stay nice and comfortable.
You may also want to bring some blankets to keep hair to a minimum in the car, especially if you are using a rental car.
Number Seven: Cleaning Supplies
Finally, not all dogs travel well, and some may even get car sick on long trips. Even an accident or two could happen. For that reason, bring a little cleaning caddy with you that has stain removers, air fresheners and paper towel. Trust me, you may not need them, but you’ll be grateful to have them on hand if there is an accident.
As you can see, there isn’t a lot you need to bring but having everything will make traveling that much easier for you and your pup.
Making Travel Plans the Safest
In addition to the regular items that you should pack, there are a few items and considerations that you need to be aware of to make travel safe for both of you. I like to touch on them individually, so you can be sure to remember them for your pup.
Number One: Safety Restraints
If you are traveling by car, be sure to purchase a safety restraint or canine seatbelt. Many dogs are seriously injured, or die, every year from not being properly restrained in the car. There are many different restraints to purchase but you want to make sure of the following:
- Connect at the dog’s back.
- Allow your pup to sit upright or lay down.
- Have thick padded straps
- Have short tethers
Make sure that when you use a safety restraint that your pup rides in the back seat. This will prevent injury if the airbag was to go off in the event of a collision. Not only will the safety restraint you’re your pup safe during travel, it will also prevent him from being a distraction or jumping into your lap.
Number Two: First Aid Kit
Whether you are traveling or not, I always recommend having a canine first aid kit in the car and at home. While you may never need it, first aid kits can be life saving in an emergency. A great canine first aid kit should have the following supplies:
- Disposable gloves
- Cotton swabs
- Eye dropper
- Non-stick bandages
- Adhesive tap
- Magnifying glass
- Styptic Powder
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Eye wash
- Ear wash
- Antiseptic wipes or cleaner
- Active charcoal
Additional Items you should have in the first aid kit are:
- Extra Food
- Bottle of water
- Extra leash and collar
Number Three: Anxiety Supplements
Not all dogs need this and if your pup doesn’t get anxious with travel, then you can omit this from your safety checklist. However, if you aren’t sure or your pup is an anxious traveller, ask your vet for a prescription or for recommendations to help keep him calm.
Number Four: Emergency Numbers
Emergency numbers should include numbers for friends and family who can be called if something happens to either you or you pup. In addition, before you travel, find out the emergency numbers for the state or country you are visiting in regards to poison control for pets.
Another good idea is to find an excellent emergency vet in the location where you will be and have the information on hand in the event of an emergency.
Number Five: Supervision is Key
Finally, one of the best ways to keep your pup safe during travel is with supervision. If you can’t watch him directly, make sure you have a secure area for him to rest. In addition, never leave your pup alone in the car as heat exhaustion can occur quickly.
If you don’t think you can provide proper supervision for your pup, it’s a good idea to leave him at home with a pet sitter.
Traveling by Car
Now that you have everything ready, it’s time to head out on your vacation. Of course, there are many different ways that you can travel and while we will look at each one, let’s start with the most common mode of travel…by car.
First, if you are renting a car for your travel, be sure to discuss their policies regarding traveling with pets. Some rental companies do not allow pets in their vehicles, other require a cleaning deposit in the event that your pup has an accident in the car. Be honest about who is traveling with you to avoid expensive repercussions later on.
Second, be sure that everyone traveling with you and your pooch agree with the travel plans. You want them to be respectful of your pup. If you are traveling with kids, be sure to teach them how to treat your pup and give them things to keep them entertained. The last thing you want is people bugging your pooch because they are bored.
Some important tips for traveling in a car with your pup are:
1. Take plenty of breaks. This is good for both you and your pup and will help prevent boredom, accidents and car sickness.
2. Make sure there is excellent ventilation. If your pup is traveling in a crate, make sure he is getting plenty of ventilation even in the crate.
3. Travel on an empty stomach. Feed your pup at periods when you will be out of the car for at least an hour. This will help prevent car sickness. Before you head out, try to feed him three to four hours before you leave.
4. Offer water frequently. While you want to limit food, water is important for keeping him happy and healthy through the entire trip. In addition, make sure that you bring bottled or tap water from home. Water from new locations can be hard on his stomach.
5. Plan for potty breaks. Make sure you stop frequently for potty breaks and be sure to cue into his needs. If he is looking for a place to potty, find a place to stop.
6. Make his space comfortable. Offer him blankets to lay on and spread out on. If you are using a safety harness, be sure to give him enough room to move around. In a crate, follow the tips for crates that we’ve gone through already.
7. Offer toys for boredom busters. Travel can be boring for dogs so keep your pup happy by offering a variety of things for him to chew and explore while he is in the car.
8. Keep windows locked. Dogs can easily press a button, and this can lead to a dangerous situation. Instead, keep windows locked. Finally, don’t allow your pup to travel with his head out the window. This can lead to serious eye injuries.
By following these tips, you can keep your pup happy while you are on vacation.
Traveling by Plane
The second most common mode of travel for dogs is through plane travel. Whether you are traveling to a different country or simply between states, plane travel can be a quick and easy way to travel with your pup.
In fact, many smaller breeds, or service dogs, have the luxury of traveling with their owners in the cabin, however, larger breeds will often have to travel as cargo and be checked as luggage.
Before you travel by plane, it is important to check with the airline to find out their policies. In addition, check the policies of the airport and the destination area or country. Additional tips for making traveling by plane easier on your pup are the following:
1. Discuss sedating your pup for the flight. Airlines require the dog to be able to fly and if it has too much anxiety, they could keep your pet grounded. If you aren’t sure how he will react, there are several products to keep him calm during the flight.
2. Provide bedding to keep your pup comfortable during the flight. Always check temps for the travel dates and find out if the area where he will be is climate controlled or not.
3. Reserve the travel for your pup well in advance. Also, be aware of any first come, first served travel policies with the airline. Most planes have a maximum number of dogs allowed on the plane so plan ahead so your pup can get on the flight.
4. Have all the paperwork available and easy to access. We have gone through this several times, but it is very important for plane travel. If you don’t have the proper clearances, your pup will not be able to travel with you.
5. Don’t feed your pup the morning that you are flying. This will help him not get motion sickness while he is traveling.
6. Cut off water two hours before your pup boards. Some airlines allow water in the crate, but others don’t. To avoid accidents, it’s best to limit the water.
7. Exercise your pup vigorously before travel. This can be done outside the airport or at home before you head to there. The more tired your pup is, the more likely he’ll sleep through the plane travel, or most of it.
8. Be prepared for hidden fees. Some airlines charge more when you are boarding with your pup so always have extra funds for any extra fees.
The main tip that you should always follow to make traveling by plane that much easier is to always follow the requirements and recommendations of the airline and country of destination. If you do both, you are sure to have nothing but smooth sailing for your travels.
Traveling by Trains
Although there are options to travel with your pup on a train, there are a number of restrictions depending on the country or state that you are living in or traveling to. In general, train travel can be excellent mode that will help keep your pup safe.
In fact, for breeds that are brachiocephalic, or have a short snout, such as the English Bulldog, the train can offer a travel option that keeps them from overheating.
However, traveling by train can be very limiting. For many train companies, a dog can only be on a train if it is under 20 pounds. Larger dogs are cargo with some train companies and while the dog can travel with you, he will, more than likely, be in the cargo area of the train where you can’t check on him.
In addition, small dogs are often confined to a crate that can sit on your lap so that they don’t take any additional space or seating. This can be quite confining for both you and your pup but, if you are traveling a short distance, it can be an affordable and fun way to travel.
Before you travel by train, be sure to research the following:
1. Do they allow pets?
First, make sure that the railway allows pets and the size maximum for each. Most railways allow service dogs of any breed, however, there are a few that will allow all pets. Before you book the trip, be sure to confirm if that particular railway allows your pup to travel with you.
2. Are their restrictions on the number of dogs?
Many railways have strict rules regarding the number of dogs. Many have a rule of 1 dog per passenger. Others have a max number of pets allowed on a train at one time. For instance, Amtrak only allows a maximum of 5 pets on a train as well as only 1 pet per owner. So, if you are trying to travel with multiple dogs, you may have to choose a different mode of travel.
3. Are there crate requirements?
As mentioned already, most trains require dogs to be kept in a crate that keeps them away from other passengers. However, some do allow for dogs to be kept on a leash. Make sure you have the right type of crate, so you can avoid being denied entry when you arrive.
4. Are there additional fees?
Another important part of booking your train trip is to be aware of any additional fees that may be incurred. Several railways do not charge an additional fee; however, Amtrak does charge another $25 for your pet to travel with you.
5. Does the train offer options for dogs to stretch?
This is very important for when you are traveling a long distance, but you should know if there are any stops along your route where you and your pup can get off the train for a brief stretch. If there isn’t an option and the travel will be quite long, choose a different option.
Regardless of where you are traveling, make sure that you check the policies of all of the rail lines you will be using. While many do have the policies listed online, take the time to call directly so you can confirm that nothing has changed.
When the day arrives, follow the same recommendations and steps that we’ve listed for general travel. Have a little emergency bag packed that has toys, food and treats for you dog so that you can give him stuff to calm him down and keep him happy.
Train can be a great way to travel, even with your pups, so don’t rule it out.
5 Countries and Rules for Train Travel:
Below are 5 different countries and their rules for traveling with a dog on a train. Be sure to check both the country you are traveling to and from before booking a train.
- USA: Many different rail lines so check in. Many restrict dogs to under 20lbs and require an additional fee.
- Canada: VIA Rail is the primary rail company in Canada and does allow dogs with restrictions on size, again carriers fitting on laps. Service dogs are not restricted. Larger breeds can travel in the baggage area in a proper crate for a fee but there is no air conditioning, so they are restricted from the beginning of June to the end of September.
- United Kingdom: A very dog friendly rail system, dogs are welcome on all of the train systems and are usually free of charge. For some, there are restrictions of 1 dog per owner, but others allow up to 2 dogs per owner. In addition, dogs are not restricted by size and can be kept in either a carrier or on a leash.
- France: This can be a bit tricky as the direction you are traveling will affect what the restrictions are for traveling on a train with your pup. Some areas, such as France to Belgium require a dog fare to be paid for any dog not in a carrier, while other trips don’t require that fee. For most of them, dogs can be brought on on lead with a maximum of 2 dogs per owner. However, they must be kept muzzled while on the train.
- Germany: Dogs are permitted on the trains with no additional fee. However, they do require a leash and muzzle for any dogs not traveling in a carrier. The only exception to this rule is for service dogs who do not need to be muzzled.
As you can see, there are plenty of trains that are dog friendly, especially in Europe, so don’t discount train travel with your pup.
Dogs on Cruises
Although we don’t actually think of this often, there are several options to travel on cruises with your pups. In addition, there are several day charters that allow dogs to travel with their owners and it can be an exciting adventure for you both.
With dogs and boats, there are a few things that you need to consider. These include:
1. Where is the cruise going?
Don’t just look at where you will be boarding and returning to but also every place the cruise will be stopping and giving passengers shore leave. For some, you will be able to bring your pup to shore with you but for others, they will have to stay on the ship.
2. Find out the regulations.
This ties into number one but make sure you understand all the regulations for every country the cruise will be entering. Once you know the regulations, make sure that you have all the proper permits and vaccinations for that country, regardless of whether you will be enjoying shore leave with your pup. Some cruises will have that information for you, but it is always good to call and get the information first hand in case the cruise company has not updated the information.
3. Book the kennel.
For most cruises, dogs must remain in the kennel area for the trip. There are times when your pup is allowed to come out and there is also set times for walks every day. When you are booking your cruise, make sure you book the kennel as space can be limited.
When traveling by cruise with your pup, you will need to make sure that your pup has the following items.
- Vaccinations: Make sure your pup has all of the vaccinations required by the cruise ship and the countries you will be visited. Also make sure that you have all documentation with you on the cruise.
- Leash, collar and ID tag: This will be important for daily walks with your pup and also, so your pup can be handled by kennel staff. Be sure to include an ID tag so staff can easily identify him.
- Food: Although cruises will have additional food on hand, it is your responsibility to provide enough food for the entire trip. Remember that you may not be able to purchase more food on shore leave as the brand may not be available in the area.
- Medication: If your pup needs daily medication, be sure to bring enough for the trip along with the directions for how to give him a dose.
Blankets and toys: Before you pack these, find out what the policy is for the cruise ship. Some cruise ships have policies against you putting anything in the kennel, while others welcome it. If the cruise ship allows for it, bring along some blankets and toys that will keep him happy.
When you are traveling on a cruise with your pup, be sure to visit him often if he must stay in the kennel. If not, let him enjoy time on the cruise with you and you both will have a wonderful time.
Traveling by Bus with Your Dog
Bus travel can be a bit limited when it comes to long distance travel. For some countries, such as the UK, public transit often allows leashed dogs. However, this works more if you are trying to navigate a city you are visiting and is less about getting there.
For charter buses, such as Greyhound, dogs are restricted to only service dogs. All other dogs are not allowed on the bus and really aren’t the best option for traveling.
If you are traveling around a dog friendly city where dogs are allowed, make sure you have him up to date on vaccinations. In addition, call ahead before you take a bus or subway to make sure you are following the proper rules regarding leashing and other requirements.
Finding the Best Dog Friendly Spots
Finally, when traveling, you always want to make sure that you are finding the best, dog friendly spots for you and your pooch. This can be quite easy now a days with many vacation and travel websites offering a search option for your pet.
However, I always recommend that you double check everything from your hotel to spots you are going to visit by calling ahead first. Policies change and the last thing you want is to wind up in a situation where you and your pup are homeless for your vacation.
A few great sites to check out to find dog friendly locations are:
- Bring Fido: https://www.bringfido.com
- Pet Friendly Accommodations: https://www.petfriendly.io/?gclid=CjwKCAjw__fnBRANEiwAuFxET5Hfc-8EQSozx11on2g4MrHKsdG8Nyz1e5n7y9J4knb6snxPL13bmRoCZS4QAvD_BwE
- Go Pet Friendly: https://blog.gopetfriendly.com/destinations/
- Pet Friendly Travel: https://petfriendlytravel.com
As you can see, there are thousands of places you can travel with your pup and all of them are exciting.
Traveling can be a lot of fun and bringing our favorite companion can make it even more enjoyable. All you need to do is plan well and then sit back and enjoy a great vacation that will leave lasting memories for you and your pup.