How to travel with a dog? Useful tips for pet parents and puppy travelers

If you haven’t traveled with your dog before, taking him on holiday may seem incredibly challenging and stressful. However, with a little extra effort devoted to planning and research, it’s not as difficult!

If you can’t imagine going on vacation without your furry baby, here are some tips for traveling with dogs that will help you prepare for the trip of a lifetime!

General health and safety tips for traveling with dogs

Identify your pet

For your dog’s safety and your own peace of mind, make sure your dog can be properly identified. Except for a usual ID tag for his collar with your home address, it is best to purchase a temporary ID tag giving the location and contact info of the place you will be staying at.

You can also consider microchipping your pup. The procedure is fast, completely safe, and will provide a lifelong form of identification. The chip is connected to the information about the owner, and in case your dog gets away, a person who finds him will be able to contact you. If your furry friend is already microchipped, confirm that all the contact info from the chip is up to date before every trip.

Make copies of your dog’s medical history documentation

In case of any health-related emergency, the information on your dog’s medical past can be useful for the vet. The health records should also list all of his recent vaccinations. If you travel across states or international borders, make sure you pack any required pet health certificates or proofs of rabies vaccination.

Be prepared for an emergency situation

No one wants their furry baby to get sick, but it is better to prepare in advance. Find the nearest 24-hour animal hospital or an emergency veterinarian and add their phone number to the contact list on your mobile. Also, save the number of your regular vet just in case the emergency vet needed a consultation. 

Pack a dog travel kit

It should contain your pup’s regular food, medication, bowls, his favorite blanket or bed, and a few toys. Don’t forget about waste bags to clean after him or grooming supplies if you use them regularly. Make sure to include any pet-related documents, such as medical info with proof of recent vaccinations.

Before you leave, tire your pup out

One of the best ways to calm your furry baby is to play with him a lot before your departure. Take him for a long walk or exercise – a game of fetch or running together will do!

Use apps for dog owners

There are quite a few apps that can make your and your pup’s travel not only simpler but also more fun. Look for the apps that let you explore dog-friendly places, learn leash laws in various destinations, save listings of vet practices, or get danger alerts from other pet owners. 

Traveling by car

Get your pup used to a car

Traveling in a car can be a cause of distress to your pet so it’s best to help them get used to being inside. Let them sit in it and explore the car’s interior a few times without leaving a driveway or even starting an engine. Then take a few shorter trips to introduce them to the car’s sounds and motion.

Secure your dog in the car

To make sure your dog is secure during a ride, always keep him restrained in the back seat. There are many ways of protecting him from roaming freely in the car: from travel crates and back seat hammocks to seat belt leashes. The option you choose should match your dog’s size, age, and temper.

Feed your dog a light meal

It is best to feed him for the last time at least 3-4 hours before a trip. A light meal won’t upset the stomach or cause car sickness.

Leave the front seat for yourself or other people

It is safer to keep your dog in the back seat. During a car accident, a deploying airbag can severely injure your pet while he is in the front passenger seat.

Don’t let your dog ride with a head out of the open window

Although it may be cute to see and make him happy, it is way too dangerous. Sticking his head out can cause your pup to suffer from eye injuries caused by particles of debris.

Don’t transport your dog in the back of a pickup truck

Transporting pets this way is too dangerous and may lead to severe injuries.

Stop frequently during your trip

To make your dog comfortable, schedule plenty of stops every 2-3 hours. This will give him a chance to relieve himself, rehydrate, or stretch his legs a bit. Remember to clean up after your pup!

Never leave your dog unattended 

The temperature of a car can quickly cool down in the winter and heat up in the summer, causing your dog to freeze or overheat – both can cause irreversible organ damage or death. Temperatures lower than 35 F or higher than 70 F are a safety concern! 

Traveling by plane

Check the rules of the state or the country you are traveling to

If you plan on crossing state or international borders, research their rules and regulations considering pet transport. Some countries require rabies and other vaccination certificates, while in others – like EU countries – it is advised to travel with a pet passport.

Double-check airline policies 

It is best to not only check their regulations online but also call the airline and ask for any recent changes in their policies that may not have been updated on their websites. To be extra certain, you may even ask for an email confirmation that your dog will be welcomed on that exact flight.

If only it’s possible, choose the cabin 

Flying in a cargo hold can be a dangerous and stressful experience for dogs. Each year airlines report cases of companion animals being injured, lost, or killed on flights. Rough handling by the cargo crew, insufficient ventilation, rapid changes in air pressure, or extreme temperatures in the cargo area are often to blame for these incidents.

Weigh all the risks of transporting a dog by plane 

Many veterinary experts advise against flying with dogs unless necessary. Keep in mind that there are some dog breeds that shouldn’t travel by air due to medical reasons. All of the brachycephalic breeds (the ones with short nasal passages like bulldogs, Shih Tzus, pugs etc.) are more likely to suffer from oxygen deprivation or heat stroke during the flight.

Traveling by train

Practice socializing in advance

If you want the whole train ride to run smoothly, it is best to introduce your dog to the “public transport experience” gradually. Start with walking him a few times in a ticket hall to get him used to sounds, smells, and crowds. Follow up with taking a couple of short trips to the closest station. To positively reinforce your dog’s desired behavior, remember to reward him with some yummy treats.

Check for pet transport regulations

Many train operators only allow domestic pets to be transported in secured, enclosed pet carriers. There are also some mainline routes that pets are not permitted at all. Before you book your tickets, read the guidelines for pet transportation of the operator you want to travel with. 

Take care of relief breaks

If you plan to take a long-distance train ride, make sure that there will be enough stops along the route. You can do this by checking if the operator provides any scheduled stops longer than a few minutes so that your furry friend can have a proper potty break. Always clean up after your pup!

Staying at a hotel

Check for pet regulations and fees 

The restrictions can vary from accommodation to accommodation, depending on your dog’s size and, sometimes, age. Fees usually range from a refundable damage deposit to a non-refundable flat rate or per night charge. If the hotel’s website is not clear about their pet policy, call them and ask.

Don’t change their routine 

Our furry companions are creatures of a habit. Stick to the same feeding times, keep the same number of walks, and give them the same amount of daily exercise. It will help your pup get accustomed to a new place more easily. 

Make the room familiar for your dog

Even if your dog doesn’t mind sleeping in different places once in a while, making a hotel room as familiar as it’s possible will help him adapt to new surroundings. Bring a couple of his favorite toys, a blanket or a bed, or even a used hoodie that smells like you – anything that will help your pooch feel more like at home.

Cynthia L. Collins

Cynthia L. Collins

Devoted dog lover, a dog mom to her two rescued Shih Tzus Romeo and Elvis, and an Australian Shepherd, Bandit. When she isn’t working, she volunteers in a local shelter and various animal welfare organizations.

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