Know What to Do When You Are Traveling with a Dog
With dogs being a major part of the family that accompany people through all of the ups and downs of life, it only makes sense that they also travel with their pet parents to experience new adventures and build memories. Traveling with dogs has become even more widespread within the last decade, and advancements in industry accommodations have made pet travel easier and less stressful for pet parents.
Traveling with your dog can strengthen the bond you have, and help create many wonderful memories in the process. With the right tools and tips, heading out on a journey with your pup can be painless and relaxing.
Best Ways to Travel with Your Dog
When choosing a mode of transportation to make it safely to your destination with your favorite companion, there are several factors to consider. However, one of the most crucial decisions is how you will travel with your dog.
Tips for airplane travel with your dog
It’s important to be prepared in the best way possible before traveling on an airplane with your dog. Safety of your pet should always be priority, since they are a part of the family, after all.
- Review airline guidelines ahead of time. While airlines have similar policies, each one will be slightly different. Before heading out, read all of your airline’s guidelines, including the fine print. Make sure to pay attention to things such as:
- Size and breed restrictions. In order for a dog to travel in the main airplane cabin with you, they need to be able to fit under the seat in front of you in a TSA-approved pet carrier. If your dog is too large, they will need to fly in cargo, unless they are a registered service dog. Some airlines also have breed restrictions, limiting airline options for breeds such as Bulldogs and Pugs. Be sure to research airline’s policies before booking your flight.
- Timing restrictions. Certain airline routes may have weather restrictions making it so pets cannot fly in cargo if the temperature is above or below a certain threshold. Be sure to check your airline policy before booking a flight.
- Crate requirements. When traveling with a dog in the cabin, airlines require that your dog can stand up, turn around and lay down in the kennel in a natural position. The crate must also be padded, secure, and have plenty of ventilation. Dogs must stay in the carrier under the seat in front of you for the entire flight. Check your airline for specific carrier measurement restrictions and other crate policies.
- Animal travel cost. There is a cost to travel with your dog on an airplane, whether they are in the cabin or in cargo, so be prepared for that price tag. The cost varies per airline so be sure to research your options.
- Required vaccinations. It’s important to have updated health and vaccination records handy when you fly with your dog. Some airlines may require a health certificate from a veterinarian, but often recent vaccinations records will do the trick (be sure to verify!). Also bring along your dog’s rabies vaccinations certificate to be on the safe side. It doesn’t hurt to be extra prepared!
- Opt for a direct flight. If you’ve figured out how to fly with your dog and are ready to book your flight, consider choosing a non-stop option. This way once you’re on the plane with your pooch, it’s one easy journey. However, while one stop is ideal, you may want to consider a layover if you’re traveling a long distance. This will give your dog a chance to potty and stretch their legs.
- Scout out dog rest areas. Many airports throughout the U.S. have dog rest areas indoors and outdoors. Signs around the airport will lead you to indoor areas where your dog can do their business, or you can plan ahead by finding an airport map. Make sure you exercise your dog and allow them to use the bathroom before getting on the airplane.
- Strategically plan meal time. This is an important part of knowing how to fly with your dog. By feeding your pet several hours before traveling, they will have enough time to digest and do their business before heading out. This can help avoid an upset tummy on the airplane. Puppies can be an exception to this guideline depending on your flight schedule because they can develop low blood sugar if you withhold food. If you know you’re going to travel, ask your veterinarian for their recommendation on a travel-day feeding schedule.
- Plan ahead for anxiety or motion sickness. If you know your dog suffers from anxiety or could get a case of motion sickness, prepare for that ahead of time. Ask your veterinarian for assistance and recommendations, but pack sanitizing wipes and waste bags just in case.
Tips for dog car travel
A road trip may be a better option if you’re traveling a short distance or have large or multiple dogs. Traveling via car can be fun and potentially less stressful because you can stop as much as you need and do some sightseeing along the way!
Just like airline travel, your pup’s safety comes first when thinking about dog car travel. One major benefit is that you can customize a comfortable area to suit your dog’s needs.
- Prepare your car. Dog harness seat belts and car seats are made with your dog’s security in mind. Some dogs travel better in a crate, which will provide comfort and safety. It’s important that you choose the best option for everyone involved. No one knows your dog as well as you do.
- Acclimate your dog to the car. Car sickness is common, especially for young dogs and puppies. You can prepare your dog for a road trip by taking them on short car rides at first, and gradually working up to longer ones. If your pup is prone to car sickness, try to avoid feeding him eight hours prior to the car ride and keep the car cool. If motion sickness is a recurring problem, you can speak with your veterinarian about medication options.
- Pack the necessities. Dog car travel car allows you to bring more goodies for your pet. Some things to consider are a cozy bed, toys, their favorite treats, and cleaning supplies in case there is an accident.
- Plan for stops. Depending on how far you’re traveling, you will want to consider stopping every 2-3 hours so your dog can go potty. Rest stops often have dog exercise areas, and you could stop at a local Petco along the way to get new supplies since dogs are welcome in stores. It’s best to plan out your stops prior to departure, so you’re never scrambling to find a place to stretch you and your pet’s legs. And remember, never leave your dog unattended in your vehicle.
- Don’t forget about parasites. Every pet parent should be taking year-round parasite precautions at home, but it is especially important when traveling with your pet. Always bring clean drinking water and don’t allow your dog to drink from unknown water sources like lakes and streams, which can contain waterborne parasites like Giardia. Heartworm is also common in certain parts of the country so make sure your dog is taking heartworm preventatives prior to travel. There are many heartworm preventative options available; consult your vet to find the best fit for you and your pet.
What to Pack when Traveling with Your Dog
In the excitement of getting ready for your trip, it’s easy to overlook some of your pup’s essentials. Take a look at our dog travel packing list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
Packing for your pooch
- Certificates verifying your pet’s vaccines and health
- Pet medication
- Food and water bowls
- Your dog's favorite toys
- Food and treats
- Leash and collar with pet ID tag (also ensure their microchip information is up to date prior to leaving)
- Brush and comb
- Flea and tick repellent or preventative
- Dog waste bags to clean up after your pet
- Current photos of your dog in case they get lost
What to Plan Ahead When Traveling with a Dog
Just as you should check airline policies before booking a flight, you should do the same when reserving a place to stay. While there are many lodging options that will welcome your dog, some may not. Certain hotels and inns may also have size and breed restrictions. Be sure to plan your stay around their pet policy, as you don’t want to show up to your destination with nowhere to sleep! A great majority of campgrounds are also pet-friendly, but always double check.
Before heading out, research the area you’re staying in for local veterinarians. You never know when there may be an emergency and your dog needs immediate medical attention. Also bring your dog’s current vaccines, pet insurance, and veterinary information with you. If you can’t find a local veterinarian, you can call the American Animal Hospital Association at 800-252-2242 for a referral.
Get a good idea of the pup-friendly activities to plan for by doing a quick internet search of the location you will be visiting or looking through dog-friendly forums. . However, while you may already have a set schedule, no one will have better ideas than the locals! Ask at your hotel’s front desk or local shop owners about dog-friendly activities, parks, and restaurants in the area.
Updated ID Tags and Microchip
Always make sure your dog’s ID tags and microchip are updated with your current information. Nothing would be worse than losing your dog on vacation, especially if their info is outdated.
When to Leave Your Dog at Home
Your dog may not be ready to travel, and that’s perfectly okay! Maybe they don’t have all of their puppy vaccinations yet, or they are still working through behavioral issues. Whatever the case may be, it’s okay to leave your dog at home, but be sure to plan for that as well by getting a trusted pet sitter.
Since your dog is family, it’s imperative that you hire a pet sitter who you can trust. Maybe it’s a friend or family member who can host your pup, head to your house every day to tend to your dog’s needs, or even spend the night with your pet. Your dog will be more comfortable being apart from you if the person taking care of them is a familiar face.
You can also consider hiring a professional sitter from a service like Wag!. Professional pet sitters are often available to board your dog, make visits to check on their wellbeing and take them on walks. Some may even be available to house-sit while looking after your pet.
Traveling with dogs is an enjoyable experience if you’re prepared with the best tips and tricks. Creating a plan will help avoid any unnecessary stress so you can focus on bonding with your pup. Happy travels!