The Complete Guide For Traveling With Your Dog

If you’re planning on taking a trip with your dog, there are several things you’ll need to do in order to have a fun and safe adventure. Traveling with your canine buddy can be exciting, but it takes a lot of prepping and a bit of good luck for everything to sail smoothly. With this complete guide, you should be well-prepared to embark on a new adventure with your pup.

Preparing For Your Trip

Traveling can be stressful. Traveling with a dog can triple anyone’s anxiety into astronomical proportions if you’re not prepared. So, let’s take a deep breath and get to work.

What mode of transportation will you be taking with your dog? Each vehicle, be it a plane, car, ship, or train, will have different requirements and liabilities. Despite this, there are a few key things you can (and should) train your dog to master ahead of time for your peace of mind.

Training Your Dog For Travel

There are several skills your dog needs before embarking on your trip to help them stay relaxed. Basic obedience like “sit,” “stay,” and “down” are fundamental necessities. “Leave it” can be a life saver if your pup finds something unsavory you don’t want them investigating. A good recall is also a plus in case the worst should happen and your pup gives you the slip.

Crate Training Your Dog

Crate training your dog while they’re still a puppy will save you lots of time, energy, and headaches while traveling. Planes, ships, and trains will usually expect your animal to be crated for the duration of the trip. You’ll have more leeway with cars, but it’s generally best to keep your pup in a crate for your safety and theirs. Here’s a short video you can check out on how to crate train your dog. You can also read our post to learn more about crate training and some general good tips.

While crate training, you should practice letting your dog in and out of the kennel in all sorts of circumstances. Practice in your room, the bathroom, outside, in the car, in the dark, and any other place you can think of. If your pup will be traveling in the cabin with you on the plane, you’ll be expected to take them out of the crate during security screening. It’ll be much easier to do this if they’re already used to going in and out of their crate at anytime and place.

It’s crucial that your dog comes to love and enjoy being in their crate. It needs to be a comfortable safe zone where they can relax without you around. You’ll want to take some time, a few months at least, to get them used to this.

Doing A Dog’s Business Anywhere

Another useful and important skill your pup should know is being able to go potty on command. It’s actually not that difficult to teach and will be a massive help for traveling. This article from Pet Helpful has a very detailed explanation on the process. Once they’ve mastered going potty on command, you can then teach your dog how to do their business on any surface: concrete, fake grass, dirt, rocks etc.

Building your dog’s tolerance of strangers and loud noises will also be a plus. You can start by playing recordings of loud crowds and airplane sounds. Taking your pup to public places like dog parks, doggie day cares, and restaurants that allow dogs will help them get desensitized to new and unexpected situations. Taking short trips in the car will also get them used to the motion and sensation of traveling in a vehicle.

If at anytime your dog becomes reactive or struggles with being in a crate then maybe consider leaving your pup at home for your next trip. Oftentimes, it’s best to hire a pet sitter or have a family member watch your pet while you vacation. This can relieve a lot of stress for both of you, but this isn’t always possible. If your pup needs to travel with you then train them at a slow pace that’s comfortable for them. Don’t rush.

Making Travel Plans For Your Dog

With your dog’s training in hand, it’s time to look at your traveling options. Each vehicle will have their positives and negatives. Make sure to research and contact whichever company you’re planning on traveling with so you know what to expect before departure.

You’re also going to need to research hotels, vacation spots, and city/state requirements for your pup. Bring Fido, Pets Welcome, and Dog Friendly are great sites for finding this. K9 Of Mine also has a list of dog friendly restaurants and excellent tips before dining out .

Traveling By Car

Traveling in your car is probably the easiest and most convenient mode of transportation on this list. You have the luxury of being in your own vehicle. You can stop at anytime to take a break. Your dog can wear a harness belt instead of being stuck in a crate for the duration of the trip.

Important Tips For Driving With Your Dog

  • Motion Sickness – This is a common ailment for most canines. If your dog suffers from motion sickness, consider using a harness instead of a crate. Looking out the window will help their symptoms. You might also want to crack open this window enough to allow some airflow, but don’t let your dog stick their head out. Flying projectiles can easily injure your pet.
  • Boredom Let’s face it. Road trips can be boring, especially for dogs. You’ll need to find ways to distract your pup so they don’t start destroying the upholstery. Having a chew toy, Kong toy, or bone will keep them distracted for some time. Also, exercising your dog before your trip can wear them out for the first leg of the journey. Road trips can also be boring for kids so make sure they know not to tease the dog.
  • A Doggie Bladder Depending on how old your dog is will depend on how often they’ll need to go. An adult dog can handle 4 hours, no more. If you own a senior or puppy, you’ll need to make more frequent stops. Keeping baking soda with you is a great option in case of any accidents.
  • Exercise – Anytime you get out for a potty break, take a moment to stretch and exercise your pup. 15-20 minutes of fresh air and movement will do them a world of good.
  • Food/Water You’ll want to feed your dog a few hours before departure to ease or prevent motion sickness. Make sure to provide plenty of water so your pup doesn’t get dehydrated.
  • Mess, Mess, Mess – Your car will get dirty. There’s really no avoiding it. Dogs love to be messy. Seat covers, quick dry towels, and a good vacuum will help with this.

An extra bag to carry a first aid kit for your pup will be handy as well as these other simple essentials:

  1. Collapsible food/water bowls
  2. Food and water
  3. Extra leash & collar
  4. Updated ID Tag – Optional is having a 2nd ID tag for a friend or family member in the area you’re visiting in case you can’t be reached.
  5. Towel
  6. A couple favorite toys and a few new durable toys
  7. Dog bed and crate
  8. Grooming supplies
  9. Poop bags
  10. Dog friendly bug spray
  11. Seat covers & blankets
  12. Treats
  13. Lots of love and patience

Pre-planning your route and knowing where the nearest 24-hr vet clinic will also make for smoother sailing on your adventure.

Traveling With Your Dog By Plane

Flying with your dog will have more restrictions and requirements. Make sure to research the airline you’re planning on taking and their policy on animals. Some companies like Southwest won’t allow large dogs to travel as cargo, but will permit smaller dogs in the cabin. All airlines have different rules for correct crate sizes so you’ll want to make sure your dog is used to the correct type of crate before departure.

Important Tips For Flying With Your Dog

  • Call Ahead If you get your tickets online, you’ll have to call your airline to let them know you’re bringing a dog. The attendant can let you know what to expect before arriving at the airport and give you some tips. You’re going to want to do this well in advance since most airlines have a restriction on the number of pets allowed on a flight.
  • Proper Documentation – Most airlines require that your dog get a certificate of health from a vet ahead of time. You’ll want two copies of this document. One you can keep with you while the other can be taped to your dog’s crate.
  • Stranger Danger A dog that’s reactive to strangers will not make a good flying buddy. Some airlines won’t accept dogs that excessively lunge, scratch, or bark in their crate. Continue socializing your pup well beforehand and make sure they’re comfortable in their crate. A terrified dog howling the whole way will make the trip miserable for everyone.
  • Know The Risk If your dog can’t fly in cabin with you, there will be risks. Every year animals are reported online for having escaped, getting injured, or even dying while in transit. Flying is dangerous if not deadly for animals that are brachycephalic (or shorter snouted). The air pressure and fluctuating temperatures can cause them serious harm. If your dog must fly via cargo make sure to:
    • Close your dog’s crate with extra fasteners so it’s doubly secure.
    • Travel in the morning or evening if it’s hot and in the afternoon if it’s cold.
    • Write on both sides of the crate “Live Animal”.
  • Pack The Essentials Having an extra bag of food on the side of the crate will be useful if the flight is delayed. You could try training them into drinking from a water bottle or dispenser. There are also special water containers that create less of a mess for your pup. Some sites recommend giving your dog an old sock or shirt to comfort them, but this isn’t always wise. Your pup may come to develop a habit of taking and eating your clothes. Instead a familiar toy or even a ThunderShirt might be best. A towel on the bottom of the crate can sop up messes while chew toys will distract and calm your pup.
  • Drain The Tank Exercise your dog either the day before or a few hours before your flight. You’ll also want to feed them about four hours before departure and make sure they go potty before boarding. The goal is to have a worn out, empty pooch that would rather sleep than cause any mess or distraction.

Traveling by air can be stressful, but if you follow these guidelines you’ll be well prepared for the journey.

Traveling With Your Dog By Ship

Thinking about taking your dog with you on a Cruise? There’s nothing like relaxing on the deck with the ocean breeze blowing across your cheeks with your favorite pal at your side. From what we’ve researched, there’s only one major continental ship that allows dogs, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. The cruise only permits 12 dogs per voyage and reservations book quickly. You’ll need to call ahead at least 8 months to a year in advance.

For dog friendly shorter voyages you can check out this post by the Bark Post that discusses different options all over the states.

Traveling With Your Dog By Train

Yes, there are trains that do allow dogs, but you’ll have to do some research on their requirements. Most trains only allow smaller dogs that can fit comfortably on your lap or in a kennel. Upgraded Points had the best and most valuable site concerning everything you need to know about traveling with your dog on a train. We highly recommend reading their post on the subject if you’re planning on traveling this way. They list every state and which trains permit pets while listing policies and procedures.

Traveling With Your Dog By Taxi or Rideshare

If you’re thinking of traveling by a rideshare like Lyft, you’ll have to do a little leg work to make sure your dog is allowed. Drivers for Lyft work in their own personal vehicle and can say “Yes” or “No” to pets. Once you book the ride, you’ll have to call the driver personally and see if they’re willing to allow your dog. If so, make sure your pup is on their best behavior and be prepared for any extra fees if your dog makes a mess. If the driver refuses, you can call the company directly to get a refund and a different vehicle.

Since more people are traveling with their pets, some companies are beginning to offer pet specific services. Apps like Uber now offer a pet option that you can select so you don’t have to stress over whether your driver will take you and your dog or not.

When it comes to traveling by taxi, make sure to call the company or research their site to find their policy on dogs. You can also try 1-800 Pet Taxi, Pet Pro Services, or type in “Your City + Pet Taxi” to get some more options.  The last thing you want is to be standing at the side of the road waiting for a driver to tell you that they don’t allow pets.

The Essentials for Traveling With Your Dog

Phew! Okay, that was a ton of information! Thanks for sticking with us so far; we hope you find this useful and valuable next time your plan your vacation. Let’s sum up the important takeaways.

  • Train Your Pup Basic Obedience, Crate Training, and Potty Training on command anytime, anywhere will make traveling so much easier for you.
  • Research Take the time to research your destination, mode of transportation, and documentation each requires. If you have a breed that is often discriminated against (Pitbull, Rottweiler, Doberman, etc.) make sure to check what restrictions the city and state has for your pup.
  • Update Health Records Most public transportation require a current certificate of health from your veterinarian before allowing you to travel with your dog. Depending on what vaccines your pup needs, plan accordingly with your vet. Also, update your dog’s ID tags with your information and have a second tag with the info of a relative or friend in the area you’re visiting.
  • Wear Out Your Dog To have an enjoyable trip, make sure your pup is well exercised the morning of or day before. Feed about four hours before and provide water. A full belly makes it easier for your pup to get motion sick, but make sure they get a nice meal once they arrive at your destination.

In Conclusion:

Traveling with your dog can be done. In fact, if you’re prepared, it can be an exciting adventure for the whole family! With the right training, your pup will love the new experiences and may come to enjoy any outing you decide to take.

If you feel that traveling with your pup isn’t the right thing for you, don’t stress it! We’ve got a blog post coming next week all about how to leave your pup home while you head out the door.

Have you traveled with your dog? Do you have any tips for the first time doggie traveler? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!