5 Factors to Consider Before Traveling With Your Dog

5 Factors to Consider Before Traveling With Your Dog

Many people find the thought of traveling alone to be daunting, and this has led more and more people to bring along their dog as their trusted traveling companion. Choosing to bring your dog along with you during your travels not only provides you with a loyal friend, but it also saves your dog from having to live alone at home or going to a kennel while you’re away.

Many dog owners are realizing it’s rather easy to travel with their furry friend, but there are a number of things to be aware of regarding regulations and maintaining the safety of your dog. Whether you’re planning a cross-country road trip or an international getaway, we have collected some helpful tips to make traveling with your dog easier for you. Whether your furry bestie is a Westie or your right-hand man is a Doberman, consider these 5 factors before you start planning your next trip with your dog.

Check With Your Vet Before Traveling

Before you travel anywhere with your pet, your first destination should be a visit to your vet. While vet visits aren’t enjoyable for your dog or your bank account, it’s vital to make sure your dog is healthy enough for travel and that you understand what you need to do to get your pooch travel-ready.

While a smaller dog breed like a Westie often makes the best traveling companion, certain breeds like Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Chihuahuas may struggle when it comes to air travel. Brachycephalic breeds such as these, with their flat faces and short noses, are susceptible to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke, therefore making it a health risk to bring them on planes. Some airlines even prohibit such breeds so you should discuss with your vet if you breed of dog is generally deemed fit for travel.

You will want to make sure your dog is wormed and is up to date on all their vaccinations. Some countries require your pet to have a valid Rabies Vaccination Certificate and you may need a special veterinary certificate stating your pet is fit for air travel if they are pregnant or have recently given birth, are elderly, are sick or recovering from a recent illness, or have recently been sedated. Never give your pet tranquilizers while traveling unless prescribed by your vet.

Although dogs are highly adaptable, discuss with your vet where you plan to travel and what environments you may be introducing your dog to. Your vet will be able to give you helpful information that is specific to your individual dog. Don’t forget to get ID tags or possibly even permanent microchip electronic identification.

Selecting a Proper Dog Carrier

When it comes to getting a dog carrier, which will be needed for air travel in most cases, it’s important to purchase one well in advance of your trip to allow your dog the chance to get familiar with it. You may find it difficult for them to want to voluntarily get inside, so you may need to get them to associate the carrier with positive experiences. Try putting treats or their favorite toys inside to encourage them to be comfortable with the carrier. Familiarizing your dog with their carrier ahead of time will reduce the stress they feel while traveling.

When purchasing a carrier, you of course need to make sure it comfortably fits your specific dog and is International Air Transportation Association (IATA) approved if you are flying. If you don’t travel often and wish not to purchase a carrier, you may be able to rent an IATA approved carrier depending on the airline. The carrier should have proper ventilation holes on all four sides and a lockable cage door. It should be sturdy but not impossible for you to carry or transport.

Ensure your dog’s safety while they’re in the carrier by clipping their nails so they cannot get caught on any of the carrier’s inside parts and make sure they are wearing a collar which won’t be able to get hooked on the cage door or any carrier mechanisms.

Traveling by Plane with Your Dog

Most regulations concerning traveling with your dog are found with plane travel. There are certain restrictions to be aware of depending on where you are flying to and which airline you are flying with. Each airline has different guidelines and restrictions when it comes to pets.

While some airlines may allow your pet dog or service dog to ride with you in the cabin, dogs are often forced to fly in the underneath cargo area. However, you can rest assured that this area will be kept heated and at a similar air pressure to the main cabin throughout the journey. The captain will also be notified that pets are onboard and they will do everything in their power to keep them safe and comfortable.

You will want to be sure to place a travel label on your dog’s carrier much like a luggage tag on your suitcase. This should have all your important contact details, final destination details, your dog’s name, and any important information about your dog. While it’s rare for dogs to be lost or misplaced while flying, having proper ID and contact details will help get your dog back to you as quickly as possible. Carrying a photo of your pet just in case they get lost will also help locate them. You can reduce the chances of losing your dog during air travel by avoiding connecting flights and airline transfers. Stick to direct flights whenever possible.

You should avoid feeding your pet 4-6 hours before your flight but you can supply them with water for the flight. Just make sure to not overfill the water container or it may easily spill. Airline regulations may require your pet to be at least a certain age, under a certain weight, well-tempered, and in good health. As we said before, some dog breeds may be prohibited from flying.

Read up on the customs laws of the country you’re traveling to and know if your dog will require a mandatory quarantine period. Many countries will require that your dog has had certain vaccinations.

While it may seem rough for your dog to ride beneath the main cabin, keep in mind they may actually have more leg room and comfort than you depending on their carrier. If you’re worried about your dog’s well being, check out online reviews from other pet owners regarding their experiences flying with different airlines.

Road Trips with your Dog

While taking road trips with your dog will generally be much less stressful than air travel, there are certain precautions to be aware of and traveling across state or country lines may still require your dog to meet certain guidelines.

Before you take a long distance road trip, you should always start off with shorter car journeys to let your dog get used to the road. While some drivers allow their dog to simply be free in the backseat, it’s advisable to place them in a carrier that is then anchored with a seatbelt or other restraining device. This may help reduce injury in the event of a crash and will stop your dog from becoming a distraction while you’re driving. Always keep your dog in the backseat, because a deployed airbag could seriously injure your dog even if they’re in a carrier. It is also not advised to transport your dog in the back of a pickup truck in case you are involved in an accident.

Be sure to plan plenty of rest stops both for your well-being and so your dog can get a bit of exercise and do their business. Be sure that they have a collar with ID tags or are microchipped in case they happen to run off during a pit stop. Never leave your dog in a vehicle unattended as it presents the same risks associated with leaving a child in the car. Even on seemingly cool days, the temperature in a parked car can reach dangerous temperatures which can cause your dog to suffer heat stroke or other serious complications.

Think about bringing seat covers for your car if your dog is prone to shedding, if they often get muddy feet, or is known to have accidents in the car.

Book Pet-Friendly Accommodation

Aside from searching for pet-friendly airlines, it’s also important to research pet friendly hotels or Airbnb rentals. Failing to make sure your dog will be allowed at your booked accommodation beforehand may force you to rebook somewhere else. If dogs are strictly prohibited from a property, never try to sneak them in as you may be hit with hefty fines and it could put other guests at risk that may be allergic to dogs. Always confirm directly with the property by phone their policies regarding pets before you book.

Even if dogs are allowed at a hotel, make sure to think about whether the property is a good fit for your dog. If your dog is active and needs to be walked several times a day, avoid booking hotels in the center of the city and maybe opt for a holiday park style lodging that offers a large grassed area or one that borders a park. If you plan to camp, be aware that some campsites such as those found in national parks may prohibit dogs. This is often to ensure the safety of native wildlife and the habitats they live in.

While you may love being around your dog and consider your dog to be friendly, be considerate of other guests wherever you stay. Some people have a strong fear of dogs so it’s best to always keep your dog on a leash. Also be mindful of your dog’s barking and be sure to always pick up after your pet so as to not be an annoyance to other guests.

Packing Pet Food and Supplies

You should put just as much thought into packing for your dog as you do yourself. While you won’t need to pack a lot of outfits and toiletries for them, there are things that will help them feel comfortable and keep them healthy.

Be sure to pack your dogs normal food and treats whenever possible, which may not be allowed when traveling internationally because of customs and border control and their restrictions on importing food. You can however pack a collapsible dog bowl to ensure your dog can always get plenty of water.

Pack an extra leash and collar in case one breaks or is lost while traveling, and bring along some of their favorite toys as you would do for a child.  If you have room, bringing along your dog’s usual dog bed will help them feel more at home. Having treats will allow you to reward your dog for good behavior which may be disrupted while traveling and therefore need encouragement.

Throw in a doggy first aid kit to treat any minor injuries and include tick or insect spray if you plan on visiting wilderness areas. Another key item to put in a first aid kit is styptic powder to stop bleeding from injured toenails. You will also want to keep your dog’s coat looking clean and healthy by packing grooming supplies.

Last but not least, pack dog waste bags to be able to pick up after your pet or maybe a handheld shovel for burying waste if camping in remote areas. Even when you’re in the wilderness, it’s important to dispose of your dog’s poop properly. Simply leaving your dog’s business unattended can disrupt the natural ecosystem and can cause illness in local wildlife. If it isn’t practical to carry your dog’s waste with you in the outdoors, be sure to bring along a handheld shovel and properly bury your dog’s waste at least six inches deep and away from public trails, campsites, and watersheds.


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Author: Michael Jerrard

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