Thinking of traveling with your dog? Many dog parents opt to board their pup or get a dog sitter while they’re out of town, but sometimes taking your pup along is the best decision. In other situations, your dog has to travel with you, such as during a move. Whether you’re traveling with your pup by choice or necessity, we’ve put together 15 tips that will turn both you and your dog into travel pros.
Experiment with short trips before traveling with your dog
This might not be possible if you’re planning to fly, but if you’re driving, take your pup on some short test trips before the big day. This will allow you to assess your dog’s comfort level with traveling and answer some important questions. Does your dog get nauseous in the car? Does he bark the whole time, or settle down right away? You’ll be able to figure this out and more ahead of time during your test drives. Learn more with our tips for car rides with your dog.
Remember that dogs get travel anxiety too
Do you get motion sickness in a car? Do you feel nervous during takeoff on a plane? Dogs can experience all of these feelings and even more. Try to diffuse this anxiety as much as possible by bringing familiar items, like your dog’s favorite toys, their regular food, or their favorite blanket.
Wear your dog out the day before you travel
Exercising your dog means they will be tired, and a tired pup sleeps all day, making travel easier for both you and for them. Play fetch energetically, go for a run, or spend the day at the park. Whatever you do, be sure your dog has burned off as much excess energy as possible before you hit the road.
Have your dog’s ID ready
Your dog should have their identification ready to go. This means a secure collar with tags that have your current cell phone number and other contact information on it. If possible, you should also have your dog microchipped so they’ll always have their ID on them, even if they manage to wiggle out of their collar.
Be prepared for emergencies
Obviously, you hope your dog never needs to go to the vet, whether you’re at home or on vacation—but you should be prepared, just in case. Do some research on wherever you’re visiting and identify a nearby vet that will be open during the dates you will be there. Save the information in your phone or write it down on a piece of paper and store it in a waterproof resealable bag alongside other helpful documents, such as a current photo of your dog and any relevant prescriptions.
Get a clean bill of health from your regular vet
Regardless of where you’re traveling, your dog should be caught up on their vaccinations and otherwise in good health before you leave. If you’re flying or crossing certain state or international borders, your pup will also need a health certificate. Pay a visit to your regular vet before you leave to get the necessary paperwork.
Overpack when traveling with your dog
Veteran travelers pride themselves on being able to fit everything they need into a single carry-on with room to spare, but you can’t take the same strategy with your dog. Prepare for the worst here, including food, water, bowls, toys, blankets, and most importantly, cleaning supplies. Nervous dogs will poop, and it’s not the easy to pick up kind. Make sure you have paper towels, antimicrobial wipes, deodorizing spray, and poop bags; you don’t want to run out of these while on a road trip.
Keep food, water, and medication consistent
If you can, bring enough food, water, dog treats, and medication to last the entire trip. This will help provide a sense of consistency for your dog and help ease feelings of anxiety. If your dog tends to have stomach trouble, keeping their food the same can help prevent an upset tummy while traveling.
Be strategic about eating
Some dogs are fine eating a small meal before traveling, while others will get motion sickness and promptly vomit it up as soon as you get going. Use your test trips to experiment with what eating schedule works best for your dog. However, do make sure your pup has plenty of water so they don’t become dehydrated en route.
Live the crate life while traveling with your dog
Whether traveling by car or plane, your dog should either be crated or left in a carrier. Most airlines require that your dog be contained in some way depending on size, and even if you’re driving, your dog shouldn’t be allowed to roam free. Their antics can distract the driver, and they can suffer injury if the car brakes suddenly. Crates can also make traveling less stressful since your dog can get used to the crate before you hit the road. For more tips, check out our guide to crate training your dog or puppy.
Plan for frequent potty stops
You might be able to make a 10-hour drive without stopping, but your pup definitely can’t. Stop to stretch your legs every few hours and let your pup relieve themselves. Plus, letting your dog out every couple of hours will keep them from getting too anxious. Make sure you also leave some time once you arrive at your destination to take your dog for a long walk as a reward for successfully traveling. However, this rule does not apply to flying. Look for nonstop flights, as larger dogs must remain in the hold during layovers. If a layover cannot be prevented, scope out pet relief areas at the airport.
Think twice before flying with your dog
To you, your pup is a beloved member of the family. But to an airline, they might be a piece of cargo. Large dogs are usually secured in crates in the hold, while small dogs may be allowed into the main cabin if kept in a carrier. The extreme temperatures and oxygen deprivation in the hold on certain flights can sometimes pose a health risk to your pup. You must make reservations for your dog while booking your own tickets, and you should call ahead to the airline to confirm their policies.
Find dog-friendly lodging
Not every hotel or campground allows pets, so be sure to call ahead and confirm their policy before you book your stay or plan your camping trip. For indoor lodging, double-check to see if they charge an extra fee on top of the regular booking if a pet stays on the premises.
Don’t leave your dog alone
When traveling with your dog, never leave your dog alone in the car, even with the windows cracked. Temperatures in parked cars can rise quickly. Also, even if your dog is the most obedient pup in the world, don’t let them off the leash while traveling. Nervous dogs are unpredictable dogs. Lost dogs are difficult to find, and all the more so if you’re in an unfamiliar area.
Find more safety tips with our guide to how to protect your dog this summer.