Everything You Need To Know About Traveling With Dogs

Time for a road trip 🚗 🐶

dog in a suitcase

Bringing your dog with you on vacation can only add to the fun. But if you’ve ever traveled with your pup, you know that there are a ton of things to consider before hitting the road with your dog.

We spoke to Megan Coryat, owner and general manager of Instinct Dog Training of Hudson Valley, to get some dog travel tips to make traveling with your dog as easy as possible.

JUMP TO: Does your dog like to travel? | Packing list | Car travel | Plane travel | International travel

dog sticking head out car window
MPH Photos/Shutterstock.com

Does your dog like to travel?

Before you begin planning your trip, you should think about a few things first — like whether or not your dog will actually enjoy traveling.

“It is really important to know your dog and know if they're going to have a good time traveling with you,” Coryat told The Dodo. “Dogs who are very fearful or anxious can be triggered into a ‘fight or flight’ response, and you don't want to lose your dog while you're in an unfamiliar place.”

So as much as you might want to bring your dog with you, if he’s a homebody, consider pet boarding or leaving him at home with a reliable pet sitter so he feels more comfortable.

“If your dog is afraid of new environments or very stressed about meeting strangers, it might be better to make a plan for them to stay at a place they know and [where they] feel safe,” Coryat said.

If you do decide to bring your pup along, be sure to check the pet policies at your hotel or Airbnb. Some will allow pets, but others may have size or breed restrictions.

Packing list for traveling with dogs

The most important items to pack are food and water. Make sure to keep your pup hydrated and well-fed, even while traveling.

“I always have my dog's food and a way to give him water,” Coryat said. “I love all the new watering devices that are available these days. Some of them are so stylish looking! And leak-proof!”

Try something like these spill-proof bowls to minimize accidents while traveling, or a collapsible travel bowl to save room in your bag (this one from Amazon comes in lots of fun, bright colors).

Even if you think you’ll be able to buy dog food where you’re going, pack enough food for the number of days you’ll be away to be safe, so you’re guaranteed to have the food your pup’s familiar with.

Some other things you should pack include:

  • Your dog’s bed
  • Your dog’s toys
  • Your dog’s leash, collar and harness
  • Dog seat belt
  • Travel crate
  • Dog water bottle
  • Treats
  • Poop bags
  • Dog seat cover
  • Your dog’s medical records

You can even get your dog his own luggage so your clothes don’t end up smelling like your pup.

dog wearing sunglasses in an airport
Javier Brosch/Shutterstock.com

Traveling with a dog in a car

Here’s what to know about traveling with your dog in a car.

Take practice car rides

Take lots of short drives with your dog so he can get used to riding in the car and doesn’t get anxious on your trip. And if your dog does have anxiety about traveling, you can try out some calming products for him.

Try this ThunderJacket from Amazon for $49.95

Try these Zesty Paws calming treats from Amazon for $29.97

Secure your dog

Just like people need to wear seat belts, dogs should be restrained in the car, too.

“When traveling, even in your own car, your dog should always be either seat-belted in or in a crate or carrier,” Coryat said. “It is so dangerous to have a dog loose in your car — it's a real distraction to the driver, and there's always a risk that your dog will leave the car.”

This dog harness is crash tested, and it connects to your car’s seat belt. Or you can try a travel crate like this one, if you prefer.

Keep your dog’s ID on

Make sure your dog has identification and is microchipped in case he manages to get loose.

“When we travel by plane, train or taxi, he's always in his bag with his collar and tags on and a leash attached,” Coryat said.

Stop for potty breaks

Stop for frequent bathroom breaks so your pup doesn’t have to hold it (or worse, go in your car). You should stop every couple of hours to let your dog out.

Make the car comfy

Make your pup feel comfortable in the car by bringing his bed (or a similar travel bed) and some of his favorite toys so he’ll feel at home.

Don’t leave your dog alone in the car

And remember: Never leave your dog unattended in a car, especially in the summer when he can quickly become overheated.

How to travel with a dog on a plane

Traveling with your dog on a plane is similar to taking him on a car trip, so you should follow many of the same tips, like securing your pup and making sure he has identification.

But there are some major differences, too, since on a road trip, you’ll be in your own car, while on a plane, you’ll have to follow the airline’s rules. So it’s super important to make sure you know all the regulations ahead of time so you can plan around them.

Make the trip comfortable

Bring some of your dog’s favorite toys to make him feel comfortable, and put blankets or a travel bed inside his carrier.

Research the airline’s policies

Before you leave, research your airline’s pet policies. Most airlines have size restrictions for pets who can fly in the cabin.

If you have a bigger dog who has to fly in cargo, ask the airline how pets in cargo are handled (whether it’s climate-controlled, etc.). Some reputable airlines go the extra mile to make sure your pets are comfortable, so if flying with your dog as a carry-on isn’t an option, make sure to do your research on the airline you’re flying with.

And keep in mind that flying in cargo can be extremely stressful for any pet since it’s super loud and dark, and your dog won’t know what’s going on. So if your pup gets easily stressed out, it might be best to leave him at home.

Check with your airline, but most will accept your dog as a carry-on as long as he can fit comfortably in an airline-approved carrier under the seat. Some airlines only allow a certain number of in-flight pets, so double-check that there’s room available before you book.

And because each airline has a different pet policy, including weight limits, paperwork needed and carrier size, you should read over all their rules so you know what to expect. (Service dogs are exempt from some of the restrictions.)

Talk to your veterinarian

You’ll likely need to provide the airline with paperwork that documents your dog’s vaccinations and health status, so make sure you talk to your vet ahead of time to get all the info you need.

And since many dogs get nervous about traveling, your vet can also give you tips on how to help him be more relaxed.

Traveling internationally with a dog

Each country has different requirements for traveling with pets, so do your research beforehand.

Most North American, South American and European countries have these requirements:

  • A microchip with microchip certificate
  • An up-to-date rabies vaccination
  • A rabies titer test certificate
  • A health certificate completed a few days before departing

You can find the specific requirements for the country you’re traveling to by checking with the embassy.

Some countries also have breed restrictions, so be sure to check that your dog’s actually allowed to travel where you’re going.

If you’re going on a trip with your dog, make sure you plan ahead to keep him safe and comfortable so you can both have fun.

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