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November 10, 2011 at 11:18 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Tips for Traveling with Your Dog

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

Now more than ever, dogs are viewed as more of a family member then a furry critter that occupies our house and time. Therefore, more people are taking their little fur buddies on vacations and family get-togethers more often than not.

Quick Note About Cats: If you have a cat and are planning to travel, please reconsider taking your kitty with you. Cats thrive on familiarity and do not except change quickly therefore making the adjustment period painful for everyone. Hiring a pet sitter to come to your house is the BEST option for your kitty :)

To avoid any glitches in your traveling plans, here are some GREAT tips to help ensure traveling with your dog is pleasant, safe and fun.

FIRST - Health Check Up

Prior to traveling, make sure your dog is clear of any parasites or illnesses. Vaccinations should be up-to-date - and you'll need proof of that if you're thinking of flying! Some hotels will require this documentation as well.

SECOND - Pack Your Bags

Don't forget the following items to keep your fur kid happy and healthy on your trip:

  • Their own food and treats
  • Bottled water or tap water in a container from your home. Putting frozen ice cubes in a water dish is a great idea to prevent spillage. Purchasing special water dishes that hook onto crate doors will help to make sure your dog has access to water.
  • Any medications your dog is currently on (take extra in case of travel delays or adjustments) and
  • A crate!

A crate AND a crate trained dog will be imperative for traveling. Got both? Here are some tips on determining if your crate is suited for travel:

  • Size: Your crate should be big enough for your dog to stand and turn around in comfortably.
  • Ventilation: Make sure the crate has proper ventilation and will not be blocked from air flow.
  • Labeling: Mark on top of the crate in masking tape or permanent marker "LIVE ANIMAL" and your personal information such as; name, address, phone number (cell) and email address are imperative to have on the crate.
  • Comfort: Provide a cushion and a favorite toy for comfort. Tip - Covering the cushion with a pillow case of yours will help give your dog some added comfort with your scent.

With any type of travel, NOT feeding your dog prior to their trip will help avoid episodes of motion sickness.

If your dog ISN'T familiar and comfortable with crate travel: you'll need to plan on training before your trip. If not, you should probably reconsider bringing your pup with you.

THIRD - Hit the Road... or Sky

Tips for Air Travel with Dogs: Be sure to ask about your airlines pet policy far in advance of the date you plan to travel. Also, keep in mind that some airlines will not take dogs during extreme weather conditions (too hot or too cold) and that traveling with a dog can significantly increase the price of travel.

If your dog is in the cargo area, you'll need a HARD crate not a soft crate. Look for crates labeled "Airline Approved". If your dog is riding in the passenger area a soft crate should be fine as your dog will be required to be under your seat, but not all airline offer this option for small dogs and none that I am aware of will allow large dogs to travel this way.

Tips for Car Travel with Dogs: Definitely the cheapest option to transport your dog, but it can come with some added challenge. Depending on your vehicle, you can use either a crate that is seat-belted in, a specially designed seat-belt harness, a car-seat for a dog or if you have a SUV or van, you can gate off the back of your car for them.

Keep in mind you'll need to stop frequently for potty breaks and to let your fur baby stretch their legs. NEVER EVER leave your dog unattended in the vehicle. Cracked windows are NOT adequate to cool the car or provide proper air flow.

Cruise/Boat Travel Tips for Dogs: Check with the cruise company prior to purchasing those tickets to see if they allow traveling with your fur buddy. If your dog is allowed, it is a good idea to get some clarification on the accommodation of your dog such as:

  • Where does my dog stay? If not in my cabin, can I visit my dog?
  • Where is the potty area?
  • Is there an employed veterinarian on the ship?
  • Do they offer any types of special services for dogs?

Find out the cost of having your dog accompany you - it may be more than you truly want to spend.

Thinking of Traveling by Bus or Train? Unfortunately, with the exception of service dogs, Amtrak and Greyhound do not offer canine traveling accommodations.

FOURTH - Consider Accommodations

Tips For Staying At A Friend or Family Member's Home with Your Dog: WOW! That is so nice of your family or friend to allow your dog to stay with you on your visit! However, before you take them up on that kind offer, do the kind thing yourself and consider your dog's obedience training. You should NOT expect family or friends to be ok with a dog you can't control or that is not 100% potty trained.

Teaching your dog some basic mannerisms is imperative if you plan to travel with your dog. Your dog should know and be reliable with their commands. Your dog should know "sit", "stay", "down (lay down)", "come", and "leave it" before you consider traveling with them. Keeping your dog on a regular potty schedule is very helpful while staying at an unfamiliar location.

If your dog is bell trained (rings a bell hooked on a door to notify when they need to go outside to take care of business), remember to bring those bells with you. Hook them on the door of where your dog will be going in and out from and make sure to re-charge the bells (associating treats with the dog's nose touching the bell) so your dog understands the location of their bells.

A well socialized dog is also important if you plan to include your dog in your travels. Your family or friends will be happy to welcome you back with your well mannered dog!

Tips for Staying at a Hotel with Your Dog: Many hotels are now more accommodating when it comes to having a dog friendly policy. However, you will want to research and check on the hotels canine requirements. Some hotels will require proof of a Canine Good Citizen Certification. They may also have restrictions on size, breed or both. Be sure to ask the hotel about their potty area and find out about local dog trails and dog friendly restaurants and stores in the area.

If everything checks out and the hotel seems like the place for you, be sure you are courteous of your neighbors in the rooms on your floor and next to you. Keeping your dog quiet is imperative. Take your dog with you whenever possible rather than leaving them unattended. Remember - you are responsible for any damage your dog does to the room. If your dog HAS to stay in the hotel room alone, be sure to crate them to avoid destruction. If your dog is a barker, they should NEVER be left in a hotel room alone. Hotels have the right to change their dog friendly policy any time, so help encourage your hotel to keep their policy lenient. Simply be respectful and clean up after your dog.

Finally, expect the unexpected! Make sure to bring your humor when traveling with your dog. Laughing it off when things get frustrating will help ease the anxiety and tension for the both of you. Always be prepared for delays and go with the flow, this way you can build fond memories and enjoy those travel experiences with your best friend, your dog!

(Service Dogs are the exception)


Dog Bible, Edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe, 2005

Petfinder - Your Pet and You - Traveling with Your Pet

ASPCA - Pet Care Tips - Car Travel Tips

More from Health Coach Victoria Swanson Others Are Reading


  • Great Blog, Victoria! My parents bring their dog Zip on trips with them. They have just gone on trips with him using the car as of now. I am sure someday they may try out an airplane!

  • Great advice :) We didn't travel with our old dog terribly often, but I remember one time in particular when we did, we were able to fit his cage in the car comfortably. We hadn't warned the friends we were staying with that we were bringing him...luckily, we're close enough that they were fine with it! (Plus, they had a dog too, so it was no big deal.)

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