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How to Travel with Your Dog (An Ultimate Guide)

So you are thinking of taking a trip somewhere, and you need to know how to travel with your dog, so your little pooch doesn’t have to stay at a pet hotel or a friend’s house while you are away? Traveling with a dog is as complicated as it sounds. There are a ton of items, processes, and things to think about! Plus, if you are traveling by plane then you also need to consider flight rules, regulations, and fees. Luckily, with a bit of prep work, you can get everything done and enjoy your vacation with your dog by your side.

I recommend seven days of preparation to get things sorted if you are traveling by car and a recommended 30 days to fill out paperwork and get things sorted if you are traveling by plane with your furry friend. This article will cover traveling by car and traveling by plane from the first step at home to hitting the road to arriving at your final destination.​

Regardless of how you travel, below is the first step: what to pack. Many dogs get nervous in the car, especially if it is their first time. A lot of dogs like car rides, but a long-distant trip in the vehicle can wear them out and leave them anxious, so it is best to make sure they are properly cared for. This will ensure there are no accidents in the car and less time worrying if your dog is feeling alright and stays hydrated. Almost all dogs will be nervous on a plane: the number of people and new smells can over stimulate them, and the flight take-off will be a new sensation. In fact, the trip can be downright dangerous so be sure traveling by plane with your dog is necessary before continuing.

Quick Guide: Dog Travel Infographic​

What to use this infgraphic on your blog? Just copy and paste the code below!

What to Pack

  • Medical records including health certificates and proof of rabies vaccination
  • Contact info of your regular veterinarian
  • Comb or brush plus any flea control products
  • Any medications your dogs takes regularly
  • Pet wipes and other grooming products
  • Pet stain/odor remover
  • Spare collar with an ID tag
  • A rag or paper towels
  • Pooper scooper and waste bags
  • Bottled water
  • Food and water dishes
  • Your dog's favorite toy and a blanket if needed
  • A second ID tag that includes the address and phone number of where you'll be staying
  • A first aid kit for your dog
  • (Recommended) A list of dog-friendly attractions, accommodations and restaurants

Traveling by Car

Tips For Safely Traveling In The Car With Dogs (Source: Youtube.com)

If it is possible, traveling in a car is the safer and simpler option for getting from point A to point B with your travel companion. Below is how you can prepare for the trip.

Two Weeks Before​

Consider microchipping your dog just to be extra safe. Make sure the dog collar has an ID tag with your current cell phone. Many times we, as pet owners, forget to update the address and phone number on there thinking that nothing will happen. When you travel, your dog’s chances of getting out is higher and chances of finding it even less. So, get a microchip from the vet and an ID tag. You could even do a quick check-up at the vet office to be sure your dog is healthy and ready for travel.

The Day Before​

Pack the list above! Be sure to have toys to play with, it’s regular dog food (nothing new), treats, and water.

Rent the Car​

If you need to rent a car, shop around for the best deal. Most car rentals will allow your pet to ride along but you need to return the vehicle free of any pet hair. That can be tough so you will most likely need to get it cleaned on the inside before returning it. Ensuring that your dog is comfortable and stopping for extra bathroom break will be imperative in a rented car to make sure the dog doesn’t soil the car in which case you are looking at lots of extra cash. Check out each rental’s pet policy.

Right Before Hitting The Road

Have you wondered why dogs don’t like car rides? The overstimulation of the car, the new scents, the new visuals and the motion can make them very sick even if they don’t look like it. If you see your dog is trembling, hunched over, or drooling, it may be ready to vomit. The best thing to do is ask your vet about pills for relieving car sickness.

  • Chew toys will distract your dog from barking, so you can drive and enjoy the car ride!
  • Feed the dog a couple of hours beforehand so he or she is both well fed and not too stuffed during the car ride and gets nauseous.
  • Take your dog out for lots of exercise so it can be relaxed and tired when you hit the road.

On The Road

Put your dog in the backseat with a toy if it is acting nervous. The safest method is to place it in a dog carrier and then to secure the dog carrier with a seat belt. A dog that is free-roaming in the back seat can cause distractions and possibly be the cause of an accident.

While in the car, it can also become dangerous letting your dog stick its head out of the window. Often, debris can hit the dog in the face at high speed. Sometimes dogs can get sick from the cold air and then you would have a sick pup during your trip.

Letting the dog ride in the back of a pickup truck for long periods of time can be a great risk as well. Some dogs do not understand the danger of jumping out, and some dogs could get lost at rest stops.

Last but not least, on the “Do Not” list, do not leave your dog alone in the car. Temperatures inside a car can reach up to over 100 degrees in just a few short minutes on a warm day. Your dog can easily get heat stroke or even worse if left unattended in a hot car!

An important “Do”: Do stop often for bathroom breaks and keep your dog on the leash while doing so. Let your dog stretch its legs. You can take advantage of these pit stops as well but you will need to incorporate the extra time spent on all the stops when calculating how long it will take you to arrive at the destination.​

Traveling by Plane

Airplane Trip with Winnie: Traveling by Plane with a Pup (Source: Youtube.com)

As mentioned, traveling by plane is not always safe for dogs for health reasons so if you must fly by plane here are some tips to help the task be smooth and easy on you and everyone traveling with you.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says the dog must be at least 8 weeks old, fully weaned and in good health before traveling.​

Before the Flight

There are a lot of regulations according to the USDA that you must become familiar with first.

Airline Guidelines​

Every airline has different policies about transporting dogs. Some dogs are allowed in the cabin as part of the carry-on luggage while other airlines only allow dogs in the cargo. Some have no fees, and some charge around 500 dollars.

Check with the airline you wish to travel with to see if they allow pets and how many available seats they have on the flight you want. Some airlines only have a few seats for dogs.

The Day Before Your Flight

Get the items from the above checklist together. Make sure your dog has been familiarized with the carrier you will be taking it in. You could even call the airline again to confirm that you will have a pet with you.

The Day of the Flight​

  • Take your dog out for lots of exercise a couple of hours before you head to the airport. This ensures that it is more relaxed and not trying to play or run around the airport.
  • About two hours before you arrive at the airport, feed your dog. The USDA requires that dogs are fed within four hours of a flight.
  • Arrive at the airport two hours before the flight to check-in.
  • Carry the leash with you so you can walk it while you wait for the flight. In the case that you are checking in your dog, give it water right before checking in and leave water and food in the crate.
  • Mark “Live Animal” on the sides and top of the carrier and arrows to show the correct direction to orient the cake.

A Pet Carrier must be large enough for the dog to lie down with enough room, stand up and turn about. It must also have ventilation holes. The ventilation is exceptionally important while traveling by plane. I would make sure the crate has a blanket on the bottom for comfort and a food and water bowl so airline employees can feed your dog. Put the pet’s name and ID tag with your phone number and home address on the carrier.

Safety Tips

  • Do not give the dog a sedative or tranquilizer because it could affect its natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium
  • When you board, notify a flight attendant that you have a pet in the cabin or the cargo area
  • Make sure your dog's nails have been clipped to keep them from getting caught anywhere.
  • Book direct flights if possible for less chance of mishaps and a smoother experience for your dog
  • When you arrive at your destination, open your carrier as soon as possible to examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, contact a vet immediately.

Conclusion - Traveling with a Dog

The bulk of the work when it comes to traveling with a dog is taking precautionary measures: getting extra ID tags, going to the vet for a checkup and any necessary medications, and preparing your dog for the trip.​

If your dog is well behaved and used to being in a crate at times, and has been exercised and fed before the trip, it should all turn out fine!

However, sometimes airlines do not take the proper care that they should with pets in the cargo area so I would always recommend a vet check up beforehand, lots of water for the dog and immediately examining the dog after the flight before heading out of the airport in case you need to report something then and there.

After everything has been said and done, enjoy the trip! If you are staying at a hotel, you must check with the hotel to see if pets are allowed. Usually, only higher-end hotels allow pets inside and may need a deposit or credit card on hand in case there are any mishaps. Be sure to have the normal dog food you always feed it with you, so that things will sort of seem normal to your dog even though it is in a new place. Give it its favorite toy and treats to keep it calm while it adjusts to such a travel and a new destination!

If after reading all of this, you are unsure you can travel with your dog, there are a few options for you if you have no one in your neighborhood who can look after your dog while you are away.

You can check the dog into a Pet Hotel. A pet hotel is a great option where it can sleep, be played with and cared for, and be around other dogs.​

You could look into a temporary shelter. I recommend finding a place through recommendations of friends or from your vet! Some shelters are not so nice.

Lastly, you could pay for a dog sitter. There are a ton of online sites for people who can look after your dog while you are away for a small price. I would just check that they have recommendations and reviews.​

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