Taking your dog along on a vacation or family visit can be a lot like traveling with a small child: you have to anticipate their needs, pack the right supplies, and plan on being extra flexible with your itinerary. But traveling with your dog can also make the trip more memorable and fun! Learn how to prepare so you and your pup can both enjoy traveling together.
Should You Travel with Your Dog?
You know your dog best, so be sure to keep their behavior and needs in mind when deciding whether or not you want to bring them along for your holiday travels or weekend getaway. If your dog gets overly stressed on car rides, or your schedule is jam packed with activities that your dog can’t tag along for, then think about housing them with a trusted pet sitter while you’re away.
On the other hand, if your dog enjoys traveling as much as you do, make sure that the folks at your destination know you’re bringing your buddy. Lots of hotels allow pets, so make sure to choose pet-friendly lodging and read through the pet policy so you know what to expect. There may be a dog fee, or weight and breed restrictions. Some hotels even offer amenities like dog beds and bowls.
If you’re staying with friends or family, make sure they’re prepared to host both you and your dog. Consider the existing members of the household (both human and canine) and whether bringing a dog into their home will be feasible, as well as logistics like where your dog will sleep and if there are good walking routes nearby.
If you want to take your dog on a camping trip, be sure to pick a dog-friendly campsite (not all of them are), and do your homework so you know which areas may be off-limits to pets.
Is Your Dog Fit for Travel?
It’s a good idea to get the all-clear from your veterinarian before taking your dog on a trip, especially if it’s been a while since their last wellness check. If you’re going to be traveling internationally you’ll need a health certificate and other documentation. If you’ll be crossing state lines with your dog, you may also need a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) and vaccine documentation – you can find animal health requirements here.
Identification & Emergency Care
Take these steps before you travel with your dog—just in case:
- Make sure your dog ID tag is up to date and includes your phone number.
- Find a 24-hour emergency veterinary service at your destination and save the information in your phone.
- Save your regular veterinarian’s contact info in your phone.
- Bring some recent photos of your dog.
As a loving dog parent, you probably have hundreds of recent dog photos in your phone—just make sure a few of them clearly show your dog’s size and main features.
Packing for Your Dog
In addition to your dog’s ID and veterinary info, pack any medicine or supplements prescribed for your dog. You should also bring a supply of their regular food and treats—now is not the time to introduce new foods! To be on the safe side, pack an extra week’s worth of food and meds in case you run into travel delays.
Use this checklist to make sure your dog’s needs are covered on your trip:
- Dog first aid kit
- Food & water dishes
- Bottled water
- Travel crate, carrier or car safety harness
- Leash & collar (plus an extra of each)
- Poop bags
- Pee pads to line the crate or carrier
- Pet bed and/or blankets
- Coat & booties if your destination climate calls for it
- Treats & toys
- Towels & rags for cleaning up
If you have a small dog, you may want to consider a backpack carrier. If your dog is comfortable in one, you’ll have more hands free for luggage, a travel mug and whatever else you’re carrying.
Flying with a Dog
If you plan on taking your dog along on a flight, you’ll need to research the policy and restrictions for the airline you’re using. In general, only small animals can ride in the cabin, while larger pets must travel as cargo—which can be very uncomfortable for your dog. In fact, the ASPCA and the Humane Society both recommend against flying your dog as cargo.
Some airlines won’t allow pet travel if there are extreme temperatures along the route, and most airlines require an animal health certificate issued within 10 days of your flight. There may also be breed restrictions, and some airlines limit how many pets can fly at one time. Flying can be stressful for your dog, not to mention the extra complications and costs it adds to your trip. If you have a senior dog, or a dog with health issues, it may be better for them in the long run if you leave them with a trusted pet sitter. For a detailed list of what to expect and how to prepare, see the American Veterinarian Medical Association resource for traveling by plane.
Flying With an Emotional Support Animal
Airlines are required by law to allow trained service dogs on flights, but not emotional support animals (ESA). If your airline allows animals you can bring a small emotional support dog on your flight, but they’ll be subject to the same regulations and restrictions as any other animal.
Tips for Traveling with Dogs in a Car
The best part about taking your dog along on a road trip is you won’t have to research any specific requirements—you’re probably already familiar with how well your dog does in cars. The main things to plan for are keeping your dog safe during the journey, and leaving enough room in your schedule for walks, playtime, and downtime.
Keeping Your Dog Safe on a Road Trip
The first rule of road safety is keeping your dog secure while you’re driving. Ideally, your dog stays in a crash-tested, size-appropriate crate while the vehicle is moving. If that’s not possible, look into a safety harness that clips into the seat belt buckle. If your dog can’t handle any type of restraint while in a car, you can use a back seat barrier to keep your dog away from the driver.
Remove your dog’s leash once they’re in the car so they don’t get tangled up or get it caught on something. Always put your dog’s leash back on before you open the door—they can easily be startled by an unexpected sight or sound and take off.
This last safety tip goes without saying, but is worth repeating: never leave your dog alone in a car, especially in extremely hot or cold temperatures.
Traveling with Dogs by Bus
Greyhound is the largest intercity bus service in North America, but unfortunately they do not allow dogs. The only exception is for service dogs (not emotional support dogs). You can find more information about service dogs and Greyhound buses here.
If you are able to find a dog-friendly bus service in your area, you’ll need to do some research to find out:
- How to make a reservation for traveling with your dog
- Carrier requirements
- Dog fees
- How many stops are scheduled along your route
If you’re bringing your dog on a bus trip, make sure they’re comfortable in their carrier beforehand, take them outside at every opportunity, and give them lots of exercise first so they’ll be more likely to rest.
Traveling with Dogs by Train
Rail travel in the U.S. is pretty much synonymous with Amtrak, and the good news is that Amtrak does allow dogs on their trains! Each traveler is allowed to bring one small dog on trips up to 7 hours long. The combined weight limit for your dog and their carrier is 20 pounds, and dog travel fees range from $29 – $39. There are dog carrier stipulations and a few route restrictions to be aware of, so check Amtrak’s pet policies before booking your tickets.
Know that your dog will have to remain in their carrier with the door closed and in your presence at all times in stations and on the train. In addition, dog parents need to sign a pet release and waiver, and check in 45 minutes before departure to validate the paperwork and compliance with dog travel policies.
Only dogs that are 8 weeks and older can travel on Amtrak trains, and you’ll have to certify that they’re up to date with all vaccinations. Guidelines also say your dog must be “odorless, harmless, not disruptive, and require no attention during travel”. While the letter of that law may be unrealistic, the spirit of it is that your dog will need to be quiet, well behaved, and able to refrain from barking or defecating in their carrier while traveling.
Even with all these rules, taking a train with your dog can still be much less stressful on both of you compared to air travel. If your planned trip is several hours long, you might want to try taking your dog on a shorter train trip first, to see how they do.
Preventing Travel Sickness in Dogs
Many dogs experience motion sickness, especially puppies (who often grow out of it). If your dog regularly gets carsick, talk to your vet about options for helping them feel more comfortable. There are a variety of prescription and over the counter medications that might help.
If your dog doesn’t travel often, they might experience anxiety and/or stomach upset from all the new sights, sounds, smells and sensations. If your dog shows signs of motion sickness such as whining, restlessness, drooling (more than usual) or soiling their crate, taking a break and a brief walk might help.
One way to prevent travel sickness is by helping your dog get used to the experience of traveling before you embark on your trip. For road trips you can practice by taking gradually longer drives in town until your dog gets more comfortable traveling by car. If your dog will be traveling by bus or train, help condition them to spending time in their crate or carrier on car rides.
When departure day arrives, you may want to avoid feeding your dog for a few hours before you leave (if that’s not too stressful for them). A dog with an empty stomach is less likely to get carsick, and it will reduce the need for relief breaks. Make sure the temperature in your vehicle is comfortable for your dog, and put on some calming music. Giving your dog a shirt or pillowcase with your scent can also help them relax while traveling.
BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS
Despite there being many dog parents and dog lovers around the world, there are also a lot of people who don’t feel comfortable being around dogs. Taking this into consideration, remember to be respectful to those around you and your dog by restraining them when necessary, rewarding your pup’s good behavior, and asking before assuming. And always pick up after your dog when walking them around your family’s neighborhood, at a rest area, or near your hotel.
KEEP STRESS LEVELS LOW AND SPIRITS HIGH
Just like people, dogs also experience a heightened level of stress when they’re away from their routine, meeting new people, and staying in a different place. With that being said, pay close attention to them while traveling and cater to their needs when possible. If your dog gets nervous, talk to your vet about safe options for helping them relax. Some ideas for comforting your pet include: putting on their anxiety vest, wrapping them in a blanket to snuggle, playing extra rounds of fetch outside, taking them for nice, long walks, or giving them a few more treats than normal. Being mindful of your dog’s stress level will make traveling easier for you and it might also help others that will be around your dog. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of dog anxiety, and ways to help.
SAFE TRAVELS FROM STELLA & CHEWY’S
Traveling with your dog, and in general, can be stressful. Give your dog plenty of attention and affection, and keep their routine as consistent as you can while traveling. Having their usual, day-to-day activities in place will keep those tails wagging. Before you travel, use positive reinforcement to teach safe car behavior and make your pet’s carrier a happy, comfortable place. Our freeze-dried raw treats and foods are ideal for traveling because they’re lightweight, shelf-stable, and 100% natural with complete and balanced nutrition. Explore freeze-dried raw dog foods from Stella and Chewy’s, and start planning your next getaway!
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