The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Dogs

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Dogs

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Dogs

Many of us consider our furry, four-legged friends members of our family. So it makes sense that they be involved in our family activities, right? So why not bring your pup along on your next family holiday? While certainly easier said than done, traveling with dogs is not impossible. With a little bit of planning and preparation, there’s no reason that your next holiday can’t be an enjoyable one for all humans and dogs involved. Continuing with our Dog Blog series, this post goes through everything you need to know about traveling with dogs by car, plane, train, and boat.

Blog58_UltimateGuideTravelDogs_DogsOnBeach-300x200 The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with DogsIt is important to note that not every dog is meant for travel. If your dog is sick, injured, pregnant, or prone to physical or emotional upset when its routine is disrupted, then your dog might be better off at home. In this case, you’ll want to leave your dog in loving and responsible care, whether that be a friend or a relative or a “doggy daycare” type of setting. It is recommended that you take your dog for a checkup ahead of time to make sure it is fit for travel and so that it can get any necessary vaccinations and medications needed for travel.

Regardless of where you are going or how you are getting there, make sure that your dog is microchipped with identification and wears a collar and tag with your name, phone number, and any other relevant information. When traveling, it can also be a good idea for your dog to have a temporary travel tag with your cell phone number and the phone number of wherever you’re staying.

Blog58_UltimateGuideTravelDogs_DogInCrate-300x199 The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with DogsIf your dog will be going in a crate, it should get plenty of exercise ahead of time. That way, the dog will be more likely to rest while in the crate. Also make sure that there is nothing in the crate that can harm the dog. Make sure to keep the energy positive so that your dog doesn’t get sad or anxious. If your dog has never been in a crate before, you can prepare ahead of time by leaving the dog in the crate for 15 minutes at a time and then slowly working your way up.

As tempting as it might be to medicate your dog with a sedative or calmative, it is probably better not to. You never know what side effects it might have, plus you don’t want your dog to become dependent. Instead, it is better to ease your dog’s anxiety by simply preparing ahead of time. You can also give your dog some aromatherapy with lavender oil or a deep tissue massage at the beginning of the spine or the base of the head to keep the dog calm during travel. It’s also a good idea for your dog to have a favorite toy, blanket, pillow, or stuffed animal during the trip to ease any anxiety and to avoid homesickness. Bring plenty of treats along so you can reward your dog for good behavior.

Car Travel 

Prepare your dog ahead of time. Before taking a long road trip, it can be helpful to prepare your dog by going on a series of shorter trips at first and then gradually increasing the time spent in the car. This will get the dog used to being in the car.

If traveling across state lines, bring you dog’s rabies vaccination records. This is good to have just in case. More often than not, no one’s going to ask you for them. However, at some interstate crossings, some states will require proof of vaccination.

Blog58_UltimateGuideTravelingWithDogs_dogseatbelt-300x200 The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with DogsKeep the dog in a secure, well-ventilated crate or carrier. It should be big enough for your dog to sit, stand, lie down, and move around in, but not so big that your dog will slide in response to sudden movements. Be sure to secure it so that it does not move or slide in the event that the car has to brake suddenly. Some people prefer not to keep their dogs in a crate, which is also okay. If you decide not to use a crate, then keep the dog in the backseat in a harness attached to the seatbelt. Don’t let the dog ride with its head outside the window. Not only might your dog be able to escape, but rocks, bugs, and road debris can ruin your dog’s vision. Use window shades for the back and the side windows

Time feedings appropriately. It is best to feed your dog a light meal 3-4 hours before getting in the car. A dog should not get in the car on a full stomach. You also want to avoid feeding your dog while in a moving vehicle. During breaks, feed your dog a light snack, preferably one high in protein. Also be sure to bring plenty of water along to keep your dog hydrated. Having water from an unknown or unfamiliar area could give your dog a stomachache.

Blog58_UltimateGuideTravelingDogs_DogPicnic-300x200 The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with DogsPack appropriately. In addition to food and water, you’ll need a leash, a waste scoop, plastic bags, puppy pads, grooming supplies, medication and first aid, and any necessary travel documents. You’ll probably also want to bring your dog’s favorite toy, blanket, stuffed animal, or pillow for the sake of familiarity. This will help keep your dog calm during the trip.

Never leave your dog alone in a parked vehicle. On a hot day, even with the windows open, the car can get overheated and cause heatstroke. On a cold day, the car can hold in the cold, causing the dog to freeze to death.

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Take regular breaks. This will give your dog a chance to go to the bathroom, have a light snack, exercise, and do whatever else it needs to do.

Invest in rubberized floor liners and waterproof seat covers. These could be especially useful if you and your dogs go on frequent road trips, as they prevent the risk of damage to your car. You can find these items at auto product retailers.

Air Travel

Traveling by plane is often the fastest and most convenient way to get to a destination. However, if you are traveling with dogs, it is highly recommended that you explore other options first. Dogs and air travel usually do not mix. Unless you are relocating and absolutely must bring your dog on the plane or your pup is small enough to fit under your seat, you should avoid traveling with your dog by air. If there’s no way around it, consider the following guidelines.

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Check with the airline ahead of time about rules and regulations. You don’t want to be taken off guard with any surprises at the last minute. This includes making sure you have all necessary certifications and documentation.

Book a direct flight if possible. This way, your dog is less likely to be left on the tarmac during extreme weather or mishandled by baggage personnel during a layover.

Take your dog for a checkup. You need to make sure your dog is up to date on its vaccinations, and you need a health certificate from the vet dated within 10 days of departure.

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Make sure the dog is in a USDA-approved shipping crate. Crate the dog before you get to the airport to ensure that your dog is not overstimulated by the airport chaos. This will save everyone involved a headache. Make sure it is lined with some type of bedding that can absorb accidents. In addition to comfort toys, tape a small pouch of dry food outside the crate so that airline personnel can feed the dog if it gets hungry. The night before you leave, freeze a small dish or tray of water to keep in the crate. This way it can’t spill during loading, but it will melt by the time your dog gets thirsty. Make sure the crate has all necessary identifying information, including a photo of the dog, and that it is marked with the words “Live Animal.” The door to the crate should be closed securely, but not locked. This way airline personnel will be able to open the crate in case of an emergency.

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Let every airline employee you encounter, both on the ground and in the air, that you are traveling with a dog in the cargo hold. This way they’ll be ready and aware just in case anything happens. If there’s a flight delay or you have any concerns about your dog, you can ask airline personnel to check on it whenever feasible.

Time feedings appropriately. Just like with car travel, your dog should not travel with a full stomach or bladder. Fasting for at least 6 hours before the trip and going to the bathroom as close to departure as possible is recommended. You’ll also want your dog to have enough water so that it’s hydrated, but not too much that it will get too full.

Stay calm. In the event that the dog is not flying in the main cabin with you, stay calm when you part ways. Remember that dogs can sense and absorb the energy of the people around them. If you’re upset, then your dog will get upset, but if you’re calm, then your dog will stay calm.


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Check with the train carrier ahead of time about rules and regulations for traveling with dogs. Amtrak now allows dogs (and cats) older than 8 weeks and up to 20 pounds to travel up to 7 hours on most routes for $25. You can find everything you need to know about Amtrak’s pet travel policy here. For other train carrier policies, you can check their websites or call them for more information.


Make sure your dog goes to the bathroom before getting on board. It will be much harder once already on board.

Bring plenty of fresh water. This is especially important on hot days.

Consider bringing a flotation vest for your dog. Most dogs are natural swimmers, but always better to be safe.Blog58_UltimateGuideTravelDogs_DogLifevest-300x199 The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Dogs

Use a ramp or carry your dog onto the boat. This is especially important if the boat sits below dock level. Otherwise your dog might try to jump on board and might get injured.

Keep the dog on a leash. Usually dogs won’t jump from a moving boat unless they’re untrained. But if the boat is still, the dog might try to jump.

Bring a piece of indoor carpet. This will ensure that your dog doesn’t skid or slip.

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By Pavita Singh


  1. ASPCA. General Pet Care: Travel Safety Tips.
  2. Milan, Cesar. Cesar’s best dog travel tips. Cesar’s Way.
  3. Rudow, Lenny. (2011). 10 Tips for Taking Your Dog on a Boat.


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