How to Travel with Your Dog: A Starter Guide

Roadtrips: the glorious outing when every ride in the car brings us a little closer to our dogs, as we unabashedly enjoy the wind in our hair. And taking your dog with you on a trip can be an incomparable joy. So if you’re considering bringing your furry friend with you this year, now is the time to make sure you’re prepared.

Before you load up the car or make flight transportation plans, take a few minutes to read up on Animal Necessity’s tips for traveling with your outgoing, adventure-ready dog.

Talk to the Doc

First things first: make time to chat with your veterinarian about the idea of taking your dog with you on vacation. The doctor will know best whether your dog can handle the specific mode of travel you’re considering, and how best to make it a smooth experience for your four-legged traveler.

Ask your veterinarian about the impact the journey and its accompanying anxiety could have on your dog; she can provide recommendations for ways to help minimize stress. She may also recommend anti-nausea medication, if you haven’t taken your pet on a similar trip before. Avoiding motion-sickness is as important for pets as it is for humans. A nauseous, vomiting dog can get dehydrated quickly.

Lastly, while you’re at the veterinarian’s office, ask for a copy of your dog’s health records to have, just in case. It is also smart to request extras of any medications prescribed for your dog as a backup if you get delayed—or want to extend your vacation!

Pre-Trip Prep

Preparation is key to taking an enjoyable vacation with your furry friend; you don’t want to be derailed by an unexpected situation or distracted by something you didn’t think would matter.

Here are some key steps we recommend taking before embarking:

  • Make sure your dog’s ID tags have a contact number that will work throughout the trip (like a cell phone number or email address), just in case he or she wanders off! Additionally, make sure that your pet is microchipped.
  • Make sure that your dog is current on vaccinations.  Do the research to see if your dog needs a health certificate before you travel.  If your dog needs vaccinations and/or a health certificate, schedule that appointment with your pet’s veterinarian!
  • If you’re going on a road trip, do several test drives to acclimate your dog to being in the car, with its accompanying motion and distractions. Taking your dog to the park is a good way to build positive associations with the car!
  • If you’re flying, communicate with the airline as early as possible about options for bringing your dog along—best to do this when you buy your tickets. Know which airlines have the best safety record for transporting animals. Certain times of year, especially summer, may be times when the airlines will not allow dogs to travel in the carrier section, best to know before you plan!
  • If you’ll be crossing state or international borders, make sure you have the right paperwork for your pup. PetTravel.com has a good resource, and we’ll also touch on this more in the flying section below.
  • Perhaps most importantly: ensure that your destination will be friendly for your dog! Poke around on BringFido.com to discover dog-friendly attractions, lodging, restaurants, and more in the areas you plan to visit.

Packing for your Pup

The first rule of packing for your pup is probably what most people follow when packing for a baby: bring extras of everything! Familiar items will make your dog feel at home, so load up on the toys, blankets, and food. As mentioned above, also bring extra of any medications that your dog needs.

Two additional items we suggest picking up specifically for travel:

  • A collapsible water bowl, so you can always take advantage of a down moment to hydrate.
  • Weather-appropriate clothing, based on where you’re going. Cooling vests or warm sweaters will keep your pup as comfortable as you are.

Adventure Time: Road Trips

Hitting the road with your dog can be so much fun (again, wind in the hair = happy dogs and happy humans)! You’ll have greater freedom to make stops, take detours, and accommodate your dog’s unique needs with driving than with air travel, so taking your canine companion with you on a land trip could also be a good “test run” for longer journeys.

Our top rules for road trippin’ with a pup are:

  • Invest in a good harness or carrier, to make you and your dog more comfortable. Pet Plan outlines a bunch of great options for keeping everybody secure in the backseat; your choice will depend on your dog’s style and preferences.
  • Be ready to make a lot of stops. If you’re super efficiency minded and hate pulling off the highway for bathroom breaks, now is the time to change your mindset. Your dog benefits from fresh air, and will probably let you know when breaks are needed. And always clean up after your pet at all of those potty breaks.
  • Keep the car cool with air conditioning or cracked windows; this reduces nausea.
  • Have plenty of cleaning supplies, in case you do need to clean up after your pet— vomiting and diarrhea are not pleasant topics but they can happen.
  • Figure out where on your route you can stay with your pup, so you don’t run unexpectedly into a “no pets” policy. PetsWelcome.com can help you find lodging where your dog will be welcome.
  • Do NOT let your pet stick his or her head out of the car window– EVER.  This is not a right or a privilege, and is a health hazard.  Bugs, debris, and also gravel kicked up by that truck ahead of you on the road can seriously injure your pet, especially the eyes.

Adventure Time: Flying Dogs

Where a trip in the car provides flexibility, flights are much more of a commitment for you and your dog. Taking your dog along for air travel shouldn’t be a snap decision, so here’s what you need to consider beforehand, followed by our tips for making the flight as smooth as possible.

A major factor in your decision will likely be whether your dog can be with you in the plane’s cabin, or has to ride in the cargo space below. The rule of thumb tends to be weight: dogs under 20 lbs can come aboard in carriers with their owners; over 20 lbs, and the dog will travel in a cargo crate. You can read more about common policies here, but the best move is to get in touch with the airline as early as possible, to understand their rules and the space availability for dogs on the flights you are eyeing.

In planning for a trip via plane, it’s extra important to talk with your veterinarian about the health implications before making any final decisions.  For example, if your pet has glaucoma or recently had cataract surgery, think twice about flying.   The doctor can also help you get all necessary documents in order for your dog, based on where you are going. Read more about the topics to cover with your vet before taking flight with your pup right here.

If you and your veterinarian agree that your dog is ready for air travel, hooray! Here are our top tips for the trip itself:

  • Give yourself lots of extra time, to keep anxiety levels low in both owner and dog. Some intense lovin’ before the flight never hurts!
  • Find out where the airport’s pet relief area is (and keep in mind that some airports do not have these), and allow for some outdoor time before going through security.  In case the airport does not have a pet relief area, consider training your pet to go on disposable pads beforehand.
  • Your veterinarian can advise you regarding medication to help keep your dog calm and comfortable during the flight, but, in general, try to avoid sedatives; they can impact your dog’s ability to regulate his or her body temperature.
  • Pro Tip! If your dog will be riding in the cargo space, freeze a bowl of water and leave it in the crate right before the flight; this avoids spills during takeoff but easily allows access to water after the short time it takes the ice to melt. And, relatively less messy!

Enjoy those getaways!

Now that you’ve learned a little about getting to your destination with your dog in tow, we hope ideas are blossoming! Even a day trip with your dog can provide a breath of fresh air in the human-dog relationship, and wonderful stimulation for your furry friend.

There are plenty of resources online that go deeper into the details of some of our tips above, so we encourage you to click around the pages we’ve linked to in this post.

Happy travels with your best friend!

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