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Taking your dog along can make the family vacation more fun for everyone, if you plan carefully. Here are some trip tips to make traveling with your dog enjoyable.

Health and Safety for Dog Travel

  • Bring your dog to the veterinarian for a checkup before going on an extended trip. Make sure all their vaccinations are up-to-date, and take their shot records with you. Health certifications are required for airline travel. Ask your veterinarian if your dog is in proper mental and physical shape to travel. Remember that not all dogs will enjoy going on a trip.
  • To keep your dog healthy as you travel, bring along a supply of their regular dog food. Don’t forget bottled water and be sure to bring any medications your pet needs.
  • Be prepared for an emergency. Find the number of the nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital and program it into your cell phone, along with the office and emergency number for your regular veterinarian (in case the veterinarians need to speak with each other). That way, if there’s a situation where your dog needs medical attention, you are prepared with the necessary information on hand.

Dog Travel Crates

A dog crate is an excellent way to keep your dog safe in the car and is required for airline travel. It can also keep your pet from getting into trouble in a hotel or at your host’s home. Crates are available from most pet supply stores. Stock the crate you choose with dog essentials, such as a orthopedic dog crate pad, a favorite dog toy, and a dog water bottle, and your pet is ready to go.

Look for these features when purchasing a dog crate:

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  • Large enough to allow the dog to stand, turn, and lie down
  • Strong, with handles and grips, and free of interior protrusions
  • Leak-proof bottom covered with absorbent material.
  • Ventilation on opposing sides, with exterior rims or knobs to prevent blocked airflow
  • “Live Animal” label, arrows showing upright position, with owner’s name, address, and phone number
Anatolian Shepherd Dog laying inside his open crate.
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Dog Identification

In the event that your dog gets lost on your trip, you can increase the chances of recovery by making sure they can be properly identified.

  • Make sure you have a sturdy dog leash and dog collar. The collar should have identification tags with the dog’s name, your name, and your home phone number, as well as proof of rabies shots. If you plan on being away for more than a few days, consider purchasing a second identification tag giving the location and phone number of your vacation spot.
  • Get your dog a permanent form of identification, such as a microchip AKC Reunite.
  • Bring a recent picture of your dog along with you, as well as a copy of their health records listing all of his recent vaccinations.

Traveling By Car With Your Dog

  • Get your dog used to the car by letting them sit in it with you without leaving the driveway, and then going for short rides.
  • Avoid carsickness by letting your dog travel on an empty stomach. However, make sure they have plenty of water at all times.
  • Keep the car well-ventilated. If the dog is in a crate, make sure that fresh air can flow into the crate.
  • Consider a dog seat belt or dog car seat to keep your dog safe.
  • Do not let your dog ride with their head sticking out of an open window. This can lead to eye injuries.
  • Never let your dog ride in the back of an open truck. This is extremely dangerous and can lead to severe injuries or death.
  • Stop frequently for exercise and potty breaks. Be sure to clean up after your dog.
  • Car rides are boring for everyone, so instruct your children not to tease or annoy the dog in the car.
  • Never, ever leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle, particularly in the summer, and follow our summer safety tips for dogs. If you must leave the car, designate a member of the family to stay with the dog
Labrador Retriever in the car with family loading bags next to it.
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Flying With Dogs

  • When traveling by plane, plan to visit your veterinarian before your trip. Certification of health must be provided to the airline no more than 10 days before travel. Rabies and vaccination certificates are also required. Your dog should be at least 8 weeks old and weaned.
  • Airlines make it clear that it is the owner’s responsibility to verify the dog’s health and ability to fly. Ask your veterinarian if it would be best for your dog to be tranquilized for the trip. Also, be sure to check the temperature of the flight’s starting point and destination, as it may be too hot or too cold to be safe for your dog.
  • Federal regulations prohibit shipping live animals in certain conditions. Check out the U.S. Department of Transportation’s pet travel guidelines and regulations from the U.S. Departure of Agriculture to learn specific rules regarding pet travel.
  • Remember that each airline has its own variations with regards to regulations and services. For example, if your crate doesn’t meet its requirements, the airline may not allow you to use it. They may, however, allow your dog in the passenger cabin if your crate or carrier fits under the seat in front of you.
  • When making your reservations, you must make reservations for your dog. There are restrictions on the number of animals permitted on each flight. They are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Traveling With Dogs by Train, Bus, or Boat

If you plan to travel by train or bus, you may be disappointed. Only dogs under 20 pounds are permitted on Amtrak trains (There is also a $25 fee). Dogs are not allowed on buses operated by Greyhound and other interstate bus companies. (Service dogs are permitted.) Local rail and bus companies have their own policies.

You may fare better if you’re taking a cruise. However, you should check the policies of the cruise line or ship you will be traveling on before making plans to take your dog on a cruise with you.

Planning on going abroad with your pet? Read up on how to travel internationally with pets safely.

Top Tips When Traveling With Your Dog

  • Plan bathroom breaks. Before you leave home, teach your dog to relieve themself on multiple surfaces — not just grass! Having the ability to go to the bathroom on different terrains, such as concrete, mulch, and gravel, will alleviate discomfort as well as the possibility of accidents while you’re on the road or otherwise. Bring a supply of poop bags to clean up afterward and a leash.
  • Bring games and toys. To make sure your dog doesn’t get bored, provide them with a few new toys — and a couple of old favorites. You might want to include a puzzle-type toy to keep them occupied.
  • Pack food and water. Check with your veterinarian about giving your dog only bottled water while away from home to ensure that they don’t get an upset stomach. And instead of taking their usual bulky bowls, buy collapsible ones and let them get used to using them one week or so before you travel.
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Dog-Friendly Hotels and Lodging

  • Find out in advance which hotels or motels at your destination or on your route allow dogs. Many do not allow dogs, or they may have size restrictions.
  • If your dog is allowed to stay at a hotel, respect other guests, staff, and the property.
  • Keep your dog as quiet as possible.
  • Do not leave the dog unattended. Many dogs will bark or destroy property if left alone in a strange place.
  • Ask the management where you should walk your dog, and pick up after them. Do not leave any mess behind.
  • Remember that one bad experience with a dog guest may prompt the hotel management to refuse to allow any other dogs. Be considerate of others and leave your room and the grounds in good condition.
  • Puppy-proof the vacation home (or room). Before you let your dog have free run of their home away from home, make certain it’s safe for your dog to explore. Be sure that electrical cords are out of reach and that previous occupants didn’t leave anything on the floor or under furniture that could be potentially harmful to your dog.

Remember, it’s a vacation. Traveling can be stressful, but a calm owner usually has a calm pet. Our animals pick up on our stress, so if you’re nervous and uptight, your dog may show stress and anxiety, too. Don’t forget that some dogs don’t enjoy traveling, and your dog may prefer to stay home with a dog sitter.

Related article: Can All Dogs Swim? How to Teach a Dog to Swim
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