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
- Health Checks. Bring your dog to the veterinarian for a checkup before going on an extended trip. Make sure all his vaccinations are up-to-date; take 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 his regular food. Don’t forget bottled water and be sure to bring any medications he 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.
A 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. Look for these features when purchasing:
- 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.
- Stock the crate with a comfortable mat, your dog’s favorite toy, and a water bottle, and your dog is ready to go.
In the event that your dog gets away from you on your trip, you can increase the chances of recovery by making sure he can be properly identified:
- Make sure your dog has a sturdy leash and 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.
- Consider a permanent form of identification, such as a microchip (see AKC Reunite).
- Bring a recent picture of your dog along with you, as well as a copy of his health records listing all of his recent vaccinations.
Traveling By Car
- 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 he has 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 his 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. See our summer safety tips for more information. If you must leave the car, designate a member of the family to stay with the dog
- 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; it may be too hot or too cold to be safe for your dog.
- Federal regulations prohibit shipping live animals as excess baggage or cargo if an animal will be exposed to temperatures that are below 45 degrees Fahrenheit or above 85 degrees Fahrenheit for more than four hours during departure, arrival, or while making connections.
- Remember that each airline has its own variations on 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 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.
Best Practices When Traveling With Your Dog
- Plan bathroom breaks. Before you leave home, teach your dog to relieve himself on multiple surfaces — not just grass! Having the ability to potty on different terrains, such as concrete, mulch, and gravel, will alleviate his discomfort as well as the possibility of accidents while you’re on the road or otherwise. Bring a supply of bags to clean up afterward and a leash.
- Bring games and toys. To make sure your dog doesn’t get bored, provide him with a few new toys — and a couple of old favorites. You might want to include a puzzle-type toy to keep him occupied.
- Pack food and water. Check with your veterinarian about giving your dog only bottled water while away from home to ensure that he doesn’t get an upset stomach. And instead of taking his usual bulky bowls, buy collapsible ones and let him get used to using them one week or so before you travel.
- Find out in advance which hotels or motels at your destination or on your route allow dogs. Many do not, or 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 him. 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 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 his 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.