We get it, it’s hard enough to leave your dog for the day, let alone for an extended trip. And when you already share your heart and home, it makes perfect sense that you’d also include your pup on your next vacation.
The fact is, some dogs take very well to travel, and some simply don’t. Traveling can be both enjoyable and stressful for dogs. With all the stimulating sights, smells, and sounds, your dog’s reaction really depends on the situation.
Ultimately, traveling with your furry family member is not only doable, it can also be a wonderful shared adventure. With preparation, you can ensure that a trip with your pup creates lasting memories for all the right reasons.
A step ahead
The best step is prep. Whether you’re traveling by land, sea, or air, it’s helpful if your dog is familiar with their gear beforehand. As with crate training, introduce them to any carriers, as well as new leashes, collapsible food bowls, life jackets, or harnesses they may wear, a few weeks ahead of your departure. Letting them interact and explore their goods now means that these things will be recognizable later, when they’re in unfamiliar surroundings and searching for comfort.
Additionally, if you plan on long road trip, make sure to book dog friendly hotels ahead of time as they may book up quicker.
Before you head anywhere, it’s important to visit your dog’s trusted vet for a check-up, as well as to ensure that all their meds, vaccinations, and microchip information are up to date. If you and your pup are flying, most airlines require a health certificate from their vet, often issued within 10 days of your departure date.
Location, location, location
When it comes to pets, the destination is just as important as the journey: Many countries have strict health rules and quarantines for live animals that you’ll need to meet for entry. If you and your pet travel outside of the United States, you can get an overview of requirements by country here (Yup, your pet may need a passport).
Easy does it
As we mentioned, traveling can be stressful for some dogs, so it’s best to ease them in if it’s their inaugural voyage. While your pup in Paris sounds très bon, consider dipping their paw in the travel waters with something close and convenient first. It can be helpful to arrange a quick trip — like a short, direct flight or a literal test drive — to see how they react. You can adjust your gear and plans for longer journeys based on how they do.
Hit the road
The safest way for you and your furry friend to road trip is in a specialty car seat or kennel. Just like us, some dogs get overstimulated and carsick. Not only does a kennel limit their roaming during the car ride, which can contribute to carsickness, it also prevents them from distracting the driver. There are many, many options available in stores and online. We recommend something roomy enough for a few toys that can also be anchored to the vehicle with seatbelts or straps.
While on the road, plan to stop every 2-3 hours for bathroom breaks and to let your pooch stretch those furry legs. Provide your pup with water and small treats during each break, but try to stick to their regular mealtimes for feeding. Consistent schedules can provide security if your dog is feeling a little anxious away from home.
Also, avoid leaving your pet alone in the car, and never do so in extreme temperature or for prolonged periods of time. And, never transport a pet in the back of an open pickup truck.
Flying can require a bit more prep if you want to ensure that your dog’s first flight is in friendly skies. Airlines have strict pet policies, and they vary based on brand, plane model, country, and type of flight (domestic vs. international travel). Only pets that meet certain weight, size, and species requirements may fly: Some can accompany you in the cabin while others are checked below in the cargo hold, which can be a frightening and potentially dangerous experience (especially for flat faced dog breeds like French Bulldogs and Pugs).
In addition to saving on fares, it’s important to book ahead of time to ensure a spot for your dog on both your departing and return flights. Airlines only allow a certain number of animals on each flight, and it’s a first-come, first-served basis. Even if you’ve already bought your ticket and intend to pay fees for your dog — which, by the way, can range anywhere from $125-$500 each way — your pup can be denied if the maximum number of pets has been met. Certified emotional support animals and service animals typically fly for free, if they meet specific airline requirements.
Once you’re both booked, when you arrive at the airport, you’ll need to check-in with an agent. Allow extra time and be sure to bring any identifying papers or tags that you may need to present. As we mentioned earlier, most airlines require a vet-issued certificate to verify your pet’s health.
If you have a small dog and they’re small enough to fly up top, they’re considered as your “carry-on” and will need to be in a pet carrier under the seat in front of you for takeoff and landing. Now, if you’re as claustrophobic as us, that’s a pretty big ask for a very tiny space. Line their carrier with a favorite blanket or t-shirt that smells like you and include 1-2 favorite toys. Once you’re in the air, be a good pet owner and check with other passengers to see if they’re ok with you bringing your pup out for prime lap placement and some fresh (ok, recycled) air.
Always, always check with the airline first before booking your flight. Our best advice? Contact a representative directly and reconfirm arrangements a few days ahead of your trip.
A note on sedatives
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in most cases, you shouldn’t give your dog sedatives or tranquilizers before flying, due to potentially dangerous issues that can be exacerbated by increased air pressure and altitude changes.
If this is something you want to explore, consult a trusted vet first before providing any medication, remedy, or treat with sedative properties to your dog, even if they’re considered homeopathic or natural.
SEE ALSO: Holiday Safety Tips for Pet Parents