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Have Dog, Will Travel: Traveling with Your Dog

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A woman and Pomeranian smile for the camera on a scenic hike

Warmer weather is finally here, and there's nothing quite like a weekend getaway with your dog to bid farewell to the winter cold. Traveling with your canine companion can bring joy and lasting experiences, but ensuring that you are well-prepared and prioritize safety can make or break your trip. Let's dig into the essentials of traveling with dogs and how you can have a safe, enjoyable adventure.

Getting Ready to Go

Before hitting the road, have your dog burn off some energy with a brisk walk around the block or a rousing game of fetch in the backyard. In addition to making for a much calmer ride, this will give your dog a chance to relieve himself one last time too.

Crate or Dog Seatbelt

Making sure your dog is safe during car rides is super important. Whether it's using a crate or a dog seatbelt, both are great options. Crates give them a cozy and safe spot, especially during sudden stops or accidents. Dog seatbelts keep them in place, preventing any roaming and distractions for the driver. Just pick what works best for your dog's size and comfort to keep the journey stress-free and secure.

From dog seatbelts and cat carriers, to pet first-aid kits and blankets, learn about the difference pet accessories for the car can make for your pal’s next ride.

Collar and ID Tag

Make sure your dog wears a collar and ID tag at all times. This tag is the first thing people will see if they find your dog wandering around solo, which boosts the chances of reuniting them with your family.

Also, think about getting your dog microchipped as collars can slip off. A microchip provides an extra level of security and ensures a swift and safe return of your furry friend. Don't forget to keep your microchip registry details up to date with your current contact information.

Routine Check-up

If it's been a while since your dog's last vet visit, it's a good idea to schedule a wellness check before embarking on a big trip. Your vet can ensure your pup is in good health and offer tips to keep them safe, happy, and healthy during your travels.

Learn more about how pet insurance could help you cover your pet’s eligible veterinary care expenses.

How to Travel with Your Dog

Whether you're taking a car or a plane, it's important to think about how to keep your dog safe and happy during the trip. Each type of travel has its own rules, so make sure you know what you need to do to make sure your furry friend is comfortable and secure. From buckling them up in the car to following airline guidelines, being aware of these details is crucial for a smooth and enjoyable journey with your pet.

Long Distance Car Rides

When taking your dog on a long car trip, it's important to keep them comfy and happy. Make sure to stop regularly for potty breaks, water, and quick walks to help them feel relaxed and calm. Bringing their beloved toys or blankets can also provide a sense of home on the road. If your dog is the excitable type, a treat-filled puzzle toy can help provide a distraction. And don't forget to secure your pup safely in the car with either a crate or dog seatbelt to keep everyone focused and safe during the journey.

Air Travel with Dogs

Our friends at the ASPCA® pet parents to think twice about flying their pets on commercial airlines, especially if they plan on checking them in as cargo. But, if you have already committed to air travel, keep these things in mind:

  • Make sure to book your flight in advance because certain airlines have restrictions on the number of pets allowed in the cabin or may not allow pets at all, which could limit your choices. And if possible, try to find a direct flight, which can minimize your time in the sky.
  • Make sure to double-check with the airline before purchasing your ticket to be clear on their policy regarding dogs. Find out details such as the permitted size of carriers and whether you need to provide vaccination records or a health certificate from your vet.
  • On the day of your flight, it might be a good idea to skip feeding your pet breakfast. This can help prevent your dog from feeling nauseous, but make sure to talk to your vet first. Skipping a meal may not be suitable for all travel situations, especially based on the length of your trip and your pet's age.
  • Make sure you have plenty of time! Getting to the airport early will allow you to get everything sorted and take bathroom breaks when necessary. Remember, your dog can sense if you're feeling anxious, so try to stay relaxed during your journey.

When flying with your dog, make sure to plan ahead, follow airline rules, and keep your pet comfy for a smooth and safe trip. By taking these important steps, you'll make sure both you and your furry buddy have a great time in the air.

For more information on bringing a dog onto an airplane, check out these top tips for air travel with your pet.

Overnight Trips and Dog-Friendly Lodging

There are thousands of motels, hotels, campsites, and short-term rentals like Airbnb across the country that accept guests with pets.

Hotel

Look into the hotel's policy before you book. Some require a deposit or non-refundable fee. Others won't allow pets to be left alone in the room, even when crated. Bring along a favorite blankie or toy to help your pet feel at home.

Happy Golden Retriever relaxing on a comfy bed

Campsite

If you think you and your dog are up for the challenge, try camping with your dog! When it comes to camping, taking a few extra safety precautions can really make all the difference. Just like when booking a hotel, you will want to check the campsite’s pet policy. Almost all will require your dog to be leashed and supervised at all times. Additionally, you shouldn’t leave food in the bowl when your dog is not eating because it can attract wild animals. Pack a first-aid kit for you and your dog, and brush up on what you should do in an emergency. Collars with tags, flea/tick protection, and plenty of water are must-haves for any outdoor stay!

Don’t forget to look into doggie daycare and boarding facilities in the area, just in case you’d like to see some sights that do not permit four-legged visitors.

Traveling with Two Dogs

Traveling with two dogs means twice the preparation compared to traveling with just one. It's crucial to have enough space in your vehicle for both dogs to be comfortable, along with securing them safely with harnesses or crates. Bringing along their favorite toys, blankets, and familiar items can help reduce anxiety during travel.

Will your feline friend be joining you on your trip? Make sure you’re prepared with these tips on traveling with your cat!

Dog Travel Checklist

Check out our list of must-pack items for your dog's suitcase, whether you're staying in a cozy suite or roughing it in the great outdoors!

PET TRAVEL ESSENTIALS CHECKLIST

  • Collar and ID tags
  • Leash and harness
  • Crate or safety harness
  • Vaccination records (airlines/hotels may require them)
  • Pet first-aid kit
  • Any needed medications
  • Food/water bowls (collapsible ones travel well)
  • Food, fresh drinking water, and treats
  • Poop bags
  • Grooming supplies
  • Favorite blankie and toys
  • Recent photo (in case your pet gets lost)

The phone number of a veterinarian or emergency clinic near your destination will also be important to keep handy, so you know who to call in an emergency. Our Vet Locator Tool can help you locate one nearby.

What to do if you can’t bring them along

Some dogs may not like car rides and some trips may not be suitable for them. When you travel and can't bring your dog along, you’ve got a few options for their care. It's important to choose what makes your four-legged friend feel comfortable and well taken care of while you're away. 

  • Hire a dog sitter — You can find someone to watch your dog using local pet sitter apps, like Rover. These apps can help match you to the right helper for hire, and the Rover team approves all You can also use the app to pay your sitter and see photos of your dog doing their thing while you're away.
  • Have a friend or relative watch them — You might be fortunate to have a friend or family member who is happy to watch your dog while you're not around. If your trip is short, it could work for them to visit your pup a few times a day to take care of feeding, walking, playing, and giving attention. But if you'll be away longer than a weekend, it's a good idea for your dog to stay at their place for more attentive care and supervision.
  • Board them at a boarding facility or doggie daycare — When you're out of town, boarding your dog can offer a secure and organized setting where trained staff take care of them. To make sure your pup has a great time during their stay, pick a trustworthy facility that caters to your dog's requirements and preferences.

If you're into pet tech gadgets, purchase a two-way video device to check in on your dog at any time. Some even let you toss out treats from an app. There are numerous other pet apps specifically designed for cats and dogs that can assist with a range of needs, including first aid, health, training, and more.

Remember, whether you're embarking on a cross-country road trip or jet-setting to a new destination, traveling with your dog can be a rewarding experience filled with cherished memories and shared adventures. 

Happy trails!

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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