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Traveling with Dogs: A Comprehensive Guide

Traveling can be stressful for our canine friends. Preparing before you travel can alleviate significant amounts of stress. This guide includes what to pack, how to prepare your dog mentally, different travel considerations, and how to keep your dog safe while traveling. 

Desensitize Your Dog

Dogs do not naturally travel by vehicle. De-sensitizing your dog to the travel equipment, cars, sights, and sounds will help lower travel stress.

First, introduce your dog to your travel harness or crate in a familiar space. Gradually add the time your dog is in the harness or crate.

Once your dog is comfortable, take him on short car trips. This will adapt your dog to the motion of the vehicle. It will also help you identify if your dog gets motion sick. While traveling, use positive reinforcement for good, calm behavior.

If necessary, research calming aids like pheromone sprays or supplements.

Dog Travel Packing List

No matter how you travel with your dog, there are some essentials that you need to pack. For short day trips, you should pack the following:

You must prepare for stays, meals, and medications for longer trips. On top of the items needed for short day trips, you will also need:

  •     Food and a bowl
  •     Medications (if necessary)
  •     Blankets
  •     Toys
  •     Copy of health and vaccination records

Different Modes of Transportation

Traveling by Car

The most common method of traveling with a dog is in a car. You can control the environment and the number of breaks in your vehicle. When traveling by car, your dog must be safely restrained.

There are seat belt harnesses available for all dog sizes. Additionally, you can purchase travel crates. Do not ever leave your dog unrestrained. Not only is an unrestrained dog unsafe for you, but it can also be deadly for your dog if you experience an accident.

Plan regular breaks in your trip to allow your dog to burn off some energy, use the bathroom, and drink water. Additionally, you should plan meals for the end of your trip to avoid motion sickness.

Finally, only leave your dog in the car with air conditioning.

Traveling by Airplane

Planning a trip by plane with your dog can be more complicated. You will need to put serious planning in to make this process as smooth as possible. Contact the airline early to learn any rules or regulations for traveling with your dog. Health records and a health certificate are required by many airlines. If your dog is small enough to fit under the seat in a carrier, they can fly with you in the main cabin. Service dogs are the exception to this rule. 

Book a direct flight to your destination. Layovers can be lengthy and add additional stress. A sturdy, comfortable, and secure crate will make traveling by plane as smooth as possible. Most airlines recommend not feeding your dog the day of travel to avoid motion sickness.

Traveling by Bus or Train

Traveling by bus or train is an alternative for long trips. You must check the rules and regulations for traveling with your dog with the train and bus companies. Additionally, you will crate your dog when you travel by train—plan for food and water along the drive. When you travel by bus, it will be like traveling in a car. Like with a car, you should properly restrain your dog on the bus.


Finding Dog-Friendly Accommodations

When traveling with your dog, you must ensure dog-friendly lodging at your destination. Thankfully, there are many hotels, campsites, and rentals available that are pet-friendly. In most cases, you must pay a fee for your pet to use their accommodations.

Many booking websites have added filters for pet-friendly lodging. Moreover, you can call individual hotels at your destination to confirm if they allow dogs. When booking your hotel or rental, consider the surrounding area. Lodging near a dog park or hiking trail will help you exercise your dog while you stay. Additionally, ask for a room near the exit. This will make potty breaks easier.

Keep Your Dog Safe on Your Trip

The safety and comfort of your dog is your most important focus when traveling. There are some significant concerns when you travel to remember.


While traveling, dogs can dehydrate quickly. In a car, take regular breaks and offer water. Dehydration is a serious medical issue that can set in quickly. Work with the company to ensure your dog receives adequate water for airplane and train travel.


Do not change your dog’s diet during your journey. Pack his normal food and plan out the proper amount. Traveling can upset your dog’s stomach, so plan his meals when you are done traveling for the day. Vomiting and digestive problems can cause serious issues on your trip and risk your dog’s health. 


Without exercise, your dog may feel serious stress. During your journey, allow your dog plenty of breaks for exercise. This will reduce the stress of the travel. Keep your dog on a leash and follow all rules and regulations for your pit stops. If your trip is long, plan out special stops at dog parks for low-stress exercise.

Potential Dog Travel Medical Issues

Motion Sickness

Some dogs are prone to motion sickness. Even with proper preparation, motion sickness cannot always be avoided. Symptoms can include:

  •     Vomiting
  •     Drooling
  •     Lethargy

To help alleviate your dog’s motion sickness, avoid feeding him before you travel. Offer small meals in the morning before you leave, and never feed him during the travel. Smooth and cautious driving can also help protect your dog from motion sickness. Finally, your veterinarian can prescribe medicine to ease your dog’s motion sickness.


Traveling can be stressful, especially for home-bodied dogs. Calming aids like pheromones can lower your dog’s anxiety. You can also bring your dog’s favorite items, like a bed, blanket, or toy. Finally, early preparation is key to avoiding anxiety in your dog. 

Watch out for these symptoms of anxiety when traveling:

  •     Panting
  •     Pacing
  •     Drooling
  •     Whining

Unpredictable Behavior

New situations may bring out new and unexpected behaviors in your dog. One of the most concerning behaviors would be fear or aggression. Introducing your dog to the sights, sounds, and feelings of traveling will reduce the chance of unpredictable behavior.

Additionally, you should train your dog basic commands that provide added safety, like sit, stay, and come. When necessary, use a crate to transport your dog. This will ensure your pet and those around him are safe.


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