As a pet lover you don’t always want to leave your dog at home when you go on vacation, you often want your dog to join you. Whether it be to take a road trip involving dog friendly excursions like camping or hiking, travelling by plane to visit family in another province, or just simply because you can’t bear to leave the furry member of your family with someone else while you are away.
Deciding whether or not to bring your dog travelling isn’t always an easy decision and can sometimes be very stressful. If you do decide to travel with your dog it is important to plan ahead, do your research and make sure you have everything organized in order to make the trip go more smoothly. To give you some help I have outlined two of the major modes of travel you would be using when travelling with a dog, air and car, and what you need to know for each before you travel.
What you need to know before flying with your dog
- Check with the airline for any age restrictions for pets. Young puppies are not allowed on most airlines.
- Always make sure, before your book your flight, that the airline you decide to book with allows dogs of your dog’s size. Some airlines do not take pets at all, some only small pets in the cabin and some only in checked baggage. Other airlines accept pets in both the cabin and the checked baggage but size determines where they are kept on the flight.
- Call to confirm there is availability for your dog on your preferred flight before booking your own flights. I find it is easiest to just call and book everything together on the phone.
- If you are visiting another country make sure you look into if there is any restrictions for travelling with a dog.
- Be aware if there is any specific vaccinations needed for bringing a dog to the travel destination. Book a vet appointment and make sure your dog has all vaccinations prior to travel.
- Look into any bugs, eg. ticks, that may be in the area you are travelling to that may be different from your home town. You may need a different medication to protect your dog at your destination. Talk to your vet.
- Make sure you look into any restrictions for the time of year you plan to travel. Some airlines, eg. West Jet and Air Canada, restrict travel during the winter holiday season in mid December until mid January. Some American airlines have restrictions in the summer time. These restrictions usually only apply to checked pets.
- Look for any restrictions on size of crate or the type of crate needed for travelling with a dog.
How to prepare for the flight
Preparing the crate
-This is only a guide, make sure you check airline specific kennel requirements. See the links above for West Jet and Air Canada requirements.
Outside of the crate:
- Most airlines require that your pet carrier be hard sided. It cannot be soft or collapsible.
- The carrier must be the proper size. Your carrier must be large enough to allow your dog to stand, turn around and lie down comfortably.
- Typically you will need stickers on the crate with directional arrows pointing to which way is up, your dog’s name as well as “live animal”. Live animal stickers and directional stickers are usually supplied at the airport. I like to have them on the crate before I get to the airport just in case they don’t have them or I am short on time when I get there. I make mine by placing a a piece of duct tape on the crate with the words written in black permanent marker. Nothing fancy, but it does the trick.
- You also want to make sure that your crate has some form of handles so the airport employee is able to transport it easily.
- Make sure the top and bottom pieces are safely secured down. Usually there is spots for nuts and bolts if they aren’t already on the crate.
Inside the crate:
- You must have food and water bowls in the crate but most airlines state that they must be emptied for your dog’s comfort and safety.
- You must line the crate with absorbent material, eg. towel. If your dog is still a puppy or if the flight is long and he may have an accident, it isn’t a bad idea to also have a pee pad under the towel.
- Toys and any food or treats are typically not allowed in the crate.
- For your dog’s safety I recommend only leaving your dog’s collar on him and keeping his harness and leash with you in your carry-on.
Preparing your dog
- Make sure your dog is up to date on all required vaccinations
- It is important to crate train your dog a least a few days before you leave for your trip. If your dog already regularly uses his crate this isn’t necessary since he would already be comfortable in it. If your dog doesn’t typically use his crate, or hasn’t in awhile, it is a good idea to get him used to being in it. Throw treats, food, or a kong with peanut butter in the crate and have your dog stay in there for a specific amount of time. Gradually build up the time he is in the crate for so he is used to being in it longer periods of time.
- It may also be a good idea to take a few drives with your dog in the crate in the car. This will help to prevent any travel nausea and also help your dog get used to being in the crate in the car. This is helpful if you do plan to take a taxi to the airport.
- If you know your dog has anxiety, motion sickness, or if you are at all worried about your dog being fearful on the flight I would speak to your vet in regards to anxiety meds or the use of over-the-counter meds such as Benadryl to calm your dog down and make the flight less stressful on him.
What to bring
- Pack any travel documents as needed for the specific airline and destination location. I pack these in my purse or carry-on so they are handy for check-in.
- Bring any documents with your dog’s medical history, vaccinations, proof of rabies vaccination, proof of ownership and dog license paperwork.
- Leash, harness, collar-with ID tags/license
- Dog food for the time you will be away (check first to make sure you are allowed to bring that specific protein source to the place you are travelling to. If you aren’t allowed to bring your dog’s food you will need to check to see if any store carries it there).
- Treats (check to make sure the treats you plan to bring are allowed to be brought into your destination)
- Your dog’s food and water bowls and travel bowls if needed for excursions.
- Any other options for anxiety, eg. calming pheromone spray, thunder vest, or a towel that you have used and has your smell.
- Paw pad protection, eg.Musher’s Secret, for snow/cold weather or if you will be hiking on trails.
- Rain coat or winter coat and winter paw covers depending on the season/weather.
- Pet first aid kit
- Your dog’s grooming equipment ie. brush, comb, shampoo/conditioner depending how long you will be away for.
- Poo bags
- Flea/tick meds as needed
Before you leave for the airport
- It is best to pre-book taxi a day before your flight or earlier on the day of. I have used Yellow Cab in Vancouver several times and they have been great. Just call, use the app or online booking and make a note that you have a dog with you, your preference as to if he will be in the crate (if you have a preference), size of dog and size of crate.
- Some cab drivers have issues with dogs being out of the crate in the cab. Some cab drivers are ok with dogs out of the crate as long as they are well behaved, stay in the back seat area on the floor or on your lap, and if they don’t shed. If you don’t have a preference then the crate is a safe bet.
- Most airlines state that you should feed your dog within four hours of the flight. I usually feed mine as close to the flight as I can especially for flights 4 hr or longer since he will likely be in his cage for at least 6 hrs. If you know your dog gets car sick I wouldn’t recommend feeding him right before the cab ride. I would recommend taking your dog on a long walk or run for some tiring exercise before leaving home the day of the flight.
At the Airport
- Check your specific airline for when to arrive at the airport to check in. Usually for domestic flights you need to have your dog at the check-in counter 2 hours prior to flight. They usually only let you leave your dog at the oversized baggage 1.5 hrs prior to departure. You will need to be at check-in counter earlier for international flights.
- I would suggest taking your dog on a small walk at the airport once you have checked in since you usually have some time to kill before they will take your dog in baggage. This will give your dog one last chance for pee or poo before departure.
- Some airports have signs on the door saying “keep your pet in the crate at all times in the airport” but most are actually pretty easy going on this and let you take your dog out of the crate on a leash.
- When you leave your dog at the oversized baggage my suggestion for an anxious dog is to face his crate away from you when he is in it. If your dog can’t see you then he can’t see you walk away. This will help to prevent any whining when you leave him to go through security.
Preparations for car travel:
- Just as in air travel, you want to make sure your dog is up to date on all vaccinations
- If you are travelling in the summer it is a good idea to ask your vet if your dog is protected with his current medications from the type of ticks in the destination area. If your dog isn’t on any tick or flea meds it is best to put him on one.
- Train your dog to get used to travelling in the car.
- If you plan to have your dog in a crate: If you rarely take your dog in the car or if it is your dog’s first car trip I would crate train your dog first to using the crate as needed and then crate him several times in the car gradually increasing the duration of the car trip. This will hopefully help prevent fear of car rides as well as car motion sickness.
- If you plan to keep your dog out of a crate: Gradually take your dog for longer and longer car rides building up to the trip.
- If you don’t already have one, invest in a car seat mat or blanket to protect your car interior from any dirt, water or scratches if you will have your dog out of crate in your car. For safety make sure you also use a dog seatbelt harness.
- On the day of travel make sure your dog eats awhile before he gets into the car to prevent throwing up his food if nauseous.
- Make sure to feed your dog water before the trip.
- Be sure to give your dog time to pee and poo as necessary prior to the car trip.
What to bring with you
- Vaccination info, rabies certificate, license and any other pet documents you may need for the travel destination-do your research in advance.
- Depending where you are going you may need your dog’s food and water bowls or travel bowls.
- Pet first aid kit
- Your dog’s regular medication.
- Flea/tick meds as needed.
- Dog grooming equipment-brush, comb, shampoo and conditioner depending on how long you are going to be away.
- Food and treats as needed for the time duration you are going. If you are travelling outside of your home country make sure that you are permitted to bring the food your dog eats to that country as sometimes there is specific restrictions on type of meat source.
- Leash, collar-with ID tags/license, harness
- Poo bags
- Towel for drying off your dog if you will be in and out of the car and it is raining or snowing.
- Paw pad protection, eg.Musher’s Secret, for snow, cold weather or if you will be hiking on trails.
- Rain coat or winter coat depending on the season and the weather.
- Blankets or dog bed
- Drinking water
On the Road
- Don’t leave your dog in your car for any reason if it is hot out.
- Stop for pee and poo breaks.
- Stop for some exercise or play if it is a long trip.
- Make sure you look back at your dog often to make sure he is ok and give him some pats for comfort.
I hope this information will help you to be better prepared for travelling with a dog. The more aware you are of the requirements of your travel destination and the more prepared you are in your packing, the less stressful your trip will be and the more you will enjoy travelling with your dog.