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Traveling With Your Dog

Updated on May 26, 2023
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Yuliss has worked with sheltered dogs, training them to be adoptable to good homes. She has had her own dogs and now has 4 human children!

Dog On Vacation

Dog in car
Dog in car | Source

This Article Has Been Updated June 30, 2020. Now includes more specifics about medicating dogs for travel and travelling with COVID policies

Planing To Travel With Your Dog?

Traveling with your dog can be fun and exciting if you are both prepared. Consider how you plan to travel well ahead of time. Plane, train, boat, or vehicle, or a combination of transportation methods. Many dogs experience high anxiety and stress when traveling. Here are some ways to plan and try to minimize stress on the dog and yourself. The key is organization. Give yourself time to get organized, so you do not have to rush around at the last minute creating additional stress for yourself that will be transferred to your dog. Here is a checklist to get you started:

  • Comfort blanket from your dog's bed (to remind them of home in new surroundings)
  • An item of your own clothing the dog can lie on in the crate (to remind them of you and decrease their stress)
  • Super fun dog toy, that is small and quiet to keep your dog entertained
  • Portable dishes for food and water
  • Extra food and water
  • Any medication your dog needs daily
  • Consider if your dog may need medication for travel

Packing For Your Dog


Medicating Your Dog During Travel

I have done both methods with various dogs. You know your dog best. It also depends on how you wish to travel. In a car with people your dog knows, will probably be fine without travel specific medications. Unless your dog gets carsick?

In a boat? Has your dog traveled this way before? Dogs can be prone to sea-sickness, like people. Do you need some anti-nausea medication on hand? Some types of anti-enemics (anti-vomit) medications are better than others for motion related upset tummy. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

By plane. Is your dog able to go in a carry-on? Is your dog going to be calm and considerate of other travelers while kept in the carry-on. Have you considered the length of the flight and whether you need to break up the travel time for your dog to take a breather, stretch and go to the bathroom and have a snack and some water?

If your dog is too big to travel as a carry-on, you will have to use a crate or kennel and have them loaded in the aircraft belly. Have you traveled with your dog this way before?

My Experience NOT Medicating Dogs For Travel

I have in the past traveled a few times with different dogs. Let me tell you about my experiences. This was before increased security policies and long before COVID was an issue. I at first, did not want to give medication to the dog. So I put them on the plane without medications. You have to tell the airline you are travelling with live cargo first of all. Why?

Because they do not typically heat the the airplane "belly". Did you know that atmospheric pressure is less than zero degrees!? In a metal aircraft that temperature is well sustained, unless heated. No animal or human can survive long at such a frozen temperature.

As an aside, their have been reports of people who have hid in the belly of aircraft, and have been found frozen to death at the destination. I'm serious, it's cold, live cargo needs special attention. Please call well ahead and let the airline know what to expect.

It is also dark. Does not really matter to your dog because their sight is okay in daylight or dark, but it's the idea of it. Can you imagine flying 5 or more hours in the dark? The airline can leave it dimly lit if necessary.

The cargo also travels in and out of the plane my vehicle on the run-ray and electronic conveyor belt ramps. It is very loud out there on the run-way or tarmac. Workers wear ear protection because the noise has been documented to ruin a persons hearing over time. Now picture how sensitive your dog's ears are? Can you imagine how loud the airplane engine and other noises.

When we received out non-medicated dog at the other end of our travel, they were a nervous reck, whining and scratching to get out of the crate.

Next time we traveled, we again chose not to medicate the dog. We received the dog the same way, whining and scratching to get out of the kennel. This dog had also urinated all over the inside of the kennel throughout the travel as there was various urine stains, some dry some fresh on the bedding.

My Experience Medicating Dogs For Travel

On another occasion we chose to medicate the dog, and when received at the other end the dog was awake, calm and quiet. No urine or stool stains in the crate. We had time to get our other checked luggage and leave the airport in a coordinated way. The dog was happy to see us, but remained calm and collected. Once outside, we freed him from the crate and he was walking and exploring as usual. The dog continued to handle the drive well to where we were staying, even with new people and a vehicle he did not know yet.

So although, I initially wanted to avoid medication for travel for my dogs, I have seen the benefits of a calm dog and how that makes the flight better tolerated by the dog and the people around them in general. I think if your dog is urinating itself in it's kennel, that's not fair. That's very traumatic, and although we fly rarely with each dog, why make it a traumatic, stressful experience.

So although, I initially wanted to avoid medication for travel for my dogs, I have seen the benefits of a calm dog and how that makes the flight better tolerated by the dog and the people around them in general. I think if your dog is urinating itself in it's kennel, that's not fair. That's very traumatic, and although we fly rarely with each dog, why make it a traumatic, stressful experience.

How COVID has Affect Traveling With Your Dog

Since COVID has swept the globe, plane travel is more strick than ever before. Check directly with your chosen airline on pet travel COVID guidelines and pet quarantine policies. Most airlines if allowing pet travel at this time require a veterinarian documentations certifying that your dog is fit to travel and has had required vaccines.

For example, flights to Asia are only offering limited pet travel at this time. Travel to United Arab Emirates may be very limited and require 14 days of dog quarantine. Or no dog travel at all, depending on exactly which country you are considering. Many countries still remain closed for travel and especially for pets. Review this for specific country information on traveling with pets during COVID. Check out your specific airline, and call to speak directly with an agent for further questions or concerns well before your date of travel.

Check Your Travel Plans

Traveling with Air Canada

Traveling from Canada to the United Arab Emirates

Traveling from United States to United Arab Emirates

Boat Travel with Dog in Venice


Know Your Travel Path

How long do you intend on traveling at a time?

It is recommended that you break every 4-5 hours to let your dog out of the car, for example. For a pee break and some exploring. However, in other methods of transportation this may not be as feasible.

How will your dog be traveling, crate, carry bag, or freely?

If crate or carry bag, do you have one yet? How does your dog respond to it? Condition your dog, by letting the dog sit and lay in the crate or carry bag and make it a pleasant, positive experience. Let the dog spend some time with his or her favourite chew toy while in the crate or bag. Do not completely lock the door or zip the bag shut at first, leave it open, so the dog can chose when to come and go from the crate or bag. This is just practice and you want the dog to learn that it is his or her space. If you will be separated from your dog during travel, such as in an airplane, consider leaving a piece of your clothing in the crate for your dog to have your scent, and hopefully minimize stress during the separation. See below for travel accessories and crate options.

Consider bringing only a few toys

Three at the most. Also, pick things that your dog will actually play with. Long-lasting chew toys or balls to chase, are better options than the dog's cute teddy bear that he or she cuddles with. Chewing and running are how dogs alleviate their stress. Providing toys that give your dog an outlet during the travelling is one of the best and most important things you can do. Also be aware that your dog may not enjoy his or her chew toy the same as at home. Your dog may be guarded and uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. Do not offer reassurance to your pet, you could be reinforcing the fear and anxiety. As your dog gets more comfortable, this should pass. And when you return home, things should be normal again.

Does your dog take any regular medication?

The dog’s health is most important. It is also worth seeking out veterinary hospitals along the way (by google-ing before you go!) and take the contact information with you. Know which vets are open 24 hours and which ones will be closest to you at any given time. Not only for dogs with medical conditions. But also in a random emergency, you don’t need the extra stress of unfamiliar surrounding. Also, some dogs are so high anxiety that they may possible need medications to help with the ease of travelling. If you are concerned about your dogs stress levels when traveling please contact your vet. If your dog gets car-sick, and you plan to travel that way, consult your vet first. Generally, you should bring a copy of your dog’s most recent vet check. Stating his or her current health status, medical history and recent vaccinations.

Dog Friendly Hotels and BnB's

Before you go, check when you book if your dog can stay at your chosen hotel or BnB. Plan your accommodation carefully and make sure the staff understand if your fuzzy buddy has any special needs.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Yuliss


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