How to Keep Your Dog Safe (and Comfortable) When Traveling

Summer is around the corner and pet parents will soon be hitting the road— many with their dogs in tow. But does the mere sight of the car make your pup anxious? Are you worried getting on a plane may send your pet into panic? There are things you can to do help!

We’ve got the top tips to traveling—whether by car, plane, or even if you want your furry friend to take a “staycation.”

Travel By Car

The most important thing to do before hopping in the car is to get your dog physically tired—go for a long walk or head to the off-leash dog park and let him go wild!

road trip
Road trip! Make sure your dog is prepared for a long car ride.

“Just like kids, you need to tire them out so they can rest or sleep during the ride,” behavioral therapist and trainer Beverly Ulbrich says. “It will cause less stress and anxiety for them if you drain some of their energy first.”

You know your dog’s limits—or lack thereof! We usually head to the dog park for an hour before getting in the car, but your dog might only need 20 minutes. Either way, factor this into your travel time for a happier ride-a-long.

“I recommend walking your dog the minimum you typically walk him every day,” Ulbrich says. “So if he’s used to at least a 45-minute walk every day, then you need to have a 45-minute walk before putting him the car for a few hours.”

Extra exercise isn’t necessary on trips less than an hour but make sure your dog goes potty before you leave.

Also make sure to bring plenty of water and a dog-friendly dish. Our favorite to-go water dish is Gulpy, a portable water dispenser that comes in different shapes and sizes. You can usually find similar dishes at a discount at stores like TJMaxx or Marshall’s.

Even if you can go ten hours straight in the car, it doesn’t mean you should force your dog to endure it. Obviously, your pooch needs bathroom breaks and stopping every couple of hours to let him out for a quick walk will help him be more at ease during the trip.

“As a guideline, I’d say no more than a couple hours of driving during the day without a break,” Ulbrich says. “If you’re driving late at night when your dog is used to being asleep, you can get away with longer stretches. Also, puppies will need more stops than older dogs who have learned to control their bladders better.”

If your dog is extra anxious in the car—he may have had a traumatic experience in the past or gets carsick— you might want to try other ways to relax him, like the ThunderShirt or even CBD oil.

“I would try CBD at home first to make sure there are no adverse effects before trying it for a car ride,” Ulbrich suggests. “Even if it makes your dog sleepy, you might not want to do it for a car ride if you need him to walk around for potty breaks.”

Always make sure you consult your veterinarian before trying CBD or any new treatment.

If your dog truly gets carsick, Ulbrich offers training tips to help on her website.

Travel By Air

What about flying the friendly skies? Flying can be a scary proposition for a dog, even if he is small enough to fly in the cabin with you. There are loud engine noises, lots of unfamiliar people—it’s too much for some humans! Not to mention dogs must fit in a carry-on crate that slides completely under the seat in front of you—and he has to stay there the entire flight. The weight maximum for most airlines is 20 pounds, including the crate.

It can be costly for dogs to fly in the cabin; airlines charge $75 and up each way. Check out this complete list of airline requirements and fees for more information.

The cargo-hold can understandably be even scarier for your pooch. Dogs are essentially treated like luggage and can become sick or injured in transit—often with the airline bearing little responsibility. Twenty-four animals died in the cargo hold of airplanes in 2017 alone, and another 16 were lost or injured.

“There are many airlines that won’t [fly pets in cargo] anymore because of the risks, especially in hot and cold weather,” Ulbrich says. “I would only do this if absolutely necessary and never with a layover or connecting flight. If you have a layover, stay an extra few hours or even overnight so you can get your dog and walk him before the next flight.”

Here are the airlines that will not allow pets in the cargo hold, according to the 2018 Department of Transportation air travel consumer report:

The Humane Society does not recommend flying your pet in the cargo hold. They offer travel tips and alternate options on their website.

Keep your dog’s temperament in mind, and any genetic abnormalities that might affect his ability to travel—like “short-nosed” brachycephalic dogs, which are not allowed to fly in Alaska cargo holds.

Some of these breeds include:

  • Boston Terrier
  • Boxer
  • Chow Chow
  • Mastiff
  • Pit Bull
  • Pug
  • Shih Tzu
  • English Toy Spaniel

Even if your dog is mixed with one of these breeds, it is not recommended he fly in the cargo hold.

Remember, plenty of dogs arrive safely in cargo—506,994 traveled in 2017 and 40 were injured, lost, or died. You have to decide if your dog is capable of making the trip unscathed, both physically and emotionally.

“The most important thing is he is comfortable in his crate,” Ulbrich adds.

Leaving Your Dog at Home

There are options for leaving your dog at home while you travel. You can get a two-for-one deal with a pet and house-sitter; this way your dog is comfortable in his own surroundings and your home is being looked after.

Rover.com is the leading nationwide company offering vetted sitters with more than 25,000 sitters registered across the country. Every single sitter is reference checked by Rover before they are allowed to list their services on the site. Sitters can complete training and background checks, and sitters with those qualifications have “badges” displayed on their profiles. And Rover offers 24/7 support for sitters if something goes wrong.

“Our goal is to connect pet parents with loving sitters who are trained and qualified to provide just the right care for the dog,” Rover CEO Aaron Easterly says. “Rover.com is both the largest and fastest growing network of dog lovers in the United States.”

You can also send your dog to a kennel—but be careful with rescue dogs! The upheaval and constant moving from their rescue days may make them uneasy about staying in a location and with people they are not familiar with.

“Any dog can be nervous being left somewhere new,” Ulbrich says. “Always bring your dog to a boarding place and spend some time with him there. Make sure he’s comfortable with it. Leave him overnight on a practice-run before you actually go away for several days.”

Not all boarding services are created equal. It’s important your dog is able to get out of his crate and go for walks.

“I prefer places where people are with the dogs 24/7,” Ulbrich says. “If they leave the dogs alone overnight, that is not safe. And some places charge extra for any time out of the kennel.”

The Wag Hotel offers posh suites to pamper your pooch. Photo courtesy of The-Puparazzi.com. http://photos.oceanbluephotographyanddesign.com/pet-photography
The Wag Hotel offers posh suites to pamper your pooch. Photo courtesy of The-Puparazzi.com. http://photos.oceanbluephotographyanddesign.com/pet-photography

Now there are even pet-specific hotels popping up, like The Wag Hotel chain in Northern California.

These hotels offer plush rooms with all sorts of amenities – down bedding, TVs and two-way Skype so you can check in on your furry friend. You can also pick and choose from various options, including grooming, before-bed belly rubs and playtime. Wag offers themed playgroups, wine and cheese for dogs, and even snow in the winter for dogs to play in.

“It’s one of the most exciting experiences your dog will have,” Wag Hotels Business Development Manager Kristen Rau says. “And we work with some of the best in the world to give us insight to have such a clean, safe environment.”

The Bottom Line

Whether you take your dog on the road with you or leave him at home, make sure you do your research and are prepared. In the meantime, check out Beverly’s useful travel tips, including how to find a dog-friendly hotel. Safe travels!