The Basics of Traveling With Your Dog

  • July 15, 2017
white border collie dog sitting in suitcase ready for travel
Traveling with your dog may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are few basic guidelines that make bringing your pooch a whole lot easier, for them and for you.

Ever see a family with young children traveling, either in the airport or at a rest area? They have a TON of stuff. The carseat, the stroller, the pack-n-play, all of the diaper bags, and oh, snacks! Don’t forget snacks. Well, it’s kind of the same when you travel with your canine, but if you plan ahead and have the right supplies, it can go smoothly! The goal is to maintain as much normalcy for your dog as possible in a very abnormal environment. After all, canines thrive on routines and structure.

Do Your Homework

First things first, do your homework. Book dog-friendly lodging in advance, and, if it’s an Airbnb, let your host know you are bringing fido. Some accommodations will charge an extra fee. (In our experience, this has most frequently been a fee of €20, about $23). On our last trip, our Airbnb was incredibly accommodating for Ava. They gave us extra towels specifically for the dog, offered us bowls for food and water, and even put sheets on the couches! Make sure you understand and respect their rules, because some places absolutely do not allow dogs on the furniture. Be prepared to get charged extra if your dog damaged something.  It is also helpful to do a little bit of research about the area you are traveling to. Are there parks around or places where I can safely walk with my dog? Will there be a lot of crowds? Is my dog comfortable in crowded areas? What types of transportation will we be using? Will my dog be permitted on these modes of transportation? What will the weather be like? Are we planning to do dog-friendly activities? Think about these things in advance and avoid getting stuck with your dog in a place where dogs aren’t permitted!

Dog travel packing essentials
Pack the Essentials

Pack Appropriately

Next step, pack appropriately. Just as you pack for yourself, pack for your dog. Make it easy and measure dog food out in advance. I usually put food in a ziplock bag for as many portions as she will need, plus an extra, in case we get stuck somewhere longer than planned. Also consider bringing a favorite toy or kong. The more things that smell and feel like home, the better. I used to be terrible at packing for Ava, as I have always been a notorious over-packer.  Now, I’m progressing into what is equivalent to a doggie carry-on. I bring a small blanket that she can sleep on, 1-2 favorite toys, collapsable food and water bowls, leash with waste bags, muzzle, and treats. Minimalistic makes things a whole lot easier. Don’t forget your vaccination records or Pet Passport! If anyone stops you, it’s important that you can prove your dog is up-to-date on all vaccines. In the United States, hotels are much more strict about vaccination records at check-in. In Italy, not so much… “va bene.” For pet owners in Europe, it is extremely important that you have a muzzle on-hand for public transportation. Level of enforcement for muzzling will vary depending on where you are and what kind of mood the operators are in that day. Best to be prepared.

white border collie sitting in Italian piazza
Ava does Rome

Bring Snacks

 If your dog is food-motivated like ours, this tip is important. I carry really good treats for Ava whenever we travel, the kind that she only gets during intense training sessions. These are a reward for a job well done, and certainly makes her think traveling is a positive experience! We were recently in Rome with Ava. Have you ever been to Rome in peak tourist season? Remember all the people that were there? It is crazy-town! So, when she did extraordinarily well in a crowd of people at the Trevi Fountain… Treats! When she did great after standing in a busy piazza where a lot of people greeted and pet her? Treats! When she passed tons of other dogs without reacting (she has a history of being leash reactive)… More treats! See what I mean? Little by little, your pup will associate these sorts of experiences as fun. Yay, traveling!

Don’t Stress

Most importantly, don’t stress and have fun! I know from experience that the more stressed I am, the more stressed my dog is. (Isn’t it amazing how perceptive dogs are to their owners’ feelings??) If you do your homework, pack appropriately, and don’t forget the snacks, your holiday with fido is likely to be much more enjoyable for you and your dog.  After all, there’s no better way to travel than with the entire family!

Thanks for reading! Please leave a comment, and feel free to share.

  • Kristen Smith

    I enjoyed reading this and found the practical tips very helpful! We traveled for the first time with Noah to Portugal. The thing that stressed him out the most was that we had bought a kennel for traveling and never tried it out before the trip. I will look forward to more tips in future blogs.

    • Michelle Recame

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Kristen! It’s awesome to hear that you started taking Noah with you. The more you work with him on certain things (travel kennel, exposure to new environments), the more comfortable he will be. I am sure he loved spending the time with you rather than with a sitter!:)

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