Taking Your Dog on a Vacation – Tips for Traveling with a Dog

Before you decide to take Fido on a trip with you, consider whether it’s feasible – and whether it’s even beneficial for the dog.  Taking your dog on a vacation takes care and planning!

Tips For Traveling With Dogs

Any veterinarian or professional dog trainer will tell you that before you decide to take your dog on any sort of trip with you, you should always consider what you are going to be doing, where you are going, and whether you will have time for your dog. If you will be sight-seeing in places such as museums, galleries or restaurants, it may be best to leave your dog with a friend, find a pet sitter or board your dog while you are away.

Short Car Rides

Buckle up your pooch. When traveling by car, even if it’s just a short trip, consider your dog’s safety. Invest in an accident-tested safety harness or dog seat to help your dog stay safe and secure in the event of an accident, and also, so that your dog stays put and is not distracting you from driving.  I once had a miniature doxy who was small enough to fit under the car seats.  While I was driving down the highway at 55 mph, she got under the driver’s seat, then proceeded to go directly under my feet – under the gas/brake pedals!  I could not push on the gas or the break – we could’ve had a very serious accident.  Not to mention the distraction it is when your dog is running all over the car, jumping on passengers, etc.  Buckle them up – it’s safer for everybody!

Avoid letting your dog stick his head or paws out the window.  I know it’s one of the cutest sites in the world – a dog with his head out the window, lips flapping in the wind…but just like humans on a motorcycle, eyes exposed to high speeds and wind without protection are prone to dangerous debris. Keep the air conditioning on, or just crack the windows to let them sniff the fresh air instead.

Dogs should never ride in the front seat with you. They can distract you from driving, and if you stop short, they could be thrown into the windshield or injured by airbags.  The same little doxy I mentioned earlier was once thrown from the front seat violently onto the floor when I had to stop fast.  Dogs should stay restrained in the backseat either in a dog seat or a crate.

Long Car Rides

Keep their collar and tags on. It might seem more comfortable for your dog to have his collar off in the car, but if you crash and your dog panics, he may run away. Not everyone checks for microchips, so the dog having a tag with his name and phone number on it might be what gets him back to you should you have an accident.

Remember your dog needs food, water, and pee breaks. Feed your dog a small meal a few hours before your trip. Then stop for food breaks as needed.  Don’t allow eating or drinking in the car.  Keeping a bowl of water sloshing around in the car while you drive isn’t practical.  Stop every hour or two, or when your dog seems restless — so you can both stretch your legs, get a drink, and go potty.  And always make sure you get your dog on the leash BEFORE you open the car door. You don’t want to risk their getting away from you, especially if you’re far from home.

It’s never safe to leave a dog alone in a car, even if the windows are open and it’s only for a few minutes.

Realize you are taking a risk if you do this.

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Travel in the cabin. The best way to ensure your dog’s safety on a plane is to travel with them in the cabin. Unless your dog is small enough to fit under your seat in a travel-safe carrier, it is recommended that you do not fly with your dog. If you absolutely must, then be in communication with the airline personnel, make sure your dog is in a travel-safe carrier or crate – make sure the carrier or crate is clearly marked LIVE ANIMAL.  And I would strongly suggest you talk with your vet’s office because they will likely be able to offer much more advice on making sure your dog is safe.  Also, learn the airline’s pet policy. There are often fees associated with flying with your dog, and certain breeds are almost never allowed to fly or only allowed to fly seasonally. Some airlines will not even accept dogs as passengers.

Select the right size carrier or crate.  Your dog should be able to stand, sit, and turn around comfortably inside the crate or carrier.

Prepare your dog to be alone in the crate or carrier for hours. Practice with your dog before you get on the plane.  The dog should associate his crate with positive experiences, and be happy to spend some time in the carrier or crate with you nearby. Give your dog several weeks before the flight to form a positive association with being in the carrier or crate, and practice being calm and quiet in it. Leave the carrier out in your home with the door open, with a comfortable blankie in it. Feed your dog with the crate or carrier door open, then work your way up to feeding with the door closed.

Create a comfortable crate. If your dog has to be checked into the belly of the plane, I suggest you freeze a bowl of water. This way, it won’t spill when you’re transporting it, but will melt by the time the dog gets thirsty. You might also attach a small bag of dry food to the outside of the carrier or crate so airline staff can feed your dog if he gets hungry.  And make sure your dog has a favorite blanket or toy inside to comfort him.


Camping is one of the most popular vacation activities for families. And with so many new smells to explore in the great outdoors, it can be exciting for a dog. But there are also dangers to be aware of — from wild animals, to poisonous plants, and, God forbid, your dog getting lost. So keep your dog on a leash during a camping trip.  And though it may not be appealing to have a dirty dog that’s been playing in the woods all day asleep beside you, a dog tied up outside is at risk for weather hazards as well as dangerous, even possibly fatal encounters with wild animals.  Keep them in the tent, cabin or RV with you.


Check the hotel policy on pets before booking. If you are bringing your dog to a hotel, do some planning. You don’t want to arrive at the hotel only to find that they have pet restrictions.

Bring your dog’s crate. Bring along a crate (and a dog bed if it’s practical) from home, as it will be familiar to your dog and will help him feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. By having a crate, your dog has a piece of home, and a place to stay when you aren’t in the room. Make sure to train your dog before the trip, so he will be comfortable and at ease in the crate.

Make sure your dog has proper ID. Specifically, either a microchip or a tag with his name and phone number. And make sure it’s your CELL number.  You don’t want people calling your house if you’ve lost the dog while you’re away. You might also bring vaccination records in case your dog bites someone, and of course bring any medication the dog will need for the duration of your trip.  You can get pet ID tags cheap at www.PetTags.com.

Consider the Dog’s Comfort and Safety

I go to several festivals during the summertime and I always get upset when I see people have brought their dogs.  The poor dogs are panting – it’s way too hot – they’re being forced to spend the entire day walking on HOT pavement. Honestly, do you really think the dog is having a good time?  I think when it’s hot outside and the event you’re going to takes place on a street/pavement, it’s better to leave the dog at home where he can have easy access to his water dish and be cool and comfortable.  He may give you the sad face when you leave, but it’s up to you to make smart decisions for the dog and decide whether where you’re going is something that’s good for him…or Not.

Taking Your Dog with You On Vacation Can Be Fun!

As long as you do some planning ahead of time, and consider all aspects of your trip and your dog’s safety and comfort, you and your dog will have a great time camping in the woods, hiking the trails, or running on the beach.  And after all, your dog deserves a vacation too!  Debra 🙂

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