How To Travel Long Distance With a Dog Safely: Here Are Some Tips

Tips for traveling with your dog: dog carrier, travel carrier, pet carrier, airline dog safety, dog-friendly airlines, ESA, service dogs

How To Travel Long Distance With a Dog Safely: Here Are Some Tips

Travel is an integral part of our lives, something that we do for work and for pleasure. Of course, when you travel, you’ll want to bring your pup with you! Seeing new places and being exposed to new people is enriching for dogs, and they get a lot out of it. Whether it’s by car or by plane, check out the following safety tips to make sure that your four-legged companion is as safe as possible during your travels.

Tips for Any Form of Travel

To make sure your pet is travel-ready, there are a few things you can do at any time prior to your trip that will help ease the process. 

  • Get your pup a checkup and make sure that they’re healthy enough to travel.
  • Make sure that they’re used to the crate or carrier that they’ll be traveling in; comfort is key.
  • Expose them to high-energy situations and make sure they can keep their cool.

Doing just these few things can really help ease the strain of travel on both you and your pooch and make travel a whole lot safer.

Traveling by Car

Traveling with your dog in the car seems like a no-brainer, but the moment that you decide to drive cross-country on a road trip, the situation changes. Long trips are challenging for people, so of course, they’ll be hard on our dogs, too. Many of the tips below aren’t limited to just long-distance travel but become more important as you depart for a long journey.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Make sure that before you attempt a long-distance trip with your pup, you prepare them adequately. This can be accomplished by taking longer and longer rides with your dog in the car, making sure that they stay calm, cool, and collected. The last thing you’d want on a road trip is to find out that they’re unhappy with being in the car for extended periods!

Feed Them the Right Way

It’s recommended that you make sure your pup has eaten about three hours before beginning your drive, especially if they’re prone to getting an upset stomach while on the road. Additionally, make sure that they aren’t being fed in the vehicle while it’s moving. Reserve your treats for breaks during your drive. Jerks and bumps while driving could create a choking hazard.

Stay Strapped In

Seat belts are as necessary for dogs as they are people. There are a number of options on the market to keep your large breeds restrained that are comfortable for your pup, and if that doesn’t work, a secure crate will do the trick. For smaller breeds, consider using a small, breathable carrier, which allows your pooch to see the world around them while being able to be buckled in and secure. If your dog, no matter the size, just can’t get used to a carrier, there are ways to fashion safety restraints using seatbelts and a secure harness.

Pack a Travel Kit

Travel kits for pets are important! They should contain the following items:

While not packed in the kit itself, it’s recommended that you bring copies of your dog’s important documents, like their proof of rabies vaccination and any health certificates. If you’re crossing state lines, it may be a good idea to check to see if any special documentation is required, as well!

Stop Often

While your dog is most likely going to tell you when they need to go to the bathroom, don’t wait for them to! Stops on road trips are always a good idea. They give you and your pooch an opportunity to get out of the car, stretch, use the bathroom, and have a snack and some water. In addition, most rest stops have areas specifically dedicated to dog use. Be sure to use those when they are marked!

Never Leave Them Alone

It doesn’t matter if it’s only for a minute; never leave your dog alone in the car. It’s a scenario that could go wrong for several reasons, and it’s safest for your pup to have a human companion in the car with them at all times. On hot days, even with the windows open, it can easily get too hot for your pooch in the car, and when it’s cold, the car can turn into a dangerous icebox.

Traveling by Plane

While road trips are fun, when you’re strapped on time and need to get to your destination in a hurry, traveling by plane is the way to go. While this isn’t always the ideal way to travel for larger breeds, it’s not too hard to get to and from your destination with smaller breeds. Let’s talk about plane safety for pups!

Consult Your Vet First

Before flying with your pooch, consult with their vet and have a checkup done to make sure they’re ready for air travel. Some breeds have a harder time with air travel than others, and it could pose a health risk if they are to travel by plane. It’s important that they’re in tip-top shape and that they’re able to fly safely.

Consult the Airline

If you’re considering traveling by plane with your pet, get in touch with the airline you’re looking to book with. Sometimes, pets in the cabin can make for cute stories, but not all airline companies offer cabin accommodation for critters. A few things to check on with the airline:

  • Is my dog allowed in the cabin? This will typically come down to the size of your pup.
  • Do I need to present any paperwork for my dog to be eligible for cabin passage?
  • If I can’t bring my pet in the cabin, can they travel in the cargo hold?

Book Direct Flights

Whether your pet is in the cabin with you or in the cargo hold, always do your best to book direct flights so that your furry friend is able to be freed from the carrier that they’re in. Layovers and prolonged restrictions on your pets can make or break the experience (for you and for them).

The Cabin

Most airlines tend to let small dogs travel in the cabin for an extra fee, but the number of animals in the cabin is most likely limited. The earlier you can alert the airline that you’ll be traveling with your pet, the better. Traveling in the cabin requires airline-compliant travel carriers and adhering to the standards of the company you’re flying with.

The Cargo Hold

The cargo hold comes with its own set of risks and precautions. Normally, only larger breeds will need to travel via the cargo hold, as they are unable to travel in the cabin as a small dog would. Any incidents regarding pets are required to be reported, and you are able to look that data up should you be concerned.

Follow these guidelines if your pet is traveling via the cargo hold of a plane:

  • Make sure your pet is identifiable with a tag containing your information, as well as the information about your destination.
  • Inform the crew of the flight that you’re on that you have a pet in the cargo hold.
  • Ask if you can observe your pet being loaded for your peace of mind.
  • Avoid traveling during times of extreme weather, such as intense heat or bitter cold.
  • Avoid flying during peak travel season, such as holidays.
  • Examine your pet once you are in a safe place to make sure that they were not injured during the flight.

Before considering the cargo hold, try to determine if traveling by car is an option, as it’s safer and less stressful than traveling by plane via the cargo hold. 

Happy Trails

Traveling with your canine companion can be a fun way to see the country together, but it has to be done safely. Additionally, ensuring that your pet is microchipped can also alleviate some of the stress and concerns that inherently come with travel. The best choice for travel for dogs will always be by car, but if you take the right precautions and steps, traveling by plane can be accomplished safely as well. Stay safe, and have happy travels with your furry friend!


7 Ways to Secure Your Dog in the Car | The Bark
Traveling With Dogs: Tips for Safety and Security | Fetch by WebMD
Travel Safety Tips for Pets | ASPCA