I have been very lucky in life in that I have probably traveled to more than 30 countries countries with my dogs since I was a boy. Traveling with your dog can be a rewarding experience, opening the door to new adventures and quality bonding time. However, it also requires careful planning and preparation to ensure the journey is as comfortable for your four-legged friend as it is for you. Here's a guide to help you navigate the world of pet travel.
Planning and Preparation
Health Check and Vaccinations: Before setting off, ensure your dog is fit to travel. A visit to the vet is crucial to confirm that all vaccinations are up-to-date and that your dog is physically prepared for the journey. Discuss your travel plans with your vet to consider any specific health risks based on your destination.
Identification and Documentation: Your dog should have proper identification, including a collar with ID tags and a microchip. Carry a copy of your dog's medical records and make sure you have a recent photo of your dog on hand, which can be useful if your dog gets lost. If you're traveling internationally, research pet import regulations as some countries require specific documentation or quarantine periods.
Choosing the Right Transport
The mode of transportation you choose can greatly impact your dog's travel experience, I usually drive everywhere unless it is impossible and I bought a comfortable van especially for our road trips, it just makes traveling a lot easier than jumping on an aircraft and the associated stress of putting yoru dog through it. The very first time I traveled with my dog on an airplane she was so nervous that she had chewed a patch of hair off her back during the flight, it wasn't a great experience for her but it was a very long flight from London to San Francisco and it was her first flight, on the way back she was a lot more relaxed and knew what to expect including that I would be there at the other end.
Car Travel: Road trips are often the most convenient way to travel with dogs and the best way to find new trails, beaches to walk on and parks to play in. To prepare for a road trip its sometimes best to gradually accustom your dog to car travel with short trips, gradually increasing the duration. I always carry a separate dog travel kit with water, a leash, food, bowls and waste bags in my van. Another essential is to plan regular stops for bathroom breaks and exercise, it can often be difficult to exercise a dog depending on what part of the world you are in. If you see a great spot to walk your dog and take a rest, grab it! You dont know when the next one will be if its an unfamiliar route.
Air Travel: Air travel can be stressful for dogs, and some airlines are much better than others when it comes to caring for your dog, be sure to choose one with a dedicated pet program if you can, they wont treat your dog like luggage. Check the airline's pet policy and consider your dog's size, breed, and temperament. Some airlines allow small dogs in the cabin, but larger breeds must travel in the cargo hold. If you must fly, opt for direct flights to reduce stress and always label your pet's carrier clearly with his name, emergency contact details, and flight details in case the baggage handlers get confused.
Train, Bus, and Boat Travel: Many rail and bus companies only allow service animals, but some are becoming more pet-friendly. Ferries often have specific pet-friendly cabins or kennels. Always check the company's pet policy before booking, but I think you will be surprised by how many carriers are becoming dog friendly with their policies. It used to be that if I wanted to take a fast train from my city to the capital I would have to put my 30k labrador in a crate to take her on the train, recently though they saw the problem with this and now let you walk your dog on as normal for a small charge.
Accommodation and Activities
Pet-Friendly Accommodation: If you have ever traveled extensively with your dog you will know how difficult it can be sometimes, the reason we founded Roch! Look for pet-friendly accommodations in our directory, we list every dog friendly hotel in the world. Many hotels have weight limits or breed restrictions, so be sure to clarify this before booking if they havent already certified with us so you know and if you have multiple dogs, consider renting a holiday home or using pet-friendly campsites for more flexibility. True dog friendly hotels where you can check in and let your dog off the leash as you would with your children do not really exist yet, so you need to be aware of what to expect when we arrive.
Dog-Friendly Activities: Research dog-friendly activities at your destination. Parks, trails, and beaches often welcome dogs, but some attractions may not. Looking for local dog parks or dog-friendly cafes where your pooch can socialize is important which is why we list all the local parks, dog trails and dog friendly businesses nearby in the Roch directory when you search for hotels.
Packing for your dog is just as important as packing for yourself. Here's what you should include:
Food and Water: Pack enough food for the duration of your trip, and don't forget about treats! A portable water bottle with a built-in dish may seem like a clever idea, but they dont usually hold enough for water for large dogs, its best to get a proper dog bowl with a non slip base so your dog can drink properly.
Comfort Items: Bring familiar items such as your dog's bed, toys, and blanket to provide comfort and help reduce anxiety, familiar smells when in an unfamiliar envornment can make a lot of difference to your dogs well being.
First Aid Kit: Pack a pet-specific first aid kit. Include bandages, tweezers, antiseptic wipes, a digital thermometer, and any prescribed medication your dog might need. Its best to be prepared if your dog scrapes itself while playing!
Leash and Harness: Don't forget a sturdy leash and harness, I carry a seperate reflective one which is particularly helpful for late-night or early-morning walks in unfamiliar areas, I want my black dog to light up like a christmas tree when a cars headlights catch the reflection, I also carry a flashing collar light too for the same reason. Finally if your dog is going to be in water, you will need a waterproof collar for them or your regular leather collar and its metal fittings will quickly become ruined over time and get rusty. I do not have any children, so naturally I have bought my dog multiple leash, collar and poop bag sets :)
Tips for a Stress-Free Journey
Exercise Before Travel: A well-exercised dog is likely to be more relaxed during travel. Try to squeeze in a long walk or play session before setting off so your dog is tired by the time they get into your car.
Never, Ever, Leave Your Dog Alone in a Car: Temperatures inside a car can soar rapidly, even on mildly warm days. Never leave your dog alone in a car, even for a few minutes, and remember than other people will break your window in an instant if they think your dog is suffering inside a hot car with the windows closed.
Maintain Routine: Try to maintain your dog's usual feeding and exercise routine as much as possible during your travels, it can sometimes be difficult but our dogs love their routines and know when its dinner or walk time before you do.
Traveling with your dog requires planning and preparation, but the rewards are immeasurable. With the right approach, you can ensure a stress-free and enjoyable trip for both of you. Remember, the goal is not just to bring your dog along on your adventures, but to create shared memories that will last a lifetime.