Many people choose to look into pet hotels for their dogs before they travel, but if you don’t want your furry friend to miss out on the trip of a lifetime, you may want to find easy and convenient ways to take them along for the journey. A vacation that includes the family dog is a vacation that everyone can enjoy to the fullest.
Here is your complete guide on how to travel safely with your dog (or puppy) by land or by air, and what to do when your trip comes to an end.
Health and Safety Take Priority
First things first - you should take your dog to the veterinarian before traveling to ensure they are in good health. Make sure all their vaccinations are up to date and pack the shot records to take with you on your trip just in case they’re needed for any reason. Let your veterinarian know what your travel destination may be, and take any suggestions they may have regarding specific location-related health risks or concerns. If you are taking your dog on a plane with you, you will need a health certification before they can board.
When packing for your dog, be sure to pack his favorite regular food and plenty of bottled water. If your dog currently takes any medications, make sure they are filled and packed. Just as you’d like to come prepared for any trip, your dog appreciates the care as well.
Always prepare for any emergency situations that may arise. This means doing some research and finding the nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic nearby where you will be staying. This way, if you get into a situation where your dog needs immediate care, you will know exactly where to go for the quickest quality care.
It is also advisable to have your dog microchipped. A microchip provides added peace of mind should your dog wander off while far from home. The chip can be scanned at any shelter or veterinary clinic, communicating your contact information for a quick reunion. Unlike collars with tags, microchips cannot fall or break off during any impromptu “adventures”.
How to Travel With a Puppy
According to USDA regulations, a puppy should be at least eight weeks old and weaned before air traveling. You can have two puppies of comparable size and weight traveling in the same dog crate between the ages of 8 weeks and six months but no more than this.
Flying With a Large Dog
When flying with a large dog, they cannot be in the cabin during your flight. Many airlines require that a dog, if traveling in a cabin, has to fit inside a carrier that can be stored underneath the plane seat. Of course, you cannot do this with a large dog.
Airlines usually keep large dogs in the plane’s cargo areas. It is temperature-controlled and pressurized, so it is safe to transport your large dog on the plane. A large dog is typically classified as one weighing more than 17 pounds at the time of travel, however, specific guidelines may vary depending on the airline or breed.
Next, you want to make sure to purchase the right dog crate for safe travels. Airlines impose specific standards for crate materials and dimensions, so be sure to review these before buying your dog crate. You also want to make sure your dog is crate-trained before the trip to help avoid feelings of anxiousness. The dog crate should be labeled for security reasons, and you should also include your contact information.
All dog crates must be labeled with “Live Animal,” and you should indicate which side is up on the crate so it is handled properly as it is loaded and unloaded.
How Long Can You Leave a Dog in a Crate?
According to Modern Dog Magazine, a dog may be left in their crate for the number of hours that matches its age in months plus one for up to one year. So, this would amount to about seven hours for a six-month-old puppy. For an adult dog, the months stop at 12 for a maximum of 13 hours. A good rule of thumb to follow for adult dogs is that crating is appropriate for an entire overnight duration, and into about half of a day. Any duration longer than this may risk the dog’s mental and physical health.
If possible, it’s advised to give your dog a break every two to four hours. Water should be provided every two hours, and travel in a car should be limited to no more than 7 hours per day. To make the crate more comfortable, consider a vinyl comfort pad. It is easy to clean, has a removable internal pad, and is water and odor-resistant.
When flying, your dog needs to stay in the crate for the duration of the flight. Since they can’t be let out to relieve themselves, puppy potty pads really come in handy in case of an accident. Refrain from feeding them 4-6 before the flight. You should also pack some extra pads, plastic bags, paper towels, and gloves for cleanup after the flight.
How to Make a Dog Crate Escape Proof
One of the most important things when traveling with your dog or puppy is ensuring you have a high-quality dog crate from which they cannot escape. If your dog is an aggressive chewer and likes to bite and gnaw at his crate, this may be a sign of boredom or teething.
You may offer some chew toys at home to help with this. However, you want to be sure your dog is supervised when using them, so this isn’t a good option when your dog is flying alone in the cargo area of a plane.
A high-quality crate is already going to be sturdy and hard to escape. A solid, more permanent crate will be much more durable than a simple wire version. An aluminum crate, for example, is durable and designed for dogs with high travel or separation anxiety. A lock and key keep the durable material of the crate securely closed.
The best way to ensure the crate is escape-proof is by crate training your dog. They should be happy and comfortable in the crate, which will deter them from wanting to escape in the first place. Adding a crate door guard can add extra peace of mind if your dog is especially anxious in or has a tendency to bite at their crate.
How to Secure a Dog Crate in a Car
When finding a kennel or crate for the car, make sure it is an appropriate size for your dog. The dog should be able to stand comfortably and have plenty of room to lie down.
Bigger dogs will probably require a larger kennel or crate, while smaller dogs might do well with a soft-sided carrier. The best place to have the crate is in the back seat behind the passenger or driver, whichever side provides the more comfortable and secure fit. Never place your kennel in the middle seat.
While placed comfortably in a seat, the crate will be balanced and sturdy. If placed in a middle seat, or in the middle section between a passenger and driver, the crate may experience more movement leading to shifting while the vehicle is in motion.
A smaller dog can be secured in a dog crate in the vehicle's footwell. To safely place a small dog crate in the footwell, first place the dog in its crate and prepare to situate them on the floor behind the passenger’s side seat. Once the crate has been placed in the footwell, adjust the passenger’s seat, gently locking it into place against the crate. This securely keeps the crate in place between the passenger and back seats to prohibit movement during travel.
How to Transport a Dog in a Truck Bed
If you have a truck, there are safe ways you can travel with your dog in the truck's bed using a certified crash-tested large dog crate. A crash-tested crate is a necessity, so if you are involved in a collision, you will know that your crate offers the dog maximum safety.
When placing the crate in the truck's bed, be sure to anchor it securely, so it doesn’t shift while the truck is moving. Ratchet Strap Tie Downs are crash-tested and recommended by the Center For Pet Safety. They help to secure the crate in place even while traveling on bumpy or winding country roads.
Traveling in a truck bed may leave dogs more exposed to the elements, so an insulated crate cover is helpful. These covers help to keep rain or cold wind from creating an uncomfortable situation for your dog during travel.
Please note that a dog should never be left unsupervised, uncrated, or untethered while riding in a truck bed.
Get Your Crate Ready For The Next Adventure
Once you’ve returned from your trip, it’s time to start thinking about the next one. To maintain the crate, remove any toys, blankets, pads, or insulated covers and give the crate a quick wipe-down. With an aluminum construction, clean-up takes seconds even after the muddiest and most fun adventures.
Whether you’re taking to the road or flying the friendly skies - traveling with your dog or puppy can be a safe and exciting experience for everyone. Start by finding the best dog crates for your furry friend so they will be secure and comfortable on the journey, then dig into planning that dream trip the whole family will get to enjoy together.