Traveling with your Dog

Elvis Elvis

Traveling with your dog conjures up images of packing dog food, bowls, toys and a temporary bed. Then you head out to your destination, either directly or via some carrier such as an airplane, train or bus.

For some people this is a headache, but did you know that it is estimated that over 51% of dog owners travel with their dogs?

As a matter of fact, many hotels now see dog owners as a new market and are offering special packages for these four legged travelers.

Whether you’re planning to stay at a hotel or visiting friends, you need to organize a few basics such as…

  • Gear – How you plan to organize everything you need for your dog;

  • Airline Requirements – different airlines have different rules. Make sure you know which ones will treat your pooch the best. The same goes for trains and buses. If going by car, you might be interested to know about some new legislation.

  • Vaccinations, and other documents. Also, where is the nearest vet in case of an emergency?

  • Pet Friendly Hotels – if you staying at one make sure you know what they offer;

  • Walks – who is going to walk your dog? It might be you, but if you’re on a business trip, you might want to know what services are available in the city you are visiting;

  • Activities – Where to go and what to do with your pet in the city you’re visiting.

Don’t let this list daunt you! It’s really easy with a little planning and we’ll run you through the process quickly.


Just as you would have luggage for yourself, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated dog bag for traveling. In this bag you need to make sure you have:

  • water, food and bowls. Alternatively you can improvise. Make sure you have enough bottled water to give your dog before and after the actual travel process.

  • all the vaccination papers (good photocopies) that show your dog qualifies and meets the medical requirements for out of country travel and even travel to neighboring states/provinces. Make sure these are in a waterproof bag.

  • a first aid kit for your dog and any medications that your pooch might be taking. This would also be where you have the names of a couple of vets in the local area where you are visiting.

  • plastic bags ( a variety of sizes). Some cities have hefty fines for not picking up after your dog. Plastic bags always seem to be needed for other things too.

  • small size travel bottles of dog shampoo and a  towel. You never know when you will need it. You can get these multi-use bottles at any drug and pharmacy store.

  • a list of areas to walk your dog in the locale you are visiting. Some cities have off-leash parks which are appropriate for large dogs needing a good run. Most cities have strict “leash your dog” rules as well.

  • some toys, chew items and treats.

Traveling with your Dog

Now we keep a bag packed at all times with everything listed above, and restock it when we get home. That way, we’re ready to take off knowing that we haven’t missed anything.

Airline Requirements

Most airlines have strict policies about where in the aircraft dogs can and cannot travel. They also have different rules for the approved size of the appropriate crate or carrier you may be traveling with. Be sure you have checked with your airline about exactly what is acceptable before you leave on your trip.

The same goes for trains and buses (though not nearly as strict). Rule of thumb: the bigger the dog, the tighter the restrictions.

Different airlines have different rules about crate sizes and construction. Some airlines want you to use their animal crates. Others require you provide that crate. Some airlines will allow dogs under 5 lbs to travel with the passenger as long as the dog is kept in an approved carrier.

If you are traveling by car, you might be surprised to know that some states have passed legislation regarding the use of pet safety harnesses that can be secured with the vehicle seatbelt. California comes to mind.

Vaccinations & Medication

Usually all inter-state and inter-province travel requires that dogs have received a set number of vaccinations for a variety of things. If you are stopped by police, don’t be surprised to have them ask about documentation regarding your pooch’s health. This is almost a certainty when traveling out of country.

When traveling out of country. keep all medication is the original bottle with the prescription label attached. This not only goes for your dog, but for you as well. Double check that you will have enough medication, not only for the trip but also for a few extra days, in the event of unforeseen delays.

Pet Friendly Hotels

This used to be a problem, but lately it is getting hard to find a hotel that won’t accept you and your dog. But you have to play by their rules. You must tell them in advance (at reservation time) that you are traveling with your dog. Each hotel has a limited number of “dog OK” rooms.

If you are staying in motel/lodge accommodations and traveling by car, do not expect to just drive up to a pet friendly place and get a room. Again, if at all possible, let them know In advance that you are coming. With advance booking, there is usually a welcome mat rolled out for you and your pooch.

Some of the 4 and 5 star hotels will make your pooch feel like a king or queen for their stay. They will get spa products, separate bedding, and a tray of treats. Some hotels have dedicated staff to walk your dog (and charge accordingly).

We are familiar with Westin hotels and a few others. It’s really quite remarkable how much status you gain just by having a dog! Let’s hear it for their marketing departments.


Every city has its own unique charm and areas that are frequented by dogs and their owners. We usually like to check this in advance (on the Internet) or by asking hotel staff. We are quite often more interested in areas that are not safe.

For example, in the middle of metropolitan city like Vancouver, we have skunks, raccoons, and in some parks, coyotes. There are some parks I would definitely warn dog owners to be careful when walking their dog.

It’s always fun to explore a new city with your dog. It’s a lot easier knowing where you can and cannot go.


This can range from shopping to hiking. Some cities have unusual and spectacular outings that you can take with your dog. Again, the hotel staff will know, or look it up before you go. It really does make a difference when you can take in the sites and give your pooch some exercise. Besides, your dog will enjoy the adventure as well.