Traveling with a dog (depending on how you travel) tends to be more difficult logistically (and expensive, depending on the dog’s size), but there are some things to keep in mind to do it better.
I have been traveling with a dog, as well as with dog owners. I know what it’s like to travel with a dog for the first time and I’ve learned a lot about how to travel better when you have a pet with you.
From first-hand experience and a lot of web scouring, I’ve come up with what I think will drive home some of the most important considerations while traveling with your dog. Some of these things are common sense, while others are the kind of things you tend to learn through trial and error.
Dogs Are Traveling More
Billions of dollars are spent every year on pet travel and boarding. Whether you are traveling for an extended period of time (i.e., digital nomad-dom) or just for a weekend, putting a dog up with a boarder is expensive and friends and family may not be available when you need them (or willing to take on the task).
If you think you’ve noticed an increase in the number of traveling dogs you see, both inside and outside airports, you aren’t wrong. 78 per cent of American pet owners travel with their pets each year. Because of this, travel and hospitality industries around the world are having to rethink their pet policies and many more are starting to welcome dogs.
With all that as context, the below article contains 11 of the most important tips and considerations to keep in mind while traveling with a dog. They are:
- Train Your Dog Well
- Don’t Assume Dogs Aren’t Allowed
- Travel With Pet-Specific Documents
- Download Dog-Friendly Applications
- Set Airbnb Filters to “Pets Allowed”
- Know Which Hotel Chains Wave Pet Fees
- Invest in the Necessary Gear
- Don’t Impose Your Dog on People
- Understand Your Airline’s Rules
- Understand Country-Specific Health Requirements
- Be Respectful of Local Wildlife and Nature
- Understand That Traveling With a Dog Involves Risk
Train Your Dog Well
If you’re a responsible dog owner, you have likely already trained your boy or girl in the basics–sit, stay, come, quiet–but even if you haven’t, it’s never too late. Old dogs can absolutely learn new tricks; a dog’s brain is very plastic.
Training your dog before traveling with him or her is for their safety, out of respect for other people and far better for you. A well-trained dog won’t sprint into traffic or bolt after the first dog they see. A well-mannered dog is also much more likely to make a good impression on landlords, neighbours and hotel staff, making it easier for you to live your life while traveling.
Don’t Assume Dogs Aren’t Allowed
Whether you’re a brand new dog owner or you haven’t noticed, there has been quite a large philosophical shift in how people think about–call them “dog rights”– if you will. This is especially the case among millennials, who are the most dog-obsessed generation, and the largest adult cohort worldwide. Too far more people than ever before, dogs are much more than pets.
What this means is that many places you might assume wouldn’t be welcoming to dogs have changed their tune. This is not to say you should always assume they are allowed. Check beforehand, and keep in mind that there are country-specific attitudes towards dogs. Just because Whole Foods in San Diego allows you to walk around with a dog (or a mini pig) doesn’t mean every grocery store in the world is cool with it.
Travel With Pet-Specific Documents
Any time you cross a border while traveling with a dog, you will need to present paperwork. This consists of health records that confirm your dog has the requisite vaccinations (rabies, etc.) as well as any local permits.
It’s also a good idea to travel with your dog’s health records in the event that you need to see a vet in a foreign country. If you come from a country or area where people pick up after their dogs as a matter of habit to one where people don’t, or one where there is a high concentration of strays, there is a higher chance that your dog contracts a feces-borne parasite like roundworm or hookworm.
Download Dog-Friendly Applications
Dog-friendly applications are both those that let you know where it’s ok to go while traveling with a dog and ones that help you meet other dog owners. Apps like All Trails, Bring Fido and the Pet First Aid by American Red Cross fall into the former category.
Apps like Meetup are great for finding dog-related events wherever you are and ones such as Dig are designed for dog owners looking to date other dog owners. Bear in mind that these apps probably aren’t as well subscribed outside of the West.
Set Airbnb Filters to “Pets Allowed”
I didn’t realize Airbnb had a filter for pet-friendly stays until I needed to look for one. But they do, and there are a surprising number of hosts that are open to having dogs stay in their place.
After you’ve entered guest, dates, and destination info, just go into the “more filters” setting on Airbnb, scroll down to “house rules” and choose “pets allowed.” This lets people traveling with a dog sort their options much more effectively.
Know Which Hotel Chains Wave Pet Fees
A lot of hotels do, in fact, allow dogs to stay, but there is very often a fee. That fee can range from $20 dollars or more per day.
Bear in mind that some boutique hotels likely won’t allow pets in, especially if they are selling a “luxury” experience to their guests. Traveling with a dog often means compromising on accommodation, but it’s well worth it for the joy of traveling the world with your buddy.
Invest in the Necessary Gear
When traveling with a dog, there are several things you are going to need to invest in. Some of these things you likely already have, but some things you likely don’t–perhaps a pet backpack. You might find our nomad dogs gear reviews recommend you some dog travel accessories that make life easier, especially if you’re a digital nomad.
This gear helps keep your dog safe and comfortable while traveling and moving about the world, minimizing the stress on you and the dog.
Don’t Impose Your Dog on People
I’m a firm believer in the idea that there are no bad dogs, just irresponsible owners. That said, it’s hard not to be annoyed by both dog and owner when in the presence of a very poorly trained dog and a very apathetic, oblivious owner.
If you have ever been walking down the street or through a park and come across someone whose dog is acting like a little jerk, you know how frustrating it can be. The dog may be pulling on his leash, barking at everyone who passes by, refusing to listen to the owner’s commands, and generally being a nuisance.
I think that the biggest problem with poorly trained dogs though is not necessarily the bad behavior, but the fact that their owners often don’t seem to care. They will continue to let their dog behave badly and will do nothing to correct the behaviour.
Don’t be that guy/girl, especially if you are in another country (i.e., a guest somewhere). This is basically an extension of the first tip about training your dog before traveling, because it implies that you don’t do things like allow your dog to bark incessantly; leave excrement on the street; jump on strangers or anything else you wouldn’t appreciate if the roles were reversed.
Understand Your Airline’s Rules
Airline policies change all the time and what you think is the case a couple of months before you travel may very well not be the day of. Airlines, of course, reserve the right to change whatever they want whenever they want.
Sometimes an empathetic employee will let it slide if you have failed to do something out of ignorance, but very often the decision is behind 10 walls of bureaucracy and there is nothing to be done. Don’t leave anything to chance. Make sure you know what you need to do based on the airline, the country you are traveling to and your breed of dog before travel day.
Understand Country-Specific Health Requirements
When you’re traveling with a dog, you can’t be lackadaisical about entering new countries. Just because you’re passport has always gotten you into any country in the world, no questions asked, doesn’t mean the local authorities feel that same way about your dog.
Sometimes all a country wants to see is proof of a rabies vaccine. Other times they make you do a quarantine, demand a note from a vet, and charge quite a lot of money. It is also worth noting that there can even be specific legislation banning certain breeds from entering a country.
Be Respectful of Local Wildlife and Nature
Many people (thankfully) understand the threat posed to wildlife by cats (both domestic and stray) but dogs are also a major threat to wildlife. I’ve seen first-hand the damage done to local ecosystems by dogs, and there are plenty of depressing videos online of people allowing their dogs to harass wildlife.
Part of being a responsible owner when traveling with a dog means not allowing them to harass or harm local fauna. And I’m not just talking about birds and mammals. Even something small like a lizard, snake or insect has a role to play in its ecosystem and should be left alone.
That said, I’m always amazed by the gentleness of many dogs when they happen across delicate creatures.
There is no denying, however, that some dogs are bred for a particular purpose. It is less likely that there is a Dodo video of a Jack Russel Terrier and his squirrel buddy set to xylophone music. Many national parks around the world have a “no dogs” allowed policy and if you have chosen to travel with your furry pal, you have to accept such limitations.
Understand That Traveling With a Dog Involves Risk
It is relatively uncommon for animals to die while locked up in a cargo hold. But, while many airlines have programs designed for pets, including features like climate-controlled storage areas, trained staff, and employees dedicated exclusively to pet travel, there are always risks.
If you are traveling with a breed that fits comfortably in a small pet carrier or bag that you can take on board with you, that’s great. If you have to stow a larger breed in a cargo hold, understand what that entails for the dog–espécially an older dog.
Bear in mind that, again, while not common, animals are killed, injured and/or lost on commercial flights. There are also temperature extremes (both hot and cold), inadequate ventilation, and rough handling by careless airport and airline employees. Some airlines, in fact, such as JetBlue, no longer allow animals to be flown as checked baggage. If you are planning on traveling the world for an extended period of time and know that it will involve frequent flying, consider the effects it could have on a dog.
It is one thing to take your dog on an indefinite road trip. It is quite another to subject it to constant air travel.
Seeing the World With a Dog
I always love photos of people and dogs traveling the world together–especially people who hike and backpack with their dogs. For a lot of Millennials like me, kids and family life seem like luxuries of a bygone era, and I understand why dogs continue to fill those voids for people.
And, while there is no animal psychology literature to back it up, I do believe that dogs “get something” out of seeing and experiencing new places. If I could fund the research myself if I would, and I would fully expect to find that well-traveled dogs are happier (maybe even wiser) dogs.
If you do choose to go traveling with a dog, I hope the above tips and considerations make that life easier on you, the dog and everyone else you come across.