Dogs love to travel. They are natural nomads, used to moving around in a pack and love meeting new friends. Learning how to travel with your dog requires some knowledge and adjustments, but after a trip with your pet, you will most likely agree that having a dog helps you make friends and keeps the fun meter way up.
Most major airlines will accept dogs as passengers. Dogs under 15 lbs. can travel in-cabin. Larger dogs must be booked in cargo in traveling dog crates and there are some seasonal restrictions. When booking your flight, book your pet as well and be sure to get a locator number associated with your seat for your pet. This is an important security precaution. It is better for your pet to fly a short distance for his first flight. To ask a pet to travel in a carrier or a cargo crate for eight hours the first time is asking a great deal.
Make sure your dog enters the airport having had a walk and carry all rabies and other pertinent inoculation information with you. Various requirements exist for each airline and for various countries. Please check these before planning your trip. (For some destinations in the United States, Pet Airways represents a new trend in traveling dog airlines and its limited flight schedule could help you to fly a big dog in relatively more comfort in cabin, even a large pet, but you will have to meet your pet at the airport in the end destination.)
Read more about dog air travel.
Dogs love to go out in the car. Make a comfortable travel nest for your dog in an approved car carrier that is seat belted in. That way he is safe, you are not distracted and you can enjoy the open road. Never allow your dog to put his head outside the car window. He could fall out, hurt his neck on the window edge or damage his corneas in the wind and grit. Yes, dogs love to ride that way, but it’s not safe for anybody. Always use a leash in an unfamiliar area to avoid bolting.
Read more about car travel with dogs.
Most travel resources list which hotels accept pets. You will also find a pets accepted symbol on the homepages of many major hotels. When checking into those hotels, be sure to tell the desk you have your dog. Many hotels provide bowls and snacks for dogs as well as offer information on safe walks. Some even have walking and sitting services. And many offer a “pet in room” door tag to let maids know not to leave the door open so your pet can not wander out. For dogs you cannot trust to be left alone, you will find the visit is made much more congenial by bringing a sturdy, safe traveling dog crate. Be careful to choose a traveling crate with a high safety rating so your dog does not harm himself if he tries to wiggle out. Most traveling dogs do not like being left alone in a hotel room, so plan activities where you and your dog can have fun together.
Traveling with your dog in most European countries does not pose a problem for restaurants. Many restaurants -casual and nicer- in Europe accept well-behaved dogs inside. The assumption is that the furry guest will not bark, beg or have an accident, but will relax quietly. In the Americas, pets are generally not accepted in restaurants (although service dogs are in some countries). The new trend in the United States is that pets can accompany diners in sidewalk cafes eating outside. While not all cafes permit, many do, and many are changing to be more permissive. So train your travel companion to sit quietly while your steak is served and you’ll do fine.
Local city and area guides often have “pet friendly” sections to help travelers with dogs find things that they can do with their dogs. Learn all you can about the area and its dog customs. Morocco, perhaps surprisingly, is very dog friendly. France is the most dog-friendly country in the world. New York City loves dogs. Many small museums in Italy will allow good dogs to see the art. Puerto Rico’s beaches are all dog friendly, all around the island.
Bring your dog’s usual food, if possible, and use bottled or filtered water, even in developed areas.
Always remember to put your contact name and local number and address (the hotel) on your dog’s collar, affixing it with a temporary tag and a waterproof pen. Then, if your dog strays locally, you can be locally located. Change the tag as you move about from destination to destination. In each new destination locate a local vet and emergency service and copy down the phone numbers for “just in case.”
About the Author: Helen Fazio and her dog Raja blog on pet travel and related topics at www.traveldogbooks.com. In their first book, “The Journey of the Shih Tzu,” Raja tells the wolf to woof story of the development of this amazing breed. They are working on forthcoming titles.