How to travel with your dog
I admit it. I am one of the millennials that would rather have a dog than a child. Dogs are cheaper, don’t talk or complain, and are always happy. They are totally cool with eating the same thing day after day and the simplest things bring them joy; like sticking their head out of a window. You can leave them at home unsupervised (crossing your fingers that your shoes and couches stay in the condition you left them in) and they will be just fine. And when you get home, they act like they haven’t seen you in years and make you feel so loved it is impossible to not laugh and smile. Pretty much, dogs are the best!
My dog, Brandy, is an Australian Shepherd and is the coolest dog ever. She is my baby and everything done with her around is just better. Especially traveling and exploring I love bringing her to work with me, running on the Fort Worth Trinity Trails, and hiking, camping, and visiting the State and National Parks of North America. Right now our travels together have been limited to road trips around the United States, so that is what I will focus this post on.
After losing Lilypad in the Utah desert for two weeks, I have been asked by multiple people for tips on how to travel with dogs. Thus far, I have not done any overseas trips with Brandy, and my personal knowledge on travel with dogs is limited to road trips, hotel stays, hiking, and camping. While researching for my own travels and this post, I realized that there are not very many helpful posts on how to travel with dogs- so here I am! Maybe this will eventually be my niche :). So, I am going to share what I know and hopefully it can help someone.
Below I will share a little about my own dog and our travels, helpful questions and tips for traveling with your pup, differences between Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals, and some of our favorite dog friendly towns.
Brandy and I at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs
Brandy dog, the best travel buddy out there, is a fatass
Brandy weighs about 50 pounds. This is important because when I see posts about traveling with pets, the dog is usually under 20 pounds and thus easier to maintain and move around. It has been seemingly difficult to find helpful resources for traveling with dogs over 15 pounds. Dog weight restrictions can be pretty stringent, and with Brandy’s weight being over double the maximum, it adds yet another hurdle in our travel plans. Airlines cabin weight for pets usually cuts off at 12 pounds, and that’s pretty much the weight of Brandy’s big ass. Also, dogs that are not registered as Emotional Support Animals, will not be able to fly in the cabin with you on most airlines in the States. Brandy is registered to me and I will talk more about that below.
So far Brandy has visited the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and all around our home state of Texas. I am hoping to start bringing her on international travels too, but that is a whole different game that I am not quite prepared for just yet. But stay tuned! Brandy loves the mountains, the beach, the desert, and the snow. She loves to be outside, travel and explore! Just like me ♥
Brandy at Crystal Beach in South Texas
Questions to think about before leaving home
When you’re getting ready to go on a trip you do some things beforehand. Likely you will buy more toiletries, stock up on your favorite snacks, buy a book to read, etc. You’ll also look up things to go and see, where to eat and where you’ll be sleeping. When traveling with your dog, do the same for them! Spend time making sure the trip will be as seamless as possible and be prepared! Below are some questions to think about before leaving home, and after that a list of items that I have found that are necessary for traveling with my dog, Brandy.
Here are some questions that are important to think about before leaving:
What do I need to bring from home?
Are your pet’s vaccinations up to date?
Is the place you are going to dog friendly?
Is your dog properly trained to be going out in public in an unfamiliar place?
Will there be any time that you will need to find somewhere for your dog to be boarded?
Are you excited to travel with your best friend?!
We found shelters while hiking in Colorado
Do not leave home without!
Just like you, your pet should have a travel bag. If you keep everything they need in one bag, you will save yourself some time and stress when the time comes that they need something. And just as every person is different, so is every dog. So as needs vary from person to person, they also vary from dog to dog. Below are things that I personally pack and use, and a few things I recommend but may not use every time we travel.
Brandy in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado
Below is a list of things that I have come to realize are necessary for traveling with my dog, Brandy.
Food and water- Bring enough for the whole trip plus some!
Treats- Best way to get a dog to pay attention to you! Try to keep a small bag of treats on your person at all times for good behavior and bribes.
Toys- Bring their favorite toy or toys from home to keep them busy during car rides or when relaxing at night.
Poop bags- They’ve done their duty, now do yours and clean it up. Make sure you have more than enough prior to leaving.
Vaccination and shot records- It is good practice to have a copy of these on your person at all times for emergencies (I made a copy and emailed it to myself and I keep it in a separate email folder that is specifically for Brandy). But while traveling, boarding facilities and hotels may inquire about the shot records, so make sure to bring a hard copy too! If you are going out of state or country, there will be specific requirements for each area, so make sure to research for each specific destination you will visit and be super prepared.
Necessary medicines- If your dog is on medication, make sure you bring it with you.
Leash- I use Prosper Pets Hands Free Leash. This is flexible bungee leash style, and the waist part is adjustable. This keeps your hands free for walking sticks, taking pictures, or picking your nose. The company also offers a lifetime guarantee. I also use this stake cable leash when we are at our campsite to let her have more room to explore. I also bring an extra collar with me just in case one breaks.
Dog back pack- I make Brandy carry her own food and water, how mean am I?! I chose the Outward Hound Quick Release Backpack Saddlebag Style Dog Backpack for the convenience of the quick release saddle bags because Brandy likes to go swimming. Make sure you practice going on walks with the backpack before you leave home on a trip. This will make your dog more comfortable when the time comes.
Dog booties- Brandy is not a fan of these, but they are very important for certain terrains. Think cold, snowy ground and the dry, sandy desert. RuffWear makes some excellent ones that are Lilypad approved.
Wet rag– This can help keep your pup cool during the hotter months. I use the Ergodyne Chill for both Brandy and myself.
Brush- I use a regular comb to get any burs or stickers out of Brandy’s fur. She always manages to find ALL of the sticker and bur bushes and runs right through them, just for shits and giggles. Brandy has longer hair, so if you have a dog with short hair this might not be necessary.
Flea and tick prevention- I try to do a preventative treatment with essential oils before leaving on the trip. And it is good to bring any flea treatment that you know works best for your own dog along on the trip when you think necessary.
Kennel- This is based on discretion, but absolutely necessary for international travel via flights. Make sure that the measurements are allowed on every airline you plan to fly on with your pet.
Dog bed- This added comfort that smells like home can help dogs transition into travel easier. Even stinky dogs want a clean place to lay after a long day.
Grooming- If you are going somewhere hot and your dog has thick or long fur, do yourself and your pet a favor and get them groomed! A comfortable pup is a happy pup.
Seat covering- Bring one of these for the back car seats or an old sheet to put on couches upon arriving at your destination.
Dog towel- If your dog likes to swim like Brandy, keep a towel in your car to dry them off after. This can also double as a seat cover.
Here are the girls relaxing after a long day of hiking at the Grand Canyon
How they slept most of the road trip this past summer
Service and Emotional Support Animals
There has been a growing interest in getting pets certified as emotional support animals to help ease the stress of traveling. With this certificate and a letter from your doctor, your furriest friend can go just about anywhere with you. My own dog, Brandy, is my registered emotional support animal. However, emotional support animals are not on the same standing as service animals. Service animals must go through extensive training and the ADA recognizes service animals but not emotional support animals. To register your pet as an emotional support animal, go to this site: Emotional Support vs Service Animal registration. Please make sure that you actually view your dog as a support animal and receive emotional benefits from their company and you are not just trying to cheat the system.
Here is a quiz to see if you know the differences between Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals: QUIZ
Brandy and I at the Grand Canyon at sunrise
Some of my favorite dog friendly US towns
Fort Worth, Texas
Future dog posts in the works?
YES! Next dog post I am doing will be about what to do if the worst happens- if you lose your fur baby while traveling. This post will be hard and emotional, but it needs to be out there! It could save your sanity and your pup ♥
As Brandy and I explore more and more of this great big world I will have many more posts about how we do it.
In the meantime, check out these other posts about preventing and dealing with losing with your pets while traveling: one about preventing losing your pet and one about what to do if your pet does get lost.
Onward & upward,