Are you planning to take your dog with you when you travel? Before you start on your to-do list, make sure you ask yourself if travelling is something your dog will enjoy. If your dog isn’t a fan of new places and adventures, he may prefer to stay back with someone to love him in the comfort of his own home. If new adventures aren’t fun for both of you, and if your pet isn’t happy on your trip, neither of you will enjoy the experience.
I’ve gained a lot of experience travelling with my dog Maggie over the years. Here’s what you’ll need to know when your dog is your travelling buddy.
Plan accordingly! I pack a bag of quick, easy-to-grab supplies for road trips such as extra poop bags, an extra leash, a small towel, our vaccination records, and of course, some treats.
You want to include pit stops in your road trip for your pet to stretch their legs, catch a ball, and use a restroom. You never know when these pit stops can turn into fun adventures jumping in puddles or walking in the damp grass, so that towel will be handy.
Nicole’s Pet Packing List
- Food. Changing your dog’s food on the road could lead to a very upset digestive tract, ruining your plans for the day. I usually pack Maggie’s regular food with me. I take Ziwi Peak food and treats on every trip because they are lightweight, easy to pack, and I know Maggie loves them. If you can’t fit your pet’s food in your limited luggage space, call a few pet shops in your destination city to ensure they have it in stock. Even in the big national chains, it’s amazing how dog food brands can vary by location.
- Treats. Because he’s a good boy. Why else?
- Collapsible bowls. I bring at least two, one for water and one for food. These are great to keep in a bag/purse while sightseeing, too. If your pet becomes thirsty or the weather gets warm, you’re prepared. I’m currently using some that our insurance company sent us, but I’m also a fan of the Ruffwear bowls.
- Poop bags. Do you really want to be late to your hike or sightseeing because you need to run to the pet store? So easy to pack: just throw a few rolls in your backpack, purse, suitcase, or pocket. If you’re doing a road trip, I recommend having a separate roll to keep in the car.
- An extra leash. This may sound odd at first, but I have an extra leash in every suitcase or vehicle. This could come in handy many times over. In the car, when you need to quickly grab a leash for a potty break, or after hiking together and your leash gets wet, or in case one leash gets accidentally packed or left behind in a hotel room. Who hasn’t left something in a hotel room?
- List of vaccinations and microchip info. Print out a hard copy or two, and also take a photo and keep it on your phone. You might need this for a hotel or doggy day care or emergency vet visit (let’s hope it’s not the latter).
- Microchip your pet! If your pet isn’t microchipped, make sure to do so before you leave.
Pack extras! Flights get delayed, traffic happens, and storms disrupt the best-laid plans.
Travel Safety for Dogs
Practice beforehand for any situations your pet may encounter. For example, if you will be using a harness or crate in the car for a road trip, do a few shorter practice runs so it’s something familiar and positive.
Make sure your pet is not only restrained in the car but travelling in a crash-tested harness or crate by the center for pet safety, a 3rd party company that does crash testing for pet safety. Many items are not only unsafe but could cause more harm acting like a slingshot in an accident.
Know your Airline Pet Policies
If you plan to fly with your dog, be sure and check the rules before takeoff. Book early, as airlines do limit the number of pets on each flight. Here are a few pet travel policies across Canadian airlines’:
WestJet Pet Travel Policy
Air Canada’s Pet Travel Policy
Air Transat Pet Travel Policy
Central Mountain Air Pet Travel Policy
Provincial Airlines Pet Travel Policy
Calm Air Pet Travel Policy
For more airlines’ pet policies, check out Traveling With Pets: Hotel & Airline Pet Policies.
Dogs on Trains
As of last year, dogs are now welcome aboard VIA Rail Canada Train passenger cars. However, the dog does need to be small enough to fit in a carrier that can sit at the passenger’s feet. The total weight of the carrier and animal must not exceed 10 kilograms. This page explains the policy for travelling in a passenger car with a pet on VIA Rail Canada. This policy does not apply to guide dogs, service dogs, or emotional support dogs. For dogs + carriers larger than 10 kilograms, you can check out travelling with pets as a checked item in the baggage car.
Understand what ‘pet-friendly’ means to your hotel or rental. Sometimes it means your pet can be left unattended, but many times it means your pet can’t be in the room alone, which could seriously affect your plans if you aren’t prepared.
Luckily, you can find a local dog walker or in-home sitter in your destination city through Rover, should you need to go somewhere without your dog.
Nicole’s Top Tips for Hotel Stays
- Leave the TV on to give your pup some comforting background noise if you’re away from the room. This can also drown out stress-inducing city or neighbouring room noise.
- Always keep the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door so that housekeeping doesn’t scare your critter or allow your pet to bolt while you are out.
- When I make my reservation, I ask for a room away from the elevator. This means there will be less foot traffic outside the door that might cause Maggie to bark or whine. We don’t always get the room we request, but it doesn’t hurt to ask politely.
- Set up a ‘safe space’ in the room, with blankets and a water bowl, and spend a little time getting your pup acclimated to the new space before your first pet-free foray into the city.
- Learn early what pet-friendly really means for your hotel. In some hotels, it means you can leave your pet alone, while other hotels require you to be in the room if your pet is there.
- Book a dog walk or doggy day care stay if you need to go somewhere without your dog, but can’t leave your dog in the hotel.
For some hotels’ pet policies, check out Traveling With Pets: Hotel & Airline Pet Policies.
Good luck, and happy travels!