Complete Guide to traveling with Dogs

Planning to travel with your furry friend? Read our ultimate guide on traveling with dogs to ensure a safe and stress-free trip.


Attention dog owners and travel enthusiasts! Are you planning to take your furry friend on a road trip or a flight?

Many dog owners like to bring their furry friends with them wherever they can, whether they’re embarking on a cross-country adventure or a just quick getaway at a local park. Regardless of the duration and destination of the journey, it’s imperative to keep your dog safe just as you would any other passenger. Traveling with your dogs can be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your furry companion.

But before you hit the road or take to the skies, consider the unique needs of your dog and prepare accordingly. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about traveling with dogs in cars and on planes, so you can enjoy a stress-free trip with your beloved pet.


As pet parents, we all love spending time with our dog, including taking them on car rides. However, it’s crucial that you ensure the safety of your dog while traveling. Not only is it important to prevent driver distraction, but it also helps prevent injuries to both the dog and passengers in the event of an accident.


According to the American Automobile Association (AAA):

  • an unrestrained 4.5 kg (small) dog in a crash at 50 km/h exerts approximately 135 kilograms of force;
  • an unrestrained 36 kg (large) dog in a crash at only 50 km/h will exceed 1000 kgs of force.

These numbers are shockingly high, emphasizing the importance of securing your precious pup in a car for safety reasons. Not only is this a hazard for all vehicle occupants, an unsecured dog can cause distractions for the driver, making it more difficult to focus on the job at hand – keeping their eyes on the road.


Keeping your dog secured while in the car will keep them, you, your passengers and even other drivers safe. There are many products on the market to help keep your dog safe while in the car. Finding the right one will depend on your type of car and type of dog.

There are three main methods of securing your dog(s) while your car in motion:

1. Dog Carriers or Crates

This is a common option for big and small dogs. However, if your dog likes to roam – or likes to extend their nose out a cracked window – there is little to no mobility. In the event of a severe crash, the crate can give them an extra level of protection from the rigidity of the frame and also prevents your pup from getting loose if someone other than you lets them out. The biggest downside is that some dogs may experience anxiety when locked inside a crate or carrier.

2. Dog Harnesses for Cars

This is a great option, as it lets your pet wander around in the backseat AND keep them secure in the event of a crash. They’re lightweight and work seamlessly with your existing backseat hardware. They work just as well as a dog car seat.

Before you purchase a dog harness, measure your dogs’ chest circumference, height, and weight to ensure it fits properly. This is key. If it’s too big, your pup could slide out of it in the event of a crash. Too tight, and your pup will be uncomfortable – and anxious – for the duration of the car ride.

3. Car Seats for Designed for Dogs

These are primarily for very small to medium-sized dogs, as they tend to require extra padding and comfort while on the road. Some of these special booster car seats for dogs may come with a built-in harness.

If your pup is prone to motion sickness when the car is moving, some reports suggest that this option can help reduce it. Seems logical as it help reduces excess movement. It’s a good idea to make sure the sides of the seat are high enough to prevent them from falling out, in the event of a sudden stop.

When selecting a dog car seat, harness, or crate, it is essential to consider the size and weight of your dog.

  • smaller dogs (less than 12 kgs.), a car seat or a harness is recommended;
  • larger dogs (+12 kgs.), a crate or a harness is ideal.

The car seat or crate should be securely fastened and situated in a way that it can’t be dislodged while the car is in motion. The harness should be securely attached to the car’s seat belt, ensuring that the dog is safely restrained.

When you’re ready to shop, be sure to look at the reviews and locate the options that come from pet parents with a dog similar to your own.


Preparing your pup for an extended car ride is essential to ensure their comfort and safety.

To help with the process, we recommended the following:

  1. Condition your dog as early as possible with any car safety devices. Using a little Pavlovian psychology, also known as classical conditioning (treats!), may help older dogs during shorter trips to get acclimated to car travel.
  2. Take your dog on short car rides to adapt them to being in a car. This helps to prevent motion sickness and anxiety during longer trips. Bring a favourite blanket, toy, or dog bed to keep your dog comfortable (or distracted!) during the journey.
  3. Regular washroom breaks and hydration are critical for your dog’s welfare during longer car rides. This reduces stress and anxiety.
  4. Choosing the right car seat, harness, or crate based on your pup’s chest circumference, height, and weight.

Based on these recommendations, plan your route accordingly and seek out dog-friendly rest stops where you and your dog can take a break and stretch your legs. By addressing these concerns upfront, you can create a stable, stress-free and enjoyable car ride for both you and your canine companion.


Traveling by air can be a frustrating, daunting and time-consuming task for most humans. Now add your favourite pup into the mix…flying with your favourite canine doesn’t sound appealing at all! Not only is air travel a stressful experience for dogs – and pet parents alike – but there are also rules and regulations that must be followed to ensure their safety and comfort.

In this section, we will discuss three key considerations when flying with your dog, from airline policies to selecting a suitable airline, and preparing your dog for the long, stressful journey ahead.

1. Requirements for International Flying

Requirements for international flying with your dog can vary from airline to airline. Thus, researching the particular policies of the airline you plan to fly with is of the upmost importance.

Generally, airlines require that dogs are at least 8 weeks old and fully weaned before their allowed on any airline. Additionally, your pup must be up-to-date on their vaccinations and have a health certificate issued by a veterinarian. Some airlines may have breed or size restrictions, so make sure to check these beforehand.

Security screenings points can be a stressful part for both dogs and their owners. Prior to screening, remove any collars or harnesses. To avoid this step, consider purchasing a non-metallic collar or harness to avoid setting off metal detectors.

This is THE most important part: always inform security personnel that you are traveling with your dog, as they may need to inspect the carrier separately.

2. Airline-Approved Dog Carriers

When selecting an appropriate airline-approved dog carrier, there are two main factors to consider.

The carrier should be large enough for your dog to comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down. Airlines may have specific carrier requirements, such as the type of material or size restrictions, so be sure to check these before buying a carrier.
Make sure that the carrier is well-ventilated and secure, with a leak-proof bottom in the event of happy accident.

3. Preparing Your Dog for a Flight

Preparation for a flight is crucial to ensure a smooth and stress-free experience for dogs and pet parents. The preparations are generally the same as preparing for a long car ride, but, if necessary, you may want to consider a medical intervention into the mix, such as a vet-approved sedative or OTC medication (see FAQ).


Air travel with dogs can pose potential health risks and safety concerns that dog owners should be aware of when booking.

Some of the most common issues:

  1. Anxiety and Stress: Dogs can experience significant stress and anxiety during air travel, which could lead to a variety of health problems. This includes an increased heart rate, dehydration, and/or panic attacks.
  2. Illness or Disease: As you might expect, airports and airplanes can be breeding grounds for germs and diseases. This can also increase your dog’s risk of illness or infection.
  3. Sedation Snags: Many pet parents elect to sedate their dogs for air travel to help them relax. This makes all kinds of sense, but can be dangerous if not done properly. Sedation affects your dog’s breathing and circulation, especially at high altitudes, so consult with our vets for sedation options and guidance.
  4. Temperature and Ventilation: This generally isn’t a concern with modern airlines. However, the cargo hold* of an airplane could experience extreme temperatures, which can be unsafe for dogs. Additionally, if the ventilation is poor (not likely under normal conditions), this can lead to respiratory issues.
  5. Injury (or worse): Despite airlines’ best efforts, there is always a risk of injury or loss during air travel, especially during extreme turbulence or decompression occurrences.

Traveling with dogs on planes requires careful preparation and planning. Following airline policies, selecting an appropriate carrier, and preparing your dog for the journey, can help ensure any pre-departure hassles are negated and a safe, comfortable flight transpires.

* If not permitted in the main cabin, pets are placed in a climate-controlled, pressurized compartment below the aircraft cabin and kept separate from luggage and other cargo.


Do I need to bring any documentation when traveling across the US border with my dog?

Yes, dogs must be accompanied by a current, valid rabies vaccination certificate that includes the following information:

  • Name and address of owner
  • Breed, sex, age, color, markings, and other identifying information for the dog
  • Date of rabies vaccination and vaccine product information
  • Date the vaccination expires
  • Name, license number, address, and signature of veterinarian who administered the vaccination

Puppies must not be vaccinated against rabies before 3 months of age, so the youngest that a puppy can be imported into the United States is 4 months of age. These requirements apply to all dogs, including service animals such as guide dogs for the blind.

Can I bring my dog with me to any country?

The short answer is yes, but it depends on the country and their specific rules and regulations. Some countries have stricter requirements for bringing in pets, including quarantine periods and specific vaccines or health certifications. For Canadians, this is the most up-to-date information from the Government of Canada can be found here.

Can I bring my dog with me in the cabin of an airplane?

Yes, but it depends on the airline and the size of your dog. Most airlines allow small dogs in carriers to travel in the cabin with their pet parent, while others require larger dogs to travel in the cargo hold.

How can I prevent my dog from getting motion sickness while traveling by car or air?

With the guidance of your veterinarian, you can give your dog prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications specifically designed to prevent motion sickness or anxiety, not unlike choices available humans. You can also make sure your dog has plenty of fresh air and try to limit their food and water intake before and during travel.

Here are additional tips to make your dog’s travel more enjoyable and reduce motion sickness:

  • If it is not too stressful, withhold food for up to 8 hours before travel. An empty stomach will help reduce nausea and the need for frequent potty breaks that are often unwelcome, especially during long car rides or airplane or train travel.
  • Keep the car cool and quiet. Play soft classical music and keep the temperature cool.
  • Include the smell of home. Add a t-shirt or blanket with your scent to your dog’s carrier. In addition to smelling like home, nothing is cozier than mom or dad’s shirt.
  • Offer special trip toys. Giving your dog new toys that he only gets to play with when he travels can help him associate travel with fun.

How often should I give my dog potty breaks during a long car ride?

It’s generally recommended to give your dog a potty break every 2-3 hours during a car ride, depending on their age and size.


In the post, we discussed the importance of safe and comfortable travel with dogs, whether it’s in a car or on a plane. We emphasized the need to secure dogs in a car with a car seat, harness, or crate to prevent injuries in case of an accident. We provided tips on selecting the right travel gear, such as a suitable airline-approved carrier for flying with a dog, and how to prepare dogs for long trips, including potty breaks, hydration, and exercise. We also addressed common concerns such as motion sickness and anxiety.

Dogs have unique needs and preferences when it comes to traveling, so owners should take the time to plan accordingly and make sure their dogs are comfortable and safe throughout the journey. With proper planning and preparation, pet parents can ensure a safe and enjoyable travel experience for themselves and their beloved canine companions.