Dog Travel Essentials: What to Pack for Your Dog
Make a list and check it twice – here’s what you’ll need to pack when you bring your dog along with you on your vacation!
There is nothing more exciting than planning for a trip unless, of course, you get to bring your dog with you. Nothing beats having your four-legged bestie by your side! Dogs make excellent travel companions but there are a few things you need to be aware of before you decide to take your dog with you on your trip. To make the journey enjoyable and safe for both you and your pet, you’ll have to plan ahead and organize well. Certain travel necessities are a must for your to-pack list, as well as proper accommodations. If you’re taking your pet with you on a vacation, make sure to arrange for a pet-friendly hotel and plan ahead so that you bring with you all of the items your dog is likely to need when away from home. The same is true for all kinds of pet-friendly trips: whether you’re going camping, on a road trip, or visiting family in another state, you’ll have to make sure you have everything your pet might need during the journey.
There were some changes that happened recently that regulate flying with animals. Most importantly, changes to who counts as an emotional support animal and whether airlines recognize them or not have occurred. In December of 2020, the Department of Transportation said that airlines no longer had to give special consideration to pets once designated as Emotional Support Animals. This affects dogs in that just having your fluffy Fifi with you as emotional support won’t cut it anymore and even dogs are subject to various rules. Dogs can be considered trained service animals, but pets cannot. Even if they do give you emotional support.
Airlines will really be sticklers for this as well, so if you’re traveling by air with your dog, you’ll want to check with your individual air carrier and be sure you know what the guidelines for traveling by air with dogs are –be sure your airline will even allow it. Fees range for airlines, so don’t be surprised by extra cost either.
Below you will find a list of travel essentials to pack for your dog- you might add a few necessities unique to your pooch, but the listed items are a must for any four-legged tourist.
Fresh drinking water is something your pet should never be without. Bring enough water to cover the trip, including stops and stay-overs (you can never be sure that there will be water available along the way). Also, you should have a suitable water bowl for travel- spill-proof travel bowls can be used in a car without worrying about water getting everywhere. Collapsible dog bowls from silicone or lightweight foldable nylon bowls are also a great choice. Similarly, dog travel water bottles offer a 2-in-1 solution for when you need to save some space- they are both a container for the water and a bowl for your pet to drink from.
If you are planning a longer trip, consider freezing some bottles of water. These will keep the remainder of the bottles cold, acting as an ice pack during travel. When they do melt, they are now filled with ice-cold, fresh water for you and your dog to enjoy.
Where do you think you’re going without kibble and treats, eh? Pack as much food as your dog is going to need for the trip, as well as a little extra, and store it in an airtight container. You never know if you are going to get caught in a situation where your trip may have to be extended. From questionable weather to cars breaking down, the unexpected happens! If you are stuck staying at your destination for an extra day or two, do you have enough food to take care of your dog until you can get home or to a pet store that carries the brand that they eat?
Proper storing is crucial, as even dry food is prone to spoiling if it’s not kept in a dark and dry place. Of course, you’ll have to bring a food dish as well- there are travel bowls for dogs that fit inside your pocket. Or, if you prefer, you can get a whole dining on-the-go set for your pampered companion and make sure they’ll get to have their meal wherever and whenever. The choice is yours- as long as your pet gets his dinner on time, he won’t be picky about your choice of dishware.
Yummy rewards are the best way to get your pet to behave- and you want them to be on their best behavior when you’re traveling. Bring along some of your dog’s favorite treats to help him settle down if he gets nervous in the car or in the hotel. You can make your own if you prefer or go with more “challenging” treats that will keep them occupied enough to forget all about stress. Braided bully sticks or PB-filled Kong are tried and true choices. And if your pet struggles with anxiety when he has to ride in the car, try out calming dog chews to keep him mellow.
Keep a small bag of training treats in your pocket when you’re out and about traveling. This means that you are always prepared to reward your pet regardless of what situation you may encounter. It also gives you a little extra motivation to help nervous dogs get past their fears. For example, if you are outside for a pee break and your dog freezes up from all the hustle and bustle on the street outside your hotel, you can use these tasty morsels to grab his attention and encourage him to keep moving, as needed.
Don’t forget to pack some of your dog’s favorite toys to keep him entertained during the trip and to make him feel more at home when you stop for the night. If your pooch has a favorite plush toy, making the trip without it should be unimaginable. And even if they’re not obsessed with any particular toy, you can opt for some chewable or puzzle toys to give your doggo something to focus on. It will keep your pet occupied and away from any trouble, and you won’t have to worry about them becoming destructive out of boredom.
If possible, avoid bringing loud squeaking toys. While you may be able to ignore the noise that your dog is making, the same may not be true for everyone else. Most hotels have strict rules in terms of excessive noise, and a squeak toy constantly going would definitely qualify! This could land you with a hefty fine or even have you thrown out of the hotel entirely, depending on the mood of the hotel staff when they receive the complaint from the other hotel guests.
Extra leash and collar
It’s better to be safe than to be sorry- especially when you’re far away from home. You never know when a leash might break or get lost, so you should have an extra leash on hand when you travel. Also, getting a reflective dog collar personalized with your contact information for the trip is a good idea. In case your pooch gets lost in a new and unknown environment, having them wear easily noticed contact info could be a literal lifesaver. The first thing any good samaritan will check is for collar ID- a simple tag could prevent a lot of stress for your pet and yourself.
If you are going to be staying in one place for an extended period, consider adding a temporary tag with that information. For example, dog owners that have booked a room at a resort for a week-long stay could add a tag with their hotel room number and the dates of their stay. That way, if someone finds your dog, they will know where to find you quickly and easily.
Waste disposal bags
It goes without saying that you should always clean up after your dog when using public areas, so be sure to pack a supply of waste disposal bags so you can do so. The lavender-scented extra-thick poop bags are a perfect choice for traveling. Additionally, you might want to get a doo doo tube, or a container made to hold smelly (full) poop bags- you never know if you’ll have where to dispose of the bag on the spot. Ah, the things we do for our four-legged besties!
Try packing a few extras in random places where you may be when the need arises. For example, place a roll of poop bags in the pocket of your car door for bathroom breaks on the road or in the pocket of your favorite jacket so that it’s there waiting for you. Another option is to get a poop bag holder that will clip onto your dog’s leash, making it easy to grab a bag anytime that one is needed.
First aid kit
You never know when something unfortunate can happen- and it is always good to be prepared for those risky situations. Pack a container of essential items you may need to deal with minor injuries (include items like tweezers, gauze, bandages, tape, styptic powder, etc.). It’s also a good idea to bring some first-aid supplies in case of emergencies, such as activated charcoal, hydrogen peroxide, and OTC drugs. You can also get pre-assembled first aid kits for dogs if you’re not keen on assembling your own. Having these basic supplies on hand can end up saving your pet’s life- so double-check your luggage for it before you go.
Take a piece of paper or a small cue card and list out the important locations and numbers that you may need to know in the event of an emergency. This includes emergency clinics along your planned travel route and at your destination and the Pet Poison Helpline. Place this in a folder or envelope with your dog’s vaccination records, information about any medications or health conditions, identifying information (including his microchip number), and a photo of your dog if he is ever lost.
Be honest- is your pooch a messy little gremlin? Most dogs have an innate talent for getting dirty and when you’re away from home, keeping them clean can become quite the challenge. Having a few towels on hand will be useful if your dog gets wet or muddy. If you want to go that extra step, you can make your own mud mitten from an old towel, or buy an upgraded, super-absorbent version of the same.
Crate or kennel
No matter how well-trained your dog is, many professionals recommend keeping your dog in the crate during travel (he may also feel more comfortable sleeping in it at the hotel). There are tons of pet travel carriers to choose from, but if you want a crate or a kennel specifically, you can choose from soft foldable travel crates to waterproof nylon pens and everything in between. The best part is that they’re all lightweight and easy to store, so it won’t be a hassle to take them with you.
Brush or comb
Being on a holiday is no excuse for neglecting your pet’s beauty regime! Keeping your dog regularly groomed will help to reduce shedding (this will come in handy when spending long hours in the car) and make sure that there are no nasty tangles and mats in the fur. While not all dog breeds will need grooming on the go- especially those who are low shedding, it pays off to be prepared for every situation. In addition to your pet’s usual brush or comb for grooming, make sure to pack a tick remover and flea comb as well. You never know if a nasty parasite is lurking behind the corner!
Dog hygienic wipes are a must-have for any kind of pet-friendly trip, but especially camping or road trips: you want to keep your pet smelling fresh while he’s riding shotgun. These will come in handy for cleaning up your dog’s paws before he hops back into the car and for wiping nose prints off the windows. Also, if your pooch rolls in something stinky or dirty and you don’t have where to bathe them, a pack of wet grooming wipes will be heaven-sent.
In addition to packing everything your dog needs for your trip, there are a few other preparations you need to make. First, check with your vet to make sure that your dog is healthy enough for travel and that he is up to date on all of his vaccinations. If you end up having to board your dog unexpectedly, most kennels will not accept dogs that have not had their bordetella vaccine.
Though your dog may be healthy enough to travel, that shouldn’t stop you from being prepared in the event of an emergency. Pack any medications your dog will need and make sure your dog’s I.D. tag is up to date with your current information. These little steps can mean the world in unfortunate situations so don’t overlook the importance of being prepared for the worst-case scenarios.
Traveling with your dog can be an adventure for both of you as long as you are fully prepared. Having everything you need for your pet to be safe and comfortable when accompanying you on your adventures makes the experience stress-free and so much more enjoyable! By using this packing list you should find that you have everything you need and by following the tips for other preparations, you should be confident that you are ready for your trip. So buckle up and hit the road!
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Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.
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