So you’re ready to venture away from home on an exciting trip, but you don’t want to leave your puppy behind. Why not bring them with you? Traveling with a puppy might sound stressful, but with the right preparations in place, it can make your vacation even more memorable (in a good way).
Moreover, it can actually also be good for your dog. Puppies need socialization, or exposure to different people and environments. It helps them get comfortable with a wide variety of experiences and interactions. And what better way to show your puppy new things than to travel?
Before you book your tickets, though, make sure it's safe for your puppy to travel. When venturing far from home, puppies should be fully vaccinated, with protections against rabies, kennel cough, and the combination of illnesses covered by the DHPPV vaccine (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza and parvo). Depending on where you live and where you're traveling, they may also need vaccines for canine influenza, Lyme disease or leptospirosis. Ask your vet about the protections your puppy needs before making any concrete travel plans, especially in the short term—many vaccines can take days or weeks to fully protect your pup.
Also, remember that puppies need special precautions when they’re on the road, just like they do at home. Follow these seven tips for traveling with a puppy to make the experience safe, fun and enriching for both you and your dog.
1 Do a Travel Trial Run
Planning on road tripping with your puppy? Before you hit the road for hours at a stretch, do a travel trial run. Just a short drive can provide valuable insight, says Teoti Anderson, CPDT-KA, a South Florida-based animal behavior expert, dog trainer and the vice president of dog training company A Dog’s Best Friend.
Depending on your puppy’s age and lifestyle, they may not have much car experience, and riding in a car might seem scary to them. Or it might not—all puppies are different. You won’t know until you see how they react to a drive. So strap your puppy in securely (experts suggest using a dog seat belt to keep your pet safe in the event of an accident) and take a 10- or 15-minute drive.
On the road, watch your puppy for signs of stress, like drooling, panting, whining or even vomiting. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, you’ll need to keep practicing and training them to appreciate life on the road. Find out how training can help dog car anxiety.
Symptoms like drooling and vomiting could also indicate that your puppy is experiencing car sickness. If you suspect your puppy is struggling with motion sickness in the car, talk to your vet. They may be able to prescribe medication for car sickness or offer other solutions.
2 Ask Your Vet About Calming Supplements
There are plenty of products on the market promising to quell dogs’ travel-related tension. Many pet parents say that calming supplements have made a big difference in their dogs’ anxiety, especially in situations that can be stressful, like travel.
But not every supplement or medication is appropriate for puppies. A puppy who’s too chilled out may not drink enough water, Anderson says—and that’s a bigger problem than you might think, because dog dehydration can lead to serious medical problems or, in severe cases, even death.
Products with turmeric or CBD could also contradict other medicine your puppy is taking, Anderson adds. So before you give your dog anything new, talk to your vet to make sure it’s safe.
3 Take Your Puppy’s Credentials With You
You wouldn’t travel without your driver’s license or passport. Puppies shouldn’t travel without their important documents, either! Carry these important records with you when traveling with your puppy:
- Medical records: If your puppy needs medical attention while you’re traveling, these will give veterinarians a full picture of their health. They may also be required if you’re traveling out of the country.
- A recent photo: Of course you’re going to keep your pup by your side throughout your trip. But if your dog does become lost, having a photo of your pup can help others look for them.
Just as important, ensure that your puppy’s microchip is fully registered and updated with your most recent contact information.
4 Mind Your Puppy's Climate
Puppies are especially susceptible to changes in temperature. Compared to adult dogs, they’re more adversely affected by climates that are especially hot or cold. So it’s important to make sure your puppy’s traveling location is at a safe temperature—and to remember that even if you feel comfortable, the same might not be true for your pup.
For example, Anderson says, the air conditioning vents on airplanes are often located beneath the seats—which is where a puppy’s carrier is typically stored. It can be frigid for dogs on planes! So if you’re flying with a dog, provide a blanket or shirt for them to snuggle in their carrier, and check on them often to ensure they’re comfortable. Pro tip: If you sleep with the blanket or shirt the night before you travel, it’ll have your scent on it, which can be calming for your puppy.
Environments that are too warm have the same risks. On road trips, for example, the backseat can sometimes get much hotter than the front seats, especially when driving during the summer and/or in warmer environments. Check the temperature in the back seat (or wherever your dog is riding) frequently during your trip. Also, make sure to have frequent water breaks. A cooling pad can help keep your pet comfortable, too.
5 Embrace the Crate or Carrier
When you’re traveling with a puppy, a travel crate or carrier is your best friend. This will be an area of comfort for your puppy, and can help you keep them safe and secure. Many puppies are not fully leash-trained yet, and some are small enough to be overlooked by fellow travelers, so walking them on a leash through crowded places like airports can be dangerous—you don’t want them getting stepped on if they dart in an unexpected direction or just happen to be in the way of a distracted passenger.
Plus, many airlines require dogs on planes to be crated. If your puppy isn’t yet crate-trained, it’s a good idea to start that process well before your trip to ensure they get comfortable in small spaces. This process can take weeks or even months, Anderson says: “You do not want to wait until a week before your trip.”
Keep in mind that your at-home dog crate will likely be different from a travel carrier you’d use in an airport. Home crates are usually made of wire or wood, and though some are designed to fold up and be tucked away for travel, they’re not usually meant for transporting an animal from place to place. Airport-friendly travel carriers, on the other hand, are typically made of fabric or plastic and are more lightweight. And don’t forget, they’re meant to move! It’s important to practice with your puppy in the crate or carrier you’ll be using during your trip.
6Plan Frequent Potty Breaks
Human children are notorious for interrupting long drives with the cry, “I need to go potty!” It’s exactly the same for puppies. Their smaller bladders and developing pelvic muscles mean that they have to go more often, so it’s your job to take as many breaks as they need.
Bathroom scenarios can vary depending on the mode of travel. Road tripping with your pup? Map out the rest stops on your route. Flying with a dog? Know where the pet relief areas are at your departure and arrival airports. And in case of emergencies, always have extra pee pads available. Hey, when puppies have to go, they have to go.
When you travel, you might listen to a podcast, flip through a magazine or munch on some snacks. It’s nice to have a lot of different ways to pass the time, right? Same goes for your puppy! Don’t forget about the things your puppy can enjoy on the journey, too.
“In all travel instances, take extra food,” says Jeni Redmond, the founder of pet travel company petsfly.com and former board member of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association. When flying, Redmond recommends carrying on a resealable baggie of food, as well as an empty plastic container or travel bowl for your puppy’s water supply. You won’t be able to take water through security at an airport, but you can easily fill up your container after passing through TSA and before boarding.
Is your puppy a big chewer? Um, is the sky blue? Chewing is hobby No. 1 for most pups. But if your puppy’s jaws are strong enough to break apart toys, you’ll have to be extra careful what you give them to play with in their carrier. “I would not put anything in the crate that your dog could ingest inappropriately,” Anderson says. Test out any potential toys with your puppy in advance to make sure they can’t chew off parts that could become choking hazards. And consider products with treats or fillings, like the KONG Puppy Dog Toy that can be stuffed with your puppy’s favorite treat.
Take these important steps, and you and your puppy will be fully prepared to set off toward your final destination—and ready for the next trip, too. Happy traveling!
Expert input provided by Teoti Anderson, CPDT-KA, a South Florida-based animal behavior expert, dog trainer and the vice president of dog training company A Dog’s Best Friend; Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM, Senior Veterinary Relations Manager at Chewy; and Jeni Redmond, founder of petsfly.com and past board member of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association.