Tips to Make Travel Less Stressful on Your Dog

People love to travel. And, increasingly, they love to travel with their dogs. The American Pet Products Association's annual survey, as reported by, shows that there are some 89 million dogs in the United States. Nearly four in 10 pet owners travel with their pets, more than double the number of travelers from a decade ago.

And while it may sound like a good idea to travel with your dog, there are some definite disadvantages for our canine friends. A group of Canadian researchers suggested, in a study, that road and air travel are stressful for dogs, especially those who have not traveled before.

But travel doesn't have to be stressful. Here are some tips that can help you and your dog when embarking on a road trip.

Tips to Make Travel Less Stressful on Your Dog

Whether traveling by car or plane, these tips can help:

Help Your Dog Get Acclimated

This is a lot easier if you're traveling by car. You can take a step-by-step approach to help your dog get used to the vehicle. First, let your dog get in the car and find its space. That's important. People don't like to be crowded and uncomfortable, and your dog won't either. Once your dog gets used to the car, start taking it on short drives to see how it reacts. If you notice unease — panting, anxious behavior, for example — you may need to talk to your veterinarian about a sedative of some sort.

Use a Comfortable Crate and Keep It Empty

Make sure your dog has plenty of room to be comfortable — even if the crate is a little larger than normal. You may be tempted to add toys, water, and other goodies to the crate, but don't. Any extras take up room and run the risk of making the dog less comfortable, and that could increase the stress level.

Keep Water Close by

While you don't want to fill the crate with unnecessary items, you do want water close by. Your dog needs to stay hydrated, which helps keep the stress level down. You can always stop at regular intervals to make sure the dog has enough water.

Don’t Leave Your Dog in Your Car

Since 2018, PETA reports at least 84 dogs and cats that it knows of have died after being left in cars. Temperatures can climb very quickly. If it's 85 degrees outside, the inside of your car will reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 degrees in 30 minutes. Dogs suffer heatstroke when their bodies reach 109 degrees. If that's not enough, remember that 28 states make it illegal to leave a dog in a car, hot or otherwise. So, the message is a simple one: Don't leave your dog in the car.

Check Airlines and Airport Policies

An estimated two million pets travel on airlines annually, according to Travel and Leisure magazine. The Department of Transporation classifies dogs and cats under the "pets" category — and accidents happen. The transportation department, as reported by Travel and Leisure, notes 23 pets died and another 20 were injured between January and October 2016, according to the latest available data.

So what's the best way to protect your dog? Check the airlines' policies and see which best meets your needs. There are policies for service dogs, fees based on where the dog travels (under the seat or cargo hold), and some restrict the number of pets allowed in flights. Make sure you clearly understand the policies. Also, find out where you can walk at the airport. Most airports now have areas that have "relief areas" for dogs.

Here's a critical tip. While it may be tempting to sedate your dog ahead of an air trip, don't. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends no sedatives because they heighten the risk of heart and respiratory problems. The association also notes that short-nosed dogs may be prone to respiratory problems and present a high risk when traveling by air. It's important to talk to your vet.

Improve Cruises, Rail, and Bus Travel

According to Cruise Critic, the Queen Mary II cross-Atlantic sailing is the only cruise line that allows passengers to bring pets, which will be confined to an onboard kennel. Some cruise lines allow service animals. though policies vary. For example, service dogs are allowed on some ships while some will allow dogs for emotional support. Some cruise lines don't allow dogs or other animals for any reason. The website, AllThingsCruise, has a roundup of pet policies.

The nation's primary train service, Amtrak, allows dogs (and other pets) up to 20 pounds provided they're placed in an approved carrier and the route is seven hours or less. Amtrak has a list of guidelines on its website. Greyhound, the bus service, allows certified service dogs.

Map Out Your Trip

Dogs are just like people. They need bathroom breaks, a chance to stretch their legs, even have some water and a snack. Look at, which shows you rest stops across the country, including pet-friendly stops. If you have time for a more extended fun period, offers a dog park finder for locations across the country. You'll find dog parks near beaches, national parks, and other attractions. Need a place to sleep? Check out, which lists pet-friendly accommodations. These are just a few of the options.

Final Thoughts

Vacations and pets are two of life's pleasures. Mix the two and you can have a memorable experience. But if you're planning on taking your dog on a trip, make sure you do everything you can to make sure the travel is as stress-free as possible, for you and your dog.

Of course, consult your veterinarian before travel. Make sure all shots are up to date and that you have copies of any paperwork that shows your dog has the proper vaccinations. You should carry that in case accommodations ask.

From there, it's all about keeping the trip fun for you and stress-free for your dog. If traveling by car, get your dog used to the vehicle by letting him sit inside without the car moving. Make sure the car has a comfortable temperature (turn on the air conditioning if it doesn't) so the dog doesn't overheat. Make sure the dog's crate has plenty of room and isn't overcrowded with toys and other items. Map out the trip so you're stopping at pet-friendly rest stops, hotels, or campgrounds.

And, if you're traveling by air, make sure to understand the varying policies on what types of dogs are allowed on flights and what facilities are available at airports.

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