How to Travel With Large Dog: An Essential Primer for Owners

Planning to go off on an adventure with your pet? Knowing the essentials of pet travel with a large dog is important, no matter which mode of transport you plan to take. You’ll certainly lower your stress levels when you are aware of the dos and don’ts. Travelling will be so much easier when you are sure that your pooch will be safe – on a plane, in your car, and everything in between.

Large dog in a driver seat

Travel With a Large Dog via Airplanes: What You Need to Prep For

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Can dogs travel on planes?” the answer is yes. Booked a flight and there’s absolutely no way that you can leave your pet behind? You’ll be happy to know that most airlines have provisions for letting your dog onboard their aircrafts. We say most because flying internationally with a large dog (or a dog of any size, for that matter) is still bound to come with restrictions on some airlines or destinations. If you use search tools to find the best airline or travel deal, step it up by looking for airline requirements for travelling with large dogs.

Knowing the TSA requirements for flying with a large dog should be your first order of business. While the TSA will not restrict service animals or pets, you still need to follow the established pet policy. When you pass through the airport’s security check, your dog will have to be taken out of its cargo or pet carrier. After that, he will then be carried or walked through the terminal’s metal detector. While checked baggage get screened through X-ray machines on conveyor belts, your pet will simply pass the same way as you do.

Next, you need to know airlines requirements for specific dog breeds. Some dog breeds have specific restrictions when it comes to airline travel. Each trip might be different, because regulations differ across airlines and travel destinations. One fairly common requirement for dogs that weigh more than twenty pounds is for them to arrive at the destination via cargo or checked baggage. A health certificate from your veterinarian is also required to clear your dog as fit to travel via airplane. This is a common requirement, and should ideally be dated within ten days from the time of your flight.

Destination-wise, do find out if there are requirements to prepare for when you fly in with your dog. This is true even if you are just going to a local destination. Hawaii, for example, has a lengthy checklist of canine conditions for tourists traveling with dogs. This checklist often takes a minimum of four months to fulfill. If you fail to do so then your dog will be impounded for a maximum of 120 days with you footing the bill for it.

There are also seasonal restrictions to consider. Delta Airlines and American Airlines, for example, will not allow your dog to fly onboard the aircraft as baggage if the temperature is higher than 85 degrees. Meanwhile, Alaskan Airlines impose restrictions on pet travels during the holidays. While many dog owners will find such a rule disappointing, you need to respect and follow each airlines’ right to their own regulations.

If your large dog is a brachycephalic breed (apart from being over 20 pounds) he is likely to be banned from air travel due to breed restrictions. Brachycephalic dogs like boxers and bulldogs are known for their cute snub nose, which becomes a concern when traveling by air. Big dogs with snub noses often have breathing problems. Cabin pressure, oxygen levels, and temperature changes in an aircraft all have the potential to further exacerbate your dog’s breathing problems when exposed to such for many hours.

Dog in a travel trailer

Traveling With Large Dog in Car: How to Make It More Comfortable

Can dogs travel in cars? Yes they can, and this mode of travel is by far the most lenient one out of all – usually because there aren’t many concerns that car travel brings unlike air. But still, there are important health and safety considerations that the law and common sense will require of you as the owner.

Can dogs travel on trains? In the United States, large train operators generally have a no pets allowed policy. However, changes to this policy are already taking place. Amtrak has a new pet policy of letting cats and dogs on the train provided they weigh less than 20 pounds and have less than 7 hours of travel time.

That being said, here are some tips that will make travelling with your dog by car more comfortable for him, and less stressful for you!

Restrain your dog to keep him safe. Your dog’s safety is the first thing you need to ensure before seeing to other things for your road trip. In fact, this is a requirement if you’re on the road in the UK! A sturdy harness, crate, or guard should keep your dog safe and secure inside the vehicle.

Always have food and water. Try to make your dog’s water accessible to him so he can drink independently. This is very important, especially when traveling in hot weather. As for food, have a stash of snacks for you to directly feed him with if you are also a passenger. Dog biscuits are very easy to handle in a moving vehicle as opposed to wet food, and so are less prone to messes. If you are the one driving, find time to park when it is your dog’s scheduled mealtime. Use that break from driving to feed him. Never feed your dog while operating the moving vehicle because this can result in an accident!

Find time to stop several times on a long drive. If you want to keep your car clean and your dog happy, take a few breaks from driving. Doing so will make a road trip with a dog less stressful. Use this time to rest and to help your dog relieve himself away from the vehicle. A break is a great way to help your dog overcome car sickness, an upset stomach, or general feelings of discomfort. If your dog is the jittery type, you can use the break to give him emotional support through cuddling and hugging. This will reassure him of your close presence even if you’re in the driver’s seat.

Put up window shades on a hot or sunny day. This will block out the sun and make the trip more comfortable for your dog, especially if traveling on a sweltering hot day.

Deliberate on motion sickness medicine. Ask your vet to prescribe medicine that will combat your dog’s motion sickness. While many dogs are often able to combat motion sickness by facing the same direction as you, this extra precaution might come in handy – especially if your large dog has yet to finish digesting his hearty meal!

Read more: Dog Breeds Small Enough To Fit under Airplane Seat

No-no’s for Travelling in a Car With a Large Dog

There are also some things to avoid when you travel with a large dog via car, such as:

Letting your dog’s head out of the window. This is very dangerous and could result in horrific injuries to your dog in an accident, no matter how slow you are going.

Disabling the airbags. If your dog is riding in the front passenger seat, switch off the airbags on that side. In the event of an accident, it can be detrimental to your dog’s safety. His seat should also be moved as far back as you can to provide room between your dog and the windshield.

Keeping windows fully open. A window opened slightly ajar can do a lot to keep your pooch cool while in the car. Open all the way down, however, can be dangerous if your dog gets loose and tries to jump out.

Failing to microchip or ID your dog. More and more countries have a law that states that dogs need to have either of these (including your name and address as the owner) as soon as they are eight weeks old when outdoors.

Giving your dog a meal before your journey. A just-fed dog is more prone to an upset stomach, which can bring about motion sickness. Imagine the mess it can make! As a precaution, feed him earlier to give his stomach time to digest the food so it can stay put.

Failing to bring enough food. It is easy for owners to estimate how much food they need to bring based on their dog’s current intake. However, it won’t hurt to bring a bit more. This will become useful in case there is heavy traffic or your car unexpectedly breaks down. It’s better to have excess food and drink than coming up short in supply.

Leaving your dog in the vehicle by itself. Such a practice can be very dangerous especially on warm days, as a dog can often overheat in mere minutes. This can bring about heatstroke and can be a life or death situation for your dog, even if he is a large breed.

These tips will surely come in handy as you prepare to travel with a large dog for their first flight or road trip. It may seem daunting at first, what with so many things to consider, but in no time you’ll surely be a pro at knowing how to travel with a large dog and attending to their travel needs and requirements.

Walking large dog silhouette with it's owner