Royal Oak, MI 48073
Call or Text: (734) 462-2810
Alternative Canine Training Logo

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles: Traveling With Your Dog

January 31, 2022

planes trains automobiles traveling with your dog

Is your dog a constant traveling companion? The world has opened up to canines-as-companions in so many ways, and we notice dogs in cars, at cafes, trains, and planes. While this warms our hearts, it is also alarming when we see well-meaning humans putting their dogs at risk.

For example, your dog may love having a seat to himself, but if he isn’t secured, he is as at risk for injury or death as the seatbelted humans. If your canine companion loves to sit in your lap, their risk is further elevated. Even minor fender-benders or sudden stops risk serious compression injuries (or worse) when their body is smashed between your body and the steering column. Then there are the safety considerations when traveling by plane or train.

5 Tips For Traveling With Your Dog Safely

Don’t put yourself at risk for living with the guilt of an unfortunate dog injury or fatality that could have been prevented with these tips.

Restrain your dog in the car

There is a range of devices designed to comfortably restrain your pet without causing any discomfort. These range from keeping your dog in an appropriate-sized crate in the back seat or the rear of the car, and then restarting the crate so it can’t be suddenly thrown around by impact to “doggy seatbelts” that allow your dog to sit in their favorite seat - strapped in with its own version of a seatbelt attached to a harness.

Here are some examples:

  • Restrained dog crate
  • Doggie seatbelt
  • Doggie seat (this one works with restraint systems but doesn’t restrain dogs. It does protect seats, gives dogs a comfortable place to be, and makes it more difficult for them to roam the car, which is a safety feature in and of itself. I recommend use with a dog restraint/seatbelt for optimal safety).

 All of these features are available for $100 or less, which is a minimal investment when compared to your dog’s life, wellbeing, and potential vet bills.

Never let your dog sit in your lap

Your dog should never, under any circumstances, be allowed to sit in your lap. I know this is a heartbreaking reality for many of you, and it will likely require some re-training if that’s been your norm. However, when a dog sits in a driver’s lap, there are major safety violations in effect.

The dog is at risk of being crushed between your body and the steering column, which can happen as the result of a sudden stop, never mind the effects of a more significant car accident.

  1. It is a distraction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as many as 80% of dog owners travel with their dog in the car; 84% of those owners don’t safely restrain their pet, and distractions are cited as the #1 cause of car accidents. Your unrestrained pet, especially one in your lap, is a  major distraction and can wind up causing a major accident.
  2. If your dog loses their balance or hops down to your feet, you can no longer safely attend to the brakes, gas, or clutch. This can lead to disaster.

By keeping your pet in one, fixed location (preferably with a dog-specific restraint), you exponentially minimize the chance of causing an accident or not being able to drive defensively to avoid a potential accident.

Check airline regulations weeks before traveling

First and foremost, unless you can bring your small dog with you on the flight, no pets should travel on a plane as cargo unless you are going on an extended vacation (two weeks or more). The experience is stressful no matter how prepared the dog is. If you plan to travel with a dog, you need to be as informed and prepared as possible.

The last thing you want is to arrive at the airport with your dog(s), only to find out you’ve misinterpreted something or were unaware of a regulation that prevents you from traveling. So check airline regulations for at least three weeks (or more!) before traveling to make sure you understand all of their rules and regulations.

Some of the most common include:

  • Your dog must be current on all vaccinations and you’ll need your vet’s paperwork to prove it.
  • Make sure to invest in a safe, travel-approved carrier. Here is a list of requirements from the IATA.
  • Plan lots of extra time to give your dog necessary potty breaks (nerves mean you may need more than normal, and be prepared to clean up messes that are runner than usual).
  • Have a dog that can fit in a container under the seat (this space varies from plane to plane, so ask specific questions about your flights and have your travel crate’s dimensions on hand).
  • You may still have to purchase an extra seat if there is any question as to whether your dog can fit in the provided space on board.
  • If your dog is traveling below with the cargo, you’ll need to contact the airline or visit their website and carefully read their instructions. Typically, you bring your dog in his/her crate to a different cargo area before proceeding to the ticket counter in the main terminal.

If you decide it might be better to leave your dog at home, consider sending him to a doggie boot camp, where they’ll be lovingly boarded and receive exceptional doggy training too!

Are you traveling with your dog by train?

Amtrak also lets dog owners bring their canines along. However, they have very specific guidelines for pet travel by train. Visit their Pets on Amtrak page and read carefully. Some of the regulations in place are:

  • Dogs must be 20 lbs or less
  • The trip must be less than 8 hours (they have a list of “pet-friendly train routes” to support your cause)
  • There is only one dog per ticketed passenger
  • Dogs must be secured in an approved carrier
  • Owners must read and sign their Pet Waiver and Release form
  • You must check in at least 30-minutes before your trip

If you have the time, I recommend taking the train over the plane when it comes to pet stress levels.

Be prepared for any situation while traveling with your dog

Unless you’ve traveled with your pooch since the beginning, travel is bound to make your pet nervous. This leads to excess panting and a need for more water. The combination of nerves and consuming more water means an increased need to go potty. Your dog might get travel sick, for which your vet can prescribe something. Similarly, if necessary, a mild sedative can be used. In other words, you should prepare for all scenarios. Make sure that you test out the effects of the sedative on your dog before the trip. Sometimes they may have a reverse reaction and make your dog more anxious.

  • Have a well-rounded pet mess cleanup kit with more bags, towels, wipes/spray than you’d assume would be necessary
  • Speak to your vet about having medications or supplements on hand that safely relieve hyperactive anxiety or possible motion sickness
  • Exercise your dog very well before the flight or ride to burn off energy so they're more likely to nap
  • If your dog is prone to getting sick during travel, limit the amount of food/water intake until you arrive at your destination

The team at Alternative Canine Training wishes you and your beloved dog safe and happy travels. Need help planning doggy travel or interested in learning more about our training programs? Contact us to schedule a consultation.

phone-handsetmap-markermenuchevron-downcross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram