Traveling with Dogs


man traveling with dogs in the city
photo by Pontus Wellgraf

Traveling with dogs is a lot of fun, but it can throw a wrench in your holiday or vacation travel if you forget to bring something. . . or turn into your worst nightmare if your dog gets loose in a strange place.

So, for your holiday gift from, I created 3 handy-dandy lists that you can use when you travel with your dog.

These lists will ensure you don’t forget anything, show you how to travel with dogs safely, and minimize your dog’s stress so that your vacation goes smoothly.

Bonus – the Packing List and Safety List are interactive! That means you can pull it up on your phone, tablet, or laptop, click to check each item off as you pack it, and add your own items to personalize the list for you and your pet! Or, if you prefer paper, you can print the list to use as you pack.

Interactive packing lists take traveling with dogs to a new level!

Dog Travel Packing List

This list doesn’t just cover the basics, it covers the “what-ifs” – things like a towel for dirty dog feet and products if your dog’s intestines get out of whack. Print it or just pull it up on your phone or laptop!

traveling with dogs packing list

Note: File needs to be opened in Adobe Acrobat Reader to use interactive functions

  • INTERACTIVE: Pull up list on your smartphone or laptop and check off each item as you pack it!
  • PRINT: Print a copy to use as you pack
  • CUSTOMIZE: Add your own items (electronically or on paper) to personalize it for your pet

The best thing is, you will be less stressed because you know you have a list containing everything that you need to pack. When you are less stressed, your pet benefits as well – pets pick up on our stress and become stressed themselves. So if you are relaxed, happy, and excited about your trip, your pet will be too!

Fill out the form at the end of the article for your free download of the interactive, printable packing list!

Dog Travel Safety Tips Checklist

**note: this post contains affiliate links. No one paid me to recommend these products, I recommend them because I like them.
However, using the link to buy the products helps support**

The items on this list require some explanation/owner education. If you know why you’re doing them, you are more likely to make sure they happen, so be sure to read the details under the list to fully understand what is needed to keep your dog safe when you travel.

traveling with dogs safety list
Pin to save and share with friends!

Note: File needs to be opened in Adobe Acrobat Reader to use interactive functions

  • INTERACTIVE: Pull up list on your smartphone or laptop and check off each item as you pack it!
  • PRINT: Print a copy to use as you pack
  • CUSTOMIZE: Add your own items (electronically or on paper) to personalize it for your pet

Fill out the form at the end of the article for your free download of the interactive, printable packing list!

Get microchip scanned at vet

Did you know microchips can move around in a dog’s body and sometimes become hard for the scanner to detect over time?? Stop by your vet before leaving to be sure the chip is easily detectable by a scanner.

Keep your dog in a harness

dog traveling in ruffwear front range harness
Ruffwear Front Range Harness

A startled or scared dog can slip out of their collar in a millisecond; harnesses are much more secure.

Keep your dog in a well-fitted harness while traveling and keep a tag with your name and cell # on both their collar and their harness.

An everyday harness is different from a seat belt harness, which is bulkier and not for everyday wear. You want a comfortable harness they can wear 24/7 that allows free movement, this ensures that your dog is comfortable whether sleeping or running around.

Note: Gentle Leader makes a harness called the Easy Walk Harness that I would not use on trips. When I tested this harness, the buckles slowly slid as the dog pulled and became loose over the course of a walk and the dog stepped out of the harness and almost got away. I know other people who have had the same problem.

What is a good everyday harness for my dog?

There are a lot of harnesses out there; these are my personal favorites. If you buy yours at a pet store, bring your dog and make sure the harness fits their body shape well and doesn’t rub their legs or belly due to a poor cut/fit.

Ruff Wear Webmaster Harness These harnesses last FOREVER and still look brand new. What I like the most about this one is the handle: you can help your dog in and out of the car, or up and over obstacles when hiking.

dog traveling in comfort flex harness

ComfortFlex Sport Dog Harness This harness is recommended by Sarah Stremming, a blogger & podcaster that I love to listen to. She likes it because the dog feels free to move naturally and has more of an off-leash feel.

Use a martingale collar

The martingale collar is specially designed to prevent the dog from slipping out of his collar.

dog martingale collar

IMPORTANT: if you grab this collar to hold your dog back like you would a typical collar (i.e. slipping your hand under the entire collar and pulling) you will make the collar expand and the dog can easily pull his head out.

This happened to me with a high flight-risk foster. The only reason he didn’t bolt was that I had a second leash attached to his harness which I held onto for dear life when he slipped his collar and bolted full speed away.

It just involves a change of habit: if you need to grab the collar, grab the metal ring that you attach the leash to so the collar tightens as the dog pulls.

Always keep your dog on two leashes when outside

dog with two leashes attached

Be aware that even confident dogs can become spooked and bolt. Once in that fight or flight mode, they will run and not even come to their owner.

Having the collar and harness attached to separate leashes greatly reduces the odds your dog will get loose.

Take a current picture of your pet

If your pet gets loose, you will be able to print copies and get them posted quickly.

Buy a safety-rated kennel or harness for car travel.

There are a LOT of products out there that say they are for car travel. But there aren’t a lot that have been crash tested. These are the products that I found crash test results for and consider good choices for keeping your dog safe in the car:

Harnesses that passed crash tests:

Crates that passed crash tests:

Important note: Wire crates do not cut it in crash tests, nor do regular plastic ones. Watch the crash tests, it’s sobering. They break and your dog goes flying. If you want a crate to protect your dog in a car accident it needs to have been tested and have passed the test – a lot of them fail.

Want to read the crash test results? Here are the links.

Most are here:



Never leave your dog alone in a hotel/motel room unless secured in a crate:

If housekeeping, or even you, enters the room, your dog can zip past you and get away before you have time to blink. If you must leave your dog make sure they are crated.

Make sure the hotel has your cell # in case your dog barks or howls and they need to get ahold of you.

Keep your phone charged:

Don’t let it run as low as you would at home; if your pet goes missing the last thing you need is to be out looking and have your battery die.

Consider investing in a GPS collar-mounted location tracker:

Knowing how to travel with dogs helps, but its not foolproof. No one plans for their dog to get loose when they are traveling. But it DOES happen, and we need to be ready for that worst-case scenario. Here are 3 of the top GPS dog trackers on the market.

This unit was the top-rated one on every ratings page I read. One of the biggest pros I read about was battery life, which is crucial if your dog is lost. The new model I have linked to has a 20-hour battery life. Other pros included accurate notifications and tracking.  It works off of AT&T cell signals so you need to be aware it won’t work if you’re out of the coverage area.

Both PetFon and Findster are GPS-based trackers that require no monthly fee. Because they use a GPS signal no cell signal is used, instead you and the dog each have a module which “talk” to each other. They are more expensive but since there is no monthly fee you make that up pretty quickly. These have a smaller tracking area and shorter battery life, but if you don’t have cell service where you walk your dog they are good options

Not sure you can afford a GPS tracker? Read this article on thrifty dog ownership to get some cost saving ideas you can use to find a good deal.

What to do if your dog bolts:

Knowing what to do if your dog runs away or gets lost is crucial. A volunteer organization called “The Retrievers” has made a Lost Dog Action Plan with a list of what to do and when to do it. Print this list and take it with you when you are traveling with dogs, or bookmark the page on your phone or computer.

The Retrievers is an all-volunteer organization in Minnesota that has helped find and re-capture many lost dogs. Their knowledge is used nation-wide, and you will see after reading the Lost Dog Action Plan that what we “think” we should do when our dog runs away is sometimes the wrong thing to do.

How to reduce your dog’s stress when traveling:

  • Bring their bed/blankets, familiar toys.
  • Give them quiet time away from the hustle and bustle.
  • Don’t give them new foods or treats – this can upset their stomach and you will be up half the night with a dog that has the runnies, or worse yet, be cleaning them out of your car.
  • Give them plenty of exercise, it will help them relax.
  • Feed them in a quiet place without new people or animals.
  • When you get to your destination, do a safety check for chewable/dangerous items on the floor or at dog level. One common danger is roach/pest traps under beds. People don’t see them but dogs find them and chew them up, ingesting dangerous poisons.
  • Try and stick to a “travel routine,” feeding at the same times each day, going for walks at the same time, etc.
  • Watch for signs they are stressed, especially around children and other animals. If your dog is yawning, lip licking, turning their head away, moving away, stiffening, or their tail is between their legs, it is YOUR responsibility to get them out of that situation. Put them in a quiet room where they can relax and de-stress.
how to reduce dogs stress when traveling

Make Traveling with Dogs Stress-Free!

Taking vacations with your dog can lead to some of the most rewarding, memorable trips you will every have; there is something special about sharing your adventures with a dog who is savoring each moment with you.

Planning ahead means that your trip will be much more relaxing. Your new Dog Travel Packing & Safety Lists eliminate the stress of forgetting things; you can relax knowing that you are ready for anything!

I wish you the safest of travels, full of new adventures and discoveries that make memories to last a lifetime.



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Traveling With Dogs

*** Fill out this form for your free download of the interactive, printable packing list!***

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traveling with dogs packing list
traveling with dogs safety list

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Karen Pedersen Written by:

Karen is a freelance copywriter who loves dogs and everything about them. She has fostered dogs since 2005, choosing dogs with medical or behavioral issues that would benefit from her natural and holistic approach to healing. She has gained experience and anecdotal knowledge with each dog she helped, and started this blog to help others do the same.

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