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Traveling with Puppies: All you need to know [2021]

You’ve introduced a brand new puppy into your family and can’t wait to show them the world. We know the feeling! Not only is it all exciting for you, and your puppy, it’s important to get your puppy out into the world as soon as possible. This is the case particularly during the key socialisation period between 8 and 12 weeks old, when traveling with puppies is highly recommended. We will discuss this in detail below. 

However, traveling with puppies can be quite a nerve wrecking experience, for many reasons. Firstly, the world can be a scary place for a new puppy, depending on your pup’s personality and confidence levels. Being surrounded by new people, in new environments, with new smells and sounds, can be quite a lot for a puppy so you want to prepare to ensure it is as stress-free as possible. Furthermore, traveling with puppies can be a stressful experience for you! You may be worrying about your puppy’s well being and what is best for him. You may also worry about how to handle your energetic puppy when traveling. 

Do not worry, in this article, we will talk you through the things you can do to make car trips, flights and train rides easier to bear for you and your puppy. 


Traveling with puppies during socialisation period (8-12 weeks)

Between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks, your puppy will be in it’s socialisation stage. Your puppy’s experiences during this critical period of learning and development can influence and shape their behaviour well into adulthood. 

A well socialised puppy will find it easier to navigate life. You’ll be able to take them confidently along with you, knowing that they can cope with situations.

What is socialisation and why is it so important?

Puppies are brand new in the world, they haven’t yet learnt which situations are safe and which ones could be risky for them. From about the first three weeks to three months of life, they go through what’s known as the ‘socialisation period’. During this period they learn that everyday sights and sounds are a part of normal life and are not a threat to them. Introducing them to everyday scenarios, places, sights and sounds while they are young will help them feel relaxed into adult life. 

Additionally, they need to learn when they could be in potential danger and what to do about it. At around 8 to 12 weeks old and again at around 6 months, puppies have short periods of what is called neophobia. This means, ‘fear of new things’ and it plays a big part in how puppies and dogs keep themselves safe. Negative experiences during this key period can have a big impact on how a puppy views the world and his sense of security. 

Traveling with puppies when they are young is recommended, to provide a wide range of positive experiences for your them. During the key socialisation period you will want to introduce your puppy to as many every day things as possible. This includes car rides, busy train stations and train journeys, buses, busy roads among many more environments and situations. If your puppy is introduced to these things early on in life, they are far more likely to be confident with them throughout their lifetimes. 

Of course, you and your dog may come across situations that you could never have practiced during their early months, however if you have a well travelled puppy, they’re more likely to accept and be confident in new experiences too.


Traveling with puppies in a car

How to teach your puppy to ride in the car

The key to traveling with puppies in a car is to make them feel comfortable and confident. The more comfortable and confident they are, the less stressed they’ll be. As mentioned above, the sooner you travel with your puppy, the better. Ideally, you want your puppy to get used to cars as soon as you bring them home.

1. Introduce your puppy gradually to the car

Start with them sitting in a stationary car. Give your puppy time to explore their pen or area they will be traveling in. You want them to feel confident and calm in the car before you start the engine. Once your puppy seems content, move on to the next step.

2. Take your puppy on a short, slow trip in the car
 
Start of with short journeys – you can just drive to the end of the road and back. Make sure you use lots of praise and treats at the end of the journey for riding quietly in the car.

3. Make sure they have a firm footing under their paws

The foot well or boot is actually better for puppies to sit in than on your car seat. They’ll find the journey easier if they have somewhere comfortable to sit and lie down, particularly as you go around corners. In some countries, there are actually laws in place that require puppies and dogs to be restrained in moving vehicles, with the use of dog seat belts or dog car harnesses

4. Slowly increase the length of your trips

As your puppy gains more confidence and seems happy in the car, you can increase the length and frequency of your trips. Be patient, use lots of praise and treats, and you should see progress pretty quickly. 

Remember to be patient and aim for gradual progress. It shouldn’t be long before your puppy is familiar with the car and knows what to expect when they jump in and hear the engine starting. 


Motion sickness in puppies

Car sickness in puppies is very common although most dogs do grow out of it. The key to preventing and overcoming car sickness in puppies is patience and gradual progress. Follow the steps mentioned above, and introduce your puppy to the car gradually. The more comfortable and confident they are in the car, the less likely they are to experience motion sickness. 

If your new puppy does seem to get queasy in cars, it’s a good idea to put some waterproof sheeting down where they tend to sit or lie. It’s handy to carry lots of paper towels and a cleaning spray in case they are sick.

Additionally, puppy’s with full bellies are more likely to be sick. For this reason, it’s best not to feed your puppy for two to three hours before you travel as a precaution. Always give your puppy a chance to go to the toilet before you set off, so they’re not anxious about having an accident.

If car sickness becomes a frequent problem, ask your vet for their advice.


Keeping your puppy safe in the car

Dog car safety isn’t just about about keeping your puppy protected, it’s about taking care of the driver, passengers and other drivers on the road too.

Take time to train your puppy to be calm and quiet in the car, using the steps listed above, so they aren’t a distraction in the car. 

Restrain your puppy

When traveling with puppies in a car, a restrained puppy will be less of a distraction to the driver and other passengers. In fact, in some countries it is actually law that dogs are restrained when in a moving vehicle. 

If your puppy will be sitting in the foot well or boot of the car, it’s best to use a crate or dog barrier to keep them safely contained. This will not only prevent them from jumping around the car being a nuisance, it will protect them from potential injury. Restraining a puppy is safer for them as it prevents them from flying around the vehicle if the driver has to suddenly stop or turn a sharp corner. 

If it isn’t possible to have your puppy in the boot, and your only option is to have your puppy sitting on a car seat, it’s important to use a dog car harness. Harnesses are like dog seat belts; they come in different sizes and attach onto ordinary car safety belts. If your puppy is particularly small and isn’t used to wearing harnesses, take some time to get him or her used to wearing one at home first. You don’t want to give your puppy extra reason to get stressed in the car. Ensure you give your puppy lots of praise and treats for wearing it, before you use it for real on your journey.

Don’t let your puppy travel in the car with the head out the window

Although it looks like a blast, and probably is, it’s not safe for your puppy. The strong flow of air could irritate your puppy’s eyes, or even worse they could get injured by something you drive past. Of course, there’s also the risk that they could slip out of their harness and jump out of the window! I know we’d like to think that our puppies wouldn’t be that silly but when they are young they haven’t yet learnt what is safe and what isn’t.

If you are traveling with puppies on a particularly hot day of course it’s good to let some fresh air in. You can even use a window guard that lets you open the window more without allowing your puppy the chance to jump out.

Include frequent breaks for long car journeys

If you’re traveling with puppies in a car long distance, it’s a good idea to stop at least every couple of hours. Particularly if you are traveling with a very young puppy as they haven’t yet developed strong bladders. You’ll probably both appreciate a toilet break, a drink of water and the chance to stretch your legs. 


Keeping your puppy cool in the car

If you live in a hot country or are traveling with puppies on a particularly hot day, it’s important to take some precautions to ensure your puppy stays cool. Firstly, there are window shades that attach to the windows to prevent strong sunlight coming in. You also have the option of window guards, which will allow you to open the windows for fresh out without the risk of your puppy jumping out!

Both window guards and the sunshades are great for when you’re moving but even with the windows down and the sunlight protected, cars can heat up very quickly. You should never leave your puppy in the car on warm days, or even in the winter, as it can be fatal.


Traveling with puppies on planes

Is it possible to fly with a puppy?

Traveling with puppies on planes is possible, depending on which airline you are flying with, where you are flying to and from, and how old your puppy is. Different airlines have different rules and regulations for flying with a puppy. Some of them will allow flying with a puppy that is at least 8 weeks of age, where others will require that puppies are at least 12 weeks to fly. It’s important to check the pet policies of the specific airline you are flying with, and your specific aircraft and route. 

Will my puppy be okay flying?

Traveling with puppies on planes can be a stressful experience for any puppy or dog. Being in a busy airport, and being restricted to a travel container, along with all the new sights, sounds and smells of an airplane and airport, can all be quite overwhelming for a puppy. Additionally, bright lights and changes in air pressure and cabin temperature, and a limited ability to use the bathroom can be added stresses. Of course this depends on your puppy’s temperament, confidence levels and travel experience. A well travelled puppy will handle flying much better than a puppy who hasn’t spent much time in the outside world. 

It’s important to think long and hard about whether it’s essential to bring your puppy on a plane. In general, vets recommend not flying with a pet unless absolutely necessary. Ideally, puppies should not fly unless an owner is moving permanently or taking a long trip—two to four weeks minimum.

Unless you have a really good reason for bringing your puppy with you during your travels, it may be best to leave them home. You could consider hiring a pet-sitter, asking a friend or family member to watch your puppy, or boarding them at a licensed facility. You might feel quite sad for a few days, but it’s potentially better for your puppy in the long run. 

However, if you are planning on taking your puppy on flights with you in the future, for whatever reason, it’s best to get them used to the experience from an early age. We will outline tips and guides on how to get your puppy used to flying, and how to make the experience as stress-free as possible.


Cabin or Cargo travel?

Whether your puppy will travel in the cabin with you, or in the cargo area of the plane will depend on the size of your puppy, which airline you are traveling with, where you are traveling to and from, and possibly the breed of your puppy. 

Though rules vary from airline to airline, your puppy can typically only fly in the cabin (as carry-on luggage) if they are small enough to fit in a carrier stowed under the seat in front of you. Any larger than that, and your pup will have to travel in the cargo hold, with the luggage and freight. Airlines will do their best to make puppies and dogs comfortable in the cargo hold, however it will likely still be a rather unpleasant experience for your dog. Not only will they be separated from you, items might shift around or fall during the flight, which can be loud and scary.

Additionally, it’s important to note that on certain routes, dogs are not permitted to fly in the cabin. This is usually the case when flying to and from the UK, for example. 

Some airlines will also have restrictions on certain breeds. Often, snub-nosed breeds such as pugs and french bulldogs, are not permitted to fly in the cargo of the plane as they are at higher risk of health problems due to potential breathing issues. 

Check the rules and regulations for your specific airline, route and dog breed and size to weigh up your options. 


Getting your puppy prepared for flying

Before traveling with a puppy on a plane, it’s best to consult with your vet about food, water and medication. 

You may be considering sedating or tranquillising your puppy for the flight, however it isn’t recommended. There are high risks involved with sedation, and some airlines actually prohibit sedation, or at least require a vet note to state that it is absolutely essential. For more information on sedating a dog when flying check, Dog Sedatives for Flying: Should I use them?.

Medical concerns aside, it’s VERY important to get your dog used to spending time in and traveling in a crate. This is something you should do well in advance of your flight as it does take time to build up that positive relationship with the crate. You might even consider taking them to the airport’s departure area a few times so they become more comfortable with this new, strange place.

For more information on preparing your puppy for travel, check the section below. 


Selecting an appropriate travel carrier

Whether your puppy will be flying in the cabin with you, or in the cargo area of the plane, you’ll need to bring along an appropriate pet carrier or crate. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), whose guidelines most airlines follow, has a list of pet carrier requirements to follow.

Generally, your crate needs to be durable and have plenty of ventilation, strong handles, and a leak-proof bottom. Additionally, the travel crate must be big enough for your puppy to stand up, sit down, lie down and turn around with ease.

Additionally, you should clearly mark your pet carrier with the words “Live Animal” and arrows that show which way is up, with a label containing your name, phone number, address, and destination contact information.

Different airlines have different restrictions on the sizes of travel carriers to use, these sometimes even vary depending on the specific aircraft you will be boarding. It’s important to check the restrictions of your specific airline and aircraft. 

When traveling with puppies on a plane, it’s important to line the carrier with absorbant material as they are prone to have accidents during the flight, particularly if they are very young. 


Documents required for flying with a puppy

The documents required when traveling with puppies on planes will vary depending on where you are flying from and to, and which airline you are flying with. Generally, you may need any of the following:

  • Microchip certificate
  • Rabies vaccination certificate
  • Animal health certificate 
  • Import permit
  • Additional vaccination certificates
  • Rabies titer test results
  • Parasite treatment certificate
  • Sanitation form

Check the requirements for your specific route and airline well in advance, as some of these may take some time to obtain. This is particularly the case if your destination country requires a rabies titer test for your puppy. 


Choose your flight wisely

For your flight to be as stress-free as possible, look for direct flights with no transfers, and avoid flying during holiday periods when airlines and airports are busier than normal.

If you are flying with a puppy in the cargo, you’ll need to be mindful of the weather at your destination. For example, if you’re traveling somewhere warm, it’s best to fly in the early morning or late evening when the temperatures aren’t so high. Alternatively, in cooler climates, look for flights in the middle of the day, when temps are warmest.

It’s also important to keep in mind that airlines will not let your pet fly if temperatures get too hot or too cold at any destination along your journey. If this happens, you’ll have to make alternative plans.


Call to reserve your puppy a spot

Most airlines only allow a certain number of dogs to fly in-cabin, so it’s important to call way ahead of time to ensure there is room for your puppy and to book his or her spot.


How much does flying with a puppy cost?

This will depend on which airline you are flying with, whether they are flying in the cabin or cargo, the size and weight of your dog and where you are flying from and to. 

If you are flying in the cabin with your puppy, you’ll typically pay around $125 each way for your pet to fly in the cabin with you, though it varies by airline. The cost of shipping your pet in the cargo hold can vary more, depending on the combined weight of your dog and their crate. Additionally, the price will likely increase on longer journeys. Most airlines offer online calculators for getting an estimate.


Steps to follow at the airport

First of all, we recommend getting to the airport extra early so that you don’t feel rushed.

Flying with puppy in cabin

If your puppy is small and light enough to fly with you as a carry-on, you’ll go to the passenger check-in desk where an agent will check all of the paperwork for your puppy. Once you’ve got the all-clear and paid the pet carry-on fee, your next stop is security. Leave your puppy in it’s travel carrier while you sort out your shoes, jacket, bags, laptop and other items. Once you are ready, take your puppy out of it’s travel carrier and place the travel carrier on the conveyer belt with your other items. You may also want to remove your puppy’s collar or harness to avoid setting off the metal detector. Then you can carry your puppy through security while the kennel and your other items go through the X-ray machine. 

Flying with puppy in cargo

If your pet is flying cargo, most airlines require that you arrive at least three hours before the departure time for domestic flights and at least five hours before international flights. It is likely that you will need to take your puppy to a separate cargo drop-off location at the airport (this is where you’ll pick up your pet after the flight, too), so review your departure and arrival airport maps ahead of time.

We highly recommend attaching a current photo of your puppy to the carrier, as well as a small bag of food so airline personnel can feed it in case of a long delay. I’m sure you already have thousands of photos of your puppy, which makes it easier to identify them should the airline “misplace” your pet (it’s unlikely, but you’d rather be prepared than not). 

Once you arrive at your destination, grab your checked baggage and head straight to your airline’s specified cargo location. Generally, puppies and dogs are available to collect two hours after the flight’s arrival. Often, they must be picked up within four hours or they’ll be taken to a veterinarian or boarding facility.

Whether your pet flew in cargo or as a carry-on, take your dog for a walk right away to relieve itself. 


Traveling with puppies on trains

Can puppies board trains?

Although this will vary between countries, regions and train companies, generally puppies are allowed on trains as long as you follow rules and regulations.  

The following etiquette is generally applied when traveling by train with a puppy:

  • they are not permitted directly on the seats of the train;
  • they must remain restrained for the entire journey, and at the train station, with use of either a collar, harness and lead, or a travel carrier;
  • they do not bother other passengers;
  • they are well behaved and listen to commands; and
  • they are not aggressive.

Check the rules for your specific train carrier. 

Get your puppy used to train stations

Traveling with puppies on trains can be a scary experience for a puppy, for many reasons. Trains can be very fast and loud, quite overwhelming for a puppy who has never seen one before. This is why it is so important to get your puppy used to trains from an early age, specifically during the key socialisation period mentioned above.

From when my puppy was just 9 weeks old, I used to take him with me to my local train station, where we would sit on the platform for a half hour at a time. This way, when it came to boarding a train, he was already used to being around them so it wasn’t so scary. When it came to our first train ride, he took it in his stride and was excited about the adventure. 


Tips for traveling with puppies

Get your puppy used to confined spaces

Once you select the crate or carrier your puppy will be traveling in, it’s important to spend some time working on ensure he or she is comfortable in it. 

It’s best to start this as early as possible, as it can take time for puppies to acclimate to their new carriers. If your puppy is particularly anxious or nervous, you’ll want to allow yourself more time. 

The aim is to get your puppy used to spending time in it’s carrier for long periods of time, before your planned trip.

You’ll want to use lots of treats, and your puppy’s favourite toys and blanket. This is so that your puppy associates the carrier with positive things. 

When introducing your puppy to its new carrier, it’s important to let your puppy explore it on its own. Do not place your puppy in immediately, and do not close the door until they are comfortable sitting or lying down in it with the door open. Instead, place your puppy’s treats, toys and blankets inside and let them venture in by themselves. You want it to become a safe place. 

It’s also a good idea to do some practice runs in your puppy’s carrier. When your puppy is comfortable chilling in the carrier, take him out for a walk around the block, or to the cafe. The more practice runs you do, the less anxious your puppy should when you set off on your real trip. 


Get your puppy used to busy environments.

If it’s possible, take your puppy to a train station, or airport and sit with him or her in the public waiting area. This way, your puppy can get used to the sights, sounds and smells of an airport. 

However, I understand that this may not be possible. If it isn’t, you could always play your puppy an audio of a airplane taking off or train passing, and airport/train station noise.


Try to limit access to food and water before your trip.

A puppy that needs to go to the toilet is more likely to be distressed and anxious when traveling.

If possible, try to limit your puppy’s access to food and water leading up to your trip, or time your puppy’s meals to suit your trip.

Not only will it reduce the chances of them needing the toilet while traveling, some puppies may experience motion sickness if they eat just before a trip. 

This is particularly important if you are flying – Air Canada suggest feeding your dog four to six hours prior to departure, as a full stomach may cause discomfort during travel. 

If you are flying in the cabin with your puppy, and it look like he needs to go to the bathroom when on the flight, ask the attendant for advice on what to do. Make sure you pack some wipes and poop bags in case of any accidents. 

If you are traveling with puppies in a car, make pit stops every couple hours, at least.


Pack paperwork and supplies the night before.

When traveling with puppies, it’s best to get everything organised the night before your trip. This will make the whole journey much less stressful for you, which will in turn make your puppy calmer. From personal experience, I know how much of a handful puppies can be, so rather than rushing the morning of your trip, it’s much better to have it prepared beforehand. 

Supplies are key to a happy, healthy trip. Here’s what we suggest bringing:

  • Your dog’s food
  • Favourite treats
  • Collapsible food and water bowls.
  • An extra leash
  • Plastic bags and hand cleaners in case of accidents.
  • A safe toy or bone for chewing on during the flight
  • A blanket

When flying with a puppy, we recommend bringing their favourite toy and blanket. Both of these will provide them with a sense of security. A blanket also comes in handy as you can use it to cover your puppy’s carrier. 

The documents required to fly with a puppy will vary depending on which airline you are flying with, and where you are flying from and to. But generally, you may require any of the following:

  1. Microchip certificate
  2. Rabies vaccination certificate
  3. Animal health certificate 
  4. Import permit
  5. Additional vaccination certificates
  6. Rabies titer test results
  7. Parasite treatment certificate
  8. Sanitation form

This is just a guide on what is required, please check the requirements for your specific airline and destination country. 


Familiarise yourself with signs of distress.

Look out for the following signs of distress when traveling with puppies:

  • Crying
  • Shivering
  • Excessive licking
  • Excessive yawning
  • Pacing
  • A glazed over look
  • Continuous shaking as if they are wet

Exhaust your puppy before travel.

Try to tire your puppy a little by having a little play session just before your trip.

A sleepy puppy will be less prone to getting stressed when traveling as they will likely just sleep through it! Puppies need a lot of sleep!


Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I take my 8 week old puppy on a plane with me?

It is possible, however, it depends on a number of different things. Different airlines have different rules and regulations for flying with puppies, some require them to be just 8 weeks old, where others will only allow puppies older than 12 weeks of age. Additionally, it depends on where you are flying to and from, as the rules also vary depending on destination. You will need to check the requirements for your specific airline and route.

Can my puppy sit on my lap in the car?

Although it may seem like the safest place for a puppy, it isn't recommended. Firstly it is actually a legal requirement in many countries that dogs must be restrained when in a moving vehicle, either by a crate, dog seatbelt or travel harness. Furthermore, an unrestrained puppy is not only a danger to itself, as it could fly around the vehicle if the driver was to take a sharp turn or has to stop suddenly. They are also a potential distraction to the driver, and therefore a danger to other passengers and those on the road.

Can my puppy sit on the seat in a train?

Most train carriers disallow puppies and dogs from sitting on the seats of trains. However, it may be allowed if you place a blanket over the seat. From my own experience, I have had no issues with doing this.

Can my puppy fly in cabin with me?

This completely depends on which airline you are flying with, the route you are taking, and the size and weight of your puppy. Generally, puppies must be under 8kg (combined with carrier), to travel in the cabin, they must also fit in a small carrier that fits under the seat in front of you.


Bottom Line

So, traveling with puppies can be a positive experience for the both of you, as long as you take time to prepare beforehand. Traveling should actually be a key part to your puppy’s socialisation period, as it will result in a confident happy dog who enjoys the experience, if done correctly. 

It’s important to take your time and gradually exposing your puppy to new environments, such as train stations, airports and cars. Gradual is key as you don’t want to overwhelm your puppy and make them feel like they have something to fear. You want to take baby steps, listed above, and provide your puppy with plenty of praise and treats when they behave calmly when traveling. 

Additionally, it’s important to get your puppy used to spending time in a travel carrier, particularly if you are planning on flying with a puppy. Again, it’s important to introduce them to the carrier gradually, using lots of positive reinforcement. 

If you are planning on flying with a puppy, then it’s important to check the pet policies of the specific airline you are flying with, as each as different rules and regulations. The requirements will also vary depending on where you are traveling to and from, and the breed, size and weight of your puppy. 

Hope this has been helpful! Happy travels!

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