Small Dog Travel Guide: Tips for Stress-Free Trips

Tips for traveling with your Coton de Tulear
or any  small dogs

This small dog travel guide is essential to ensure a safe, fun, and memorable trip with your Coton (or any dog).

Coton de Tulear car travelTake me with you

Traveling with your dog can be a great experience if you prepare well. Today there’s really no reason taking your dog on a trip shouldn’t be fun and easy.

Traveling with a small dog has some advantages. Obviously, they're much easier to transport. You can bring a small dog virtually anywhere these days.

Just be careful to take some safety precautions with your small dog when you travel. Don't let him roam freely in a moving car, and make sure you have suitable identification on your dog in case you're separated for any reason (microchips and ID tags).

There are more and more dog-friendly hotels and destinations, more information resources, and lots of travel accessories to help make the trip comfortable for you and your small pets.

coton de tulear with suitcasecoton de tulear puppy in suitcase

Understanding Small Dog Travel

Traveling with your small dog can be a fun experience for both you and your dog. It can help boost your dog's social skills, build confidence, and introduce them to new and exciting adventures.

But, it's important to remember that not all dogs enjoy traveling; some may find it stressful or overwhelming.

So, before you start packing the doggy bag, take a minute to really think about whether your dog is cut out for the trip. If they're the anxious type or get stressed easily, it might be kinder to let them enjoy the comforts of home or find other travel solutions.

In this small dog travel guide, I'll cover everything you need to know about traveling with your dog, from preparing them for the trip to tips on how to keep your dog safe and comfortable during the journey, as well as suggestions for fun things you can do together once you reach your final destination. With this guide, you can relax and enjoy your trip.

The most important thing is to be prepared. Here’s a small dog travel guide checklist to make travel a breeze. 


Dog Travel Checklist

Before your trip:

  • Health Check: Visit your vet for a general check-up, make sure your dog is up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations, and get a health certificate if required.
  • Medications and First Aid: Bring any regular medication your dog takes, plus a basic pet first aid kit.
  • Legal Requirements: Check the government regulations of your destination and any countries or states you're passing through regarding pet travel. This might include specific vaccinations, microchipping, or even quarantines.
  • Pet-Friendly Accommodation: Don't forget to double-check if your chosen hotel or accommodation allows dogs. They may have their own set of house rules for pets, so make sure you're up to speed on those too!
  • Crate Training: If you plan on using a dog crate, ensure your pup is comfortable and familiar with it - BEFORE your trip.

Packing List:

Being prepared is the most important thing you can do for a happy journey. Start preparing well in advance of your trip and before you leave home, make sure all vaccinations are up to date, all prescriptions  are filled, and identification is arranged and up to date. You should make a list of all the things you need to bring for your dog such as:

  • Dog food and treats - Pack a little bit extra in case of delays
  • Dog food and water bowl
  • All medications your dog takes
  • Collar and leash
  • Travel bed or crate - This provides a safe, familiar environment for your dog during travel. Ensure crates are well-ventilated and big enough for your dog to have enough room to stand, sit, lie down, and turn around in a natural position. 
  • Travel carrier (make sure you have one of the airline-approved pet carriers if going by air.) The perfect dog carrier won’t do you any good if it’s not allowed by your airline.
  • Favorite Toys
  • First aid kit
  • Car safety items (seat belt, harness, seat cover, or carrier)
  • Comfort items like familiar blankets and bedding
  • Sunscreen
  • Grooming items (shampoo, brushes, combs, detanglers) for those longer trips
  • Waste bags
  • Pet Wipes for easy cleanup.
  • Pieces of identification - This includes your dog's vaccination records, any required health certificates, your name, home address,  telephone number, and a photo of your dog in case they get lost.
  • Car organizer to access essentials during trip

During your trip

  • Take Regular Breaks: Plan for rest stops every few hours so your dog can stretch, exercise, and go potty.
  • Monitor Food and Water Intake: Changes in diet and overfeeding can lead to digestive problems. Try to stick to your dog's regular feeding schedule and don't feed them too much before travel to avoid motion sickness.

You can download this checklist for free by clicking the button below!

Click to download

So, you've arrived at your destination, now what? 

coton de tulear on a hike

10 Fun Things to Do with Your Dog on Vacation

  1. Hiking: Many dogs love exploring new environments, and hiking can be an excellent way for both of you to get some exercise and fresh air. Nothing makes my dog happier than new places to sniff! Just make sure the trail is pet-friendly.
  2. Beach Day: If your dog enjoys water, spending a day at a dog-friendly beach can be a lot of fun. They can play in the water, run on the sand, and enjoy the sun.
  3. Exploring a New City: Take a walk around a new city and explore dog-friendly parks, outdoor cafes, and even stores. This can be an excellent way for your dog to experience new sights, smells, and sounds. 
  4. Visit Dog Parks: Local dog parks can be a great way for your dog to burn off energy, play, and socialize with other dogs. Always supervise!! And know your dog - not all dogs enjoy facing a bunch of strange dogs all in one place.
  5. Camping: If your dog likes the outdoors, camping can be an enjoyable experience. 
  6. Canoeing/Kayaking: If your dog is comfortable around water, they might enjoy joining you for a canoe or kayak trip. Make sure your dog wears a life vest for safety.
  7. Picnics: Pack a picnic and head out to a local park. Food and nature - what could be better?
  8. Photography: Use your trip as an opportunity to take some great photos of your dog. Posing by landmarks or during fun activities is a great way to preserve your memories.
  9. Dog-Friendly Attractions: Research ahead to find dog-friendly attractions, like gardens, trails, and even some museums or tours.
  10. Outdoor Markets or Festivals: These can be great places to walk around with your dog. They can meet new people, sniff out the various smells, and experience a fun atmosphere.

Coton de Tulear at the beach

Remember, it's important to consider your dog's comfort and safety during these activities. Always keep them on a leash in unfamiliar places, provide plenty of water and shade, and never leave them alone in a car. Also, be respectful of rules regarding dogs in public places.

Traveling with small dogs can be a great experience, but it can also come with challenges if not properly planned and managed. 

Here are some common mistakes people make when traveling with their dogs:

  • Insufficient Preparation: Before heading out on a trip, it's essential to check whether your destination is pet-friendly, as not all hotels, restaurants, or attractions allow dogs. Also, prepare for your dog’s comfort during the trip.
  • Overlooking Health Concerns: Depending on where you're traveling, your pet might need specific vaccinations. Also, if your pet is prone to motion sickness, consult your vet about potential remedies. Remember to pack any regular medication your dog takes.
  • Ignoring Legal Requirements: Different countries or states have different rules regarding pet travel. Some require vaccinations, health certificates, or even quarantines. Not researching and following these can lead to significant problems.
  • Skipping Crate Training: Crates provide a safe and familiar environment for dogs during travel. If your pup is not used to being in a crate, he might get anxious, which can cause problems, particularly on long trips. Make sure to introduce crate training before you travel.
  • Underestimating the Importance of Identification: If your dog gets lost, having a microchip and collar with your contact information can make the difference between a quick reunion or a long, stressful search.
  • Forgetting to Pack Essentials: Bring enough food, water, treats, poop bags, and familiar toys or blankets to keep your dog comfortable and happy. 
  • Not Planning for Breaks: Dogs need regular breaks to stretch, move around, and relieve themselves. Especially on long trips, plan to stop every few hours.
  • Neglecting Exercise: A tired dog is often a well-behaved dog. Before a long car ride or flight, make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. This can help them relax and rest during the trip.
  • Ignoring your Dog's Comfort: The travel environment can be stressful for dogs. Make sure your dog has enough space to move and access water and isn't exposed to extreme temperatures.
  • Assuming All Dogs are Good Travelers: Just like people, some dogs may not enjoy traveling. If your dog gets very anxious or stressed, leaving them at home with a pet sitter or in a trusted kennel might be kinder.

Remember, every dog is unique, so what works for one might not work for another. It's important to know your dog's individual needs and plan your trip accordingly.

Coton de Tulear in car with head out the window


What are some tips on leaving your dog in a hotel room while on vacation?

  • Make sure the hotel allows pets to be left alone in the room and that your dog is comfortable being left alone.
  • Bring familiar items from home, such as your dog's bed, toys, and a blanket with your scent, to help your dog feel more comfortable.
  • Consider using a crate or playpen to keep your dog contained and safe while you are out.
  • Leave a note for housekeeping and front desk staff indicating that your dog is in the room and when you expect to return.
  • Provide plenty of food, water, and toys to keep your dog occupied.
  • Consider using a pet camera or monitoring system to check on your dog while you are out.

Can my dog stay with me on the plane?

This depends on the airline's policy. Many major airlines allow small dogs in carriers to remain with their owners in the main cabin if the carry-on fits in the seat in front of you. Check with your airline for policies and size restrictions.

How often should I stop for breaks on a road trip?

Generally, it's a good idea to stop every 2-3 hours to let your dog stretch, relieve themselves, and have a drink of water.

What should I do if my dog gets anxious when traveling?

Solutions might include calming supplements, anxiety wraps, or discussing medication options with your vet. 

Check out this article for a comprehensive list of ways to calm an anxious dog.

How do I manage feeding and bathroom breaks during travel?

It's usually best to feed your dog a light meal a few hours before travel to reduce the risk of motion sickness. During the trip, stick to your dog's regular feeding and bathroom schedule as much as possible.

How do you travel with service dogs?

Here are some general tips on traveling with a service animal:

  • It’s a good idea to check with your airline, train, or bus company beforehand to confirm their service animal policies.
  • Bring any necessary documentation, such as a doctor's note or a service animal certification, and always keep it with you.
  • Make sure your service animal is well-behaved and trained to behave appropriately in public settings.
  • Consider using a harness or vest that identifies your animal as a service animal.
  • Be prepared for unexpected situations, such as long flight delays or cancellations, and have a plan for your service animal's care.

It is important to note that service animals are allowed to accompany their owners in most public places, including transportation and lodging accommodations, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, it is still important to confirm policies and make any necessary arrangements ahead of time to ensure a smooth and comfortable travel experience for both you and your service animal.

What about emotional support dogs - are they allowed on an international flight? What about a domestic flight?

Although most airlines no longer allow emotional support dogs, you can find a list of those that do on this website.

Small Dog Travel Guide Resources

Travel Problem Solvers: Find the most popular travel solutions recommended by our site visitors. Thousands of dog-friendly listings of hotels, resorts, hotels and campground. Resource to find pet-friendly accommodations, airline policies, import rules, and forms required for international travel. Another great resource for planning pet-friendly travel – find lodging and activities by state. You will find a comprehensive list of dog friendly businesses wherever your destination may be.

Dog Boarding and Kennels vs Local Pet Sitters: You can't always travel with your pets so it is so important to find the best care for them while you're away. Make sure you know what to look for when deciding on pet care when you can't be with them.

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