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Travel companions are best when they’re of the four-legged variety. To make sure that no one goes barking mad en route, our comprehensive guide to dog travel delves into the details around pet passports, what to pack and our favourite pooch-friendly hotels across the world.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that most trips are best shared with friends… or rather man’s best friend. Bringing your canine companion along for a holiday can be infinitely rewarding – and you won’t spend the duration of your break worrying about the quality of the kennels or whether your neighbour’s child has actually remembered that they were on dog-sitting duties.
Nevertheless, planes, trains, ships and cars weren’t designed with Fido in mind. Keeping your dog comfortable and healthy while adhering to various pet travel requirements can be a minefield (spoiler: there’s a bit of homework and a lot of planning involved, especially for international adventures). Our comprehensive guide helps alleviate some of the stress by diving into the nitty-gritty of pet passports, the low-down on doggy crates, what to pack and our favourite pooch-friendly hotels across the world.
Is your dog suitable for travel?
Travelling with your dog can be costly, time-consuming and potentially unsettling for your fur baby. Take stock of your dog’s temperament and health ahead of your trip. Are they fit to fly? Do they have any behavioural problems? If you have any doubts, a vet should be able to offer guidance.
Taking into account temperament, size and shedding, some of the best breeds for travelling include: Bichon Frise, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, French Bulldog, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Great Dane, Pomeranian, Shih Tzu, Maltese and Boston Terrier.
Consider the climate of your destination, as well as activities available: a Chihuahua likely won’t enjoy tottering across Iceland in winter, while it’s difficult to imagine a Siberian Husky pelting around the UAE’s malls at the height of summer.
Eligibility for international travel
Rules around pet travel vary between countries, modes of transport and even individual carriers and routes taken, so it’s essential to do your homework in advance of booking.
In Europe, as of December 2014, the Pet Travel Scheme allows dogs (as well as cats and ferrets) to move between the EU and listed countries with relative ease. Quarantine is not required, but dogs should be wormed and microchipped, have received any necessary vaccinations (always rabies, sometimes distemper, para-influenza, leptospirosis and more) a minimum of 21 days before travel. The full list of countries able to use this scheme can be found here. If entering (or re-entering) the UK from a country not covered by the Pet Travel Scheme, your dog will also need a blood test. Timings on these procedures are quite stringent and can take around four months, so get planning well ahead and book an appointment with your vet to get the right documents in place.
Note that some countries ban certain breeds which are deemed “violent”. These can include Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dogo Argentinos and Neapolitan Mastiffs. Check ahead. Australia, Japan, Fiji and Iceland have a reputation for being the most difficult countries to visit with a dog.
Obtaining a pet passport
UK pet passports can be obtained from your nearest official veterinarian, who will work with you to fill out the necessary paperwork. Your pet passport should contain details of ownership (including your signature), a description of your pet (including any distinguishing features), their microchip number, a vet-signed certificate of any treatments and vaccination along with details of the vet issuing the passport. Failure to meet the pet passport regulations may mean your pet is quarantined on arrival in a destination or on return to the UK, where quarantine can last for up to four months.
Note that some transport companies will require a “fitness to travel” certificate, so check ahead when booking. Your vet can issue this too.
Will Brexit affect my dog’s ability to travel?
Until 31 December 2020, the end of Britain’s transition period out of the EU, existing pet passports are still valid. What happens to your dog’s ability to travel after 1 January 2021 is yet to be decided. At present, Britain will be categorised as a “third country” in relation to the EU. It then has the option to become a “listed” or “unlisted” country. If it remains “unlisted”, Britain will be grouped with countries of higher rabies incidence – India, Sri Lanka, China – meaning that a blood test will be required more than three months ahead of travel and an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) will have to be obtained from a vet within 10 days of departure. There will also be designated Travellers’ Points of Entry into the EU. The rules are more relaxed if Britain becomes a listed country. For more details, and to check on the latest updates to the status of pet travel between the UK and the EU, check the UK government’s dedicated page.
Carriers, routes, charges, etc
Dogs’ journeys must be booked through an authorised carrier and route. The government’s web page details a comprehensive list of airlines, airports, sea and rail routes, and companies available from the UK.
Ahead of travel
To make life as stress-free as possible for your dog, try not to introduce them to their carrier or car seat on the day of travel. Leave crates out around your home for them to get accustomed to or take a few short car journeys if you have a long road trip planned. Practice makes perfect, after all.
Regardless of your mode of transport, it’s worth spending time playing or walking your dog ahead of your journey to spend any pent-up energy. To avoid accidents en route, make sure they’re not travelling on a full stomach (a small meal 3-4 hours in advance is advisable) and allow for a toilet break as close to departure as possible. (Pro tip: bicarbonate of soda is great for clearing up any urine patches, as well as getting rid of stains and smells.) Pet travel sedatives are available, but not recommended by many veterinarians; it’s better to instil a healthy travel routine and to use your voice and body language to prevent anyone from going… barking mad. Bringing their favourite blanket or toy often helps too.
Each airline (and often airports, too) has different rules regarding pet travel and these can change between domestic and international flights, so a little pre-emptive research is in order. For instance, Emirates does not allow pets to fly from and to (or even layover in) the United Arab Emirates between 1 May and 30 September, due to the high temperatures and humidity. Most airlines have dedicated pet sections on their website, which feature in-cabin and cargo requirements. Common asks include health certificates and airline-approved crates for travelling. Booking a direct flight is often the easiest (and greenest) option here, and causes the least amount of stress for your pet. This is cargo that you definitely don’t want to get lost in transit.
There are a lot of rules and red tape, so speaking to your airline/ airports is advisable to coordinate logistics. The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association has a list of companies dedicated to the transport of pets across the world should you need a little extra help.
Unlike other pets, assistance dogs are always allowed in aircraft cabins. They’ll have a chance to go to the toilet right before boarding – so fingers crossed no accidents at 30,000ft. Most airlines will ask you to supply a harness, so that your dog can be secured to a seatbelt during take-off, landing and when the sign shows. Depending on the carrier, they may be designated the floor space by an adjoining seat or allowed to lay across your feet in the bulkhead row.
Guide dogs still need to meet all the requirements of the Pet Travel Scheme if travelling in the EU. Alongside this, airlines may ask for evidence of their assistance dog training – so make sure to have any certification handy.
While many owners shy away from using a crate for travel by car, it’s often safer for both driver and dog. Crates reduce the risk of distraction, minimise the chance of your dog being flung around in the event of a crash and can often make them feel safer.
Should you choose not to use a crate, make sure their harness is attached to a seat belt. A hammock is a nice touch if you have room (and yes, we would be game for napping in one of these too). Though it looks romantic, don’t let them dangle their heads out the window, it’s really dangerous.
Where possible, don’t leave your dog in a parked car for any extended amount of time. Cracking open a window won’t cut it when the weather is really warm. Imagine your car is like an oven – your dog will soon get dehydrated.
Train, bus and boat
Surprise, surprise – this is another instance where owners will have to do their homework as regulations and amenities vary wildly between modes of transport and service providers. Eurostar, for instance, only allows guide or assistance dogs, while the Eurotunnel pampers pooches with dedicated exercise areas complete with artificial grass and complimentary poop bags.
What to pack
Bring collars, coats (hot or cold, depending on the destination), leads, water and food bowls, treats, toys, beds, travel documents (bring copies as some officials won’t give them back), any medication and your veterinarian’s contact information. Preventative parasite treatments are recommended for dogs travelling abroad – if you’re away for a long period of time, you may need to pack a booster treatment too. It’s recommended to keep your pooch’s diet as consistent as possible to reduce the chance of stress and upset tummies, so take that into account when stocking up on dry/canned/ fresh food – or check what is available at your destination.
Hot tip: if your dog is of the shedding variety, pack a squeegee or a lint roller. They’re a good bet for getting that oh-so lovely film of hair off clothes, car seats, hotel-room carpets and the like.
A crate should be large enough for your pet to sit, stand or turn around with ease. Those with leak-proof bases covered in an absorbent material are often the best. In the vehicle, it should be secured so as not to slip around.
Calm, positive vibes make for happy dogs and happy journeys. The goal is not to shove them into the crate – this isn’t a portable prison – but to let your dog wander in themselves. If possible, leave the crate out a few days ahead of travel so they have time to get used to the space; some toys and a familiar blanket help things along too.
If your dog is going in the hold, it’s a good idea to freeze a small bowl of water; it won’t spill during loading time and should have melted by the time your dog gets thirsty. It may sound like a no-brainer, but do make sure to attach your pet’s I.D. along with a “LIVE ANIMAL” label to the crate to avoid any mishaps.
Gadgets and apps have been designed to make your pet’s journey as smooth as possible and put your mind at rest. Download apps such as VetFinder or PetCoach for any health-related mishaps while iKibble lets you know whether a human food will also be fine for your four-legged friend – handy if your holiday supply runs out. BringFido has a comprehensive database of pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, activities, events and more, supplemented by owners’ reviews. Frequent travellers may wish to invest in GPS tracking devices.
Pet-friendly hotels are plentiful, though do check your accommodation in advance or make hosts aware that your companion is of the furry variety – some hotels also have size restrictions. Some allow four-legged guests to stay pro-bon(e)o; others charge a small fee.
Across Europe, pet-friendly hotels are abundant in Poland, Spain, Croatia, Russia and especially Italy, where 18,176 hotels allow guests to bring their canine companions. In the UK, mutts are welcome at slightly more than 2,500 hotels, 169 of which are five star – ideal for those with discerning doggos.
Our favourite dog-friendly hotels
Rosewood London UK
Good boys get the five-star treatment at the Rosewood, where resident dog Pearl welcomes her canine pals. Expect treats, beds and insider intel on local dog-friendly hangouts.
- 020 7781 8888
- Go to Website
The Old No 77 Hotel and Chandlery New Orleans, US
Set in the vibrant Arts District, this coffee-warehouse-turned-hotel is a haven for creative types and dog lovers. Pups are kept in (spiritual) check thanks to an on-site animal psychic and holistic dog massage.
- +1 504 527 5271
- Go to Website
Artist Residence Oxfordshire, UK
This bohemian pub with art-filled rooms pampers your pooch with retro wicker dog beds and Lily’s Kitchen treats. The Oxfordshire countryside is threaded with walking trails – ask for a list of the best at reception. Like this? Try out the Artist Residence properties in Cornwall and Brighton.
- 01993 656220
- Go to Website
Villa Oddi, Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco Tuscany, Italy
This restored ancient farmhouse charms with vaulted ceilings, panoramas across the Val d’Orcia and a welcoming attitude to dogs. From here, walk your pooch along the cypress-lined road to the restored village of Borgo.
- +39 0577 191 3001
- Go to Website
Cliveden House Berkshire, UK
This sprawling 17th-century mansion is a favourite among British monarchs and… mutts. Chef André Garrett has curated a special canine menu so your dog can dine like royalty.
- 01628 668561
- Go to Website
Eden Roc at Cap Cana Dominican Republic
Thanks to its VIP (Very Important Pet) programme, Eden Roc has a dedicated pets’ room filled with fresh food, water, beds and treats, and also offers walking services.
- +1 809 469 7469
- Go to Website
The Surrey New York, US
This Upper East Side hotel benefits from a “Posh Pets” programme which treats four-legged visitors to monogrammed beds, gourmet beef bourguignon bites and walkies in some of New York’s finest pet playgrounds.
- +1 212 288 3700
- Go to Website
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