November 25, 2021
Traveling with a dog: nobody will tell you these 3 things
I traveled a lot with my jack russell terrier, from Ireland to South America and then back to Europe, visiting France, Italy, Greece, Belgium… I really believe that a dog is a human’s best friend, so it was natural for me to plan my travels with it. But after so many experiences, I can really tell a couple of things: the first one is that traveling with a dog is an incredibly enriching experience. It allows you to meet other pet lovers, easily start meaningful conversations and even start long-lasting friendships. On the other hand, it is really challenging to include a dog in your travel plans. The web is filled with guidelines for traveling with a dog, yet nobody will tell you these things explicitly. Well, I think that it is way better to have the full picture before starting such a wonderful adventure. In the end, difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.
1. It takes time to organise a journey with your furry friend. A lot. Even when you think you know what to do, and have already traveled dozens of times with your pet, there is always a chance to discover – last minute – a new requirement to fulfill before boarding. In order to avoid this, check all the regulations. For example, if you are traveling from A to B by train inside the same country, you can be quite sure to have all the information you need in the railway’s website.
Inevitably, it is harder and fuzzier to find out every regulation if you are traveling from one country to another, especially from a EU country to a non-EU country. In this case, you’ll have to check many different websites and, in the end, you may want to call the airport, the railway company or start a thread in a dedicated Facebook page. There are plenty of them, and the experience of other dog owners can be the ultimate source of guidelines.
2. Pet-friendly carriers may not be that friendly. Airlines accepting dogs in the cabin, for example, may not have a dedicated policy for dogs waiting to be boarded. Or they can ask you to fly long haul with the kennel just under your legs, which basically makes you travel uncomfortably for 6+ hours. But be prepared also for some incredibly loving acts from ground staff or the crew: they may allow you to go outside, accompanied, in a safe area, where your dog can drop off and breathe some fresh air. Or they can ask other passengers to switch seats so that you can have some extra space and your dog can be placed in a seat next to you (but always in a kennel).
3. Food and water are crucial. I found out that some strategies can be winning if applied a couple of weeks before the trip itself. I used to feed my dog with Bellfor wet food but this is incredibly uncomfortable when traveling. I decided to switch to dry dog food days before the departure so that my dog could get familiar with it. During a very long trip, this trick was revealed as the best thing I could do to ease the overall experience. My jack russell terrier was extremely happy to have his favourite food and it was not that messy inside the kennel after I fed him. Of course, quality has the utmost importance, at home or in a new, exotic place: always check if your favourite dog food is sold in the town or country you are traveling to. Otherwise, consider bringing an extra bag.