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Tips for Safe Travel with Dogs

Taking your dog on holidays with you creates those special memories and also alleviates the worry of not knowing how he will be coping whilst you’re on the road. By planning your travels, you will ensure your next vacation is a truly relaxing time for you and your pooch. 

#1. CHECKLIST BEFORE YOUR DEPARTURE

Before you hit the road, your dog should be microchipped and also wear a collar and current ID Tag in case he runs loose far from home. If you're unsure where your pet is registered or if the details are up-to-date, please read our story on "National Pet ID Month".

Carla Francis, author of the Travelling with Pets Guidebook, recommends that "what your pet needs at home, he or she will likely need on the road. Always plan ahead, and invest in some pet rescue remedy for nervous travellers." Bringing along his normal food (to avoid upsetting your dog’s stomach) as well as his regular bedding/blanket and soft toys will help him settle once you arrive at your destination.

If you're heading to North Queensland, the Northern Territory, the Northwestern part of Australia or even the North Coast of NSW, these warmer humid climates pose a higher risk of parasites for your pets. Ensure your dogs are up-to-date on their heartworming, allworming, flea and tick prevention and start treating your dog at least two weeks prior to your departure. 

You may also want to pack some flea and mosquito repellent for both your dogs and yourself!

For those emergency situations (think heatstroke, snake bite during a bushwalk etc.) that may occur whilst you're away from your local vet and require you to act quickly, we recommend you always take with you a Pet First Aid Kit or a Pet Emergency Kit.

#2. DRIVING WITH YOUR DOG

Before taking a long trip by car, it is helpful if you can take your pet for short rides in its carrier so that it becomes accustomed to being confined. Some pets have only been in their carriers during trips to the veterinarian, so they associate the carrier and car ride with an unpleasant experience. Enjoyable destinations such as a dog park can help your pet feel better about trips in the car.


A dog lapping up the air with its head out the window may look cute, but the habit is highly unsafe.

The Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) advises that police can fine a driver and issue demerit points if an animal is causing the driver to be not in full control of the vehicle, or if they are driving with a dog on their lap. 

The penalties are three demerit points and $425 (more in a school zone): not a great way to start your holidays...

RSPCA statistics reveal that a staggering 5000 dogs each year are injured or killed in Australia as a result of falling from a moving vehicle. An unrestrained pet can cost you more than you think even if you're just driving around the corner. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 requires a dog be restrained on the back of a moving vehicle or enclosed in such a way as to prevent the dog falling from the vehicle. The maximum penalty is $5,500 or 6 months in jail.

One common tip for longer trips is to crate your dog (the crate should be large enough for him to turn around and lie down in) whilst driving to prevent him from becoming a projectile if you have to stop fast. If you don’t have a crate, a quality harness fastened to a seat safety belt is a great alternative. 

Restraints are also available for dogs that travel on the back of a ute or work truck. Ensure that the restraint is long enough so your dog can stand, lie down and move about but not long enough for the dog to reach the sides of the tray. 

Restraints for dogs on utes must be attached by a swivel to an anchor point against the vehicle cabin. The other end of the chain should be fastened to your dog’s collar or harness by another swivel.


Dogs are prone to motion sickness so don’t feed them a lot before the trip or whilst driving. Plan on making frequent stops (at least every 2 hours) allowing the opportunity for a potty break and the chance to burn off some pent-up energy. You can feed a small snack, preferably high in protein as well as provide some fresh water. 

Of course, never leave your dog in a parked car even with the windows cracked open, especially on a hot day! Not only is he at serious risk of heatstroke but 6 minutes in a hot car is enough to have fatal consequences.

Also never open a car door or window whilst your dog is unrestrained.  

#3. TAKING YOUR DOG ON A PLANE

The only time a dog (or any animal) should be placed on a plane is if you’re relocating permanently and all other options are unavailable.

"Please ask your kid to stop kicking my seat?"
You will need to check with your airline for their specific rules regarding pet travel however only service dogs/assistance dogs are allowed to be carried into the passenger cabin of an aircraft.

Your chosen provider will likely require an up-to-date health certificate which your vet can deliver.

To avoid travel sickness, it is advised that you don’t feed your pet at least 6 hours before their travel time. Sedation is best avoided as the latest studies show it causes more trouble than it is worth. On longer journeys it can cause your pooch to become dehydrated and makes it harder to assess his health on arrival. 

The first rule to follow is that you stay calm: dogs can sense stress in humans and it makes them uneasy. 

#4. GO ON A LONG WALK AT YOUR DESTINATION


A freshly exercised dog will be in a more relaxed state in an unfamiliar environment. 

Your dog may growl or bark at strangers and it is perfectly natural for your dog to be a little nervous around new people. This isn’t because your dog is aggressive but because he’s a little freaked out and needs reassurance that everything’s under control. 

If you pull him away from the new person, you’re indicating that there is something wrong and he’ll freak out even more. Again, be calm and assertive and show your dog that you’ve got it all under control.

#5. FINDING PET-FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATION WITH YOUR DOG

Have you researched your chosen accommodation and will they accept your pet(s)? 
To plan your next trip in Australia, you can visit a number of travel advisory websites such as Holidaying with Dogs or PetStayAdvisor.

Some places may market themselves as pet-friendly however they will put a restriction on the number and/or size of the dogs allowed to stay with you. Others will go the extra mile and provide custom-built facilities like a secure dog run and suggest parks, hikes and other dog-friendly activities in their local area.
We recommend to let your pets have a toilet break prior to taking them indoors. Enter your accommodation first and get your dog to stay where he is. Don’t let him wander around as it is important that your scent is everywhere before the dog settles in. Help show that dogs make good guests by being one yourself. 

If your dog is allowed on furniture, it is still a good idea to put their blanket on top, as this collects any shed hair and muddy paw prints.

Keep your dog on a leash in public places and if he barks a lot, don’t leave him alone in a room (if you must leave your dog unattended, let someone know for safety reasons). 

#6. WATER SAFETY
Australian-Cattle-Dog-Ruffwear-K9-Float-Coat
Ruffwear K9 Float Coat - dog life jacket

In Australia, holidays are often taken on or around the ocean. If you take your dog on a boat or a kayak, don’t forget to put a flotation vest or a watercollar on your dog. 

Although most dogs are natural swimmers, they can tire easily and may drown. Flotation vests are especially important for dogs who are prone to seizures and other medical problems, or those who are new to swimming and boating. 

Dogs can also have difficulties with slipping on the smooth inside surfaces of boats. If you plan to have your dog in the boat often and your dog has traction issues, you can purchase some dog boots to help them out. They are non-marking on your lovely expensive boat surface.

Travelling with a pet? A dog, cat, birds – or even a horse – and trying to find the best places to stay on the way? If you’re travelling anywhere between Cairns and Melbourne then this is an essential guide to take along with you. 

Both you and your best friend deserve a break, so grab yourself a copy of Travelling with Pets on Australia’s East Coast and choose from some of the best places to visit.

RRP: $29.99 from www.booktopia.com.au

Unsure what you should pack for your furry friend on your trip? You will find some suggestions in our recent story on "Dog Travel Accessories - Summer 2016".   

Updated September 2017
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