Tips for traveling safely with your dog

If you’re traveling with your dog, help ensure his health and safety by being aware of some often overlooked hazards that could spell trouble.

You’ve made all the necessary arrangements for traveling with your dog. You have a canine-friendly place to stay, you’ve packed his food, bedding, leash and veterinary records, and his ID info is all up to date. That covers it, right? Not quite. Depending on your destination, some hidden hazards may lie in wait for your canine companion. It’s a wise idea to be aware of these possible dangers, so you can avert any accidents or illnesses. Cover all the bases for a safe and happy trip by looking over this checklist of potential travel-related risks.

  • It’s nice to find a chocolate on your hotel pillow when you check in, but if your dog gets hold of it first, it could have disastrous consequences. Even pet-friendly accommodations may not know that chocolate is toxic to dogs. As soon as you enter your room, check the pillow for chocolate — and eat it before your dog does!
  • Other hazardous edibles include complimentary packets of tea and coffee. It’s been my experience that these are often located right next to the courtesy dog treats, so a canine trying to gain access to those yummy biscuits could potentially ingest the tea or coffee too – and that can be harmful.
  • Keep in mind that some accommodations may use roach motels and mouse traps placed underneath furniture, behind bathroom cabinets, and beside refrigerators. Look underneath all furniture upon your arrival to see if there are any traps that might be accessible to your dog. I always request that these traps be removed prior to my visit, but it’s wise to double check upon your arrival.
  • While you’re looking under the furniture, also keep an eye out for any pills that a previous guest may have accidentally dropped.
  • Though housekeeping will be aware of which rooms in the facility are designated for pets, all it takes is for a door to open unexpectedly and your dog could get out. Do Not Disturb signs are usually available at the hotel. If you happen to have a service dog, you can also purchase signs online to bring with you when you’re traveling, such as Service Dog Inside Room – Do Not Disturb (these are available through Amazon). It’s also a good idea to leave your cell phone number with hotel management in case of a problem if you are temporarily away while your dog is in the room.
  • Regardless of where and when you vacation, the unfamiliar sounds from the heating or air conditioning systems could make your dog anxious, resulting in an attempt to escape his crate, or worse, the hotel room. The same could be true of noises from other sources, such as elevators, ice machines, voices in the corridor, or nearby highways or airports. Any sounds your dog isn’t used to can be overwhelming if he’s prone to nervousness; if your canine tends to be noise-sensitive, request a quieter area of the hotel further away from main traffic areas.

Cabin considerations for canines

Planning a rustic cabin getaway? What could be more enjoyable for your dog than exploring the great outdoors with you? Just be sure to check out the area for any possible hazards first.

  • Many pet-friendly rental cabins are fenced in, but it’s a good idea to walk the outside area with your dog to determine if there are any dangers that aren’t immediately visible. Depending on the terrain, fencing may not connect tightly enough in some spots, leaving gaps that might be big enough for your dog to slip through. And if you’re surrounded by forest, finding him again could be challenging. Be sure your dog wears a collar with identification; a microchip is also helpful if he happens to escape.
  • Be aware of any streams or rivers near your cabin. If the water is deep or swift-moving, a dog can slip in and drown very quickly. Don’t leave him unattended, and keep him away from moving water if levels are high.
  • Hollow logs and tree stumps are ideal for exploring, but these are also good hibernation places for wildlife, some of which could cause life-threatening problems for your dog.

“We’ve had dogs find scorpions while in these woods,” says Jerri Nowlen, who overseas cabin rentals in Blue Ridge, Georgia. “And we had one particularly smart doggie figure out how to unlatch the fenced-in gate. It’s best to travel with your dog’s personality in mind, bring a pet first aid kit, and keep local emergency vet numbers handy, just in case.”

It’s fun to include your dog in your travels — and nowadays, more and more accommodations are opening their doors to pets. But it’s always best to approach these new environments from your dog’s perspective, so you can uncover any hidden or overlooked dangers. Taking a few minutes to carefully survey the location may just save your vacation, and your best friend!


Anabelle Lee Macri lives in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor's degree in journalism, and is a freelance writer.