5 tips for traveling with a special needs dog

If you’re planning on traveling with a special needs dog, don’t be hasty! There are a number of things to consider.

Traveling with a dog can be such an enjoyable experience. But it’s important to ensure your itinerary is dog-friendly – especially if your pup has special needs! Here’s a few tips to help you be as prepared as possible.

1. Speak with your veterinarian first

It’s always a good idea to talk with your veterinarian prior to scheduling a vacation. He or she may want to do an assessment of your dog’s physical abilities in order to best advise you on which activities he should or shouldn’t attempt. Your vet may also suggest some natural supplements to soothe any minor aches, pains and stresses your dog encounters along the way.

2. Pack the right travel gear for your dog’s needs

Think about the trip you’re planning and what your dog needs to be comfortable and happy. If he has mobility issues, maybe a dog stroller or a dog backpack is in order. Both of these options can give your dog a rest without hindering your mobility. Dog strollers can hold large breeds, and a sturdy dog backpack can hold a dog up to 40 pounds. Dog boots should also be packed into your dog’s suitcase depending on the terrain you’re planning to traverse.

3. Choose your destination wisely

Once again, put yourself in your dog’s paws. What does he enjoy to do, and what can his body take with ease? Remember, this is supposed to be a fun trip with your special needs dog, not an extreme sport. Maybe your furry friend would appreciate a leisurely stroll along the beach or a casual afternoon uptown where he can experience new sights and smells.

4. Plan for downtime

Even if your road trip seems low key, being away from home and adjusting to a new routine can be taxing on any dog, let alone one with special needs. Plan quiet time at your lodgings to relax in between activities.

5. Go with the flow

When traveling with a special needs dog, it’s important to be flexible. Always pay attention to your dog’s emotions and well-being, and be prepared to change your plans when needed. If he doesn’t enjoy a certain activity, change gears and look for something else the two of you can enjoy instead. If that means heading back to your hotel to chill out all weekend, then do that!

Whenever we decide to take our dogs on vacation, it’s a decision that should be well-thought out. If you’re not able to accommodate his needs or have the flexibility to change your sightseeing goals, it may be best to leave Fido at home. But if you’re prepared to accommodate his needs, traveling with your special needs dog is an amazing way to create beautiful memories.


Tonya Wilhelm is a dog training and cat care specialist who has traveled the US promoting positive ways of preventing and managing behavior issues with a holistic approach. Named one of the top ten dog trainers in the US, she has helped thousands build happy relationships with their dogs with humane, positive training methods. She wrote Proactive Puppy Care, and other books. Tonya offers group and private dog training classes, provides training and behavior services via phone and online, and does workshops at pet expos (raisingyourpetsnaturally.com).