Pet Travel. Made Easy.

The Golden Rules of Pet Travel

Today we have a guest post from Izzy Woods, a freelance writer and travel blogger. She’s set aside her pride to share some lessons she learned the hard way while traveling with her dog, Banjo.

Regular readers of Take Paws will by now be wholly familiar with all the basics of traveling with their dog. The advice may appear so obvious to the caring pet owner as to seem common sense, right? Wrong! I would like to recount the story of my disastrous journey to Lincolnshire with my dog Banjo. You might begin to see why should be your first stop if you have never traveled with your pet before.

The Trip

I needed to visit Lincolnshire for five days. I was seeing friends and family and they all wanted to see Banjo – my border terrier puppy. Banjo was less than a year old and extremely lively. I had a few doubts, but put them aside. I loved the idea of jumping in my car, my best pal at my side, and heading off, spontaneous and carefree. No planning needed, we were partners in crime.


Rule One

We set off early, at the crack of dawn in fact. I wanted to get going, and I love early morning starts. Banjo looked a bit affronted, and bleary eyed, but he hopped into the front seat next to me and did his best to look excited. We hit the motorway as the sun rose. This was the life. The rolling hills, the freedom. And then, without warning, an accident ahead. A suddenly blinking of brake-lights. I jerked into full alert state and slammed on my brakes. Banjo went hurtling forward, banging his nose on the dashboard and plopping on the floor with a yelp.

Rule One: Put your dog in the back seat and use a dog seat belt or harness to keep them safe. If you have room for a traveling crate in the boot, use it.

Rule Two

Something, other than a sore nose, was wrong with Banjo. Could it be travel sickness. Dogs don’t get that, do they? He looked mopey and sad three hours in to the journey. I got more and more worried. By four hours in he looked really miserable. I stopped at the next service station and grabbed a coffee and a sandwich. Banjo’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. I wandered round to the boot and got his dog bowl out. He nearly mugged me. He was absolutely starving and desperate for a drink. I had forgotten that he normally has a bit of breakfast with me, and a good drink after his night’s sleep. I had skipped breakfast in my eagerness to get on the road, and completely forgotten about Banjo.

Rule Two: Keep your dog on their regular feeding schedule. Make sure they have had some water and make regular stops so that they can have a drink as you go.

Rule Three

When Banjo had eaten and had a good drink he instantly revived and decided he wanted to go for a run. We had hours of journey left, so I bundled him back into the car. Banjo decided that in the absence of a seat belt harness and a walk he would take some exercise inside the car, using the seats as an improvised gym. He began jumping from the front seat to the back, over and over, distracting me and putting both of us at risk. I pulled in to the next service station and let him run around for half an hour. I tied his lead to the seat belt in the back seat. I found his treat puzzle toy, which had food inside he had to work at to retrieve. I hoped this would keep him quiet.

Rule Three: Make sure you give your dog a good run before you set off. It is hard for them to settle down if they are full of energy. Make sure you have a toy for them to play with in the car, and again, make sure they are secured. Loose dogs can cause accidents.

Rule Four

The journey proceeded without further drama. We neared our first stop. I had fallen in love with the hotel from the pictures on the Internet. It was an old country house, with fields all around where Banjo could run. I had thought of him a bit, you see. We crunched up the drive and were greeted by the owners. They were delighted to see me. And then they saw Banjo. “We don’t allow pets I am afraid.” I had one of those moments where you feel so utterly stupid that you want the ground to swallow you up.

Rule Four: Make sure the hotel you are booking into allows pets. Don’t assume that you will be allowed to keep your dog in your room with you and walk it in the grounds. Consult a site that lists dog-friendly hotels.

Lessons Learned

This article has been toe-curlingly embarrassing to write, but I would hate anyone else traveling with their dog to make the same mistakes I did. I can see now that I had been a dreadful doggy parent, and failed to think of my dog as another passenger with needs greater than my own. I didn’t mean to cause Banjo suffering, but by not planning ahead and looking for advice, I did. There were plenty more disasters along the way, but they will have to wait for now. Suffice it to say I will never forget these four golden rules about traveling with my dog.

Izzy Woods is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for animals. Banjo goes with her on as many adventures as possible, accompanying her on Tripbase flights.

We’ve all learned a pet travel lesson the hard way … what experiences are you willing to share?

  • Pamela says:

    Everyone has to learn these things the first time. The takeaway is that traveling with a dog is different than traveling on your own.

    It’s a good thing that’s what makes it so much fun! I love slowing down the pace, stopping more often, and getting a break in the middle of a long trip. 

    Thank you pups!

  • Anonymous says:

    Great essay! And really, who can blame us for not knowing much about pet safety, what with all the ads showing dogs riding in the front seat, ears flying in the wind, as an emblem of freedom. The good news is that you learned from your experience and passed the word along. Not everyone does.

  • Kristine says:

    Embarrassing? Maybe. But until I actually started taking my dog places, I didn’t think about any of this stuff either, especially car safety. It’s something most pet owners don’t really think about. So I want to thank you for sharing this post and you have probably helped more people than you will ever know. And it makes me feel better about some of my own similar mistakes.

    PS. Banjo is such an adorable name for such a cute little guy!

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