What You Need To Know About Travelling with A Big Dog

Koya and my fiancé riding the cable car in Banff, one of the most dog friendly places on Earth.

I love my dog and because you’re here I know you do to. I’ve tailored this article for bigger dogs not because I’m prejudice towards small dogs but because most small dogs are easy to haul around and not really problem when it comes to travelling – domestic flights even let them fly in the cabin as long as they fit under the seat! On the other hand, your Husky or Great Pyrenees will never be able to fit under your seat but that doesn’t mean you can’t go places with them.

Living in North America, we are blessed with ample pet-friendly activities we can participate in with our canine companions. We have taken our big dog many places (canoeing, cherry picking and even up a cable car! ) and we’ve taken advantage of a wide range of pet-friendly accommodations from camping to 5-Star Hotels. Given the choice, we’d take our dog anywhere with us. Although travelling with your dog is fairly simple and highly rewarding, a little planning can go a long way. Planning is key to a successful trip with your dog.

To start things off, let it be known that our dog is not the best dog in the world. Let’s just get that out there so whatever doubts you have about your dog, you can sleep a better tonight knowing that you’re not the only one. She gets anxious around tiny unpredictable kids and suspicious looking strangers. She even swam away after our canoe tipped and left us to drown in the middle of the lake. She’s no Lassie and definitely not a Super Dog but we love her to bits and we still want to take her anywhere we possibly can.

Staying in Pet-Friendly Motels and Hotels vs. Camping

We love doing both and in our case, staying at a motel or hotel is definitely less stressful of the two for a first-time trip. First, our dog has its own space and it’s less distracting because there aren’t any squirrels or kids running around. She also gets to jump on the furniture (most places don’t condone this, so try at your own risk). It’s less work on our part too because we humans get to leave their dog in the room knowing she’s safe while we sightsee or have dinner. It’s just like a regular day. If you’re dog is crate trained, bring the crate.

As for camping, we like it better because we’re with our dog the whole time and we’re outdoors canoeing and sleeping under the stars. Make sure your tent is big enough to accommodate all humans and dogs comfortably. Most campsites require your dog to be on leash, some are more lenient, others are more strict. When we do let her off leash, we keep a close eye on her and call her to come often, just to engage her and make sure she doesn’t stray too far. It takes one complaint to ruin a trip. I usually see what other people do, if they leash their dog, I make sure mine is leashed too.

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One Step At A Time – Our First Trip

An important note for you to know is your first trip with your pet should be enjoyable and you need to ease into. Take a test trip solely for this purpose. Maybe do a nearby hike that you’ve been longing to do and stay the night.

Our first trip we went to Holiday Inn in Edmonton, a neighbouring city for a one night stay. The drive was 4 hours long so we made sure she had a good long walk the day before. We left in the morning and upon arriving in the city, we took her to a dog park (that we Googled beforehand) to play and exert her energy. She must have thought, “This is nice but you didn’t have to drive 4 hours to a dog park. We have one 10 minutes away.”

By the time we arrived at the Holiday Inn, she was exhausted and all she wanted to do was sleep. We stayed close by and went out for dinner with some friends then came back to feed her. During feeding time, she wasn’t eating so we put some treats in which helped and then we let her out. Most hotels allocate pet-friendly rooms by the exit doors so it’s convenient and it doesn’t hurt to ask. Our dog is great for letting us know when she needs to go which is a great relief. Make sure your dog is 100% housetrained before going on a trip.

The night went well, and the next day we had breakfast, checked out and took her on a short hike and headed home. That was it.

After Edmonton, we went lots of other places with her, the furthest being Vancouver (14 hours away).

Beautiful hotel we stayed at called the Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver. Nice stop after a gruelling 14 hour journey from Calgary.
Koya came cherry picking with us near Penticton. Although it wasn’t advertised as dog friendly, the owner was happy to oblige.

Have a Plan or Something Like It

Before you leave for your trip, make sure you have a rough plan. Include frequent breaks for the bathroom and feeding times. If you stick to your regular schedule, your pooch is always more likely to follow. Research pet-friendly restaurants or bistros with patios beforehand. Most places don’t mind if your dog is on the patio. I just copy and paste the addresses on my phone for a quick reference. It’s just less work to do when you’re on the road.

You can still do people things –  just do them after you do the dog things

They way we structure our trips is Dog Things- People Things – Dog Things – People Things, unless your camping…then everything is under the category of Dog/People Things.

But if you’re staying at motels/hotels, going to the dog park first thing in the morning is a great way they burn all that energy, so you have a tired and happy dog the rest of the day. Then, the rest of your day can be spent sightseeing, going to museums and local attractions that aren’t dog friendly, just make sure you’re back at the hotel for bathroom/dinner time.

Koya patrolling the one of the many dog friendly beaches in Vancouver. We need to move there.

More Tips

Stick to your regular schedule and you will be fine. We find that if we miss feeding time, she has more trouble finishing her food, so it’s best to avoid this. But if you do, just increase the treat ratio. Now, whenever we go on trips, I bring extra treats and give them generously. I prepare some hard boiled eggs which are easy to carry in a cooler and our dog loves them. A word of caution, use treats that are familiar in their diet, you don’t want Fido having an accident in the hotel room from those new dollar store liver sticks.

And lastly, just like new skin care regimen, try a patch test and then ease into it. If you are new to travelling with your dog, consider doing a full day trip or staying a night in a hotel to see how he/she does. If you’d like to start with a camping trip, make sure it’s not during a busy long weekend – where your dog has to deal with his new environment and hundreds of people trying to pet him/her. If they don’t like it the first time, don’t worry they will get used to it. if they still don’t like it, you’ll need to find a pet sitter or a good boarding kennel.

Happy Tails!

Relaxing on the bed at the Banff Springs Hotel – what a spoilt dog!

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