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Finley Friday: Traveling with Dogs…

September 10, 2010
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My friend Becky and I were talking about traveling with dogs and I was starting to tell her a ton of the things I have learned about traveling with a furry companion, and I just kept saying “I should blog about this!” so here are my favorite tips I have picked up from traveling with a dog:

Before you go:

  • First of all, stock up and pack for your buddy like they are a person. They don’t need full change of clothes, but pack the amount of food you’ll need,  leashes/ tags, water bottles, Tupperware bowls,  plastic bags, toys and treats. (We actually just pack a butcher’s bone and some milk bones – nothing too fancy because I don’t want him to get an upset stomach.)
  • Have a way to carry and organize all of your dog’s belongings. This is more than me wanting another monogrammed bag, this is just smart packing. You will have less dog paraphernalia mixed in with your clean clothes and souvenirs.  This is what  we use for Finley:

Our bag has a picture of a Rottie and his name monogrammed on it - By L.L. Bean

We love this bag because it classic L.L. Bean durability and it zips across the top.  Finley also loves having his name on it, he says he feels “like a cool guy” at the dog park.  (His words, not mine.)

  • Check your dog’s vaccinations and update their flea & heart worm medicines. No need to add worrying about your little furry guy/ gal picking up something along the way!
  • Don’t laugh but I also have a notebook full of Finley’s vet records that I take anywhere he goes. I don’t want to be caught without my vet’s numbers and his latest shot records.
  • Get your dog used to anything new he may be traveling in. Luring Finley into his travel crate (mentioned below) was an all afternoon task one day. We didn’t want him to be nervous around it, and we didn’t want to bribe him into it.  Getting him used to it at home made him much more ok with it in the first hotel we got to.


  • Water, Water, Water. At home Finley has constant access to his water bowl and being on the road is no different. Being in a warm car in front of windows while wearing a fur coat is no fun, so at every stop I get out the Tupperware bowl, pour some water and at least give him the option to drink.
  • Stop more often. Albie and I do not stop for gas very often because we drive pretty efficient cars and potty breaks are scheduled for gas stops – unless we have Finley in the car, then we try to stop about every 4 hours. We let him get out, sniff the grass, stretch his little legs, and  have a chance to potty. ( I will spare you about the first time we took Finley on a road trip at 3 months and he not only puked  but also peed on me.)
  • Roll the windows down every so often! This is their vacation too – going over a bridge to the Keys? Open the windows, let him check out the smells!

Finley crossing over a bridge into New Orleans in July 2009


  • Whether staying with Friends or at a hotel it is beyond necessary to plan ahead and make sure all parties know what to expect.
  • With a hotel you can do your research and book a room that allows pets. You can factor in pet fees to your vacation budget and let the staff know about your dog in advance. Sites like are awesome at this – special rates, full information, and reviews from other dog owners about things that matter to dog owners. For example, our hotel in New Orleans did not have a spec of grass within a block of it but I knew in advance and we planned Finley’s potty breaks.
  • When staying with friends, bring wine and a big round of THANK YOUs.  After you leave you may think you stripped the bed, and cleaned up any mess you think you left behind, there is still dog hair, yellow grass spots, and water droplets from thirsty dogs. You should remember your friend is under no obligation to let your dog stay at their home and just because y’all are friends doesn’t mean they are tight with your dog too, and it’s rude to assume so.
  • To be the best “guests” we can be, we always come with our travel crate.  When we are not explicitly hanging out with Finley we have him in the crate. He normally isn’t too excited but he’s ok with it. (Sometimes he even looks excited to get in it because it means that he can  nap in peace!) Some hotels require your dog to be confined so this is a good practice to get into.

Finley trying to escape his crate in our Graceland Hotel in July 2009

Finley waiting in his crate in Key West

I should also state that Finley is crate trained and while he doesn’t spend all day in one anymore he still knows not to wine or get upset in the crate.  THIS is the crate we bought from PetSmart for his first big road trip. I can’t remember if we have large or extra large, but we like to give him lots of room to stretch out.

  • If you are staying at a hotel it’s best to have a non-barking dog. Finley is awesome at being quiet- umm… unless someone knocks on the door, then you hear one big Rottie bark.  To avoid surprises with hotel staff we always have the “Do Not Disturb” sign on our door or arrange for the room to be cleaned when we have plans to take Finley out with us.
  • When possible I get 2 beds, one for us and one for Finley. Staying in new spaces he tends to be so tired that he sleeps like a rock (I may sound neurotic here!) but I also lay down a blanket for him so he doesn’t shed all over the bedding, not a necessity but a good idea.

Resting after a long day in key West on his own little bed

Actual Vacationing:

  • Before you start to feel like traveling with your dog is more than you bargained with I have to tell you that actually taking Finley out into these new cities is one of our favorite things to do. Again it just takes planning. Lots of restaurants have patios that allow dogs to sit under your table. Walking tours generally include dogs as well. Just do your research!! (When in doubt call or email first!)

Out to eat in Savannah

  • Know your dog. Finley is almost as lazy as we are so we know he can maybe do one walking tour in the morning before an afternoon where he can rest.  Finley loves water, so we when we went to the Keys we rented  a boat so we could take him out too. If your dog isn’t good around other people then just plan a self-guided tour, a lot of cities have pod-casts and printable maps that you can get for free.

Walking tour along the battery in Charleston

Captian finley in Greenville, SC

  • Have a back up plan! We took Finley to Hilton Head, SC before we went to Savannah and we had a wedding to go to, The hotel wouldn’t give us a late check out and leaving him in the car in June was not an option so we arranged for him to stay at a day care near by for the afternoon. All they needed was his shot records and a phone number to reach us just in case.


  • My tips in general are just things that seem to work for us. We have gone on a lot of trips and all have been driving, I don’t know anything about flying with dogs – that even scares us!
  • Always pick up after your dog. Basic dog ownership etiquette here y’all.
  • The biggest tip I can give is to not only know your dog’s comfort level with activities, new places and people but also to have your dog under control. As much as we pretend Finley is our “baby”, we fully acknowledge that he is a dog first (and my baby second).  We learned a lot of  “people training for dogs” kind of basics from Cesar Milan. His trainings aren’t for everyone but they work for us.
  • Start local: Try a day trip, Go to the beach, Go out to eat one night. How did your little furkid do? Seem over-whelmed or totally at ease?  Test your dog in new environments on a smaller scale before you travel 16 hours from home.
  • When you get home, go back on those sites you used to research and plan your trip and put in your own reviews. Remember how much you liked and relied on them? Other people will too!
  • Also, when you get home let your dog have some time to sleep off his vacation. Finley is normally kind of excited for us to go back to work so he can get back on his schedule.

We love traveling with Finley because there’s nothing like coming back from a long day to a smiling dog!

What are your tips? Anything you’d add or change?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2010 9:13 am

    Aw, i LOVE this post. As someone also obsessed with my dog, I can totally relate to a lot of these points. Sometimes we have more of Sadie’s belongings in the car than our own. We havent brought her to a hotel yet, so it’s reassuring to hear that it’s worked well for you. How big is Finley and what travel crate do you use? Sadie is a little lab but still big (60 lbs) and we honestly havent used a crate since she was 6 months. I’d be interested to hear what you use!

    • Katie permalink*
      September 11, 2010 1:50 pm

      I updated the post with a link to the specific travel crate we use. It’s very easy to fold up and down and light enough for me to carry with other bags. We do not own SUV’s so it was also important for us to have a crate that was flat, and this one is perfect for us.

      Finley is a small Rottweiler Mix (we call him a pocket Rottie) and has finally hit his vet approved weight at 55 lbs (down from 77 eek!)

      Good luck taking Sadie to a hotel, I bet she’ll love it!

  2. September 11, 2010 6:32 pm

    Our dog, Wilma, is a begal/terrier mix. She HATES, HATES, HATES the car. We aren’t sure why (we rescued her so we don’t know much about her first 5 years). She whines and shakes the whole time. We have tried everything: windows down, letting her run free in the car, putting her on our lap, medicine from the vet, over the counter meds, putting her in her crate. Nothing helps and we feel so bad. :(

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