I have been showing purebred dogs since 1991, and have flown thousands of kilometres across North America and driven thousands more. Whether I’m showing my own Basenjis or Dobermans or somebody else’s dog, I’ve learned a few tricks along the way to ensure everybody has a good trip. I’ve travelled with up to 18 dogs at a time and managed to keep my sanity and keep the dogs with me safe.

My Basenjis: Hallee & her dad Jet
My Basenjis: Hallee & her dad Jet

Have all your dog’s documents ready

One thing I’ve learned – have all your dogs’ documents ready for whoever asks to see them. Border guards who have been up all night and are either bored or stressed are more likely to request to see the actual document; if you don’t have them ready, you may end up having to bring your dog and its documents inside customs. I remember a travel companion with didn’t have her documents ready and we had to bring all 18 dogs inside the Canadian Border Office…Unfortunately for them, my Doberman puppy thought the reason I was asking her to get out of her warm crate was for a potty break and she left them a nice big puddle to clean up!

Something people often forget about when crossing the border into the US is dog food. . . it can be confiscated! The best way to ensure a hassle-free experiences to have unopened commercially sealed dog food – and it must be made in either the US or Canada. However, any dog food made with lamb, goat or sheep is prohibited. This also includes dog treats and, if there have been any recent “mad cow” breakouts, any food or treat made with beef is prohibited unless you can prove to that it was made in the US and has not been tampered with (i.e., sealed commercially made in the USA).

Hallee and me!
Hallee and me!

Schedule flights at night or in the morning for your dog

If you’re arranging to fly your dog, one thing often forgotten is that airlines have temperature restrictions at both the departure and arrival ends. During the summer, they won’t fly a dog once the temperature reaches a specific point; so to be safe, always schedules flights with departures and arrivals at night or in the morning – NEVER during the middle of the day. The same goes for the winter; schedule arrivals and departures during the middle of the day when it’s warm. Airlines will not let a dog fly if the ground temperature is too cold, even if the dog is a northern breed and has a great furry coat.

By the way, don’t cheap out on the crate you are going to use to fly your dog – cheap ones break easily and once broken, your dog may be able to escape while either on the plane or on the tarmac or inside the airport. When you bought your crate, it probably came with some really cheap plastic dishes to attach to the crate; these can be used when travelling with your dog. The key though, is to freeze water in the tray the night before; that way, the dog can lick the ice if it’s thirsty and the water won’t soak the crate or anything around the door when it spills.

If travelling with your crated dog in a car, a good place to keep the leash is to clip it to the metal door. If you need it quickly you don’t have to look around for it.

travelling with show dogs
Photo Cred: David, Bergin, Emmett, & Elliot

Write your name and phone number on the dog’s crate

There are often many dogs travelling on the plane at the same time, so I like to tag my crate so I can recognize it from a distance. My favourite is bright pink hockey tape, wrapped around my dog’s crate so I can see it from the terminal; another bonus – it can’t be removed easily. I also have the name and phone number written in permanent ink on the top and side of my crate, since anything taped to a crate can be knocked off. Once when I was flying out of the Philadelphia airport, we were supposed to be boarding the plane but I could see my dog’s crate was still on the tarmac (I could see the fluorescent pink tape on it!). Well, like any good mom, I refused to get onto the plane until my dog was also on the plane.

I hope those tips help you when you’re travelling with show dogs, or pets in general. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!

tracylee_headshotTracy has travelled with show dogs all over the world, and her favourite trip was with her first show dog, Sachmo, in 1994. Tracy loves animals and will be back in the show ring when her new show puppy arrives this winter.