How To Travel With A Large Dog

travelling with a dog

Traveling with any pet can be a stressful experience especially if you are planning on long-distance trips. Imagine then if you have a large dog and you want to make a journey somewhere. There are lots of things you need to consider whichever form of transport you decide to take. Here is our guide to traveling with a large dog.

How To Travel With A Large Dog In A Car

Traveling anywhere with a large dog can be a handful at times so when you throw in the combination of a large dog and a small cramped space, it gets even worse. Of course, you still have to take them in the car whether its a cross country trip, to vets, or for their daily walk. Large dogs can be more difficult to manage than small dogs, as smaller dogs can be easily crated and secured into the car. There you have them snuggled up in warm cozy bed, just lift them in and out no questions asked……different story for large dogs.

Where Should a Dog Sit In a Car

Positioning a dog in a car can be a somewhat challenging scenario, you want them to be comfortable but you don’t really want them messing al your clean seats up, just after they have spent the last hour rolling around in the mud. some of this may come down to the character of your pooch, If you have a dog that is even the slightest bit likely to seek attention during a ride then you will need to have them in the boot.

The boot is commonly used by owners of larger dog breeds, as it has the most convenient space available. It’s also advisable that when placing your dog in the car boot you should both restrain them using a harness and place a boot guard between you and your dog. These precautions are mainly to prevent distraction and to prevent your dog from being thrown around in the event of a crash.

If you have a better-behaved pooch who won’t distract you when driving, you can put them in the back two seats. Again in this instance, your dog will need restraining with a harness to prevent them from seeking your attention. As a precaution putting your dog in the boot is the best option as the insurance company cannot accuse you of being distracted if your dog is retrained in the boot….you know they will try to get out of anything.

If you want to keep your car clean when traveling with a dog, you may have a battle with dog hair, especially when it comes to large dogs. Check out our article on “How To Get Dog Hair Out Of My Car”

How Do You Secure a Large Dog In a Car

Security is a significant thought when it comes to riding in a car and just like us, your dog should be secured too. As described above securing your dog is vital for insurance purposes and the law in general. There are a few ways you can secure your dog in a car, the boot being the preferable one. However, your own preference or convenience at the time will come into play. For example, if you have something in the car boot you won’t be able to put your in there. This leaves the back two seats which are also a popular choice, with security being even more vital as any sharp braking and your pooch will come flying forward, possibly injuring themselves. Wherever you choose to position your dog they must be retrained appropriately. Below are several ways that you can safely secure your dog for traveling in a car.

Seat Belt Harness

If you are planning on having your dog in the back two seats or even on the front seat, a seat belt harness is the best way to restrain your dog. The harness attaches around your dog much like a normal walking harness. There are many different quality harnesses you can get, but I would recommend purchasing one with a full chest plate as a single strap could cause more damage if in the event of a small crash. A full chest plate design is going to be more comfortable for your dog and keep them more secure.

Seat belt harnesses also come with different attachments depending on which type you purchase. Some types have a leash type restraint which buckles directly into the seat belt socket. This design will still secure your dog but will be limited to the length or flexibility of the leash attachment. I have found more well-known brands opt for straps that thread around a pre buckle seat belt. this design will give more flexibility and will offer the same security as the seat belt installed in your car. Check out the video below of this type, it explains how to put it on and how it works.


Crates are often a great choice for dog owners with a smaller dog, for those with a larger dog it is not as practical. If you have a large enough car and you would prefer your large dog to be crated when traveling in a car then here is some advice for you.

Crates are one of the most secure ways of traveling with a dog. Although more suited to smaller dogs as most cars cannot fit a large dog crate in, it would always be the best option when possible. Because of their often secure nature, being mostly made from metal, your dog won’t go flying off anywhere in the event of a crash. However it is not enough just securing them inside a crate, you must also secure the crate.

Unfortunately, most dog crates on the market have not been crash-tested, possibly due to the expensive and legal framework companies would have to go through to get them certified. However, there are some out there that promote themselves as being crash-tested, although they do come with a heftier price tag. As far as securing the crate itself, there are a number of ways to do this.

If there is one thing you must not do when securing a crate, is pull the seat belt around the crate and buckle it, in the event of a crash this can crush the crate or even slip out. If you are traveling with a large dog in a crate you will most likely have them in the boot and not near any seat belt attachments. This arrangement will mean that you will have to secure the crate around the back seats. There are no official ways of doing this so you will have to figure out the best arrangement based on the crate you have got. I would suggest using something like cam buckle straps and threading them from one end of the crate to the other (not around the front) and around the back seats. Secure the straps tight and double-check for any large amounts of movement. Don’t hold back when testing the crates security, in the event of a crash it will most likely have more force on it than you will be able to muster.

Dog Guards

Most of the information available regarding car security mentions a dog guard. This is a set of bars that fills the gap between the boot and the back seats. Commonly this is used to prevent your dog from jumping up and trying to distract you at every possible occasion. In some cases, it also provides a small amount of security in the event of a crash. It’s true that this dog guard would protect your dog from flying over the backseat and hurting themselves badly, but they would still get pretty beat up if left unsecured in the boot.

You don’t have to understand Newton’s first law of motion to realize that in the event of some extreme braking during a crash, your dog is going to continue moving at the same speed as the car without any restraints. Unfortunately, there are not many options when it comes to car boot restraints, this may be another DIY job using straps. If you can use a harness and secure them to a sturdy point, depending on the car you have. In most cases, owners find that a dog guard is enough with the combination of some comfy pillows and bedding.

How Long Can You Travel With a Dog In The Car

For a 36kg dog 2-3 hours is a good amount of time to drive for without stopping. Once you have stopped giving them at least 20 minutes of walking around, let them sniff anything they want, and ensure they have been to the toilet. For smaller dogs, you may want to stop more often as they cannot hold their bladder as long.

Tips For a Long Car Journey With a Dog

  • Try to take regular breaks, as highlighted above 2-3 hours for larger dogs and less time for smaller dogs.
  • If you have an opportunity to stop then do so
  • Plan your journey ahead of time so that you know when and where is convenient to stop.
  • Take plenty of water for your pooch and don’t reduce his water intake just because you don’t want to stop.
  • Make a comfortable place for your pooch to sleep, if your lucky they will do this most of the way. Check out our post on “Managing Your Dogs Energy Levels”
  • Use a strong seat belt harness or set up a secure area in the boot
  • If your dog is not familiar with the car, take them on some shorter trips beforehand.
  • Pack as many home comforts as possible, this will help with your dog’s anxiety, making them more relaxed.
  • Don’t leave your dog in the car, especially on a hot day, cars heat up very quickly even with the windows down.

How To Travel With A Large Dog On A Plane

Traveling with your dog in the cabin of an aircraft is not a common occurrence. Only some countries allow this, America being one of them, on the condition it is a flight within the country and your dog is able to be stowed in a crate under your seat. There appear to be some other scenarios, countries, flight routes, or circumstances that lead to you having a dog in the cabin with you, but it is not common.

Despite some occasions where you can have a small dog on board with you, larger dogs will almost always have to be stowed away in the hold of the plane. Assistance dogs and guide dogs are the only recognized dogs to be allowed to travel within the cabin and in some circumstances emotional support dogs.

If traveling with a large dog you will need to have them placed in a suitable crate, this should be one that you own and be large enough for your dog to sit up in and turn around. You will then check your pooch in just like some luggage (not the nicest sentence I’ve ever written). Once they are checked they will be stowed securely in the hold, which is pressurized and climate-controlled. Below are some things you should remember to do before traveling with a large dog on a plane.

  1. Visit your veterinarian before traveling. This is to ensure your pooch is healthy and able to fly, it is also a requirement for getting a pet passport, which the airline will need to see.
  2. Get a comfortable and sturdy travel crate. This must match the size of your dog and give them enough room to move around and feel comfortable. Airlines often provide custom crates, which could be a better option, check the airline’s website to see the type of crates they offer.
  3. Make your dogs crate comfortable and feel as much like home as possible. Unfortunately, toys are not usually allowed to be in the crate with your dog as it presents a choking hazard. Put some blankets in that smell like home, this should make them comfortable.
  4. Make sure that your dog goes to the toilet before flying. Plane journeys can be longer than the actual travel time, especially when you factor in delays and border control. It’s a good idea to use some absorbent vet bed material in the crate just in case your pooch decides they need the toilet. Dogs are often good at holding themselves but unfortunately, there are not many other places to go when you stuck in a crate.
  5. Feed and water your dog early. I would suggest the further from your departure time the better. However, water is more important and so giving your pooch a little water an hour or two before the flight is ok…not too much though.

Train Travel With a Large Dog

There are many ways in which we travel and train travel is still a popular choice. Although not as convenient as a car journey its better than a plane. There are however some limitations depending on where you are from.

Are Dogs Allowed on Trains In America

Up until recently, dogs were not widely permitted to travel on train services in America. Issues focused around short-nosed breeds Although many services such as Amtrak are now allowing dogs to travel, however, they will still not hold dogs in the cargo area of trains and therefore only small breeds of dogs that can be safely stowed under a seat are allowed. The upper weight rating is currently at 20 pounds, of course, if you have a service dog then size is not an issue as the law states these animals are able to travel on board to assist you.

Are Dogs Allowed To Travel On trains In Europe

It’s a whole other story when it comes to European travel. Despite America having a huge love for their dogs, Europeans are much more accepting of their presence aboard trains, with almost all European countries accepting any size of dog aboard their trains. There are of course some exceptions, meaning it is best to check your travel route and ensure that you are going to be allowed to take your dog on board.

Are Dogs Allowed on Trains In The UK

Yes! this is one of the places where dog-friendly train travel is widely accepted, there are of course some limitations to this, but weight and size is not a factor in UK train travel. Below is a list of the current rules to follow when taking your dog on a train in the UK.

  • There is a maximum of 2 dogs per passenger, this is to give better control to the owner and limit the amount of space taken up.
  • You must understand that if a fellow passenger complains about dogs being in the carriage, you are obligated to move to another part of the train
  • Train companies have the full right to refuse your entry or kick you off of any train, without reason.
  • Dogs must always be under full control. This means that any dog should be on a lead or contained within a crate, crates can be stored in the luggage compartment.
  • You cannot have your dog on a seat. If you are found doing so, you may be charged for the use of that seat.
  • If you book a cabin on a sleeper train, you may be charged a cleaning fee. It’s best to check with the train company before traveling.

Are Dogs Allowed On The Eurostar

Unbelievably dogs are not allowed to travel on the Eurostar train services. The Eurostar train operates between London and France, both of which allow dogs to travel on trains in their respective countries. It can sometimes be understandable that transport services would not allow large dog breeds to travel, however Eurostar will not even allow small dogs. If you have a service dog, such as a guide dog or helper dog, then this is allowed by law.

The obvious fact is that you could travel from Scotland to London with a large dog and if you were able to cross the channel you could then travel from Paris to most European destinations. Because of this huge obstacle, the Eurostar service is placing on dog owners, there are petitions to allow dogs. If you looking to cross the channel with your pooch then you will have to go by ferry or drive using the Eurotunnel.

travelling with a dog

Taking A Dog On A Ferry

Traveling with a large dog is often about the space which you have available, cars can be small, flying is often an anxious experience and trains can be a bit cramped. Ferries tend to offer a smoother ride with more space available for your pooch.

The type of travel that your dog will experience depends on the ferry company, country, and the boat on which they are traveling. There are a few options that I have listed below.

Kennels On Ferries

Most long journey ferry companies will have a designated Kennels for dogs, cats, and other pets. The idea is that your pooch will stay in these Kennels for the duration of the trip. However, the good thing about long journeys is they are done using large ships. This allows your dog some room to come out of their kennel and walk around, this is great news for large dogs which often are cramped into small spaces for long periods of time.

Depending on the journey time, you will often be able to visit your dog during the trip. This can be a comfort for them but you should also be aware that it may leave your dog more anxious. Dogs tend to be very resilient and once they get used to a situation they can wait it out quite comfortably, ferry staff are always there for the company too.

Dog-Friendly Ferry Cabins

One of the most popular options for traveling on a ferry with a dog is an onboard dog-friendly cabin. Long journeys that cross overnight will have cabins for guests to sleep the time away. In some cases, dog-friendly cabins are available and often cater to large dogs, although its always best to check with the ferry company to make sure.

Cabins are usually the more spacious 4 berth types and will cost more money than standard accommodation as space is required for your pooch. On Some Brittanny Ferry ships a designated area for dogs to do their business and stretch their legs. Remember, if you want to book one of these cabins on your next trip, be sure to get in fast as they are very popular and most ships will only have a few available.

Do Dogs Have To Stay In The Car On A Ferry

In a large number of cases, your dog will be asked to stay in the car for the duration of the journey. These journeys are often shorter ones but may still require you to exit your vehicle and proceed onto the deck. Providing you leave your dog with some water and the windows ajar, they should be fairly comfortable inside the car. The lower areas of the ship are often where you feel the least amount of sway.

Unfortunately, you won’t know if your pooch is feeling sick as you often won’t be allowed back down to your car to check on them. It is possible on some trip but again will depend on the ferry company, ship, and current sea conditions. It’s also important to be prepared, as this option is the most popular choice for the majority of ferry companies, but at least your dog has somewhere they know and has some comfortable bedding to relax in.

Here are so tips on keeping your dog in a car on a ferry –

  • Consideration should be given to the date you plan on traveling. If the only option for your pooch is to be in the car on the ferry, summer months should be avoided if possible, especially if you have a short-nosed breed which my struggle with a small rise in temperature.
  • Ensure that all windows to your car are partially open to allow a good flow of cool air through the vehicle. You can get window grills that allow the window to be fully open without letting your dog escape.
  • Ensure that you leave enough water out for your dog. If you are keeping them inside a crate then you can use floating water bowls that attach to your crate, otherwise leaving a bowl in the footwell is most likely the best option.
  • You may want to use some absorbent pads or confine your dog to a particular area of the car, for example, the boot. Accidents happen and if the journey is a long one your dog will need to go to the toilet. Remember you won’t be allowed to go down to the hold and take your dog out of the car to go to the toilet.
  • As highlighted above, going down into the depths of the ship is not allowed under normal circumstances and will depend entirely on the ship type, sea conditions, and staff discretion. Staff members are usually ok about letting you check up on your dog, but it will depend on any possible dangers presented, staff will have to escort you to your car and you will not be likely to let your dog out.
  • Once you have arrived at your destination, find somewhere you can let your dog out to have a sniff and go to the toilet. Check them over to make sure they are OK and away you go on your journey.

Can I Take My Dog On A Ferry As A Foot Passenger

Unfortunately, foot passengers, cyclists, or motorbikes do not have the benefit of taking their dogs on a ferry. As most ferry companies encourage owners to leave there dogs in the car for the duration of the trip it is difficult to find any clear information on the topic. You are probably thinking, “why can’t they stay in the onboard Kennels, or if you booked a pet-friendly room why can’t they stay in there”. This is exactly what I thought and so after some research, I found that most companies asked customers to phone for more information. this says to me that depending on the type of ship, there are ways to arrange for your dog to be kept in the kennels or a room, it just needs to be planned in advance.

Dog-Friendly Cruises

A final thought for sea voyaging is the luxury world of cruises. There are of course many different standards of cruise and in some cases, you may want to bring your dog along with you. If you have a service dog you should be allowed to have your pooch on board no matter the type of cruise, this also goes for emotional support dogs. Pet dogs are not allowed on many cruises and depending on the type of cruise, it becomes quite bleak. There are a few short-haul, riverboat, touring and pet-specific cruises you can be a part of but as for transatlantic luxury cruises, there is currently only one. The Queen Mary 2 sails from Southampton to New York and is known as a once in a lifetime trip across the pond. Dogs are treated to a luxury stay in purpose-built onboard kennels. They will have around the clock care, walks, treats, and toys, with designated hours where you can be with them. There is a catch though as they only have room for 12 dogs, which means they are often fully booked and expensive too.

travelling with a dog

What To Pack For A Dog On Vacation

Going away on vacation has its own stresses and these can be amplified when packing is concerned. You want to make sure you have everything you need for the duration of the trip and this is the same for your pooch. Not that your dog is much concerned about what you bringing along, but you will probably be stressing about it more than them. Below is a list of essential items you might want to think about bringing with you when you go on vacation with your dog.

  • Dog bedding and home comforts are a must when traveling away from home.
  • Dog food is probably one of the most important items to remember, check out the section below for more information.
  • Think about dog washing, towels, shampoo, scrubbers, etc
  • Entertainment can help reduce the frustration your dog feels. Toys, games, etc
  • Travel gear can help make journeys more comfortable. Collapsible water bowls, crates, etc

How To Store Dog Food When Traveling

Any dog food should be stored in an airtight container. Dry dog food types should be left in a cool dry place and any wet dog food types should be refrigerated with the manufacturer’s storage instructions followed. 

Dry Dog Food –

dry dog food is a more user-friendly option when traveling with your dog. It is easier to store and lasts longer than any wet food. You should always store dry dog food in an airtight container, preferably in a cool dry place. You could use freezer packs to surround the food, creating a cooling environment, however it is important for the food to not get wet, this is where the quality of an airtight container is important.

Canned Dog Food –

Canned dog food is a type of wet food and needs to be refrigerated. It is often the case that canned dog food won’t last longer than 2 – 3 days when refrigerated, so it important to bear this in mind when traveling on long journeys. If you are ever unsure about how long canned dog food has been open, its safest to discard it and start a new can, although by following the manufacturer’s storage instruction you shouldn’t go far wrong.

Raw Food –

Raw food diets are growing in popularity with owners wanting something less processed than kibble or tinned food. Raw is what I would refer to as a new age idea from the old age, traditionally used to feed hunting and racing dogs. There are many benefits to feeding your dog raw including stronger bones and a shinier coat, it has its drawbacks which we won’t cover here, but if you would like some expert advice check out this article on WebMD

Storing raw food can be difficult, mainly because you don’t know how long it will last in certain conditions. Raw food is an extremely diverse subject, as recipes vary widely and can include many different ingredients. The best option for storage whilst traveling, is to place it in an airtight container and keep it as cool as possible until you are able to transfer it into a fridge. If you have any suspicions that it has been compromised, do not feed it to your dog, otherwise you may end up cleaning the floor.


Traveling with your pooch doesn’t have to be a difficult process and whatever mode of transport you decide to take, remember to plan ahead. Contacting the travel company can be the easiest way to discover any potential obstacles or problems that may appear on your journey. Hopefully, this guide will help you have a successful trip. Remember to check out our homepage which has lots of great articles on getting out and about with your favorite furry friend.





Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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