Given the boom in dog ownership over the last few years, many people may be considering taking their furry friend overseas with them for the first time this year.

Taking a dog abroad requires careful thought and planning, and there are numerous boxes to check. Here are some of the main considerations if you’re thinking of holidaying with your pup in 2023.

Before you book your holiday

One of the first questions to ask is: should you take your dog abroad with you?

Ryan Neile, Head of Behaviour Services at national pet charity Blue Cross, says: “There are a few things to think about before taking your dog abroad.

“How will your dog cope with the journey and change of environment, and how will you travel to your destination?

“If you think your pet will struggle, then it is best to consider travelling in the UK instead. Or if you must travel abroad, consider a dog-sitter or a reputable boarding kennels to care for your pet while you’re away.”

If your dog is likely to find the journey or the unfamiliar surroundings distressing or overwhelming, read more about your options if you leave your dog behind.

If you’re set on taking your dog with you, then it’s important to make sure your destination has everything you might need to ensure they’re as comfortable as possible.

“Is your accommodation dog-friendly?” Ryan asks. It’s also a good idea to ask what extra facilities they offer to pets. There should also be access to open spaces, so they can go to the toilet and exercise when they need.

If you’re travelling somewhere hot, make sure your accommodation has air conditioning – both for your sake and theirs. Regularly check the weather, as dogs need to be protected from heatstroke. Find out what Blue Cross has to say about heatstroke in dogs here.

“Will your pet be able to go with you to beaches, restaurants, attractions?” continues Ryan. “If not, will they be comfortable being left in unfamiliar surroundings?”

It’s also worth checking if there are any vets or animal hospitals nearby, in case of emergencies.

What your pet needs when going abroad

“If you do decide to take your pet, you’ll need to make sure your pet has all the necessary paperwork and health checks ahead of your trip, which will vary depending on whether your trip is inside or outside of the EU,” says Ryan.

If you’re travelling to the EU or Northern Ireland, your dog will need:

  • An animal health certificate (AHC), issued in the 10 days prior to departure, or a pet passport accepted in the country you’re travelling to
  • A microchip
  • A valid rabies vaccination, which must be made at least 21 days prior to departure, and recorded in your dog’s AHC or pet passport
  • Tapeworm treatment if you’re travelling directly to Northern Ireland, Ireland, Norway, Finland or Malta

These requirements apply to assistance dogs too. It’s a good idea to check the travel information for the country you’re going to for any additional requirements. Also, check to see if your dog may be at risk of exposure to diseases that we may not have in the UK.

For trips to non-EU countries, you’ll require an export health certificate (EHC), and you’ll need to fill in an export application form (EXA). For more information, find out about travelling with a pet to a non-EU country on GOV.UK.

Finally, make sure your pet insurance policy covers trips abroad, in case they become injured or fall ill during your trip.

What kind of transport is best for my dog?

Your mode of transport is another consideration, as you want your dog to be as comfortable as possible, while avoiding stress if you can.

Blue Cross recommends the Eurotunnel as the safest way to travel with your dog[1]. This is because the journey is shorter and cooler than travelling by ferry. And while your dog needs to stay in the car for the duration, you can stay with them to keep them company. In addition, there are dedicated exercise areas for your dog either side of the crossing.

Travelling by ferry is common too, although the experience is variable. It’s a good idea to check exactly what the ferry service offers before committing. They may have dog-friendly cabins, for example, and other dog-friendly areas. Some companies require dogs to be muzzled, however, so your dog will need to be trained for this.

Blue Cross advises against travelling on ferries which require dogs to remain in your car. Not only is this stressful for them, but can be a health risk, as temperatures may rise or drop quickly within the vehicle. As such, it’s strongly recommended that you only choose ferry companies which let you keep your dog with you, or have kennel facilities onboard.

Finally, Blue Cross strongly advises against taking your dog on a plane. Where dogs are allowed onboard – with the exception of assistance dogs – it’s usually as cargo, which is enormously stressful and a huge health risk for dogs. It’s just not worth it.

What to take with you?

Here are some important items to pack for your dog:

  • A familiar-smelling blanket and comfy bedding
  • Their favourite toys to help reassure them
  • Their favourite treats
  • Water for the whole journey
  • The right amount of food. Try to find out if their favourite brand of food is sold locally. If not, you may have to pack enough for the whole trip, as changing their diet may upset their stomach.
  • A crate or safe restraint for inside the car
  • Poop bags
  • A collar with a tag containing your contact information
  • Any medicine they might need

When you’re there

Although you’re likely to be in holiday mode, this doesn’t necessarily apply to your dog. It’s best to try to keep them as close as possible to their regular routine – including their usual walking and feeding times. Likewise, try to stick to the same diet.

To help them get used to their new surroundings, try and allow them plenty of time to explore. Make sure there’s a quiet, comfy space for them to get lots of rest. And have some things handy that they’re familiar with the smell of. For instance, keep a favourite toy in their bed, or any area where they’ll be spending a lot of time.

Don’t leave them alone for too long, especially close to your arrival, as they’re likely to become stressed.

While out and about, try to keep them on a lead until they’re familiar with their surroundings. And even then, it's best to exercise caution as to when to let them off the lead. Even if you normally do, it's safer not to let them off near roads, for instance, even if their road sense is generally good. Being in an unfamiliar place could cause them to behave less predictably, so it’s best to stay on the safe side.

Finally, be sure to enjoy your holiday – and that your dog does too!

For more travel advice and tips, go to Solved.