How To Select The Perfect Travel Dog

From our struggles to our triumphs, Zala and I have learned the harsh reality of navigating the globe with an International Dog. Size, weight, and breed are very important factors to consider before you select your future travel companion.

Small dog breeds are the easiest to travel with. Many airlines allow small dogs (and cats) to fly in the cabin with their passenger. Quite a few hotels allow small dogs or are easily persuaded to make an exception. Many trains, buses, and metros (particularly in Europe) allow small dogs to ride free if they remain in their carrier. Little dogs often slip under the radar (pun intended) and are allowed places no other dog can go. For example, the opera in Monaco is open to dogs under 5lbs. Our friend Montecristo Travels is a fantastic resource for individuals who wish to travel with their small dogs.

Medium dog breeds can be transported in a cost effective manner contrary to popular belief. I distinguish between medium and large breeds because many airlines have a weight cut off at 32kg for pets transported as checked luggage. A travel blog called Let’s be Nomads has flown their Entelbucher Mountain Dog for free on airlines that allow pets to be counted towards the checked luggage allowance. When traveling to off the beaten path destinations, expect the aircrafts to be smaller and transportation options to be limited for big dogs. For example, Bangkok Airways cannot accept dog crates exceeding 80cm x 45cm x 65cm on their ATR 70 aircraft. Also, certain cities are starting to implement policies again large dog breeds. Beijing and Shanghai only allow one dog under 14inches tall per person within the city.

Large dog breeds are the most challenging dogs to travel with. This is the category my 70lb Dutch Shepherd fits into. There are not many resources available for travellers with large dogs simply because most people believe it cannot be done. Airlines that charge by weight are not reasonable for travellers on a budget. The best option for big dogs are airlines that charge a flat rate such as Airfrance, KLM, Delta and a few others. The purpose of this website is to not only to provide a fresh perspective on travel destinations but to become a resource for travellers with large breed dogs.

Traveling with a big dog requires extra work and the ability to think outside the box. This may mean part of your journey may be by air and the other part by ground due to airline restrictions. You may watch a small dog ride for free on your train ride from Lyon to Milan knowing your dog’s ticket cost the same as yours. Accommodations will be difficult to find in certain cities and countries, but writing personable messages and providing dog references can sway guesthouses and hotel owners. Zala and I have had the most success finding accommodations via unorthodox places such as airbnb, couchsurfing, and Facebook. Yes, Facebook, it is our secret to finding accommodations in Thailand. Many small guesthouses do not have websites, but they do have Facebook pages.

Dog breed is also an important factor to consider. Certain dog breeds are more limited than others.  Snubbed-nosed dog breeds such as boxers, pugs, and bulldogs are not allowed to fly on several airlines.

These dogs are prone to breathing complications due to their short muzzles. They do not breathe as efficiently as dog breeds with normal length snouts which makes cooling off when overheated or stressed more difficult. Short nosed breeds are more vulnerable to changes in temperature and air quality in a cargo hold. Although the they receive the same quality of pressurized air as passengers in the cabin do, air circulation is not as ideal for a dog inside of a crate.

Because these breeds are statistically more prone to health complications or even death on air flights, some airlines do not allow these breeds on board. Travellers with a snubbed-nosed dog will be limited in airline choices. Do not let this stop you from owning and traveling with a dog that fits within this category. Just be aware of the individual limitations of your dog and always put their health and safety first. If your dog is easily stressed or has known breathing problems, do not put your dog at risk on a flight.

“Aggressive” dog breeds are restricted and banned in many countries. Some airlines simply will not fly breeds that carry this label regardless of the importing country. These lists vary but always (sadly) include Pit Bulls. Pit Bull is a generalized term for breeds labeled as Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, and any mix breed that matches the phenotype (appearance) of a Pit Bull. In addition, accommodations around the world may have restrictions against these breeds. Below is a basic list of restricted dog breeds. Please be aware this list varies among different countries, provinces, and states.

Pit Bull
Doberman
Mastiff
Dogo Argentino
Fila Brasileiro
Presa Canario
Rottweiler
Japanese Tosa

Owning a dog that is labeled as aggressive can make travel complicated, but be aware some countries merely have restrictions on the breed. This means extra paperwork and acquiring a license for your dog in countries such as Spain. Dogs such as Chihuahuas and Dachshunds are often listed among the top dog breeds reported for bites. Poodles and Dalmatians are known as aggressive dog breeds yet none of these breeds are put on these ban lists. Be informed and take care not to get wrapped up in the media circus surrounding some of these “dangerous” breeds. Support punishing the deed not the breed. Most dog attacks are a reflection of the owner not the dog breed itself.

I want to give a special thank you to one of our readers who posed this question to us. I hope this provides insight to those hoping to travel with their dog and also those who are looking to select the perfect companion to explore the globe with.

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How to Import Your Dog to Thailand

Import permits and forms to file, 30 day quarantine, numerous vaccinations, and the horror stories of individuals being charged outrageous import fees with the looming threat of their pets being taken to quarantine.

Breathe

Smile

Traveling to Thailand with a dog is easier than it looks.
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The most accurate source for Thai import/export is the Thailand Department of Livestock Development website found here.

Whether you are arriving from the United States, Canada, or the European Union the requirements are the same.

  • Health Certificate, in English, authorized by the veterinary official of the exporting country.
  • Rabies Vaccination no less than 21 days prior to departure.
  • Leptospirosis Vaccination no less than 21 days prior to departure or a negative test result within the 30 days prior to departure (Leptospirosis is combined with the Rabies vaccine given in France).
  • Distemper, Hepatitis, and Parvovirus Vaccinations no less than 21 days prior to departure (normally these are already completed during puppyhood).
  • 30 day quarantine at owners expense (not enforced).

If your dog is not allowed as carry-on, find an airline that will allow pets as checked luggage instead of cargo. Cargo fees can add up fast on a long distance trip to Thailand if coming from the United States or in my case, Paris. I have talked to several individuals who successfully flew via Thai Airways. They also paid close to $1000 for a medium-large sized dog. Air France, KLM, and Delta have teamed up, and they all have a flat rate of 200 EUR/CAD/USD for pets flying internationally as either carry-on or checked baggage. For those traveling with a large dog, this price can’t be beat. Our airline of choice this trip was Air France because they run direct flights regularly from Paris to Bangkok. For those interested in taking a dog through Paris CDG airport, see my article on the topic here.

After you have gotten through customs for bipeds at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (the lines can be quite long), pets that did not fly as carry-on will be at Z3 Oversized Baggage. Directly across from the oversized baggage claim is an exchange booth. I advise you take a moment to exchange some cash to help speed up the next few steps required to import your pet. There are two offices for animal customs in the Suvarnabhumi Airport, both are located at opposite ends by baggage claim 9 and 10. The primary office is located on the same wall as the oversized baggage claim.

I was met by three stern faced officials. Remember this is Thailand. Smile. I gave them a cautious smile and a respectful nod, and their faces lit up. Contrary to numerous sources on the internet, all paperwork can be done upon arrival in Thailand. I did fill out my Form No 1/1  in advance to save time (I had a connecting flight to Chiang Mai to catch!). None of these individuals seemed able to speak English, but I continued to throw beaming smiles in their direction, and they bustled through my paperwork. I was given three different forms requiring my signature, and I was asked for Zala’s health certificate. In the European Union, health certificates are filled out inside of the pet passports. Ask your veterinarian to print a separate health certificate form, these officials were not familiar with pet passports. The process may have taken 15 minutes, I paid a 100baht fee, and Zala’s vaccinations weren’t even checked!

The next step was to walk across to customs for bipeds with Zala’s two freshly stamped pieces of paper authorizing her entry into the country of Thailand. The customs official immediately demanded 1000baht from me. When I asked why, a finger was pointed to Zala’s paperwork and I received a look of exasperation. Afterwards, I researched what this fee is based off of, and this is what I found from the Thai DLD website.

“The importer must pay an import fee as prescribed by
the Ministerial Regulation, which was issued in accordance
with the Animal Epidemics Act B.E. 2499 (1956)”

The officials get to make up the import fee. Remember to smile, this fee can be dodged if you wish and this information can be found on the Thai DLD website, but 1000baht is roughly 30USD, not worth fighting in my opinion. And that’s it! Welcome to Thailand.

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Pack List for an International Dog Flight

A Dog Crate That Meets IATA Standards.

I fly my dog around the world. Between finding an affordable flight, organizing vet appointments and sifting through import paperwork, the last thing I want to worry about is if my dog crate is allowed or not. Some airlines are stricter than others. I bought a dog crate with all the bells and whistles that meets the requirements of every airline I have come across. You can check the IATA standards for dog crates here. I bought a sky kennel, and I am very satisfied with it.

Extra Copies of Paperwork

I cannot stress enough how important this is. Every airline is different, but Icelandair’s cargo division attaches the health certificate to the dog’s crate. Upon arrival in Paris, Zala’s health certificate was no longer attached to the crate. Although technically only the original can get your dog into the country, I thankfully had a copy and got my dog’s clearance to enter France.

A Cheap Dog Bed

Don’t put your $100 orthopedic dog bed in the your dog’s crate. After a 10-15 hour flight, you can’t blame a dog for getting bored or frustrated and chewing up their bed. If your dog has an accident, you want a dog bed you will have no hard feelings about throwing away. I have never had either of these incidents occur with my dog, yet. It is best to be prepared. I keep Zala’s Ruffwear Highlands Bed in my carry on luggage as a spare, just in case.

A Water Bowl

A collapsible water bowl is a good thing to keep on hand. Some airlines allow water dishes inside of your dogs crate, but you have no way of knowing if it will survive the flight. Zala destroyed one of her two dog dishes on her trip from Seattle to Paris. As soon as my dog gets out of customs, I pour her a drink. Usually our journey continues by train or a connecting flight so Zala has to recharge on the go. A collapsible bowl takes up very little space in my carry on luggage, and I can smash it into any pocket in my pack while I am hustling to catch my next train or flight. I carry a Ruffwear Collapsible Bowl everywhere I travel with my dog including restaurants, cafes, trains, car trips, and any hiking adventure.

A Leash

I never go to an airport with my dog in her crate. I keep her leashed and by my side until the moment I turn her over to oversized luggage.  Get a leash  with a loop handle to easily half hitch around a chair leg. A simple hack for easy tie up is to use a carabiner for fast clip and unclip. Zala and I have spent a lot of time lounging within and outside of terminals.

A Muzzle

Small dogs get a get out of jail free card on this topic, but big dogs should wear a muzzle inside airports and on public transportation. Big dogs scare a lot of people, and I believe I am able to walk Zala freely throughout airports because I muzzle her. This isn’t to say that when we find a nice place to sit I don’t take off her muzzle because I do. I simply don’t put security guards and officers in a position where they need to tell me to crate my dog. I don’t want to give the public a reason to file a complaint because this will only create more rules and restrictions for future pet travel. I use a simple mesh muzzle that slips on and off easily and can be crumpled in my pocket. Be careful, this style of muzzle does not allow a dog to pant and can cause overheating in hot climates. Invest in a basket cage muzzle if your dog will be wearing a muzzle for long periods of time or in hot climates.

Dog Food

If possible, pack enough dog food to mix and smoothly transition your dog into a new brand in your future country. It can be difficult to consistently use the same brand throughout the world. The one dog food brand I have seen consistently from the United States to Western Europe to Southeast Asia is Pedigree.

Favorite Toy

It may not seem important to you but in a dog’s world this is a big deal. A favorite toy from home has a calming effect on dog’s adjusting to a new home/country. Zala has taken her Extreme Kong across the world with her. It is the equivalent of a pacifier when she is anxious. I am a big fan of Kongs because they can be stuffed with goodies while you are away and provide some mental stimulation for your dog. I’ve even freezed things inside of it. Zala has been obsessively chewing on her black kong on a daily basis for two years, and it is still in one piece.

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Navigating Paris CDG Airport with a Dog

Paris CDG

Paris CDG

An entire book could be written on navigating the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. This article will map only the information I know from personal experience. The thought of finding your way with luggage, a crate, and a dog in tow can be a daunting prospect, especially if you are traveling solo, but Zala and I made it from Paris, France to Chiang Mai, Thailand and I’ll tell you how we did it.

It is best to prepare in advance and print out a map of the airport, you can find a basic layout map here. Zala and I arrived via the TGV train. In France, a dog ticket is half the price of your adult ticket, and dogs are required to be leashed and muzzled on the train. I have a 65lb Dutch Shepherd, and I have found that it is easiest to take a seat next to the luggage instead of my assigned seat if the train car (voiture) is crowded. Most trains to Paris are. My leashed dog walked alongside me from the train up until the moment I sent her away as luggage. Do not feel obliged to keep your dog in his/her crate while navigating around terminals and shuttles, you’ll only give yourself a headache and a backache.

The TGV train arrives between terminals 2D and 2F. If you feel like gambling and taking the train the morning before your flight, check online for any ongoing train strikes that may cause you unexpected delays. In my case, there were train strikes the days prior, and I chose to arrive in Paris the evening before my flight. There are numerous choices for hotels around the airport, but the cheapest option, actually within the airport, was Ibis Hotel.

To get to the Ibis Hotel, there is the CDGVAL shuttle that stops at all three terminals. From the TGV station, you need to take the lift up to the 4th floor. From there, simply follow the signs and take yet another lift. The Ibis and Hilton are located next to terminal 3. There is plenty of grass outside of terminal 3 and the Ibis Hotel for pet bathroom breaks. The pet fee for the Ibis Hotel was 5 Euros current as of March 2014.

AirFrance was our airline of choice this trip. AirFrance departures are located in terminal 2F. Going from terminal 3 to terminal 2F with a large dog crate, two duffle bags, and an excited dog took no longer than 20 minutes. A forewarning, trolleys are blocked from going on the lifts that go up and down to the CDGVAL shuttle. This leg of the journey will require extra time and manual lifting if you do not have help. After that, there are the long stretches of walking that the Paris CDG is famous for.

Individuals checking in with a dog will receive their boarding pass after they have paid and checked-in their dog, so don’t bother with the ticketing machines. Dog check-in should be done several hours in advance. My flight was at 1:50, and I checked my dog in at 11:00. To start, check your dog and any extra baggage in at the luggage counter. The attendant will inspect the cage, give you a waiver to sign, and put your baggage sticker on the crate. To my surprise, my dog’s health certificate was never checked. Afterwards, you will need to go to the ticketing office to pay for your dog’s fee (200euros to Thailand) and get your boarding pass printed. Finally, you will need to travel further down the terminal to #5 to drop off your oversized luggage dog.  It took well over an hour before she was actually crated and we said our goodbyes.

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After you have finished with the dog, it is your turn to go through the grueling process of customs. I will mention, yet again, how important it is to give yourself plenty of extra time. My gate was changed from terminal F to hall L. An entirely different hall with a lot of extra unplanned walking to get there! But if you do have extra time, terminal 2 has enough to keep you amused during your wait; including video games, wifi (first 15 minutes are free), and massages.

Upon boarding, there is a waiver to be handed to the stewardess. My boarding pass did not scan properly until I handed this waiver to her. This paper essentially said that my dog’s crate complied with the safety standards of AirFrance. After that, it was smooth flying on a direct flight, and my dog was waiting for me in Z3 oversized luggage at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. See my post on Suvarnabhumi Airport for information on collecting your dog, getting through customs, and catching another flight on a Thai airline.

Flying to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flying to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Dealing with Fleas and Ticks While Traveling

On the road or in the woods, here are some options for those times you have limited resources.

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Fleas

Dogs

There are numerous options available such as flea collars, powders, shampoos, sprays, and spot on products. These are globally available. Not near a store? You can make a natural deterrent out of boiled lemons. Let them set overnight and spray your dog the next morning. This is a deterrent not an eliminator. It will make things manageable until you have access to something better. Tea tree oil is a deterrent also. Rub this inside your dog’s collar and create your own version of an all natural flea and tick collar.

The best way to spot fleas is to roll your dog on their belly and lightly run your hand over your dog’s lower abdomen. You will likely see fleas scurrying away in the hair. Fleas also leave behind a gritty black residue that is easiest to spot on your dog’s belly where hair is scarce.

Humans

Fleas don’t survive well on humans. This doesn’t stop them from giving it a try and taking a few sips off of you.

Shower daily, wash your clothing and bedding, and, if you have access to one, a vacuum is your best friend. Suck those wily parasites off anything you think they and their eggs can hide inside. If your dog tolerates it, run it down your dog a few times (it’s also great for removing dead hair). Tea tree oil is my homeopathic cure all solution. It minimizes itchiness and also is a natural antiseptic. So if you have over scratched a bite, this will serve a dual purpose while you are on the road or in the woods.

Ticks

Dogs & Humans

Tick hooks and picks work best.

If you do not have one, smother the tick with dish soap or vaseline. Give this a minute or so. The tick will loosen its hold in its attempt to get air. Grasp the tick with tweezers close to the skin. Be careful not to detach the head from the body. If it does detach, it is best to dig out the head immediately. I have found from experience usually the heads will fester like a zit and can be popped out a few days later. I do not advise leaving the heads in, but don’t panic if you are unable to find it. No tweezers? Lay a piece of duck tape on the tick and pull the tape in a smooth motion. This is a last resort and not as effective as the above options. If you have no other tools, this is more efficient than using fingernails.

Yes, using a hot needle/match may also work, but good luck getting your dog to hold still while you attempt to press a smoking hot match to his/her body.

After you remove the tick, be sure you kill the tick. Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not die after you remove them. Once a tick is full of blood, they hit the ground and procreate. Easy solution; place the body in a piece of scotch or duck tape. Killing the tick by decapitation may expose you to the blood inside of it. This may not be a healthy option if this is someone/something else’s blood.

Helpful tip, not only does tea tree oil serve as an anti-itch agent and antiseptic, but it also is a deterrent to ticks.

Monte Carlo

If you enjoy raked imported sand, private access beaches, and high class hotels then Monte Carlo is for you.

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Although Monaco is its own country, my passport was never checked entering from France. A quick trip up an intimidating bulletproof glass elevator, and you will meet the bright Mediterranean sun. If you are expecting an easy French atmosphere with the main streets littered with little cafes, think again. Monte Carlo consists of fancy cars, hotels with doormen, and a no riff raff attitude.

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There are dog friendly parks throughout Monaco (you can walk the length of the country in a day), but do not expect to find access to public beaches until you are outside of the city.

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The best part of Monaco was leaving Monaco.

Tour de Cap Martin
The hike around Cape Martin was more enjoyable than Monaco itself. The trail starts out in the Monte Carlo Country Club parking lot. Walk past the BMWs and Ferraris and the landscape quickly changes into jagged rock shore and a beautiful horizon line. A nice level foot path leads directly into Menton, France. It’s perhaps a two hour walk if you do not take a nap along the way.
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Feel free to leave comments and questions.

Explore the Ancient Ruins of Pompeii with Your Dog

 Well preserved frescos, intact ancient building, and your dog can explore with you.

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Have more caution in the Southern region of Italy. There is more poverty in the south, and it is common knowledge among Italians that Naples is notorious for car theft. That does not mean you can’t have a fantastic time, just use caution.

Yes, your dog can accompany you inside the ancient ruins of Pompeii, but beware of the stray dogs roaming about.

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Stone pedestrian crossings, ancient wagon ruts, an ancient amphitheater, and the petrified remains of Pomeii’s inhabitants will keep you occupied for at least half the day so bring your good walking shoes and a bottle of water.

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There are a couple campgrounds, Zeus and Spartacus, directly across from the ruins at a reasonable price. Spartacus was the cheaper option for car camping. The showers had no hot water and the wifi was pay by the hour. Dogs were of course welcome.

Travel Italy with Your Dog

 Italy may be the best place in the world to travel with your dog.

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Italians and Dogs

The French like dogs. Italians love dogs. I have gone to restaurants where Zala has been given packages of dog treats, cheesy pasta, ham, chocolates (without my consent), and pizza. Walking down the street I was always being stopped by Italians petting and loving on my dog. After one month in Italy, my dog believed her name was ‘Ciao Bella!’ (Hello Beautiful!).

On the Train

Trains accept dogs just as easily as France. I personally have only taken the train from Chambery, France to Milan, Italy. This ticket is a flat rate of 30Euros for your pet. I believe this holds true for all train travel in Italy. My passport was checked crossing the border, but Zala’s was not. Don’t forget your dog muzzle.

Bus

Take your dog on the bus and do so confidently. I did it in cities throughout Italy including Venice, Bologna, and Rome. People will appreciate you following the rules by putting a muzzle on your dog before you get on. I was thanked numerous times for doing this courtesy. Not everyone is comfortable with dogs, especially large ones.

Metro

I never took my dog on the Metro. I expect their dog restrictions are lax. Check online before you try.

Hotels

Many hotels do not post if they accept dogs and some only allow small dogs. E-mail or call anyways. Most hotels will accept large dogs even if their website does not say so. Most do not charge a fee either.

Restaurants and Shops

Unless it is a meat deli or grocery store, assume your dog can come inside. I got told off numerous occasions because I tied my dog outside and the owner or employee demanded I bring my dog inside because she ‘looks sad’. Please view my posts on specific Italian cities where I talk in detail of all the strange places that accepted my dog.

Churches, Museums, Ancient Buildings

No; except the ruins of Pompeii. Dogs are allowed there. See my post and photos on Pompeii.

Travel France with Your Dog

Traveling in France with you dog is accessible and fun.

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City Travel

Most cafes, stores, banks, and post offices allow dogs. Assume if there is no sign saying no dogs allowed, you and your furry friend can walk in. But it is always polite to ask first. Most cafes and restaurants will even serve your dog water before you. The French, as a whole, love dogs.

If a business does not allow pets, such as grocery stores and delis, there normally are hooks to tie your dog outside the store.

Metro and Bus

I personally have not traveled by bus or Metro in France. But I have in Italy, so be sure to check my post on the topic. Metros usually accept small dogs. I have seen individuals bring their large dog aboard with no issue. Most public transportation require your dog to be in a travel carrier or muzzled. It is the respectful thing to do, and those around you will be thankful you did. Show this small courtesy, and you will likely be greeted with smiles and winks.

Train

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This is the way to travel France and also Europe with a pet. TGV charges half the price of your ticket for your pet. You can buy your ticket online but not your dogs. Go to the station ticket counter and ask for a ticket for your furry friend. Your dog is required to be muzzled at all times. I’ve found this rule is rarely enforced. Your pet is also supposed to have a pet passport. In my one year of train travel not once was it checked.

Pet Passport

Although my dog’s passport was never checked, this is a requirement and a good thing to get for your pet upon arrival in Europe. Go to the vet and bring your international health certificate and rabies certificate with you. The process is painless and the passport is valid for the lifetime of your pet. In addition, the vet can give you paperwork to register you pet for that country.

Muzzles

You may have noticed I have mentioned muzzles several times. This is a very common requirement for pets allowed on public transportation. There are a lot of choices available, but I have found a simple mesh muzzle works best. They are cheap and can be purchased for under $10. You can slip it in your pant or coat pocket and easily slip it on and off your pet. Typically I put the muzzle on my dog when entering or leaving and take it off during the journey. Also, this kind of muzzle does not give your dog as intimidating of an appearance. This is important to me because I own a very striking Dutch Shepherd. A big metal cage muzzle makes her look like a killer.

Cautionary note: A tight mesh muzzle restricts panting. This is dangerous for a dog during high temperatures. Always put your dog’s health first.