Traveling With a Shih Tzu:  Tips for Successful Trips with your Shih Tzu dog

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Shih Tzu Dogs" by Molly Weinfurter. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Molly Weinfurter

While your Shih Tzu may seem perfectly content sitting at home, try to travel with them once in a while. This way, if you ever need to travel or move to a new location, your dog will not be shocked at this new experience. It is easy to take your Shih Tzu places due to their small size. Also, because they are hypoallergenic, you don’t have to worry about other people’s allergies when you take your dog out in public. However, as fun as it is to travel with your dog often, you want to make sure that your dog feels completely comfortable traveling with you at all times, so make sure to ease them into it at first.

Car Rides

Shih Tzu are generally great car companions. They will likely just sleep the whole time or occasionally try to look out the window. However, if you never take them in the car, then this will probably not be the case. Sometimes owners will only take their Shih Tzu in the car if they’re going to the vet or the groomer. If you don’t regularly take your dog different places, they will associate car rides with those places only, which are generally places that your dog is not a fan of. If this is what they think when they get in the car, then they may pant and tremble every time you drive somewhere with them, which is not a good experience for them.

Shih tzu in a car
Photo Courtesy – Annette Henderson

Bring your Shih Tzu for a car ride every chance you get. This is because the more places you bring your dog, the better travel companion they will be. You need to teach them that car is a good thing, so take them to places that they would enjoy. If they learn that they get to go to the park or to a restaurant with outdoor seating when they go in the car, then they will soon get excited when you mention the words “car ride.”

For some dogs, even if they enjoy car rides, they will not sit still the whole way there. Since Shih Tzu can be a snuggly breed, they may also try to climb onto your lap while you’re driving. While this can be cute, it can also be dangerous if your dog keeps jumping on your lap while you’re trying to focus on driving.

One way to help your dog to sit still while driving is to put them in a carrier in the car. This may be a bit scary for your dog at first, but there are lots of different types of carriers made specifically for traveling with your dog. You can try out different ones before deciding which one will be best for your dog. If the carrier is comfortable enough for your Shih Tzu, they may actually prefer traveling in it. Don’t expect them to be comfortable in it right away though. They may whine and squirm at first, but after whimpering for a little while, they will likely calm down and fall asleep. Then, after a while they will get used to the carrier and feel comfortable traveling in it.

Another way to keep your dog still in the car is to buy a leash that is designed to buckle to the seatbelt. This way your dog can’t freely wander around the car and they will be less of a distraction for you. It is probably best for you to clip the leash to a harness instead of a collar, because if you take a sharp turn, the collar could choke them if the leash is not at an ideal length.

Flying with Your Shih Tzu

Many people worry about flying with their dog, but the positive side to bringing a Shih Tzu on a plane is that they are small enough to come in the cabin with you. As long as your dog is under twenty pounds, you can keep them in an airplane carrier under your seat during the flight. This way, you know your dog is right next to you at all times and you do not need to worry about them while you’re in the air. There is usually an extra fee of at least seventy-five dollars to bring a pet with you, but it varies between different airlines. Make sure to research the different airline pet policies ahead of time to find out which one is right for you.

Before flying with your dog for the first time, make sure to visit your vet. They can help you decide if you should give your dog any medication during the flight. If your Shih Tzu is generally calm and laid back, then they will probably just sleep through the flight with no problem. However, if your Shih Tzu is typically full of energy, then you will likely need to give them something to calm them down. No one wants to sit by a dog that’s squirming and barking throughout the whole flight.

Shih tzu tri coloe
Photo Courtesy – Madison Taylor

You can find an airplane carrier online, but the best way to go about it is to go into the pet store with your dog so you can try different ones out. Some of them can be kind of pricey, but you want to make sure you find one that your dog is comfortable in. Some can be held over your shoulder while others have wheels so you can pull your dog behind you without having to carry them the whole time. Your dog is supposed to stay in the carrier in the airport and throughout the entire flight, so don’t just select the cheapest option if your dog won’t be comfortable in it.

Technically, your dog must remain under your seat the whole time with the carrier closed, but many airlines are lenient about this. It can be scary for your dog to stay in the carrier the whole flight, so usually it is okay for you to let their head stick out during the flight so they can at least see that you’re right there beside them. Even if you plan to let your Shih Tzu look around on the flight, you should still be prepared to close the carrier if a flight attendant requests that you do.

Before taking your dog to the airport, make sure to use the bag ahead of time. Try putting them in it at home and giving them a treat if they sit still or allow you to close the bag. Practice carrying them around in it so that they can get used to the feeling of being in their airplane carrier. The more time they spend in the carrier ahead of time, the more relaxed they will be when they sit in it on the plane ride.

Make sure to take your dog outside as close to your flight as possible. There is nowhere for your dog to pee on the plane besides in their carrier, so you want to make sure they go ahead of time. Some airports have specific dog relief areas where you can take your dog to the bathroom in the airport. Don’t rely on this though because sometimes they are indoor areas with fake grass, so your dog may not see this as an okay place to do their business. Even if your dog has gone out right before your flight, make sure to bring some paper towels on the plane with you just in case your dog happens to have an accident.

Bringing your dog through airport security for the first time can be a bit intimidating because they don’t give much information about that process ahead of time. If you’re in a busy airport, it actually makes going through security quicker, because they will usually allow you to go through the handicap line if they see that you have your dog with you. Then, once you get to the front of the line, you will want to take your dog out of the airplane bag. You will send the bag through the machine with your other belongings, but you will carry your Shih Tzu through the metal detector. Security will help you if you have any questions, but usually after going through the metal detector, they will ask to test your hands quick. Once you have gone through this process once, it should become much easier for you the next time you fly with your dog.

Staying in a Hotel

Not all hotels are dog-friendly, so do plenty of research if you are planning to stay overnight somewhere with your dog. Many hotels will allow dogs in certain rooms as long as you pay a small fee. Every hotel charges different amounts and has different requirements about what dogs are allowed. Luckily, since Shih Tzu are a small, easygoing breed, it is easier to find hotels that will accept them.

Shih tzu princess type
Photo Courtesy – Mollie Doucette

A hotel will be a strange place for your pup, so remember to bring plenty of items along that will smell like home to them. If you have to leave your Shih Tzu alone in the hotel room often, make sure they have plenty of accessible places to sleep and lots of their toys scattered about. You can even push a chair up against the window if it is too high for your dog to see out of. This way, your dog will feel more at home and get less scared if you leave.

Since the hotel allows dogs, then it is likely that your dog is not the only visitor. If your Shih Tzu can smell other dogs or hear them barking from other rooms, they may feel compelled to bark as well. Try your best to train them to avoid this behavior, but they may not listen as well in this unfamiliar area. All the rooms with dogs in them are usually kept close to each other, so expect the occasional barking conversation between dogs in other rooms.

Similar to their first night home at your place, the first night in a hotel may be restless for them. Many people will be coming and going at all hours of the day and night, so your dog may wake up every time they hear noises outside. Instead of yelling at them to go back to sleep, pet them and give them attention so they understand that everything is okay.


Kenneling dogs is a common solution when you’re going to be out of town, but if you decide to do this with your Shih Tzu, then there are lots of things to consider. Not all kennels are the same, so do research ahead of time to find a trustworthy one for your dog.

One positive of keeping your dog at a kennel is that they are constantly monitored by professionals. Some kennels will even have a way for you to watch your dog online to make sure everything is going well. However, if a kennel does not seem trustworthy, then they may not provide your dog with this same safety, so be careful. Look for a kennel with a good reputation. Find one that cares about your dog and not just the money. You can get good recommendations from vets, groomers, and local pet stores.

Shih tzu on a boat
Photo Courtesy – Michelle Beltran

Some kennels may not provide your dog with the amount of exercise and attention that they need, especially if they have a lot of different dogs to look after. They may try to charge you extra for extra playtime. These are the types of kennels that you want to avoid. You shouldn’t have to pay extra for your dog to get what they usually get at home. You also will want to find a kennel that will allow you to bring your own food for the dog. If the kennel provides their own food, it may not be the best brand for your dog and they may get sick from the sudden change in diet.

Your dog is always most comfortable in a familiar environment. A kennel can be new and scary to them, which is why many people will avoid taking their dogs there. You may want to take your dog to the kennel first to check it out, just so they aren’t surprised when they are suddenly dropped off and you’re no longer with them.

One last thing to be mindful of when taking your dog to a kennel is to make sure your dog is up to date on all possible vaccinations. There are diseases that can be spread at kennels, such kennel cough. You want to ensure your dog is not harmed while they are staying there.

Dog Sitters

A pet sitter can be a better option when leaving your dog alone, but only if it is someone that you trust. There are professionals that you can hire to watch your dog, but you can also just choose a close friend or family member to watch your Shih Tzu while you are away. Whoever you choose, make sure it is someone your dog can meet ahead of time so that you are not just leaving them with a stranger.

Shih tzu at the beach
Photo Courtesy – Mallory Duffy

When allowing someone to watch your pet, you can either have them stop by your house to check on your dog frequently or you can have your dog stay with them. There are pros and cons to each option, so it is important to decide which one would work better for you and your dog.

If you choose to allow the pet sitter into your home while you’re out of town, make sure that it is not only someone you trust with your dog, but also with everything in your house. If the pet sitter comes to your house, then your dog does not have to go to an unfamiliar setting. Everything will smell like you and it can help them feel more comfortable being left alone for a while. Your pet sitter can also pick up your mail and packages while they’re there if that would benefit you as well.

Keeping your dog at home could be an issue though, because then they won’t have someone with them at all times. If your Shih Tzu does not stay in their crate, they may not have a problem roaming around by themselves, but sometimes they prefer the extra company, rather than having someone just stop by to feed them and take them out.

If you allow your dog to stay at someone else’s house, make sure it is a place that your dog has visited beforehand. You want to make sure they’ve had plenty of time to smell and explore the area before they actually have to stay there. This can be a better idea if you don’t want to give your sitter a key to your house.

Make sure to bring everything your dog might need to the dog sitter’s house. Give them enough food for the whole time, bring plenty of their toys, and take a blanket or pillow of your own so they can have something that smells like you. The more stuff you bring with them, the more at home they will feel while you’re gone.

To read more from "The Complete Guide to Shih Tzu Dogs" by Molly Weinfurter, or purchase on Amazon, visit the link below:

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