I take several road trips a year from the US into Canada with my dogs.
People know I like to travel to Canada so they often ask me questions like “Can I take my dog to Canada?”, “How hard is it to cross the US-Canadian border with my dog?”, and “What rules do I need to follow when crossing the border with my dog?”.
I’m always happy to share what I know based on research and experience.
Can I Take My Dog to Canada?
The short answer is YES. In most cases anyway.
With the right paperwork, and appropriate vaccinations, most dogs can travel to Canada from US in a car.
A dog can’t travel across the border into Canada WITH THEIR OWNER if:
- They haven’t had any vaccinations (getting Titer test done doesn’t count)
- They haven’t had the Rabies vaccination within 30 days *(see the note below)
- They look like they are sick with a communicable disease
Note: There are a couple of nuances about the 30-day rabies period.
1) This 30-day waiting period is based off the US requirement. Dogs can enter into Canada even if has been less than 30 days between their rabies shot but US requirements say that dogs that have never been vaccinated against rabies must be vaccinated at least 30 days before arrival. Adult dogs older than 15 months of age, that previously received a rabies vaccination given no earlier than 3 months of age and that has since expired, may be imported immediately after booster vaccination, without the need to wait 30 days. Making sure it’s been 30 days between the rabies vaccine and travel either way is the surest way to make sure you and your dog don’t run into any trouble.
2) Assistance and service dogs can ENTER CANADA without any paperwork, including proof of vaccinations, if the dog is traveling to Canada with the owner. Service dogs traveling alone or with other people into Canada are subject to the same regulations as non-service dogs. Assistance and service dogs traveling BACK INTO THE US DO need proof of rabies vaccination.
Are the Rules the Same for My Puppy?
For puppies younger than three months of age, vaccinations or proof of a vaccination is not necessary TO GET INTO CANADA.
However, as listed above, the requirement to return to the US is still 30 days before entry.
If you plan to stay in Canada for longer than 30 days, and plan to visit a veterinarian for a Rabies vaccination at least 30 days before your planned return to the US, you can take your puppy into Canada without the vaccination.
If you plan to cross US-Canadian border, you will need paperwork proving that your dog has had a rabies vaccination. This paperwork should list your licensed veterinary clinic, the trade name, date, and expiration date of the vaccination, and contain your vet’s signature.
The rabies certificate must also include the owner’s name (your name) and a description of your pet (breed, color, and weight).
Be aware of the timing requirements. When you are entering Canada, there is no required waiting period between the time the animal is vaccinated for rabies and the time the animal is imported into Canada. However, entry into the US requires that your dog had a rabies vaccination at least 30 days prior.
I’ve done some research on what kind of food and treats you can’t cross the border with. It’s a little confusing because even the regulatory documents seem to contradict themselves sometimes.
To be safe, you should probably not try to bring things containing beef into BC, Canada (I am not sure about other parts of Canada). You can’t bring pet food and treats containing lamb or goat into the U.S unless the label on bag or can shows US origin.
The bottom line is to make sure all food and treats are in their original packages, which lists the ingredients and sources, and be prepared to leave any items deemed to be prohibited in the custom’s trash can.
For more details about bringing food and treats across the border, read Traveling With a Pet Dog Between the US and Canada: The Fine Print from our friends at DogJaunt.
It can be nerve-wracking driving across the Canadian-US border if you don’t do it often. The border guards rarely smile and ask a ton of questions that sometimes seem irrelevant. The questions we always get asked are where are you from? What is the purpose of your trip? how long will you be staying? Where are you staying (including address)? We also often get asked small details about where we are going or an event we are traveling to Canada for.
I am pretty sure making you nervous and asking details is a way of determining whether you are lying or not. I’m not sure if it is true but I have heard that the guards are trained to make you nervous on purpose because a normal, honest person will get nervous but someone with less than good intentions will act “strange” – either sweating bullets or playing to too cool.
Traveling across the border has been really easy for us. I proudly waived my paperwork for Chester and Gretel our first time across but the border guard did not ask to see it. I have never been asked about treats or food I am bringing across the border either. Although it’s rare, I have heard of people asked to pull aside for an inspection by border guards though.
You can see a transcript of an actual conversation our friends at GoPetFriendly had with a border agent here to get another perspective on crossing the border.
You may also be interested in reading:
Taking Your Dog to Canada from the folks at GoPetFriendly. This article has more information about border crossing paperwork requirements for humans as well as a “special warning” if traveling to Ontario.
10 Tips for Adventure Road Tripping with Your Dog by yours truly. I talk list some things to consider when traveling log distances with your dog in the car and searching for dog friendly hiking trails.
Have you traveled across the US-Canadian border with pets? Do you have any tips or stories you can share?