What You Must Know Before Driving Across the Canadian Border With Your Dog

I haven driven across the Canadian border from the United States several times with my dogs.

People know I like to travel to Canada with my dogs 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?”

“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.

UPDATED 5/24/2024- (originally published July 2014).

Can I Take My Dog to Canada?

The short answer is YES. In most cases anyway.

With the right paperwork, and appropriate vaccinations, adult dogs can travel to Canada from the United States (us) with you by vehicle

Note: to be clear, we are talking about compantion dogs, not dogs being imported for commercial sale.

A dog can’t travel across the border into Canada with their owner if:

  • Your dog hasn’t had any vaccinations (getting Titer test done doesn’t count)
  • Your dog doesn’t have a current rabies vaccination and proof of it. *(see the sub section below regarding rabies and getting back into the US)
  • Your dog looks are sick with a communicable disease

Also, be aware that Ontario has a ban on “pit bull” type dogs so you will not be able to travel there with one.

If your dog isn’t a pit bull but looks like one, bring documents proving that your dog isn’t one.

Otherwise, your dog can travel into Canada with you.

Dog Rabies Vaccination Requirements for Getting Back Into the US

To enter Canada, your dog just needs to have recieved the rabies vaccine and you need to have proof of it.

There is no requirement for the amount of time that has passed between recieving the rabies vaccination and entering into Canda.

Dogs can enter into Canada if has been less than 30 days between their rabies shot and the date you cross the border with your dog.

However, there is a waiting period for returning to the US.

The US requirement states a dog that has never been vaccinated against rabies must be vaccinated at least 30 days before arrival at the Canadian border crossing into the US.

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 [travel across the US border from Canada] 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 direction across the border is the best way to ensure you and your dog don’t run into any complications.

Are the US-Candian Border Crossing 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.

You will need to show proof of your dog’s age at the Canadian border, which you can get from your veterinarian.

As listed above, the requirement to return to the US is still 30 days before entry, regardless of age.

If you plan to bring your puppy, who is under 3 months of age into Canada, and you plan stay in Canada for longer than 30 days, you could visit a veterinarian for a rabies vaccination at least 30 days before your planned return to the US.

That is a tricky, uncertain game to play though. It may just be best to wait until 30 days after your puppy’s first rabies vaccination to travel to Canada with them.

Traveling from the US to Canada with a Service Dog

There is an exemption for service dogs.

Assistance and service dogs can enter Candada without any paperwork, including proof of vaccinations, if the dog is traveling to Canada with the owner.

The only caveat is that the Canadian requirements state, for a service dog traveling accross the border without paperwork, the owner present documentation to support that the animal is certified as a service animal by a recognized organization.

An important note here: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dog owners are not required to carry any kind of certification.

Furthermore, any online services that provide “registration” for service dogs are not legitimate – they prey on the uneducated for a profit.

So what will Canada expect when they say, “documentation to support that the animal is certified as a service animal by a recognized organization.”?

According to my friend who is a service dog trainer, and the founder of the blog Puppy in Training, says, “the organizations I’ve been involved with do give some sort of documentation to the service dog handlers” so I’m assuming this would be acceptable to Canadian border crossing guards.

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 as outlined above.

Required Paperwork for Traveling Across the US-Canadian Border with Your Dog

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 listed above.

To reiterate, 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.

MaxMeat Close up CTransporting Dog Food and Treats Across the Border

I’ve done some research on what kind of food and treats you can’t cross the border with.

Bringing dog food and treats into Canada from the US

The general rule for bringing dog food and treats into Canada from the US are….

Travelers may bring up to 20 kg , or 44 lbs, (total) of pet food and treats across the Canadian border if it meets all of the following requirements:

  • The pet food or product must be of United States origin and be commercially packaged
  • The pet food or product must be in the possession of the traveler at the time of entry from the U.S.
  • The animal that will eat the imported product must accompany the traveler at the time of entry
  • The imported product is fed only to the animal that accompanied the traveler into Canada

Bringing dog food and treats into the US from the Canada

According to the US Department of Ariculture, travelers may bring certain pet food, chews and treats from Canada back into the US if:

  • The items must be in unopened retail packaging
  • If the items are raw (not shelf-stable without refrigeration), dehydrated, freeze-dried, or sun-dried, then the items must be labeled as a product of Canada or the U.S.

If you are traveling back from Canada by land, there is a limit of 50 lbs, or 22.5 lbs, per vehicle.

You can’t bring dog food or treats containing lamb, sheep or goat into the US from Canada.

Note: when I researched this back in 2014, the regulations stated goat or lamp products were allowed if the label on the bag showed it was of US origin but that “loophole” does not seem to exist anymore.

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.

IMG_20140613_155512DWhat it’s Like Crossing the Us-Caadian Border with Your Dog

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 include:

  • Where are you from?
  • What is the purpose of your trip?
  • How long will you be staying?
  • Where are you staying (including address sometimes)?

We also often get asked small details about where we are going or an event we are traveling to Canada for.

It seems that 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 my dogs our first time across the Canadian border but the guard did not ask to look at it to verify the information.

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.

I’ve only ever traveled across the US-Canadian border in a personal vehicle but I’m told that if you are traveling in an RV you will be inspected no matter what.

What you need to know about driving across the Canadian border with your dog
(hover over image to pin)

Have  you traveled across the US-Canadian border with pets? Do you have any tips or stories you can share?

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a Dachshund sitter, President of the largest social Dachshund club in Washington State, a dog trainer in training, and I’ve been a Dachshund owner for 20 years. I have over 150,000 hours of experience with the breed. When I’m not working, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.

54 Comments

    1. We g gg ave 3 miniature daschunds and need to cross Canada border to get to Alaska. But if I’m understanding tight we can only take 2 dogs thru Canada, what do we do?

      1. Hi Wanda. I wrote this article. I’m curious which part made you believe that you could only bring two pet dogs across the border?

        1. I remember seeing a limit of 2 dogs many years ago that was not enforced. Current research suggests that there is no limit. I have taken 4 dogs across the border pre-Covid with no problem.

          1. I don’t remember a 2 dog limit but I am pretty sure there is some kind of limit. Like you probably can’t bring 100 across the border. Ha, ha.

          2. My friend bought 2 puppies from a lady in Calgary. Trying to get them into the US.
            Airlines will only let her bring 1 & there Chihuahua. There tiny!
            She is trying to get someone to get them & drive them over above Spokane WA. I don’t know where that border crossing is.
            Can you tell me if anyone does this?
            Thank you for your time. Connie

            1. Hi Connie. It’s been a while since your left your comment. I assume your friend was able to find a solution. If you have the time, I would appreciate an update. No obligation though.

  1. We did not have our dog at the time we visited Montreal a few years back but I can tell you that the Canadian guard who let us in was very nonchalant and asked very breezily if we had any “guns or explosives” while the American guard who let us come back home was all business and walked all around our little jeep while looking inside and under it. He wasn’t rude, just large and serious and thorough. We were nervous, for no reason, but just sat there quietly waiting for the go ahead. He did not ask to see the required papers but we were glad we had them. I just want to take the opportunity to add that if you have never taken your dog on vacation, give it a try. We always take our longhaired dachshund with us and we drive far and stay long. He comes canoeing, sleeps deeply in rustic cabins, walks on beautiful forest trails, and even visits a few small town restaurants that have tables outside. I still thank the friend who responded to my vacation dog-angst with, “Just take him!” There’s nothing like cooking breakfast in a tiny lakeside cabin and having all of us together just like home. Don’t be afraid, “Just take him!”

    1. Thanks for the cheerleading. I think that taking your dog on vacation is a great experience. The added bonus is that you don’t have to spend your time worrying how they are doing or what trouble they might get into 🙂

  2. Pingback: With-Dog Road-Tripping! | Montecristo Travels
    1. Thinking about adopting a six weeks old puppy in Alaska but, upon reading everything I am not sure that I can cross the border. She is up to date on her shots but can’t have her rabies yet.
      We have to cross the border from Alaska to Canada and then back to the US.

      1. Will you be flying or driving (I assume driving by your comment)? I am not sure that it would matter if you fly because you are flying from US (Alaska) to US. If you drive through Canada though, you will have to follow rabies requirements for entry into Canada and than again when you reenter the US.

        This is what I found for travel into the US: “In most cases, proof of rabies vaccine is required, however, an unvaccinated dog may be allowed under certain conditions. These include puppies, which must then be confined until vaccinated.”

        And this: “What if your pup is too young for a rabies vaccination? According to the CFIA, “Dogs do not require rabies vaccination or certification if they are less than three months of age at the time they are imported into Canada.” However, coming back is a different story — the US may require you to sign a “confinement agreement” and keep your pup confined until 30 days after his vaccination eventually takes place.

        It looks like you will be ok to cross but that will be a quarantine period when you come back into the US. The information in the first link above suggests you call the CDC ahead of time and work things out with them but the comment above makes it sound like the agreement is something you can sign at the border.

        Whatever you decide to do, good luck. I bet you’re excited about your new puppy.

  3. Thanks for the info. We are driving through Canada to Alaska and back and this has answered our questions.

    1. how did it go traveling with your dog through canada to alaska then back through to the contiguous states for you?

  4. I am moving from Alabama to Alaska next week. I plan on taking my 15 lb shih Tzu mix dog with me. I will be driving, so I will cross the border into Canada and then again into Alaska. He is 4 years old and had his yearly shots and rabies vaccine just a few months ago. So, will I only need that proof of vaccination for both crossings? He is very temperamental and hates strangers, so I worry about border agents thinking he’s aggressive and violent when he actually is not. I also don’t want him to be quarantined because he wouldn’t do well, again, because he hates strangers. Would you mind letting me know what all I should be aware of and need to take with me regarding him for the border crossings? Thanks!!

    1. Hi Kaylin. I am not an expert on driving to Canada and back with dogs. I’ve done it a few times from Washington to BC and back and put everything I know into this article. I also liked to some articles written by people who know more about crossing the border with a dog than I. That being said, I would imagine crossing into Canada then to Alaska (back into the US) isn’t any different than the US-Canada-US trips I’ve taken. Proof of vaccination (especially rabies) should be all you need. How much “hassle” you get at the border is up to the particular border guard. They could require some sort of inspection but likely wouldn’t. Although I have the vaccinations records with me, I’ve only been asked for the papers once in the 5 times I’ve crossed the border. If there is an inspection, I’ve never heard of one where they inspect the actual dog. It’s usually the car when they do an inspection. Amnyway, good luck. As long as you have the papers, you shouldn’t have any issues.

  5. Was there any issue coming back into the US? Does the US have requirements to bring the dog back in even if he originated there?
    Im Canadian but my husband and I live in Virgina. We just got our weiner puppy and are looking forward to taking him across the border to see his “Grandma” and her weiner dog!

    1. Hello. The information I listed applies to crossing the border in either direction but is primarily written from the perspective from living in the US and traveling to Canada and back (since we live in the US). I noted where there were any differences, like with the rabies vaccination waiting period. Please let me know if you have a different or more specific question though.

      We traveled across the border and back again this last weekend. No one even asked me anything about my dog. We’ve crossed at least a dozen times now and no one has. One person asked if I had paperwork but didn’t want to see it. I would always make sure you have the required paperwork but don’t be nervous – crossing the border with a dog is easy.

        1. No. There is no fee to cross the border. You do need a proof of rabies vaccination though. Your vet should give you one of those free I think but some may charge.

          1. At the top you said it had to be within 30 days then at the bottom you said it had to be over 30 days. I read all the replies to this point and no one even commented on that I find this strange inconsistency. Please correct which one is wrong an says:

            At the top you said it had to be within 30 days then at the bottom you said it had to be over 30 days. I read all the replies to this point and no one even commented on that I find this strange inconsistency. Please correct which one is wrong and clarify here

            1. The top comment says “They HAVEN’T had the Rabies vaccination within 30 days.” The second part says that they must have had the vaccination MORE than 30 days prior. Those statements are not inconsistent. Your dog must have had the rabies vaccination more than 30 days prior to crossing the border.

  6. My dog’s rabies vaccination certificate just lists her breed as “mixed.” Do you think that’s specific enough to fit the requirements? (It does also have her color and weight.)

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Kimberly. I can’t make any promises as I am not an expert but my interpretation is that what you have in enough. There are probably more mixed breeds crossing the border than purebreds. The border inspectors/guards just need enough info so they can tell that the certificate is for that particular dog. You didn’t mention this so as a reminder make sure that the certificate is signed by your vet.

  7. Great page Jessica! I couldn’t believe it was you when I saw your picture posted! You are so amazing. We are headed to Canada sometime in the near future and want to take our dog. ???? Looking forward to meeting you! Our paths keep crossing so let’s meet sometime soon!!!!

  8. This is great information, thank you for posting it! I have a know 4-5 month old Australian blue heeler mix, and I want to go up this summer to Canada to visit a friend and was concerned as to what to do with Roy. I’m happy to see that with proper paper work he can come with me making it a great trip as he loves riding in the car!

  9. We normally travel with 4 dogs, (all under 10 lbs) in our Motor Home. Are we able to take all 4 into Canada, with proper papers?

    1. Hi Lynn. I have not heard of any restrictions on the number of domestic pets you can take but I really don’t know much about that as I only have 2. I could see where some government agencies may consider “a lot” of animals to be transportation of “animals” and have different rules? I’m not sure.

      I did ask my dog-owning friend who lives in BC and she said there shouldn’t be a problem with 4 dogs. However, you need to have the records I list in this article for each one of them.

      Have fun!

  10. Hi Jessica! Thank you for such valuable information!
    How many days before the trip did you visit veterinary to receive the paper about vaccination? Do you know, are there any rules about “”freshness” of this paper? Or may be you use the same paper during the year until the vaccination expires?

    1. Hi Mila. I did get a new vaccination proof a couple weeks before because my old one was tattered. As long as you have proof of vaccination expiration, it shouldn’t matter when you received the paperwork. I’m sure they prefer it’s clean and crisp though. I keep the records folded up in my passport so they are handy and protected.

  11. I have a mixed breed dog. I don’t think he is a pit mix but now I am scared. Does BC have any kind of breed ban that I need to worry about when traveling there? I can’t find and info stating so online but wad wondering if you knew.

    1. Hi Karissa. I don’t. I’m not aware of any restrictions but I will ask my Canadian friend and let you know if she gets back to me.

  12. Interesting about the food – my GSD has food issues and can literally only eat beef food from one rare brand… anything else, even slowly introduced gives him liquid poo… at a VERY rapid pace. Especially chicken. He is very limited in his treats… on road trips he gets blueberry donuts (I know they aren’t great – so it’s pretty rare for him). He can have some Mac n Cheese, and he can have some veggies… but only one type of dog food.

    Heaven help me if they ever discontinue it ?

  13. I’m planning a coastal roadtrip from Canada ?? to Southern California ?? this summer and was curious about border crossing w/ dogs. Thanks so much for this informative article & helpful links!

  14. Great info and very clear Thank you so much for putting this out there….. I am having my best friend care for my little guy up in BC while I go to Norway is to long of a flight for him so he can’t go with me and I was looking up info this is who I came across your blog 🙂 just what I need to know !!!
    Cheers
    Gisela~

    1. Hi Gisela. That sounds like a great trip! I’m glad you found someone you can trust to watch your pup and I’m glad my article helped you in regard to crossing the border.

    1. You’ll need a proof of rabies signed by your veterinarian. The one from my vet does have a letterhead on it (vet’s name and address) but I don’t know if that is necessary. I do think it’s probably important for the vet to give contact information though in case the border guards had questions.

  15. So … what do you do about food if you’re crossing ll the time (e.g., a truck driver)? You would have to have open bags of food to feed the dog.

    1. If it were me, I would just buy small bags and try to bring them across anyway. In my experience, they don’t always ask you about dog food. If they do, be honest. Some border crossing agents won’t care. In a worst-case scenario, you would have to throw it away and buy more when you cross the border.

  16. I have an important question. If I buy a puppy from Canada and the breeder does not want to cross the border. Is it allowed by car to bring the puppy into the us at 9 weeks. Can I do this? All CDC says dog has to be 6mo and with rabies vaccination.

    1. Jessica I called the US customs that borders the thousand island bridge and he said there is an exception that if the puppy is coming from a not high risk country for rabies which Canada is not the puppy can travel to the us without the rabies vaccination if the breeder does a verbal or written statement that says the puppy from birth to the time it was given to me has not left Canada.

      1. Thanks for this information. I have heard conflicting information about this but mostly in regard to flying with a dog. I believe it’s the airline that required the rabies vaccination no matter what. But, as this article is about driving, this is good information to know.

  17. Hi! Thank you for this information.

    I am traveling from Canada to the US for a 10 day vacation with my two doxies next week.
    I have my rabies certificates and health certificates for the states that we are visiting that require them.

    My question for you is have you ever heard of the US confiscating someones dog a discrepancy in the paperwor? My husband was picking up the rabies certificates today and a lady in the waiting room said “forewarned if the US doesn’t like your paper work they will take your dog with out means of retuning it”. Now I am petrified.

    I called Eastport border this morning and while I didn’t ask this information – they didn’t offer it either.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Annette. No, I have never heard of that. Individual US states do not ask to see proof of rabies to gain entry. That is done at the border, if they ask at all. As far as I know, the worst that can happen is that they will not let you enter the country if they are not satisfied with your paperwork.

  18. I’m Canadian and cross the US/Canadian border with my dog all the time. Your experience will depend where you cross – busier borders at Niagara Falls or Detroit will be a different experience than less travelled borders like New Brunswick/Maine. Paperwork proving rabies vaccine is what they are looking for. Canadian guards are more concerned with guns than dogs – that’s why RVs are searched. (Many types of weapons are banned in Canada – and it’s serious. Laws and attitudes are very different between the two countries). Also, keep in mind, guards often ask you questions they know they answer to – a lot of information is attached to your license plate – and they are checking to see if you’re being honest.

    1. Yes, they are very skilled at asking “silly” questions they know the answers to already. I am never doing anything shady but still manage to bungle most of my answers because I am nervous. I guess that means they are doing their job. Ha, ha.

  19. We live in Minnesota and are planning to take our 2 dogs on vacation (driving) to Canada with us for 1 week (and then return to MN). According to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, “To enter the State of Minnesota, all dogs, cats, and ferrets traveling from other countries require a valid Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) issued by a licensed/credentialed veterinarian from the country of origin (where the pet is coming from). Each animal listed on the certificate must have a physical examination performed by the signing veterinarian within 30 days of travel and found to be healthy with no signs of infectious, contagious, and/or communicable disease. ” Obviously, we will have the necessary rabies certifications, but has anyone been asked to show a CVI when transporting their pet from Canada to Minnesota?

    1. Hi Chris. In Washington State, those requirements apply to being IMPORTED into the US, not pets traveling with their owners to and from Canada. Obviously, we don’t live in Minnesota so I can’t say for sure that is true for you but I suspect it is. You can always obtain one the first time just in case and then ask the border guard coming back into the US if you need one next time.

  20. My son is traveling with his Pit. He has his paperwork for him already, although, his trip was delayed. Will he need to go back to his vet to get newer paperwork? I saw also that they should get the parvo, as well as, the kennel cough vaccines because there is an outbreak in AK. (he’s moving to AK) Can anyone give me info on this? He will have a large bag of dog food to feed his Pit on the way, of course, it will be an opened bag. Do they discourage this? His trip is easily a 2 week drive. He will also be pulling his trailer which will be tarped and tied down (full of his family’s items, i.e., furniture, clothes, etc. Will this be searched or anything? He just doesn’t want to mess up the tie downs being it’s such a long drive, things are organized in a manner of distributed weight etc for safety. Thank you for any suggestions or experiences you may let me know about. He’s never traveled this far or been through the border. I’m assuming he will probably cross over in North Dakota??? Thank you!

    1. Hi Dina. I am not sure if your Son has started his trip since my reply was delayed. I don’t know the specifics on traveling to Alaska with a dog but the rules at the border to get into Canada should still be the same. I will note though that I hear trailers and RVs are always searched when crossing the border. I doubt they would give him a hard time about food he needs for his dog in order to get to Alaska, if they even notice, but there is always a chance. That’s why buying food from a Canadian pet store once you cross the border is always safer.

  21. Hi Jessica!

    I want to say thank you for putting together such a detailed post. We just road tripped with our dog to Vancouver via Peace Arch crossing. I had everything as prepared as I possibly could- rabies documentation, an unopened set of food and treats, for coming back to USA, everything in retail original packaging etc etc. I had extra dog food unfinished and was prepared to toss it all (cue wallet cries) as well. The only questions I got were what did we buy from Canada and do we have any alcohol/ tobacco products on us. Hardly anyone even gave my rabies document a second glance. No one even looked at the dog. Lol I guess I shouldn’t be complaining, it is good to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. Thanks for your valuable information so I was able to prepare and know in advance what to expect. 💖💖

    1. I was super prepared the first time I crossed the border into Canada with my dogs… and was super disappointed when they didn’t even ask me to see any of it! Like you said, I guess I shouldn’t be complaining. But I want my gold star! Ha, ha.

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