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: This article was 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 (source).
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.
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.
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.
Have you traveled across the US-Canadian border with pets? Do you have any tips or stories you can share?