Traveling in Mexico with a Dog

Mexico is dog friendly for many travelers, especially those who choose driving over flying. While you can fly into the country, it does make things more difficult. Rental car companies may not allow your dog and your options for lodging become more limited as well. That said, you can have a great time cruising the country with your best friend along.

Border Crossing Requirements for Your Dog

I’ve crossed the border into Mexico and back into the US multiple times without any questions or special inspections for my dog. I still carry paperwork for you just in case proof is required to cross in either direction. You will want shot records, including proof of an up-to-date rabies shot. You can get a fresh health certificate from your vet using the official USDA form for pet travel. This allows you to travel with confidence. The USDA form is especially important for air travel.

Limitations of a Dog in Mexico

There are a few limiting factors with your pet although they are nominal for most pet owners. Travel to restricted areas like archaeologically sensitive areas will become more difficult and impossible without a dog sitter in many cases. It’s also more difficult to find lodging, especially when booking online. I did have surprising success however by simply stopping at local motels and asking for permission. Most only will approve a small dog but with some persuading, I found plenty to take my 50-pound girl. Finding rental cars may be an issue and it’s ideal to drive your own vehicle across the border.

Finding Places to Stop

The areas you travel will dictate how you make pit stops with your dog. My dog needs to stretch and walk a few times each day. Urban areas are more difficult to manage and leashes are mandatory. Drivers will rarely stop for a loose dog in most of Latin America. In Baja and rural areas, you can walk beaches and small towns easily however. We have never really had issues finding a country road or town square to explore. Just be aware of your surroundings and watch out for motorized traffic and street dogs.

Dealing with Street Dogs

Many towns in Mexico have strays and street dogs. Some of these dogs do have homes but they patrol off-leash and often take ownership of a small area in a town. There are also plenty of dogs behind fences that will bark and make noise as you walk around.

I walk my dog off leash in rural towns and open areas where road traffic is not an issue. Loose dogs are often visible from a distance and I will throw a leash on my dog if they feel unsafe. This is very rare however and my dog initiates playful behavior more often than not. The first few seconds of meeting a group of dogs is sometimes stressful but we have never had a fight or problem.

You need to really know your dog and make judgement calls based on the situation.

Temperature Control is Everything

Temperature and comfort are concerns for most dog owners and traveling in Mexico with a dog requires special attention to the environment. I remember cruising comfortably through the mountains of central Mexico while enjoying the cool climates. A few hours later we were on the gulf coast sweating in a van without air conditioning.

I now drive with air conditioning and plan stops in hot climates at lodging with air conditioning. We explore the outdoors in the early morning and late evening in hot climates and retreat to cooler indoor zones during the day. I always carry freshwater for my dog as well.

Safety Concerns

Traveling in Mexico with a dog is generally safe, especially when driving the cuotas or toll roads and spending time in areas without safety concerns. This applies to the owner more than the dog however. In terms of dog safety, be cautious about walking around because trash is often available to dogs.

Locals often barbecue and have picnics and it’s not uncommon to discard cooked bones in the bushes. They often feed street dogs and pets cooked chicken and pork bones and might kindly try doing the same with your dog. Just don’t let your dog eat the bones, say thank you and move along. It’s generally a nice gesture but most American dogs are not accustomed to eating bones that may splinter.

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