Can I walk the Camino de Santiago with my dog?

Written by Caitlin

It can be hard for loving dog parents to leave their fur babies at home when they go on long holidays. This is probably why so many people ask us if the Camino de Santiago is dog-friendly! When thinking about walking the Camino with dogs there are a few things to consider.

So here is the simple version –

Can I take my dog on the Camino de Santiago?

Yes. But… there are lots of things to think about and it can be very hard on your dog. Think of it as being a little bit like walking with a young child. They can become anxious, or ill, and the distance can be challenging for them. You will need to walk shorter days, incorporate rest days, and be prepared to stop walking to look after them if something goes wrong.

On the other hand – you will almost definitely see someone walking with their dog on the trails, so it is possible with the right preparation. Just remember to keep your furry friend’s wellbeing in mind.

Before you even start wondering about dog-friendly villas in Spain it is important to consider whether you can get your pets into Spain from wherever you live. Dogs and cats under 6 months of age are not allowed to travel into the EU at all.

For example, if you are trying to bring your dog from the USA or Canada to Spain it will be a long and stressful process for your dog.

Bringing your dog into the European Union

All of our fantastic walking holidays are in countries that are part of the European Union. This means that there are some broad rules around bringing your animals into these countries if you are coming from overseas.

Depending on where you are coming from you might need to put your dog in quarantine for a few months. This might be in your country, or in Spain once they arrive. You will need to research this carefully before you leave for the Camino with your dog.

Here is a summary of the main rules for bringing your dog into the EU: Your dog needs a Pet Passport, an implant or ID tattoo, vaccinations against rabies (and other things, depending on where you come from), a health certificate, and a written declaration stating that the dog is not there for commercial purposes.

What about the UK?

If you are bringing your dog from the UK into Spain your EU pet passport is no longer valid after Brexit. You’ll need to get a new one from an authorised vet in the UK.

Training for the Camino with a dog

Once you’ve got your dog ready to go, there is the next step – training! Just like people, dogs need to build up their fitness and endurance to be able to walk long distances for multiple days in a row. Luckily – they will love the training!

Simply bring your dog along with you on all your training walks to help them get used to longer distances and different terrains. Remember that they might get excited or scared by new environments, so it is important to keep an eye on them and make sure they are adjusting well. Look for dog-friendly parks and long walks to help you prepare your dog for the Camino.

Here is our training plan for humans, and it works well for dogs too!

As you walk, check in with your dog often. Look for any signs of injury and take lots of water breaks.

Make sure that your pet is comfortable with other people and animals, because you will definitely see plenty of new people, animals, and smells along the Camino. On some sections you will be walking quite close to roads as well, so they will have to be comfortable with traffic.

Ease them into new things and reward their efforts with treats, play, and cuddles!

Planning your dog-friendly Camino

This is the part where we can help! When planning your Camino de Santiago pilgrimage with your dog, we know all the questions to ask and we have all the local contacts.

Consider which month will be easiest for your dog. With all that extra fur you should avoid the warmest months. Similarly, if they aren’t used to ice and snow – avoid winter. Autumn is a popular season for people and for dogs because it’s nice and cool.

Always book your accommodation ahead of time and check that they are pet friendly! Alberges and hostels along the Camino mostly have strict no-pet policies. Others may charge you extra for bringing a pet with you. If you are booking through us we can handle all of this for you, and make sure that your furry friend is welcome at each of your stops.

Get your dog’s Pilgrim passport! Yes, there is a dog version that you can buy from the APACA. They can even receive “La Perregrina”, which is the dog version of the Compostela certificate. You simply have to visit the APACA centre with your dog and verify that they have walked the Camino de Santiago with you.

Check nearby pet-friendly places to eat. Again, many places in Europe do not want pets where food is served. Once we’ve booked your accommodation, check for nearby places where you can eat while having your pet with you.

Transport to the Camino with a dog

Getting your dog to the Camino can be difficult, depending on where you are coming from. There are lots of rules about travelling with dogs, and you will need to research your specific country’s rules. Whilst the Camino de Santiago can be dog-friendly, a lot of transport options aren’t.

Choose a pet-friendly airline

Look up all of the airlines that fly your route and see what their pet policies are. Some won’t carry animals at all, and others might not have a good reputation for animal welfare. Air travel is a very stressful time for your dog, so it is very important to do your research here. The crowds and noises can be a stressful environment or pets. If you get them settled into their crate before you enter the airport it will usually be better for them.

Consider pet-friendly trains

If you are coming from within Europe you may be able to take the train to your Camino starting point. Taking a train instead of flying might be easier for your pet. Some trains will even let you have them in your cabin with you. It’s a good idea to talk to someone about this option if you are going across multiple countries.

Jump in the car

Another option for those within Europe is to drive to your Camino de Santiago starting point with your dog. This is likely to be the least stressful option if you want to walk the Camino with your dog, especially if they are used to car travel. You’ll have full freedom to stop for toilet breaks. You will also be able to have them near you the whole way.

Ask us about options for leaving your car at your starting point. We can also recommend options for how to come back to it when you are finished walking.

If you are coming from the UK or Ireland you can take your car and your dog on a ferry to Spain. Just remember to check their animal policies when booking as some ferries have special kennels on board.

Be extra prepared

Even if you have planned everything perfectly, accidents can happen. Before you leave, research local vets and pet insurance. It is also a good idea to bring a pet first aid kit and know some basic signs and treatment of injuries. Talk to your vet about these for the best tips for your dog.

Keep an eye on your dog’s footpads and ask your vet about dog safe moisturisers. The Camino can be quite sharp and there is always a risk of little cuts on your dog’s feet while they walk. Shoes can help with this if they are willing to wear them.

Stay alert to other dogs. Along the Camino de Santiago, you will see towns and farms, so there is always a risk of other dogs. Some of them may not be as well behaved as yours and could get aggressive if they see your dog entering their territory.

If your dog is small enough to carry then you might want to consider a backpack that you can carry them in if needed. The Camino is a long walk for a dog, so having this option can be comforting.

Walking the Camino de Santiago with your dog

Once you’ve got through all of that you’ll be on the trail! Here is your packing list for walking the Camino de Santiago with your dog:

  • water and a bowl – make sure you carry extra water for your walking companion. Bring a small bowl that they are comfortable drinking from. We recommend having at least 2 litres of extra water with you for your dog.
  • snacks – just like you, they will be burning way more energy than normal. Keep their energy up with some nice, healthy snacks.
  • a harness and leash – you will want to keep your dog securely attached to you, no matter how well trained they are. Locals and restaurants will expect your dog to be on a leash. Make sure that it fits properly and doesn’t rub.
  • some of their normal dog food – big diet changes can really upset a dog’s stomach and make them sick. If you do feed them something new, make sure it is mixed in with their normal food. If you are travelling with us we will transfer your main bags between your accommodation for you. That way you don’t need to worry about the extra weight.
  • poo bags – you absolutely must pick up after your dog while you are on the trail. There will be long stretches without bins. Make sure you have a sealed bag that you can put your dog’s poos in until you find one.
  • dog raincoat – get your dog used to walking in a raincoat. The weather can get quite wet sometimes.
  • dog shoes – if they are comfortable in them, shoes can help protect your dog’s feet.
  • medication – if your dog has any medication that they need, stock up on this before you go.
  • their favourite toy – if your dog likes toys it can be very comforting to them to have one with them. You can also use this as a treat and a reward for good behaviour.

We have a human packing list as well! You can find that here.

Keep your walking days with your dog short

Unless you have a big dog that is used to many hours of vigorous exercise you should walk shorter days with them. They have shorter legs than you and are more likely to become injured or unwell on longer walks. We also recommend building in rest days where you and your dog can relax and recover. A rest day every second or third day on the Camino will ensure that you and your dog are both in top condition.

We can custom make your journey to suit shorter walking days, just let us know. It does mean that walking 100km to receive your Compostela will take a bit longer.

We hope that this has given you some insight into what it is like to walk the Camino de Santiago with your dog. If you would like to learn more about the routes that might suit you, please get in touch!

Buen Camino!

Make 2021 your Camino year!

Bring your family, bring your friends, or walk the Camino solo.

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Originally published on 30th April 2020

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