Both the Portuguese and the French Way of St. James can also be walked with a dog. While this requires a bit more planning and flexibility, walking the Way of St. James as a team with your furry friend is an incomparable experience.

On the Camino with your Dog

But first things first: let's talk about the main hurdles when you're setting out on a pilgrimage with your furry companion. Usually, the trickiest parts are sorting out how you'll get there and back.

Sure, it can also be a bit of a puzzle to find dog-friendly places to stay, and lugging around heaps of dog food isn't anyone's idea of fun. But hey, these are just little bumps in the road, and I'm here to help you smooth them out!

Getting to the Camino with your dog

Dog at the airport

Image generated with AI

Deciding where to kick off your Camino journey—whether it's in Lisbon, Porto, Saint Jean Pied de Port, Burgos, Leon, or Sarria—is just the first step.

If your furry friend is small enough to fly in the passenger compartment and can also travel in a crate on the train, that's the simplest option.

In this scenario, you'll still need to figure out how to transport your dog and crate from the airport to Saint Jean, but don't worry, there are solutions for that.

But what if your dog can't accompany you on the plane?

By train with your dog to the Camino

If you kick off your Camino Frances in Saint Jean Pied de Port, there’s a good chance you can travel by train. Generally, both German and French trains are dog-friendly.

The journey may take a bit longer, but if you and your furry friend enjoy train travel, this could be a great option.

However, it’s worth noting that the regulations for dogs on French trains can be a bit complex due to some special rules. You can find more information about these rules: Link.

Traveling to other destinations along the French or Portuguese Way of St. James by train can be challenging since dogs are only permitted on Spanish trains in exceptional cases.

Saint Jean Pied de Port

By bus to the Camino

In Spain and Portugal, the long-distance bus network is extensive and offers a great alternative to trains. However, it's not an option for dog owners.

While some providers like Alsa permit dogs in a transport box in the luggage compartment, subjecting your dog to that kind of journey isn't advisable.

Reach the Camino by bus

Arriving by car

If other travel options aren't suitable for your dog, often the only choice is to travel by car.In this scenario, you'd drive to your starting point in your own vehicle, park there, and then either return to your car at the end of your Camino using a rental car, or simply drive back to the Spanish border and continue your journey by train from there.

This method typically works well for most starting points. However, it's not advisable to drive to Saint Jean Pied de Port with your dog, as it can be challenging to arrange a return trip.

Attention: Most car rental companies do not allow dogs to be transported in their vehicles. As a dog owner, you're likely aware of how challenging it can be to remove pet hair from car seats, and hefty cleaning fees are often threatened as a result.

If you're considering or obliged to disregard this rule, it's essential to prepare thoroughly. Purchase inexpensive fleece blankets in Santiago to cover the entire back seat. Additionally, invest in a lint roller and any other necessary items to prevent or remove dog-related traces as effectively as possible before returning the car.

When picking up the rental car in Santiago, either leave your dog in the hotel room or ask a fellow pilgrim to watch over them for a short while.

For the return, you can either drop off the car outside of business hours or bring your dog back to the hotel beforehand. If your car is in Porto, feel free to contact me; if I'm available, I can help out with dog-sitting for a short time.

Carpooling

Often enough, ride-sharing platforms like BlaBlaCar have been a lifesaver – you'll frequently find drivers who are willing to accept dogs. However, it does require some flexibility with your travel dates.

Already overwhelmed? No problem 🙂

I'll be happy to help you with the planning!

The Right Equipment for a Camino with a Dog

No matter how minimalist you pack for yourself, the backpack ends up full and heavy.

And when you add bowls, food, and a place to sleep, it gets pretty tight.

But the minimum gear for any dog isn't really that lavish:

  • collapsible bowl
  • collar and leash
  • muzzle (may be required for taxis, etc.)
  • European pet passport
  • dog waste bags

That's basically it. Everything else depends on where your dog falls on the scale between wolf and couch potato 🙂

If a simple blanket is enough to indicate the nightly sleeping spot, and he's flexible enough with food that you can just buy something available every few days, then it's realistic to manage without luggage transport.

But if your dog needs an orthopedic dog bed and reacts sensitively to changes in food, it's a good idea to have a suitcase with the appropriate gear transported.

Other recommended items on the dog packing list include:

  • GPS tracker
  • raincoat
  • paw care

If you have a small dog, there's also the option of bringing a dog backpack carrier, so your dog can travel in it if his energy runs out before the stage does: Link

Dog Annie on the Camino

Accommodation with a Dog

Dog on the Camino

With some planning and a bit of extra budget, finding accommodation with a dog is no problem.

While there are pilgrim hostels that allow dogs, it's common for the dog to sleep separately from you, often in a bike shed or similar area. Opting for private rooms makes the situation much easier.

The challenges of pilgrimage with a dog

Sometimes, it's the little things that count: you may want to take a brief pause, but your dog can't join you inside the bar. And then there are those unexpected encounters with stray dogs.

Just remember, taking on the Camino with your furry friend demands a good deal of trust and serenity.

Street and yard dogs along the Camino

Dog owners are accustomed to encountering other people's unleashed dogs.

However, what's less common in Germany are dogs that guard—and defend—properties.

Both are prevalent outside the cities in Portugal and Spain, albeit slightly less so along the Camino de Santiago, though it still occurs.

In 95% of cases, these dogs are kept at a distance by a fence or chain. So, aside from occasional scares when suddenly barked at, nothing much happens.

The remaining 5% of dogs that roam freely on open property can pose problems.

From personal experience, I've learned: don't make eye contact, just keep moving, and they usually stay on their property. But try explaining that to your dog!

For a Camino de Santiago journey with a dog, it's wise to choose a route where encounters with farm dogs are rare.

Angry dog

The Weather

No shade along the Camino

Midsummer isn't the ideal time to embark on a pilgrimage with a dog.

During this period, there are extensive stretches with no shade at all, particularly in the Meseta regions of Burgos and Leon, where you won't find a single tree for 180 km.

While you can still manage with a sun hat and sunscreen, your furry friend lacks protection from the heat.

Choosing the right time of year is crucial for a comfortable journey.

Which dog is suitable as a Perregrino?

Absolutely: your dog needs to be in good physical shape. Even if they're usually full of energy, trekking 15-30 km every day can be quite a challenge, even for those with four legs.

Your furry friend should be both physically and mentally resilient. Moving to a new home every day and meeting new people can be a lot for them to handle. And let's face it, dealing with a language barrier at a Spanish vet's office because your dog ate something they shouldn't isn't anyone's idea of fun.

So, while both breeds have their charms, the typical Border Collie might handle this journey a bit better than the typical Beagle.

But if your furry friend is fit, loves long walks, gets along with both dogs and people, and thrives on adventure, then a Camino de Santiago with your dog can truly be an unforgettable experience.

Planning the Camino with a dog

I will be happy to help you with the planning! Or I can join you on your journey—whichever you prefer.