Whether you’re traveling for the holidays, summer, or even just a weekend getaway, millions of dog owners face the question of what to do when they go away.
Although most vacations begin after a ride to the boarding kennel, with some proper planning and training, your dog can also enjoy a family getaway. There are thousands of recreation spots, parks, amusement parks and hotels that will accommodate your pet while vacationing.
And if you have kids, bringing your dog along will bring much enjoyment, allowing the children to have additional companionship and entertainment while away from the home.
First, some preliminary essentials—above all remember this: dogs cannot protect themselves from harm, so it is crucial that you keep your pet safe. With that being said, let’s move onto to some basics that will make for a smoother summer vacation trip with your canine companion.
First, consider age, personality and your dog’s health. You must also determine whether your dog will be included in your vacation activities. If your dog isn’t up to extensive traveling, or will only end up spending lonely hours in a hotel room while you go sightseeing, leave your pet at a boarding kennel or with a professional pet sitter.
If you’ve thoroughly contemplated the situation and have decided that your dog should travel with you, the following suggestions will help insure that both you and your dog enjoy your vacation.
Before your departure, take your dog to your veterinarian to get a health certificate and proof of vaccinations. Different states have different regulations, so it is best to take your dog’s records with you in case they are required. Let your vet know where you will be traveling in case there are communicable diseases you should know about. For example, if you are going to be hiking in wilderness areas, inquire about Lyme disease.
Most dogs love to travel in the car, but if your dog is not accustomed to traveling, take him for mini-trips beforehand. To help your dog overcome motion sickness, feed him lightly before the trip, about one-third the usual amount.
Your vacation route should be planned with your dog’s needs in mind. Rest stops should be included every four to six hours so your dog can relieve him- or herself. Water should be offered at each stop. Be sure to carry paper towels to clean up potential car accidents and pickup bags to scoop-up after rest stops.
Taking a trip with your canine might not be so charming if the pooch gets carsick on short rides, or if the dog’s only automotive travel experience has involved a visit to the vet’s office. Such animals may become panicked or anxious when put into the car. This can result in vomiting, noisy protests, or chewing the upholstery.
If this is a problem, you should plan ahead by desensitizing your canine friend to riding in a vehicle. Take short trips with fun, positive consequences, such as visits to friends and walks in a park, so that your dog learns to associate something positive with a car ride. Get the pet used to traveling restrained – whether by dog harness, barrier, or dog crate – to reduce travel anxiety during the big trip and increase safety for all.
If your pet continues to be prone to car sickness, it’s probably better to take a trip to a boarding kennel. If that’s not an option, ask a veterinarian if a medication for anxiety and/or motion sickness would be appropriate. There are both prescription and homeopathic aids that can settle sensitive stomachs or minimize the effects of stress.
After you perform the preliminaries, here are a few safety tips so your pooch is comfortable during traveling:
Never leave your dog in the car unattended: Even if you think it’s cool enough outside and you leave the car windows cracked open, temperatures in a car can quickly escalate and kill your dog. Even a car parked in direct sun on a cool day, with the windows cracked a few inches, can heat to more than 120 degrees F in less than 10 minutes
Never allow your dog to stick his head out of the window: Although dog’s love to have the wind in their face, this can lead to ear or eye injuries, and even vision loss from road debris or insects.
Secure your dog: If loose, he could also be hurled against the windshield or escape through a shattered window in the event of an accident. A dog should never be allowed to ride in the back of an open pickup truck. In case of an accident, the dog would be thrown from the vehicle. There are harnesses that attach to seat belts and crates to secure your dog. Even just a grate between the front seat and the back is better than nothing at all.
Be aware, some states have implemented restraint requirements for pets. Make sure you know the laws before you cross state lines!
Keep your dog hydrated: Never skimp on dog food or water to avoid pit stops. Although you should cut back a little for your dog’s comfort while traveling, be sure your dog has enough to drink and eat. And again, remember to plan plenty of pit stops for your dog.
Use a dog leash: Although your dog may walk freely with you all the time, this is not the right thing to do during a trip. All it takes is something to spark an interest in your dog to lure your pooch into danger. Also, it is much harder to find a dog in a strange place.
Dog tag: During your trip, your pet should always wear a dog collar with rabies and identification tags. Keep an extra ID tag on your dog’s collar with a friend’s name and address since you will not be at home to receive any calls if your dog is lost. Of course, the most permanent form of identification is a tattoo on the inside of your dog’s rear leg.