Traveling With Your Dog
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
There’s no question, life is always better with your dog by your side. So, of course, you’ll want to bring your best furry friend along when you go out of town. Planning to take your pooch on a trip with you is a process, there are a lot of things you have to keep in mind, and a lot you’ll need to do in advance, so start planning now.
Acclimating Your Dog to the Car
If your dog is not accustomed to car rides, you need to introduce him to the experience before it’s time to hit the road. It is a good idea to go through this process with any new dog or puppy before you even have a trip in mind. Car anxiety is stressful and messy for everyone involved. It is best to sidestep this problem early in your dog’s life so any time you need to take him in the car he’ll be ready.
Learn about acclimating your dog to the car in our article on Automobile Safety.
Before You Hit the Road
Take your dog to the vet for a checkup and obtain his records. You’ll need a health certificate and proof of vaccinations if you intend to fly with your dog. Make sure he’s had his rabies and bordetella (kennel cough) vaccinations four weeks in advance. Even if you don’t intend to board your dog, and you aren’t flying, you should still travel with records of these vaccinations. If something happens to you and you can’t take care of your dog, he’ll need to be boarded and you don’t want to be caught without the necessary information. Consider getting your dog vaccinated against Lyme disease if you’re heading to an area where there will be a lot of ticks. If your destination is a popular hangout for mosquitoes, make sure your dog is protected against heartworms. Think about having a microchip implanted in your dog in case he gets lost.
If acclimating your dog to the car didn’t go so well, or if your dog is especially hyperactive or gets carsick, talk to your vet about medications that can help. Many vets will suggest that you give your dog a Benadryl to mellow him out and settle his stomach; check with your vet about dosage. There are many over-the-counter and prescription options to sedate your dog and help his tummy handle the trip. If your vet does suggest a medication, try it out with a car-ride around your town sometime before your departure date. If your dog has a negative reaction to the medication, you don’t want it to happen on your road trip.
Make sure you’re planning a pet-friendly trip. If you are flying, remember that all airline regulations are different. You’ll need an airline-approved carrier and to reserve a spot for your dog as far in advance as possible, as airlines limit the number of pets allowed on each flight. Keep in mind that larger dogs cannot be in the cabin with you and will fly as cargo. Many airlines will not fly with dogs when the weather is especially hot or cold, which is in your pets best interest. Also, don’t forget to check if your hotel is pet-friendly. There are plenty of hotels and motels all over the world that allow pets, but some have weight limits and breed restrictions, so call ahead and discuss your dog with the manager. If you will be on the road for several days, book rooms at pet-friendly hotels ahead of time. If you are leaving the country, find out whether or not your destination requires that incoming animals be quarantined for a period of time.
Packing for the Trip
Do not leave town with your dog without making him an ID tag. His tag should have his name, your name, and your address and phone number (don’t forget the area code). It’s not a bad idea to have an extra tag with the phone number of a friend local to the area you’re visiting. Don’t forget to attach your dog’s rabies tag as well! If you don’t have one already, put a recent picture of you with your dog in your wallet. On the back, write a description with his name and particular markings. This will come in handy if he gets lost.
Bring plenty of your dog’s brand of food. You never know if the pet stores where you’re visiting carry your dog’s food and even if they do, they could run out. Switching a dog’s food abruptly can cause stress and stomach upset, which is no fun on a road trip. Also bring some of your dog’s favorite treats and plenty of bottled water. Travel food and water bowls are a great idea. Most of them collapse down to next to nothing, and many of the food bowls have drawstring tops so you can pack them with food. This is perfect for a road trip, because it means you don’t have to unpack and drag out a big bag to give him dinner when you stop for the night.
Pack an extra leash and collar just in case. You never know what could get lost or chewed up, and you don’t want to be left without a way to control your dog. As long as you’re picking up an extra collar, you might as well snag one with reflective tape. If you’re going to be traveling at night, you might have to stop and walk your dog near the road. Reflective tape on his collar will help keep you both safe.
Bring any medications your dog is taking and your vet’s phone number in case you need to call for an emergency refill or some quick advice. Also pack an old towel or two so you don’t have to put a muddy or wet dog back in the car, paper towels to clean up any accidents, and plastic bags to pick up after your dog (biodegradable bags are available and much better for the environment.) Don’t forget the first aid kit!
When you’re picking out a crate for the car, make sure it is big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down. It should be durable and have sturdy handles or grips, a leak-proof bottom, and lots and lots of ventilation. It should have rims or knobs on the sides to keep it from sitting flush against surfaces in the car, which could block ventilation. Outfit your dog’s crate with a water bottle, a comfortable, familiar blanket and a couple of chewable, safe toys.
Affix a “Live Animal” label to the crate, as well as arrows indicating which way is up and a tag with your name and address. If you have an accident and are not conscious to warn emergency personnel that there is a dog in a car, these precautions will protect your pet.
Hitting the Road
On the day of your trip, feed your dog three hours in advance. An empty stomach will mean you don’t have to stop too soon to walk him, and will help avoid carsickness. Before you leave, take him for a nice long walk and wear him out. The easiest way to have a happy dog in the car is to have a sleepy dog. If your vet has prescribed a motion sickness medication or sedative to your dog, administer the meds half an hour to an hour before you leave, this will ensure that it has kicked in before he has a chance to get sick or anxious.
Place the crate in the back of the car, and make sure it’s not in direct sunlight. You can purchase a sun shade to stick on the window, and a portable, battery powered, clip-on fan to make sure your dog is comfortable and not too hot. Never let your dog hang his head out the window or ride in the back of the truck, these are dangerous practices with countless perils.
As you travel, stop frequently to let your dog stretch, work out some energy, and go potty. Always pick up after your dog. Many vets recommend taking your dog to someplace other than rest stops to do his business. So many dogs come through rest stops every day, and many of their owners don’t bother to clean up after them. These dog-walking areas can become cesspools of germs.
While you’re in the car, make sure your children or other passengers don’t tease or bother your dog. Even if you take all the necessary precautions, travel is still stressful for him and nobody wants to be messed with when they’re stressed. When you are about to get out of the car, before you even open the door, leash your dog. Don’t risk him running off; it’s just not worth it. When you travel, you dog should ALWAYS be leashed.
At hotels and motels, always pick up after your dog. Be mindful of other guests and keep your dog quiet. Never leave your dog in a hotel room unattended.
If you are careful, conscientious, and plan way ahead, your trip with your dog can be smooth, easy and a great time for both of you. Just remember: NEVER, never ever leave your dog unattended in a car!