Vacation time is fast approaching and many dog owners want to take their furry friends away with them. More people are traveling with their pets each year. However, traveling with your dog does require a lot of planning and preparation. There are many places you cannot go with your dog, so if you do want to take your best friend with you this year, you’ll need to plan ahead. Here are some helpful tips and best practices to help prepare both you and your dog.
Plan a dog-friendly travel route
When you plan for your vacation trip with your dog, it’s obvious that you need dog-friendly overnight accommodation. You should also consider your travel route and make it dog-friendly.
If you plan to stay overnight with your dog, it’s important not only to find dog-friendly accommodations, but that you know the details of their pet policy. Many dog-friendly
accommodations have pet guidelines and depending on your dog’s size or the number of pets you are traveling with, you may have restricted choices. Be sure to inquire about all the details of the pet policy ahead of time. You want to learn: what the costs are, are there weight restrictions, are there breed restrictions, how many pets are permitted, can the dog(s) be left unattended, and if so, must the pet(s) be crated.
If you travel in a vehicle, whether by car or RV, plan out mealtimes and rest stops. Dog-friendly restaurants are not always easy to find, so it’s a good idea to think of other options. One easy way to take a break and get something to eat can be to pick up ‘carry out,’ or go through a drive-through, and take your food to a local park. Enjoy your picnic in a shady area with Fido and add a little playtime or a nice walk for dessert. Including breaks for exercise is a very important part of traveling with dogs. Don’t just stop for potty breaks, but plan on taking a 30-minute walk or finding an off-leash park to have some fun.
Please do not leave your dog in your car in the summer time! Although the temperature might seem pleasant, your parked car will quickly heat up inside and become a dangerous trap for your pet! Even with your windows cracked, there is not enough airflow to keep your dog safe. It takes only a few minutes for a dog to overheat and suffocate.
If you prefer the restaurant option, call ahead and find a dog friendly patio restaurant on your travel route. There are a lot of great online websites or phone apps that you can use to find dog-friendly places, but it’s always a good idea to call and make sure the restaurant is still allowing pets on their patio.
Packing for Fido
Have your dog’s medical records with you. Make a copy of the most recent vaccinations and keep it with your other important documents. You will also need a spare collar, leash, toys and chews for your dog. Of course, bring his food, supplements, medications, and his bowls.
Please be sure you bring his old used bedding. Don’t be tempted to buy a nice new one. As humans, we tend to want to have brand new things for our special vacations, but a new dog bed is going to be a real waste of money. Your dog needs the comfort of his used bedding. It will make any hotel or vacation rental a secure area because it brings in the familiar smells of home.
Make sure your dog’s ID is still readable and up-to-date. Many dog IDs have the owner’s home telephone number, but not his or her cell number printed on them. When traveling with your dog, it’s important to have your cell number on his collar ID. You should also micro-chip your dog. The micro-chip is the best way to make sure your pet can be returned to you in case he gets lost. Your dog can easily lose his collar, but he cannot lose his micro-chip. Just before your trip, log onto the internet site that hosts your pet’s micro-chip information and review it. Again, ensure it includes your cell phone number, and not just your home phone number. You can even add an additional contact person to the profile, just in case.
Always have plenty of doggie bags with you to be prepared to clean up after your dog.
Well-behaved dogs are welcome
Whether you take your dog on
vacation or a road-trip, your dog needs to have mastered certain skills to make him a good traveler and to ensure he is welcomed at dog-friendly places. First and foremost, you want to be sure he is well-behaved on leash and comfortable in busy places. Make sure that you have worked with your dog on-leash and can take him to crowded areas, such as farmers’ markets or outdoor festivities. Your dog should walk without pulling on the leash and be able to walk past other dogs, people on bikes and skateboards, or loud noisy motorcycles. Although it’s impossible to train for every scenario, it’s a good idea to practice these things before you take your dog on vacation with you.
Another important behavior your dog must know before going on an out-oftown trip is the recall. Your dog should be trained to come to you when called. Although you may not intend to have your dog off-leash at any time during your trip, there will be instances when you need to call him to you. A solid recall is important to ensure your dog’s safety.
Crate training can be important for your dog. Many hotels and vacation rentals require dogs be crated when alone in the room. Being in a crate or pet carrier is often necessary for dogs that travel by plane or train. Most dogs feel comfortable and secure in a crate, but they have to be introduced to the crate properly and ahead of travel time. Teach your dog to respect open doorways and never to bolt through an open door. This is a very important behavior any traveling dog should know. It is easy to teach and can save your dog’s life!
Most dogs lost during travel have run out of an open doorway or the travel vehicle. Take the time to train your dog to wait to be invited to walk through any door, whether car door or hotel room door.
Here is a skill your dog can easily learn and it will make your travel time much more enjoyable: teach your dog to potty on command. This can be an invaluable behavior when traveling. For small dogs that travel by airplane, use a potty pad to have the dog relieve itself in public bathrooms in-between flights. Some airports now offer Doggy Restrooms, with faux grass pads and water station. Most of the time, your dog will be distracted by the new surroundings and too busy smelling all the new smells to think about relieving himself. If you train your dog to potty on command, you will always be able to get him to do his thing no matter how many distractions there are. It’s a great way to be able to have your dog empty himself before you check into your hotel or go to a patio restaurant.
A well-behaved dog should be able to be left unattended in a hotel room or RV without barking or destructive behavior. Be sure to practice leaving your dog in unfamiliar surroundings before you go on an extended vacation trip. If your dog is uncomfortable being. left behind, the crate is a good way to ensure he will not destroy any furnishings in the hotel room or vacation rental. Always provide your dog with plenty of exercise before you leave him unattended. Exercise is a great way to make sure your dog is relaxed and comfortable.
Traveling with your dog is rewarding and fun, but it does require some added preparation. It’s a good idea to get started early and prepare yourself and your pet for your upcoming travel adventure.
Birgit Walker is a Canine Travel Expert and the co-author of Keep Your Paws on the Road – A Practical Guide to Traveling with Dogs, written with husband Jim Walker of Modern Canine Services. ModernCanineServices.com