By Laura Dorfman CPDT-KA
It’s vacation time, whether it’s the holidays, summer vacation or just a weekend trip to the in-laws. Why not skip the kennels and the guilt, and save yourself some money on a dog sitter? Traveling with your dog can be fun and cures the “I miss them when we’re not together” blues. If you are going by car somewhere dog friendly, then pack up the dog, grab the camera, and have a wonderful time. Don’t forget your dogs favorite things. Bring his bowls, his favorite toys, blankets and of course his favorite you. Here are some dog vacation tips to help you along the way.
Traveling can be stressful on your pet, especially if it’s stressful on you. Some dogs pick up on our anxiety, so the calmer we are, the calmer they tend to be. A healthy supply of familiar food and water for your canine companion can help minimize their stress. You can add flower essences such as Rescue Remedy or Walnut to your dog’s water prior to and during the trip to help ease their anxiety. If your dog’s not used to riding or only goes to the vet in the car, take some small rides to fun places, and get him loving his rides before the long trip.
Food Water and Ice
Bring a cooler and freeze some drinking water to keep the food cold. As the ice melts, you have a fresh water supply for your pup. Always bring your dog’s regular food and treats, so intestinal distress in the middle of a busy highway doesn’t ruin your car and your ride.
Heat, Fans, and Sunshades
In the summer months precaution must be taken when leaving your pets in the car. Even stopping for a quick lunch is not a good idea in the heat of the summer, as your car can warm to a dangerous temperature in a very short amount of time. For those times when you absolutely must leave your pet in the car, consider using a fan or sunshade. Parking in the shade can help a little. A thermometer in the dog’s area will let you know how quickly it can heat up. Also pay attention to pets in the back while you are driving. Many times the sun is beating directly on your dog while you are sitting up front with the air blasting, not noticing that your dog is in the back baking. You can order fans and sunshades, from most doggie websites.
The opposite is true in the winter months. Have blankets in the area where your dog rides and make sure your dog can handle the cold if you leave him in the car for any length of time.
Hotels are becoming more dog friendly every year. Still, you should always call ahead either from home or from the highway, and speak directly to a hotel representative to get the most current information about pet policies. Hotels are often sold or franchised, so the 1-800 numbers have old and inaccurate information about pets. When you talk to the hotel representative, be sure to ask about pet fees, size limitations, and room policies.
You can also find out whether there is an enclosed area at or near the hotel for exercising your dog, which is a rare but wonderful find. These days there are very helpful apps and websites for locating dog friendly areas while traveling. If you are in a new place with a dog park, it’s best to stay away unless you have some local feedback about that park.
Consider lots of exercise for your dog in the days preceding the trip if you are taking an extended trip. It’s easy to skip regular routines when you are busy packing and getting ready, but don’t forget you dog’s walks and play time before the trip. While traveling if more than a few days bring a 20-50 ft. lead and find a safe place to play fetch or run around the hotel area. Traveling is loud, confusing and almost always near highways. Even if your dog has a 98% recall and is a seasoned traveler, ALWAYS keep a leash on him. Do small training sessions with him in the room or outside on leash. A tired dog will happily sleep for the ride.
Teaching a good solid wait before your dog is allowed to leave the car is a good start to safety on the road. If your dog already knows how to wait, be sure to sharpen her skills before you leave. Use your “Wait” signal with your dog everywhere before you leave on your trip: in the car, in your home, in parking lots, etc. You will be rewarded on the road with better control of your dog. The wait signal is also very useful in hotel elevators and rooms.
If your dog isn’t familiar with loud noises and heavy traffic, taking him to the back of the local grocery store while the trucks are unloading can help him get used to the sounds of the road that come with travel. Always go slow when introducing new things to your dog and keep enough distance from the new stimuli so that she stays in her comfort zone. If she’s scared, you’re too close. If you have an anxiety prone dog, you can ease the overload by stopping at smaller local gas stations that don’t get the big truck traffic and staying in smaller hotels.
If your dog does not yet know how to wait, or you don’t know how to condition your dog to new situations now might be a good time to check out a positive dog training book or local positive trainer.
Crates or harnesses create a very comfortable and safe choice for travel. They keep the dog safe in the car in case of accidents or just give you a chance to cool out the car and not have the dogs jump out. If your dog is used to his crate it also provides an extra comfort cushion, both physically and emotionally. Make sure you attach the crates in the car so they stay where they belong. There are also many good harnesses that keep your dog safe and still.
Bring along tags and information you may need just in case…. the number for your vet. Keep a book with all your dogs’ info. (great to have anyway) and take it along. Keep it current with all his health information and anything important you may need to access. If he’s on medication, make sure you have enough and a way to get more if you lose or break it. It’s easy now to make new tags with the local information of where you are going or with your cell phone number if it’s not already on his tags. This may be a good time to micro-chip your dog, if he isn’t already.
Be sure to pack the camera so you can capture some great memories you’ll have with your dog. I can’t imagine not having my whole family with me when I travel. Next week, it’s 2 humans, 3 dogs, 1150 miles, and a trip full of fun and excitement. Travel safe and have a great time.
Is your dog staying home while you go away?