By Patty Dobson
Spring is in the air and plants are beginning to bloom everywhere. Taking a nod from nature, we and our pups begin to feel the pull of wanderlust and a desire to be out and about. With some careful planning, trips with your furry friend can be fun and hassle free.
Here are some tips to get you and your canine friend on the road:
Health and Safety
- Bring your pup to the vet for a check-up before going on a long trip. Check to ensure his vaccinations are up-to-date and obtain a health certificate if flying on a plane.
- Be sure to bring your dog’s medication, regular food, light snacks that are high in protein and some water. If available, bring a bowl or one of those handy, collapsible silicone bowls so you can easily attach to a bag or slip into a bag.
- Bring blankets to keep your dog warm and baggies for his pit stops.
- Have a well-made collar and leash. Make sure the collar contains identification information, such as your dog’s name, your name, address, phone number and proof of his rabies shot.
Crates are a great way to keep your pup safe as they travel and are required for most airlines.
Find a crate that is:
- The appropriate size for your pup. It should be large enough for him to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably, but without so much room where he’ll slide around with the movement of the car or chosen mode of transportation.
- Crash-tested. Make sure your crate has been safety certified.
- Well-designed. Aside from durability, choose a crate with grips and handles, a leak-proof bottom ideally covered with an absorbent material, ventilation on opposing sides, good circulation and free of interior protrusions.
- Label with “Live Animal,” with upright arrows and a space for your name, address, and number.
Once you've found the perfect crate:
- Furnish it with a comfortable mat, your dog’s favorite blanket or toy, and a bottle of water.
- Remove anything hazardous in the crate. Keep loose collars and leashes out of the crate, as they can become choking hazards.
- Create a positive connection between your dog and his crate. Keep your energy calm and positive, as you show your pup the crate and open the door. Let him enter on his own, and when he’s inside and comfortable, close the crate and calmly leave. Come back in 15 minutes and open the crate, letting him come out when he’s ready. This will create positive reinforcement and ease your pup the next time he goes into the crate.
- When you’re ready for the trip, secure the crate in place. A loose crate isn’t any better than a loose dog.
If crates aren’t your dog’s thing, there are other alternatives:
Barriers – are a great alternative and secures your dog in an open area, like an SUV or back of a van. Be sure the barrier is tested to withstand the weight of your dog and can be secured to your car’s interior.
Harnesses – are also a good alternative and are attached to a car’s safety belt. It gives your dog a level of freedom and restrains the dog during sudden movements. When purchasing a harness, make sure it’s designed to be used with safety belts.
Driving With Your Dog
While some dogs love car rides and sticking their heads out the window, wind through their fur, tongue blowing in the wind, sudden stops or accidents can seriously endanger and injure your pup. Using a crate when riding is usually a good idea, as it prevents distractions and keeps you and your pup safe.
- Get your dog geared up by sitting in the car with your dog in the driveway, then taking short rides, slowly lengthening the duration of the car ride.
- Don’t let your pup travel on a full stomach. Dogs tend to get motion sickness, so reduce the chance by keeping your pup’s meal light, well in advance of the trip and letting him fast for a few hours. Don’t feed your dog while the car’s moving. Instead, give him a light, high protein snack when taking a break.
- Keep the car well ventilated but turn off automatic windows around your dog, if he’s in a harness or barrier.
- Dogs are like children. They require regular breaks and stimulation. Prepare to take frequent stops, every 2-3 hours, using the time to allow you and your pup to stretch, move, and take potty breaks. Movement and circulation are crucial for you and your pup’s health and it’ll help release some of your pup’s pent up energy.
- Never leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle, even with the window open, especially in summer. Dogs can quickly become overheated and dehydrated.
Taking a Long Flight with Your Dog
Longer haul trips call for a family flight. Before taking your pup on a plane, ensure your flight is fuss free with some mindful foresight:
- Check with the airline on their rules for canine travel. Most require a health certificate and adhere to other rules.
- Usually you’ll need a crate and it’s easier to put your pup in the crate before entering the airport.
- Don’t let your pup travel on a full stomach or full bladder. Let him fast for at least 6 hours.
- Let your pup have a potty break right before the trip.
- Ensure your pup has access to water to stay hydrated.
- If your dog isn’t flying with you in the main cabin, don’t make a big scene, as it’ll cause your pup worry and anxiety. Stay calm to keep your pup calm.
Taking a Train, Bus or Boat
- Check with local rail, bus, and boat/ocean liner companies for their pet policies. For instance, Greyhound and Amtrak have strict policies, only allowing certified service dogs on their buses and trains. All other animals aren’t admitted.
- Cruise ships making transatlantic trips like the Queen Mary 2 offer lodging and meals for your dog. Be sure to check the specific pet policies and requirements of the cruise line or ship before making plans to take your dog. They usually require vaccinations, health certification, and some require microchips.
- Find out in advance which hotels or motels along your route or at your destination allow dogs or are dog friendly hotels. Check to see if they have size or breed restrictions.
- Some pet friendly hotels are prepared and can often recommend parks and dog-friendly activities.
- When arriving at the hotel, take your dog on a long walk to promote a relaxed state.
- Like any new environment, it can leave a dog feeling nervous. Keeping a calm, in control, and assertive will go a long way in keeping your dog cool.
- When entering your hotel room, enter first. Get your pup to stay where he is, while you unpack, walk around, and get settled. Once your scent is spread throughout the room and you’re ready, initiate activity and allow your dog to move and settle in. Allowing your pup to wander when first arriving can lead him to assume control of the situation.
- Keep your dog as quiet as possible.
- Don’t leave your dog unattended, as many often bark when left unattended in strange places
Exploring New Places
A new place means a new flood of scents, sights, sounds, and food. Stay observant of the environment around you, keeping aware of the possible dangers and tidbits your dog can ingest.