In recent years, traveling with a dog has become not only a common practice, but also much easier to do. More and more hotels are allowing pets in the rooms and some attractions even have a ‘doggy day care’ set up so that people can enjoy the sites while their pet is kept cool and content while playing with new friends.
However, just because the practice is becoming more common does not mean that there are not a few ‘rules’ to follow when traveling with your dog as well as a bit of ‘doggy etiquette’ to incorporate.
The Basics of Traveling with Your Dog
No matter how or where you are traveling, before you leave with your dog there are a few things to have in place.
Doggy First Aid Kit – buy a well-equipped first aid kit for dogs. If you cannot find one, ask your vet to put one together for you.
Vaccines – check out what vaccines your dog currently has and make sure they are up to date. Also check the requirements for the area where you are visiting i.e. to go over the Canadian/US border, you must have proof of your dog’s rabies vaccine. Make sure you have proof of vaccines with you in the car.
Food – make sure you have enough to last the entire trip and some extra just in case.
Water – many travelers carry bottled water for their dog to ensure there are no upset stomachs to ruin the trip.
Medication – always ensure you take enough of your dog’s medication with you on a trip and that it is well identified if you are going through any borders.
Bedding – most dogs prefer settling down at night in their own beds. If you have the room, bring your dog’s bed with you – you will both sleep better in the long run.
Check with the dog laws in the area you will be visiting.
Some states and provinces require dogs to be securely contained in a car so either crate your dog or purchase a comfortable seat belt harness before you leave home. Leash laws and pooper scooping laws also vary from area to area.
Doggy identification – last but most important, always ensure your dog is identified. Make sure his collar cannot slip off, make sure his tags are legible and that your cell phone number is on the tags. Many dogs are lost each year while traveling and in a strange area, it can be difficult to find where a stray dog is taken for processing. Give the authorities a break and help them to find you!
Road Trips with a Dog
A dog is the quintessential companion for a road trip. Most dogs love car rides, love to explore, offer companionship and security to their people, and never complain about the music you play or your singing no matter how out of tune or tone deaf you are!
Dog friendly hotels and motels are becoming more and more common. Often you have to pay an extra fee to offset the cost of vacuuming up the dog hair but that is usually only an extra $ 10 or so. A common rule is to never leave your dog alone in the room as the barking could disturb your neighbors and take your dog far away from any entrances or pathways to do their ‘business’. And always, always, always clean up after your dog!
Other doggy etiquette includes regular brushing to keep shedding to a minimum, extra towels to clean up paws or dry off after a rain shower, and a sheet to put over the bed or couch. Consider waterproof booties if it is especially mucky or cold to help keep hotels and your car clean as well as your dog’s feet warm and dry.
The biggest danger to your dog on a road trip is the potential for overheating if left in the car on a warm day. Even in the shade with the windows cracked, the inside of a car can quickly reach dangerous temperatures and dogs can develop heat stroke, brain damage and even die.
When you stop for gas, pick gas stations with covers and stay to the shady side if you can. If you must stop to pick up groceries, arrange to do it first thing in the morning when the ambient temperature is not at its peak, pick a parking spot in as much shade as you can and make the grocery stop a short one if possible! If you must stop for longer, contact a local doggy daycare, kennel or veterinarian office to see if you can leave your pet in their care for a few hours. The $ 20 or $ 25 expense is worth your peace of mind!
Flying with a Dog
The biggest concern when flying with a dog is the comfort of the pet on the flight. Some airlines allow small dogs in the cabin area – this is the best place for your pet to be on a plane. Short of this, the cargo area can be a comfortable alternative as long as you consider the temperature of all the places the flight might land (non-stop flights are best when traveling with a pet). Most airlines implement a heat embargo during the hot months but also consider winter temperatures when flying; cold can be just as dangerous. Add thick blankets to their bedding so they can snuggle into them for warmth if required.
A common question to vets is whether a dog should be given a sedative prior to flying. The short answer? Never! Sedatives interfere with the dog’s ability to control their body temperature making it easier for them to either overheat or freeze. Although flying can be stressful for pets, never sedate them.
Traveling with a dog is a wonderful experience and well worth the added preparations to ensure a safe trip. Research the area where you are headed to find dog parks so they can stay well exercised and always stop for pee breaks every two to three hours. Offer plenty of water and bring a few toys to keep them entertained.
Enjoy your travels and the companionship of a wagging tail at every new stop!