If you’re one of millions of people who travel with your dog, you’ll not only want to travel safely, but you’ll also want to make your trips as pleasurable for yourself and your canine companion as possible. Along with being fun and exciting, being away from home can also be stressful, but there are some simple steps you can take to make your trips enjoyable and relaxing.
Your first consideration when traveling with your dog is safety. If you are going to travel by car, your dog will need to be safely restrained for the ride. Think it looks cute to see a little dog riding on the driver’s lap, with the dog’s front feet on the door, ears blowing in the breeze? Every year, hundreds of dogs are injured or killed when they are thrown out of the open windows they’re half hanging out of, sometimes with their owners still holding the leash.
If possible, bring several days’ supply of water from home, along with your dog’s food to minimize the possibility of digestive upset. If your dog does have a bit of loose stool from dietary change or stress, a spoonful of canned solid pumpkin (not pie filling) added to a couple of meals will usually firm the stool up quickly, with no negative side effects.
Your dog should not ride sitting on someone’s lap, and especially not in the front seat, where he’s not just a potential distraction or hazard for the driver; he’s also a potential projectile in an accident or during sudden braking or turning. The safest way for your dog to ride in the car is in a crate, but a seat belt is the next best thing.
If you are flying with your dog, or you are crossing state or international borders, your dog will need a health certificate from your vet before your trip. You will also want to make sure you bring a copy of your dog’s rabies vaccination and license certificates, and prescriptions for any medications your pet is on, just in case. No matter how you travel, you’ll want to make sure your dog is always wearing a well-fitting collar (that he can’t slip out of) and is always leashed in unfenced areas. You can use a longline or retractable leash to give him some room to stretch his legs, but even trained dogs shouldn’t be off leash in unfamiliar or unsafe (highway rest stops come to mind) areas.
Flying with your dog can be nerve-racking, particularly if your dog is too big to fly in the cabin with you. You can breathe a little easier if your dog is small enough to fit in one of the widely available under-seat carriers. Whether your dog is able to fly in the cabin or not, it is not recommended to tranquilize your dog prior to flying. It depresses the respiratory system, and your dog needs to be able to pant to help regulate his body temperature.
A dog lost in unfamiliar surroundings might never be recovered. A properly fitting collar, with your current phone number (cell is often best), along with permanent identification like a microchip, can help your lost dog find his way home. If your dog is chipped, add the phrase “ID by microchip” to the tag instead of your address.
Most airlines will not fly animals in extreme weather conditions, so make your travel plans accordingly. If your dog does end up flying down below, there’s nothing wrong with waiting until you’re absolutely sure your dog is on the plane before you board. You should also always try to get nonstop flights when traveling with your dog, but if you must change planes, make sure that your dog makes it on the next leg of the flight with you before the plane takes off. The large majority of dogs make it to their destinations just fine, but it never hurts to make sure your precious cargo is okay.
Maybe you’re lucky and have access to pet-friendly destinations already, but if you’re creative, you can find a variety of travel and vacation options to meet practically any interest and budget. For outdoorsy types, camping is fun, and leashed dogs are welcome at many privately owned campgrounds, as well as at some state and national parks. If you’re not into the idea of roughing it, pet-friendly lodging is available in every variety, from the most basic motor lodges, to intimate bed-and-breakfasts, to the most cosmopolitan hotels in large cities. If you’re determined to bring your dog with you on vacation, do you have a plan for what your dog will do when you’re visiting local attractions? Some of the larger hotels offer dog-walking services, but you may want to arrange for day care in the area if you’re going someplace your dog isn’t allowed.