No matter when our vacation time arrives during the year, many of us would not consider it a vacation at all unless we could travel with our pooch.
Dogs are not low-maintenance traveling companions. When it comes to the safety of you, your dog, and others, as well as the regulations of either private companies or a government agency, you will need to do some planning ahead.
For most of us, traveling will mean moving by plane or by car. (We definitely frown upon hitchhiking as a means of getting from point A to point B. We are pro-wormhole, and if you find one, let us know!)
For flights, it's important to know that the ASPCA does not recommend air travel for dogs. Too many variables can arise: delays and poor crate handling are just two that routinely come up. However, if you must fly with your dog, make sure that:
- You get your dog certified by your vet to fly. Some airlines require a certification of vaccinations. It may also be worth your while to get dog tranquilizers.
- Freeze some water and put it in a fixed bowl or water bottle in the crate. That way it can be safely in the bowl and not spilled as the flight starts.
- Get a USDA approved crate. Most airlines will require this. The crate has to be large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in. And the crate has to be labeled with the owner's name and contact information. Make certain the crate is solidly closed and cannot be opened in the unfortunate event of falling off a conveyor belt. This HAS happened and in addition to causing the dog owner incredible stress, it caused massive back-ups and delays at the airport.
- Tell all airline personnel whom you meet and are connected with your flight that you are traveling with a dog in the cargo hold. This way, in case of any delays, you can ask that your dog be checked on, and hopefully somebody will have take care of it.
- If you can fly to your destination directly, do it.
- If you want to take the dog on board with you, your pup must be able to fit into a carrier bag that goes underneath the seat in front. If you go this route, take plenty of snacks and water for your dog, and know that ALL airports in the US are required to have at least one pet-relief area, and larger airports often have one per terminal.
Driving with your dog can be a much easier experience than flying, mostly because your dog is with you and hopefully is somewhat familiar with your car. Even if you are in an unfamiliar car, this ought to be easier.
Make sure that the car is big enough for everybody. Many of us have been on road trips in our youth where we've been packed into cars but adding hot dog breath to the mix might be more than anyone can bear for several hours. Plus, it's not really the safest plan.
- Crates are keep your dog contained and fairly safe. While there is nothing out there that functions like a child's car seat for dogs, a crate will at least keep your pup in one area to avoid jumping all over.
- Consider getting a car safety harness for your dog. These are widely available and many have been through crash tests.
- Keep windows open or have ventilation available throughout the whole car for the trip to avoid your dog over-heating.
- Make sure your dog has access to water during the trip. Often times we don't even meet our own needs during a road trip because we just want to get wherever it is we are heading, but don't ignore your dog.
- Stop at least every four hours or so for a potty break. Make sure that you have plenty of poop bags for this.
- If your dog gets car sick, this won't be a great trip. However, it is acceptable to only feed your dog about a third of a normal meal before leaving.
- Have dog food ready to feed your pooch if this is a long trip. This is not the time to learn if your dog can digest fast food. It's unhealthy for one, and two, your dog's GI tract may decide it's not for him. Be sure to use regularly fed treats like your Doggie Chicken Chips or Jiminy's Cricket Dog Treats.
Check in advance if there are pet-friendly hotels along your route. Even if you are staying in a house with dog loving friends or family, the unexpected can happen and cars can break down. FindFido.com is a good pet-friendly hotel finder - some hotels even let pets stay for free!
If the unexpected does arise, it can help to have your dog's vet records with proof of vaccinations handy, and you may not be able to wait for your vet office to open to fax the records to you.
If you intend to stay in a hotel with your pet, plan your days so that you have exhausted dogs at the end. Have enough toys as well so that rainy days don't land you with a goofball with too much energy for one hotel room to handle. Your dog does not have to go full on rock-star in the hotel room.
For any traveling regardless of method, always:
- Have you pet microchipped
- Make sure that all ID tags are up-to-date
- Keep your dog on-leash in any non-enclosed areas
Traveling with dogs can be satisfying but it requires some planning ahead of time. Doing just a bit of that can save you enormous stress headaches later on.
Any Tips we forgot? What is your favorite traveling hack or tip that you swear by? Answer in the comments!