How to Take That First Trip with Your Dog
It’s one of those firsts in life you never forget, like the first kiss, that first car, the birth of your first child. It's the first time you realize just how much it costs to board your beloved pooch when you’re on vacation. How can it be that expensive? Is the place planning to send your furry friend into space while you’re away, or enroll him in an Ivy League school?
One way to sidestep such heart-stopping fees and have some fun in the process is to take the little critter with you.
Obviously, no matter how saintly your hound is, your first mental picture will be all the exotic/expensive/historic places that they’ll find to poop or pee. Or how to disguise your dog as a small, hairy child and sneak him into a pet-unfriendly motel for the night. But don’t panic. With a little bit of prep and a healthy dose of common sense, a trip with your pet can be a fulfilling and fun-filled experience.
Before You Go
You're fine and feisty Dogster readers, so we know you are not crazy enough to simply bundle your dog into your car's "way-back" and head off to Pismo Beach. When you’re planning your trip, keep your pooch in mind every step of the way.
Break your trip down in day-by-day increments and have a good idea how you’ll be spending your time. You might think it a little OCD, but if you’re suddenly at the Alamo and the Alamo frowns on beasts and suddenly you’re stuck at the Alamo with a hot dog and no means of escape, the Alamo is going to suck. Know what you are doing day-to-day and make sure each place you go is pet-friendly or else you have a contingency for your hound’s welfare.
Of course your little angel would never chew, chase, or poop on anything or anybody he shouldn’t. But just in case, a few basic obedience refreshers would be a good idea. Make sure all your animal’s documentation is up to date, and that you have tags for your home information and the information of wherever you’re heading. International travel requires microchipping, but if you're staying in the country it's a good idea to get your dog chipped for extra security.
On the Road
Just because all those dogs in the movies seem to love being in the car (often while wearing sunglasses), don’t assume that your hound feels the same way. If you plan a road trip, prepare your pooch by taking him on short trips by car at first. Get him ready by not leaving the car while he's inside, then gradually increase the length of the journeys and the number of times you leave. Soon your hound will be a natural car dweller.
Before you leave, plot plenty of stops on the way. Your dog will need to pee, drink, and stretch his legs every two to three hours. Also identify the veterinary hospitals along your route, just in case. Take along up-to-date medical records and any other paperwork (you can store photos of these in your phone!). Also, bring everything to make the trip comfortable for your beloved. That includes toys, treats, blankets, plenty of water (and something to drink from) as well as food, a dog seat or carrier, and lots of bags to deal with the obvious.
In the Air
The consensus is to avoid flying with your dog if possible. Even the most mellow hounds find air travel stressful. Unless they are small enough to fit in a carrier and go under your seat, they’ll be all alone in the hold with the luggage. Not fun. But if you can’t avoid a flight, visit your vet beforehand and get an up-to-date health certificate.
If you’re traveling abroad, we’re seething with jealousy. And we urge you to investigate the rules regarding pets in your destination. You don’t want your four-legged friend being quarantined for months because you didn’t complete the right form. Make sure you have a top-notch shipping crate with your dog’s details and photo all over it and a frozen dish of water that won’t spill during take-off but will melt by the time your dog gets thirsty.
There are now "pet only" airlines that take animals in the cabin (but no humans, which is a shame because that’s a whole YouTube channel right there). These are costly and fill-up quick, so plan ahead.
When You're There
Here's something to avoid: the incredulous expression on a bed-and-breakfast owner’s face as you try to take your dog into her home. Numerous pet-friendly hotels, campsites, hostels, and holiday destinations exist, and they have websites. That said, don’t take online information at face value. Always double-check. Businesses change hands and policies change (sometimes without being updated online), and you don’t want to find yourself standing on the doorstep with an unwanted mutt. Some places are more "dog tolerating" than "dog friendly" and are happy to take in pets -- as long as they don’t move or do anything. Ensure your accommodation allows pups everywhere and has doggy facilities available.
And, of course, your goal is not to get your dog to Kokomo and then abandon him while you find the bar. Just like the rest of the family, your four-legged friend has to be included in every activity. No matter how dog-amenable your accommodation is, no one allows them to be left alone, so plan excursions where dogs are welcome. It’ll be fun!
You’ll visit restaurants, museums, and places of historic interest you might never have thought of otherwise, as they’re the ones that want your dog’s business. And a vacation with your pooch can be an illuminating and uplifting experience for everyone -- if you do it right.