Are you a road warrior or a road worrier? Twenty years ago when I started traveling with dogs, I admit I fell into the latter category. How could I possibly visit friends across the country and make sure my dog was not left behind? Back then folks used to do a double take when I mentioned traveling with my dog. Today, we know better and we travel more frequently with Fido in tow.
In a 2011 survey by PetRelocation.com, 60 percent of pet owners traveled at least one time with their pet in 2010, and 93 percent of pet owners claimed they would go on at least one trip in 2011 with a pet. That’s a lot of dogs on the road, considering there are over 78 million dogs in U.S. households.
So, apprehension be gone! Armed with this combo of time tested, off-the-beaten path dos and don’ts for holiday travel, worriers can become warriors with a few shakes of the tail. (Note: This list primarily applies to road travel, as I am personally opposed to flying dogs as cargo.)
Staples like a first aid kit, identification and vaccination records, and any medications Fido takes regularly are a given, but don’t forget these other, less obvious things:
If your dog doesn’t like car travel, you can try to change this. Assess road readiness with a five-minute trip around the block. Slowly increase the amount of time Rover spends in the car, making the destination worthwhile (i.e., a favorite park). Praise “getting there” with a treat upon arrival. Desensitizing and gradually acclimating a dog takes time and patience. A vet or animal behaviorist can help. My Dexter digs travel, so traveling in a car is second nature for my boy.
Is your dog easily startled by things that go bump in the night (like someone going to the bathroom in his own house)? Why scare Uncle Ned with barking and put your pooch under any undue stress when dog-friendly accommodations might be nearby? Ask if anyone has allergies to dogs prior to making holiday plans.
Do your homework and find a restraint system that works best for your dog’s needs. For me, Dexter and I generally sit in the back seat, harnessed safely into our seat belts.
I found out recently that while Dexter is unhappy with thunderstorms at home, he is fine when they occur while traveling. If your dog normally wears something like a Thundershirt or requires the assistance of an anti-anxiety spray, pack those along just in case.
Nothing can ruin a holiday more than finding out your sister-in-law’s dog doesn’t play well with other dogs. Keep calm and prepare.
Does your dog need to relieve himself every few hours at home? Implement the same schedule when traveling. At each rest stop, make the experience the greatest thing in the world. As a friend once told me when I was training Dexter to pee outside, “Act like he just won Westminster every time he pees where he should.” If pit stops are positive ones, Fido will want to please. Plus, you can get some fun bonding time in while on the road.
Pets are prone to accidents, theft, and even death when left unattended in a car. I recently discovered a product called Too Hot For Spot to monitor the temperature in my car. Additionally, ultraviolet rays are as harmful to pets as they are to humans, no matter the time of year. A veterinarian-recommended sun block and in-car sun shades will keep your dog safeguarded en route and during your stay.
Traveling with Fido takes a little planning, but if you travel with these tips in mind, it can be a safe, fun experience.
What’s your favorite pet travel trip? Bark at us below!
Top Photo: Dog in car via Shutterstock.