Bringing your dog on vacation with you just adds to the fun and alleviates the worry of not knowing what’s happening with your dog while you’re on the road. You need to do your homework on dog travel though. Planes and cars aren’t designed with dogs in mind, and you need to know what to expect when you reach your final destination. By planning your dog travel ahead of time, you can make the vacation a truly relaxing time for you and your dog.
The number of people who travel with their dogs is growing, and so too are the options for pets on the road. From “ruffing it” at campgrounds to enjoying fabulous four-star hotels, the time has never been better to pack up your pet and go.
Traveling with dogs offers some challenges, but nearly all are surmountable with common sense and creativity. Here’s what you need to know when you’re on the road.
Talk With Your Vet
While most dogs come to enjoy riding in the car, many need help getting to that stage. Just like some people, some pets get motion sickness, while in others the problem is anxiety. Some dogs vomit when experiencing motion sickness. Other pets may drool excessively, with copious amounts of saliva drenching the upholstery, or pant uncontrollably. Some pets may do all of these.
Talk to your veterinarian about medications that can help address issues like anxiety and vomiting. For some pets – the anxious ones — the medication may only be needed while your pet learns to become more comfortable in the car. For those pets with queasy tummies, anti-anxiety and anti-vomiting medication may always be needed when traveling. Your veterinarian can also advise you if medication is not the best option for your dog.
- It’s a lot safer for everyone if your dog is securely fastened or confined during car trips. A large dog in your lap or a small one bouncing around the accelerator pedal can be distracting and dangerous—and should you have an accident, your unrestrained dog might be thrown about the cab. Popular options for safe dog travel include dog seat belts, crates and car barriers. If you use a seat belt, be sure to put your dog in the backseat. When riding in the front, dogs can be injured or even killed if you have an accident and an airbag deploys.
- Don’t forget to microchip your dog before leaving home, and attach an ID tag with your cell phone number to his collar. If you’re traveling to multiple places during your trip and you don’t have a cell phone, you can buy inexpensive temporary ID tags to use along the way.
- Never leave your dog in a hot or cold car unattended. Doing so isn’t just uncomfortable for your dog—it can be life threatening.
- Identify emergency animal clinics close to locations you plan to visit during your trip. This is an especially important precaution if your dog is enjoying his golden years.
Crating your dog for travel
It’s natural to feel bad about crating your dog. After all, you wouldn’t want to be crated. But don’t project your feelings onto your dog. They don’t mind the crate and some even feel safer in one.
- The most important thing you can do is make sure your dog has been well exercised before he goes in the crate. If he’s burned off his excess energy, he’ll be more inclined to rest.
- Make sure there’s nothing in the crate that can harm your dog. Leashes and loose collars are especially dangerous items that could present a strangling hazard.
- Keep your energy positive. Don’t present the crate like it’s a prison. Show the dog the crate and open the door. Don’t shove the dog in the crate. Let him go into the crate on his own. When he’s inside and comfortable, you can close the door. Walk away with good energy and body language. If you affect a sad voice and say things like “Don’t be sad. Mommy and Daddy will be back soon,” your dog is going to think something’s wrong and get anxious.
- Come back in 15 minutes. This will ease the dog’s separation anxiety next time you crate him. But don’t take him out of the crate. Remember that you’re not projecting that the crate is a bad thing. Just open the door and he can come out when he’s ready. See my training video on how to crate your dog for travel.
In the event that your dog gets away from you on your trip, you can increase the chances of recovery by making sure he can be properly identified:
- Make sure your dog has a sturdy leash and collar. The collar should have identification tags with the dog’s name, your name, and your home phone number, as well as proof of rabies shots.
- Consider a permanent form of identification, such as a microchip (see AKC Reunite).
- Bring a recent picture of your dog along with you.
- Get your dog used to the car by letting him sit in it with you without leaving the driveway, and then going for short rides.
- Avoid car sickness by letting your dog travel on an empty stomach. However, make sure he has plenty of water at all times.
- Keep the car well-ventilated. If the dog is in a crate, make sure that fresh air can flow into the crate.
- Do not let your dog ride with his head sticking out of an open window. This can lead to eye injuries.
- Never let your dog ride in the back of an open truck. This is extremely dangerous and can lead to severe injuries or death.
- Stop frequently for exercise and potty breaks. Be sure to clean up after your dog.
- Car rides are boring for everyone, so instruct your children not to tease or annoy the dog in the car.
- Never, ever leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle, particularly in the summer. See Summer Safety for Dogs for more information. If you must leave the car, designate a member of the family to stay with the dog.
- Keep your dog as quiet as possible.
- Do not leave the dog unattended. Many dogs will bark or destroy property if left alone in a strange place.
- Ask the management where you should walk your dog, and pick up after him. Do not leave any mess behind.
- Remember that one bad experience with a dog guest may prompt the hotel management to refuse to allow any dogs. Be considerate of others and leave your room and the grounds in good condition.