It’s summertime, so many of us are making our plans to get away. Those plans often include the family dog, so I thought I would write a quick article from the dog trainer’s perspective for you to consider. I fully own that I hear the horror stories, it’s the nature of the work sometimes. While this article focuses on bigger trips, the info is also applicable to local or regional shorter trips.
Should you include your dog?
That may seem basic, but honestly, people don’t always consider it.
What will conditions be at your destination?
Will you have enough time to properly care for and include the dog?
Would that reduce your enjoyment of the trip?
Will your dog be allowed to go where you are going?
Will the dog physically be comfortable?
What about emotionally?
Will other people or pets be there that may be difficult or uncomfortable for your dog (or for other attendees)?
If your dog has never been around kids(or isn’t comfortable with them) and there are going to be a ton of kids in attendance, bringing your dog may not be the best idea in the world. Often families contact me after they put a dog in a situation that we could have predicted would not go well but they just didn’t think about it beforehand.
Schedule changes are difficult for dogs. If your dog is used to you being at work/school all day and then suddenly you decide to spend 10 days hiking together, well, your dog may need more alone time than you may have thought. I always recommend you take a crate with you so your dog can get away and nap(healthy adult dogs need 12-14 hours of sleep a day, and some dogs may require more!)
Water changes can result in digestive unrest. Be sure to take lots of water for your pet. This way as you give your dog water, you can start to mix in destination water and slowly transition your dog to the new water... and back again when you get home. This can help prevent discomfort.
Vet records. Some vets have your pets’ records available online in case of emergency. If your vet doesn’t, then make sure you are taking at least proof of vaccine with you on your trip. This way if there is a question about vaccine you have the info with you. Often you can get your vet to email records to you, so you have them available electronically. You may also want to program in the closest emergency vet to the area you are visiting and call ahead to make sure their info is accurate. Locally an emergency clinic moved, and it took a while for the info on the internet to update accurately, costing valuable time for those seeking emergency help.
When traveling with your pet be sure they are microchipped (and the info is up to date and registered) that you have recent, clear photos. Become aware of hazards to your pet that you aren’t familiar with in your area. For example, we had a client dog meet a poisonous frog and pass away before they could get treatment. The owner had the dog in an area they were not familiar with and the dog simply licked a frog/toad that was lethal. Locals are aware of the hazards, but tourists aren’t. It was terrible.
Does your dog enjoy long drives in the car? How does he or she handle being left behind in a new place? Let’s say you decide to go eat somewhere your dog isn’t welcome, how will your dog handle be being left behind in an unfamiliar place? While your dog might be happy crated at home, when you go out at a new place it can be scary and disorienting. If your dog fusses or worse, does damage when you are gone that may not be endearing to hosts or other guests.
Dog first aid kit. They are inexpensive and don’t take up much space. Just like having a first aid kit for people is a simple thing to do, the same is true for your dog.
Sometimes a good answer is a mixed one... take the dog but set up daycare with a reputable daycare in the area you are visiting. Alternatively, you can set up pet sitters or dog walkers at your destination to help your dog stay comfortable while traveling.
So, let’s say you decide to NOT take the dog with you. Now what?Some families opt for boarding. This can be a good fit for many dogs, but for others, it can be stressful and overwhelming, so be sure to visit and do a test run before your big trip. Dog walkers can be a help for day trips even if someone is staying home with the dog overnight. Having someone come and give your dog a break part-way through the day can be a big help. Doggy Day Care Centers sometimes offer boarding too. My personal favorite is pet sitters who stay in our home. The dogs and cat are familiar with these caretakers and are much less stressed by having someone come in and stay with them than they are when we try to board them somewhere. Check with your vet and neighbors to see if they can recommend someone.
Some families I know use a neighbor to help. This can be a big help but remember to do some test runs before heading out on the big trip.
No matter where you’re with your dog, always remember sure to protect your car! 4Knines car seat covers protect your seats from nails, dirt, fur, mud… and pretty much anything else! Plus, all of our products come with a no-hassle, lifetime guarantee. Our mission is to make traveling with your best friend as easy and mess-free as possible, which means providing the highest quality covers on the market.
What did I forget or miss? What would you add? What great stories do you have about traveling with your pets?
Tina M. Spring
Tina M. Spring is the owner of Sit Happens Dog Training & Behavior, LLC in Athens, GA. She is the creator of the Hounds for the Holidays program to help prepare dogs for the stress of the holiday season and prevent dog bites. She is also the author of 90 Days to the Perfect Puppy which is available as an online course.