Pack the Poop Bags and Grab the Leash! Traveling with Your Dog

You’ve packed your bags, arranged for accommodations, and found someone to water your plants. No need for arranging a stay in a kennel; your lucky pooch is coming along for the fun! All vacations require planning, but should you choose to take your four-footed friend along, you will need to be a bit more resourceful. Including Fido or Fifi doesn’t have to be a headache if you do your homework thoroughly before embarking (I couldn’t resist the pun!) on your journey.

The most important thing to consider when planning a trip is your dog’s welfare. Of course you want to share the fun and excitement of an outing with your faithful friend and perhaps the idea of a kennel makes you cringe. However, it may be in his or her best interest to forgo the festivities and stay closer to home. Some of the reasons your dog may need to skip the trip include:

  • Health issues: If he or she isn’t feeling 100% well, a vacation may only serve to exacerbate an illness. Has he or she just had surgery? If so, this may not be the time to travel. Is he or she currently on medication? And if your pet is older, traveling may not be his or her idea of a good time.
  • Personality conflicts: If your pet doesn’t play well with others, you may not want to wander into unfamiliar territory. Your dog may be the most loving canine you could ever ask for, but if they don’t care for strangers it may be best not to subject him or her to innumerable unfamiliar people.

If you will be staying in a hotel, there are a great many things to consider including:

  • Does the hotel of your choice allow pets? If not, you may need to invest more time finding one that does and subsequently more money in your quest for canine-friendly accommodations. It is important to understand the hotel’s pet policy before you book your room. If their policy is “No Pets”, it means “No Pets”. If you are uncertain about a hotel’s pet policy, simply call them and ask.
  • Leaving your pet alone in a hotel room is not only considered rude by the pet, but the hotel staff as well. Even well behaved pets have been known to act up when left to their own volition in unfamiliar territory, disturbing other guests by barking and racking up your bill by wrecking the contents of the room. Utilize your crate should you need to leave him or her behind, and make it brief.
  • When taking your dog “O-U-T”, be sure to walk them away from the landscaping directly outside of the lobby doors. If it looks pretty, the chances are they want to keep it that way.

If your vacation destination is accessible only by airplane, you must do some extra planning and research. Your first order of business is to find out the pet policies of the airline you have chosen. The policies will differ from airline to airline. When making your travel arrangements, consider your animal as another traveling companion and get all the necessary information. There are some rules that any airline which allows pet travel hold fast:

    • Your pet must be at least 8 weeks old and completely weaned.
    • You must have a health certificate issued by a veterinarian obtained no more than 10 days before your date of departure.
    • Your pet’s travel bag must be airline approved for safety and made for air travel. Check with your airline to obtain specifics on what they may require.
  • There is a limited amount of animals allowed in the cabin of the aircraft at any given time. Make your reservations ahead of time to assure that they can accommodate your pet.

When traveling by automobile, ensure your pet’s safety by using restraints. By allowing your dog to roam about the car you risk not only their protection in the event of a collision, but you also increase the risk of an accident. A free-roaming pet can be a formidable distraction to the driver, so it is best to restrain your dog in either a crate or by using seatbelts specially designed for canines. Driving in a truck poses many life-threatening dangers to your pet. No dog should be allowed to ride loose in the back of a truck. To do so risks strangulation upon a leash, debris and dirt becoming lodged in eyes, ears and mouth, being thrown from the vehicle upon hitting a bump or encountering an accident, and in most cases results in death. Even using a crate can be hazardous if the crate is not properly secured and if the weather is extreme. Thankfully, it is illegal in most states to transport an animal in the back of a truck. If your dog cannot fit in the cab safely with you, it is best to either find alternative means of transporting it or leave it at home.
Now that you’re prepared for safe travel, double check that you’ve packed your dogs essentials. Whether it’s a crate or soft bed, your pooch should have a comfy spot for snoozing. There are a variety of these designed for traveling that are lightweight and easy to store. Just as you will be expecting some entertaining activities, so will your pet. Pack some fun, durable toys and chewies. If aquatic activities are on the agenda and your dog enjoys the water, you need not leave him or her on the shore. Equip your pet with a canine life jacket and hit the water! When taking your dog on trips always remember to pack an emergency medical kit, plenty of food and water, most recent vaccination records and proper identification. A color photo will aid in your search should he or she become separated from you, and knowing where the local animal shelters are located so you may alert them to your situation is key. Most importantly, have fun! It is a vacation, after all! By taking the necessary steps to ensure a smooth trip you and your pet can enjoy a fun-filled or relaxing trip. Lucky dog!

by Rebecca Ash