Hi there! I have to apologize for my absence. You see, Hans, Cody, Lollie, and I have all been out of town. We took a nice trip to Minnesota to visit family, and that got me thinking. How many people really know how to travel with their dogs? Traveling with dogs is a lot like traveling with kids...it's not always easy. It requires a lot of planning, a lot of preparation, and a lot of attention. So, here I'm going to give you some simple steps to follow when it comes to traveling with your dog.
Part 1: Preparation
Step 1: Exercise. Exercise is probably the number one most important thing you can give your dog before you travel, particularly if you have a long car ride. Your dog is going to be cooped up for quite some time, and expecting a hyper / energetic dog to this peacefully just isn't fair. So, take your dog to take care, go for long walks / runs, or go to the dog park. Just make sure your dog is truly tired.
Step 2: Check the vet. Make sure your dog is completely up to date on vaccinations. Also, check out the area you're headed. If you live in colder temperatures, your vet may not often recommend vaccines for tick-born illnesses, but if you're traveling farther south, you may want to consider those vaccines. Take a moment to talk with your vet over what may be best.
Part 2: Packing
For a longer trip, you should bring along the following items:
-Enough food for the entire trip
-A bed or blanket
-One good chew toy
-One good play toy
-At least one bottle of water
-First Aid Kit (optional)
-Collars (with tags)
-Crate (optional depending on your dog and your destination)
Never assume that you'll be able to buy extra anything on your trip. You might not be able to find your EXACT type of food or toys. On one trip, I was quite surprised at the difficult I had in finding a quality leash. I ended up buying a horse lead!
Also, keep in mind that you want to be a good steward wherever you go, so be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best.
Oh, and that water bottle? That's so you can easily water them in the car. You can always refill it at rest stops, but I found it was helpful to have for in between rest stops.
Part 3: The Trip
First, be prepared to stop more. If you can usually drive 4+ hours without a stop, please don't ask your dog to do that. I recommend stopping every 2-3 hours at least (Note: This is also recommended for people). At each stop, make sure your dog has a chance to stretch his legs, use the bathroom, and drink a little water.
Next, make sure your dog has plenty of space in your car to stretch out. Your dog should have enough room to sit, lie down, and stand up comfortable. It's the same rules that apply when purchasing a crate.
Remember what I said earlier about being a good steward? That really applies here. Pick up poop! That was one of my biggest peeves on this last trip. So often, I'd take my dogs to the designated pet area only to be met with a land mine of dog piles. You can bet I didn't want my dogs in that area either! Also make sure your dogs are polite towards other dogs and people. If other dogs and people stress your dog out, take him to quieter areas.
Part 4: The Destination
The biggest thing here is to actually make your dog a part of your trip. Don't expect your dog to sit in a crate all day while you go off on adventures. Find things your dog can do with you. Go on a hike in a new locale, find a restaurant where you can eat with your pet, or simply go out to new parks and play with a toy. Remember this is a vacation for your dog too, not just for you.
Lastly, I'm going to reiterate the whole good-steward thing. If you're in a hotel, don't allow your dog to bark ad nauseum. If you're staying with friends, clean up after your dog (vacuum up hair, respect rules regarding furniture, etc). You're in charge of your dog, and it's your responsibility to take care of him/her. Don't expect others to clean up your mess.
Traveling with your pet can be a truly rewarding experience. You have a companion and a bit of protection in unfamiliar territory. How much you get out of it, though, will really depend on how much you put into it. Have fun with your best friend on your trip!
*One last note: I did not mention seat belting or crating your dog. Seat belts for dogs have become extremely popular, but recent studies have started questioning their effectiveness. The safest way to travel with your pet is to put your pet in a crate and secure the crate in the car. Some states have laws regarding the safety of traveling with your pet, but if you're not traveling to one of those states, how you secure your dog is up to you.