For people who cannot help themselves and love pets way too much, a family vacation just wouldn't be a family vacation when there are no furry members of their family around. Family is family, and everybody goes together.
But long trips that involve your dogs can become a little more complicated, and planning everything ahead of time is the best way to avoid disasters, experienced “pet travelers” say.
It goes without saying that before you set out on any long trips using any of the below types of transportation, and especially if you are traveling over state lines or internationally – take your dog to the vet for a full check up. You need to be certain that your Fido is physically capable of surviving the journey.
Then, tick rest of the boxes on all other pet related travel safety precautions.
Some of those will include ensuring that all ID tags are current and visible on your dog, and that your dog is micro-chipped. It's the most basic safety guarantees you can take, and it's the easiest way to ensure your four legged pal's safe return, should he get separated from you for any reason during travel. Always have copies of all the documents of your dog with you, just in case he goes missing and you'll need to deal with his search.
Tips for traveling with your dog
It usually does not matter what type of trip you're taking. Whether you’re embarking on some relaxing personal time together, or moving houses, or simply want your pet to join in on your daily adventures, as long as it's out of your dog's zone of familiarity, some of these dog travel tips below can be helpful to you.
Traveling with your dog by car
To begin with, there are a few
unwritten rules about dogs and travel. Most of it is just common sense that every pet owner already knows, but just in case you missed your Pet Safety 101 class when adopting a dog, here are a few clear pointers:
- No dog should ever travel in the front seat, unless specially equipped
- All dogs in a car should be strapped or crated, not roaming freely
- Allowing your dog to stick the head outside of the window is a big no-no
- Whenever possible, it's best if there's a person right next to your dog
- The more rest stops your dog gets, the better it is for everybody
- Never, ever leave your dog locked alone in the car
One of the first things you want to do before any long or short distance travel is to familiarize your dog with the car. Chances are you've probably already had him there, and most likely he loves going on car trips, but in case you didn't – it's an important step.
Let him into the car, let him sniff and explore while the car is stationary in a secure place like your yard or garage. The less excitable he is when the car is in motion, the better it will be for all of you. Take him out on short test runs, maybe to the local store or park, to see how he reacts in a new, confined space that is moving. Watch to see if your dog gets anxious or car sick on these trips.
If possible, try a longer 1-2 hour trip before embarking on any day-long travels with a dog.
You should also prepare your car for the journey with a dog. Unrestrained canines in the front seat of the car cause many road accidents each year; it is much safer for everyone in the car to keep your dog in the backseat. You can purchase dog car barriers to place between the front seat and the back seat, and also dog seat-belts to further restrain your pet. Crating your dog is also an option, and a decent one in terms of safety but not comfort.
Before your family and your pet leave home, make sure you exercise your dog thoroughly. Most dog breeds travel much better if they have used up a lot of their energy and will most likely rest during the journey – enjoy the moving house.
Don’t feed him right before you travel, otherwise he may get sick. A knowing our luck, he definitely will. Keep the air conditioning on or the windows down enough to allow fresh air into the car, but not low enough that he can try to jump from the car. Car sickness is prevalent among dogs as well, so you should monitor his state while in the car. You'll notice your dog feeling unwell if he's getting car sick.
Always have plenty of water available for your dog. Do not hesitate to make enough stops along the way to stretch all of your leg and let your Fido do the same. Don't jump into a car after 1 minute; give your dog some time to run a little and burn off some more energy. ASPCA have more advice specific to having dogs ride in the car.
Cover the back passenger windows with shades to keep the sun out and help keep the heat down. Cover the backseat with a blanket or sheet to make it more comfortable for the dog. This will also help massively with controlling your dog's shedding and coat distribution around the car, and it will keep it more centered on that dog car seat cover. Remember to bring your pet's favorite dog toy and if you have to, even a blanket that's familiar to him to make the trip less stressful.
PRO TIP: NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR.
This is an important rule that every dog owner should remember, but sadly, many pet owners choose to ignore it, thinking that “nothing's going to happen in 5 minutes.” But then something does happen, and you dog will stay locked in a car under sun's heat for the next few hours, suffocating. Never forget that you have a dog in car.
Traveling with your dog by plane
Flying can be stressful for your dog, especially because he will be confined to a crate in the cargo hold of an airplane. That type of trip isn't about traveling with your dog, but more about having your dog “delivered” to the location you're going. We've talked extensively about how to ship a dog by air before, and recently took a quick look at potential costs of doing that.
In short, here are a few pointers about traveling by plane:
- Whenever possible, always choose ground travel over air travel
- Prepare very well and be very inquisitive about all the travel arrangements
- Having your dog stay in the cabin is better for both you and your pet
- Learn all the rules and requirements airlines have for traveling with dogs
Make sure your dog has been well exercised beforehand. The trip will be stressful to your dog no matter what, but if he's exercised and tired, he will travel better and be calmer. Obviously you have to keep him hydrated during the whole trip.
Use ice packs or a hanging dog water bottle that can be attached to the crate, and your pet will keep himself hydrated during the whole trip. Don’t feed him just before he is about to travel. Nobody wants a sick dog in the cargo or inside the cabin.
Do some research on airlines and see what rules they have in terms of flying with a dog. Traveling with your pets is becoming more popular. There are now plenty of pet friendly hotels around, and pet friendly airlines have begun to emerge as well. True pet friendly airlines, which are actually more of Pet Airlines, will not force your dog to go into the cargo hold. They crate dogs in the main cabin with other pets, and the air hostesses will be checking on them every 15 minutes.
Needless to say, keep all your dog’s papers in order and close by, and make sure his and your details are correct on his ID tag or microchip. Many people forget to update these details after they have moved houses or something like that, and that causes issues. Ensure that all vaccinations and other health checks done to your dog are clearly marked, in case there are any questions from airport authorities or places where you are traveling to.
On the day of travel, before you leave home for the airport, it's best if you crate your dog at home. Make sure he has been well exercised and watered. Remove all safety hazards, things that could harm your dog from the dog crate. These can be something like collars, or leads, or anything potentially dangerous. You can leave a favorite soft pet toy in there with him that you know doesn't require monitoring (i.e. he won't choke himself). Dog toys make pets feel more comfortable and at ease, and they relieve stress while chewing.
Crating your dog for travel
Depending on your pet's size, breed and choice of the airline, it's likely your dog will need to be crated if you are travelling by plane. Confined spaces like airplane cargo holds can sometimes be difficult for a dog to deal with, especially if he hasn't been in one before.
Even situations like being a crate can sometimes bother your dog, thus it wouldn't be the worst idea if you check that weeks before the trip. Usually, dogs don't have any issues with dog crates and dog houses, but if yours does, start training him weeks before he is to make any long journeys in a pet crate.
To put dog crate training into as few words as possible: place your dog's crate in a common area of your home, somewhere where your pooch can get used to it. Keep the door of the crate open, and try to encourage your pet to investigate.
Dogs are naturally curious, so he will undoubtedly find his way into it eventually. In fact, most dogs instantly occupy their crates and acknowledge them as their own “dens.”
If your Fido isn't quick to consider a dog crate his own home, take some time to work on this. It's not a difficult process, trust me. For example, give your dog some treats when he finally does get into the crate by himself – you want him to associate good memories with the crate. Also, place some of his favorite dog toys in there.
After your dog has familiarized himself with the presence of the crate around the house – when it is no longer a mystery to him – close the door when he is in there. After ten minutes, open the door and reward him with a treat. Rinse and repeat. Do this a few more times over a period of a week or two, leaving the door closed for longer periods of time every try.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and your dog should be fairly comfortable being in a crate right now. He knows what it is, he knows that this is his place, he understands that doors must be closed and that he's safe in there. This understanding has to be maintained, however. Encourage your dog to think of being in a crate as a fun experience, and avoid stressing him out while your pet is inside of a dog crate.