Being a dog caregiver doesn’t mean that you can’t travel anymore or that you need to leave your furry friend at home. Traveling with your dog by car can be an enjoyable experience for both of you! To ensure that you both have a great trip, you will want to follow these guidelines.
First and foremost, make sure your best friend likes to take trips. If your dog has always been an inside dog and is only in the car when you go to the veterinarians or to the groomers, than you will want to do several test runs before planning a big trip. Initially, start small. Take your dog to local parks, farmer’s markets, trails, beaches and other places besides his or her’s usual routine. Go at least twice a week and gauge for anxiety, upset stomachs, nervousness or any stressful behaviors. If your pup passes these tests after a couple of weeks, then do a mini trip where you stay overnight somewhere 2-4 hours away. This will let you know how he or she does after being in the car for more than a couple of hours and how your companion does sleeping in a new location. Not all dogs are good with travel, but if yours is, then the following are tips to make your trip enjoyable:
- About a month before your leave, do a comprehensive veterinary visit. You want to make sure your pet is in the best of health before the trip. You will want to do the following:
- Ensure all shots and medications are up to date.
- Verify that the microchip is still working.
- Test for parasites, this way, if treatment is needed, it can be done before you go away.
- Ask your Veterinarian for any travel advice, tips, health concerns,etc. Let your vet know what your plans are and let your vet weigh in with their thoughts, suggestions or concerns.
- Before you leave the Vet’s office, you will want to obtain the following:
- Medical and Vaccination Records, Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and/or an Acclimation Certificate for air travel if you are flying. You may need these if your pup gets sick on your travels or you make take excursions where your pup will go to a doggy daycare facility. It’s better to have this information than be dealing with an emergency later or having to skip out on a fun activity.
- Prescribed medications and nutrients (adequate supply for entire duration of trip and several days' surplus supply.)
- Your Veterinarian’s contact information.
- You also should have:
- A collar or tag with your pet’s name and your contact information.
- A current photograph of your dog.
- Plan out your trip- know the path of where you are going! Spontaneity is great but when you are traveling with a pet, you need to know where you are going to stay. Many hotels do not allow pets and those that do can charge anywhere from extra $25-$150 per night! Also, you may think you can power through a 10 or 12 hour drive but your dog won’t be too keen on that! Dogs usually can only handle about 6-7 hours a day in a car at most.
- Look for overnight stays that are approximately 300-400 miles apart.
- Check out the availability of hotels at these destinations that allow dogs and what fees are associated with the stay.
- Hotel Tonight is a great app because it clearly shows if dogs are allowed, the fee and any restrictions. It’s also ideal for finding last minute bargains. Keep in mind, the selection of hotels in high season or smaller locales may be limited.
(Feel free to use the invite code of TTOUHEY for 20% back after your first booking.)
- Bring Fido is a huge resource for all sorts of stays, including hotels, motels, vacation rentals, bed and breakfast and campgrounds.
- Traditional hotel apps and websites are also a resource but take heed- I have seen listings stating that dogs are allowed but when I called the hotel, I found that the information wasn’t accurate. It is always advisable to double check before booking.
- Plan things to do ahead of time! One of my favorite trips with my little buddy was when I drove from Omaha, Nebraska to Dallas, Texas to visit family. I had an extra few days so I did some research for dog friendly excursions. On this trip we went to Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, Missouri. Then, we trekked over to Hot Springs, Arkansas- a very dog friendly town. We went crystal mining in Mount Aida, Arkansas. By doing my research first, I was able to share some great experiences with my boy and he had a great time- especially at the crystal mine where he was able to run around and play in the red clay.
- Make the car trip enjoyable and comfortable for your companion. I highly recommend the following:
- Make frequent stops, at least once every 1.5 hours or so. Spend at least 10 minutes at each stop if not longer. Take a walk with your pup, let her or him get some great smells in. Throw a ball or do a run. The activity will let your dog release energy and help with any anxiety or restlessness.
- Pack treats, water and food and keep these items in the front of the car and not in the trunk. This will reduce any thoughts from your dog of where is my food? Will I eat again? Keep in mind, the more you can mirror home activities to your trip, the better it is for your pup.
- Pack his or her favorite blankets and toys. Bring along a pet bed or carrier for comfort and security in the car. Since my dog sleeps with me on my bed, I also bring my comforter and a pillow and I keep them in the back seat. The smell of home helps… he knows these are my things and that we are on this trip together.
- Groom your dog a day or two before the trip. I normally drop him off at the groomers the a day or so beforehand so I can pack without him being at the house (my dog gets high anxiety when he sees suitcases- it could be because he was a stray twice before I adopted him.) I put everything in the trunk except his food, toys, his dog bed and my bedding. I throw those remaining items into the car 5 minutes before we are out the door.
- Talk to your dog while driving. Crack open the windows when you can, especially on country roads. Remember, your dog’s nose is his or her wonderland… those scents are exciting! Give reassuring pets and scratches. She or he needs to know that this is a good thing that is happening so that they enjoy the adventure!
- My last tip is to have fun, relax, take your time and snap pictures. Traveling with your dog can bring lots of joy and enhance your relationship. So go out there, take a road trip and create some wonderful memories with your best friend! It will be a great experience for both of you.
For additional information, check out the following resources and articles:
Traveling with Your Pet FAQ- American Veterinary Medical Association
10 Trips for Traveling With Your Dog