After last month’s surprise snowstorm, I’m almost hesitant to say that spring has (finally) sprung! With hopefully many more weeks of warm weather ahead of us, thoughts turn to vacations. And whether you take your furry friend with you, or need to find “vacation” spots away from home and family for your pooch, there are some important things to consider in order to make your vacation as memorable—and safe– for both you and your pup.
When traveling by car with your dog, probably the most important thing you can do before you even buckle up and step on the gas is to exercise your pet. Burn off excess energy and make sure they’re “empty” before starting out. Also, don’t feed your dog a heavy meal before starting out; some dogs are prone to motion sickness. A long car ride is never made more pleasant with the after effects of a sick dog!
If you have used crate training throughout your dog’s life, he or she will know it’s a safe place…it’s also a safe way to travel! Make sure there are no items that can harm your dog, such as loose collars or leashes. If you haven’t been crate training your dog, spend some time before the trip getting your pet used to the crate, showing him or her it’s a good place, and getting your dog used to being confined.
If you’re not crating your dog for the trip, I recommend using a car harness. You will avoid being distracted by doggy antics like jumping around, and your dog will be protected from injury caused by short stops, or God forbid, accidents.
Take plenty of breaks along the way, both for exercise and bathroom issues. A small, high protein snack will keep your dog comfortable during the trip. Make sure your pet has plenty of water breaks as well, and, of course, never ever leave a dog in a hot car. Even with the windows cracked open, the car heats up quickly and can prove fatal to your pet.
If you are traveling by air with your pet, check with the airline to make sure what their policies are. There have been too many sad stories about pets coming to harm because pet parents didn’t know about the airline rules and guidelines, or because the airlines were not consistent in maintaining these guidelines. Many airlines require a health certificate; some allow pets in the main cabin with proper certification and some pets will have to be crated and travel in cargo. Do all you can to maintain the health and well-being of your pet, whether he’s occupying your lap, under the seat, or in cargo. A favorite toy or blankie can also provide immense comfort to your dog.
As with the airlines, if you’re planning on bringing your dog to a hotel, check beforehand concerning the hotel’s policies regarding pets. Some hotels welcome pets; others will not even consider allowing them to stay in the hotel.
Let’s assume you’ve found a pet-friendly hotel. First thing, take your dog on a long walk. Your dog will be in a more relaxed state of mind after some good exercise. New places can be frightening for your pet, so make sure you have him well under control. Upon entering the hotel, go first, don’t let him wander around. Be vigilant, and make sure your pet only moves around when you have given him permission. Be considerate of others.
It is not a good idea (and may possibly be against hotel policies) to leave your pet alone in a new place like a hotel. That can be challenging when it comes to dining out because, of course, you don’t want to leave your dog in the care. Fortunately, there are online sites that spell out dog friendly restaurants like www.bringfido.com. (In fact, this website not only outlines dog-friendly restaurants, you can also find recommendations for hotels that allow pets as well as activities like dog-friendly beaches, and dog events available in the area.) Another website www.petfriendlyrestaurants.com also has recommendations for places where you can dine with your doggy (some even have special doggy menus!). Always call first to make sure their pet policies haven’t changed.
Sometimes it is not possible to take your pet along. Make sure you find a reliable and trustworthy “dog sitter.” This might be an individual, a kennel or a trusted friend. This will be your pet’s new “pack” during the duration of your vacation. Find someone who will leave your pet engaged, and not mourning your absence.
With a little planning and training, your pet can share in your vacation experience, or experience positive time away from you. Have a safe and happy vacation!