Traveling With Pets – Some General Guidelines

Whenever vacations are in the horizon, the question about bringing our pets along or not come up. There are times, of course, where the vacation or the trip might not be conducive to bringing our pets in tow, but what about those vacations that we get to plan ourselves?

The biggest mistake I think people make when including their dog in their vacation plans is exactly that – not really including their pet in on the vacation, and as a result not thinking about their pet’s needs. It goes without saying that if we cannot take care of our dog’s needs when traveling it is always best to leave him behind with someone that will.

Here are some of my recommendations to ensure that your dog’s needs are being met while on the road:

Plan the activities in your vacation with your pet in mind since, after all, he is coming along. For example, consider where you would leave your dog for a couple of hours if he cannot accompany you on some of the activities. If you are visiting friends, is he familiar with the surroundings? Are there other pets that he likes and gets along well with, or they just met? If the dogs are truly not trusted friends do not leave your dog unattended with the other dog or with any other pet for that matter. I know it is tempting to think that they will be “fine” and they might, but they might not.

If you’re staying in a hotel is your dog crate trained? By crate trained I mean that your dog can remain in his crate comfortably for as long as you need to leave them in the crate. Another consideration here is the size of the crate. Not because you’re traveling should you compromise on the size of the crate you are bringing along. Your dog should be able to turn around inside the crate, stretch all the way and even stand! Anything else from this and you are compromising your pup’s well-being.

Another option, of course, might be leaving your dog in the car. Once again, your dog’s safety and comfort should be your number 1 priority! People often underestimate that the temperature outside might translate to a very cold temperature for their dog in the car if his stay is prolonged. It is not the same to be walking and going in and out of the elements – as in the case of doing some shopping – than staying in cold weather without the possibility of moving. The same precautions should be considered for hot temperatures. My rule of thumb is that my dogs are NEVER left inside the car if the temperature is above 60 degrees. And they are not left in the car for more than 1 hr. without a coat if the temperature is 40 degrees or below.

Part of being on vacation implies more freedom with routine and schedules. Dogs thrive
on structure sprinkled with novelty here and there. For this reason, it is important that you keep your dog’s routine when it comes to feeding times, exercise and activity selection as close as possible to the routine when at home.

Before deciding to bring your dog along consider if they will be other dogs in the mix. Plan ahead! The crazy idea that dogs enjoyed interacting with unknown dogs is really blown out of proportion. It is possible, of course, that your dog enjoys meeting new friendly dogs. Either way, make sure your dog has alone time and that his meals are served privately. Paying attention to details like these could make the difference between having a fun visit or a dogfight in your midst.

How about your dog’s exercise needs? Again, not because your routine is non-existent should it mean that your dog should go with too little or too much physical as well as mental stimulation. Please be mindful that your dog’s physical condition due to lack of activity, experience in the particular activity that you choose to engage while vacationing, or just age can undermine him.

I just visited with a couple that shared in laughter that on a recent vacation their dog was unable to move the next day because they decided to take their dog mountain biking. They thought it was funny (or perhaps they were laughing out of guilt!) that their dog was so sore he could not even get up the following day.

Once again, considering the terrain where your dog will participate in outdoor activities is important. Is it too cold? Should your dog wear some protective gear? Is it so hot that your dog’s paws are compromised? By the way, dogs can only control their body temperature via their paws and panting so be mindful of this. If it is hot your dog should not wear protective “booties” – something I wish manufactures of these would mention in the how-to of their product.

If hiking with your dog is your thing make sure your dog has a very reliable recall (he comes when called). Being in brand new surrounding stimulates some dogs to the point of taking off in a matter that they normally do not do when hiking in known territory. On the same note, know what kind of wildlife, if any, or roads might present a danger to your dog should he decide to go off exploring.

Our rule of thumb is that if and when our dogs travel with us, we plan the vacation and activities with them in mind. Sure, at times it can put a bit of a damper on what we would like to do but after all it is our choice to bring them and one our dogs cannot make on their own. It might mean that we order take out and eat in the hotel room so that they are not left unattended. Or that we cut short the window shopping so that they do not remain too long in the car. They get leash walks and when appropriate off-leash romps. Their meals remain at the same time followed by their chewy; just like we do at home. We bring their beds along and a blanket from home should they decide they want to jump on the extra bed – a privileged allowed while on vacation.

As a result of our guidelines we have truly enjoyed some of these vacations the most because they are with us and they too get to share in what we do. It should go without saying that we are always responsible for our dog’s well-being so extending this notion when considering if we should travel with them or not is not only good old common sense, but also what our dogs deserve from us.