Planning a summer vacation? Maybe a road trip or plane ride to discover the rocky shoreline of Maine, or a cabin rental by a serene lake to enjoy the solitude, or a hiking vacation in Colorado? Whatever the destination, one of your first decisions should be whether you’ll be bringing your dog along or leaving him behind. Here are some guidelines to help answer that question.
Where to Go
Travel abroad is complicated. You’ll need to check out the policies of the nation you’re thinking of visiting first. Some countries require quarantines that may last six months or longer. Yet others only require that you show proof of vaccination. Other factors to consider are:
- Is the temperature comfortable for your dog? You may need a few days of basking in the sun to unwind, but the heat may be too much for your pooch. Be sure you’re choosing a destination that’s fun and safe for your pet as well.
- Is your destination known for infectious diseases? Some places are hot spots for Lyme disease or giardia, an intestinal parasite. If so, check with your vet to get armed with prevention strategies.
- Are you up to date on vaccinations? Whether you’re planning to cross an international border or travel within the 48 contiguous states, you’ll want to carry your vaccination paperwork, at a minimum, or have your vet issue a health certificate that verifies your dog doesn’t have any contagious diseases.
Travelling by Plane
Airline travel with pets is increasing dramatically each year. Competitive carriers strive to make this choice more affordable and safer for their pet-loving customers. Some dogs are small enough to travel as a carry-on, but the rules vary from airline to airline. If your dog meets the size requirement for flying in the cabin, his carrier will need to fit under the seat ahead of you.
If Fido needs to travel in the cargo compartment, invest in a sturdy, airline-approved carrier with enough space for your dog to move around easily, stand up and lie down. Clearly mark it with your contact information and “Live Animal” stickers. Other keys to carrier travel:
- Ventilation holes should cover at least 14 percent of the wall surface, with most at the top half of the box.
- Fixed food and water bowls should be accessible without opening the carrier door.
- A few weeks before the trip, get your dog used to the carrier by leaving it out with the door open so he can explore freely. Once he’s comfortable with the crate, close the door for 5-10 minutes. Don’t make a big production with treats when you open the door, or he may associate the crate with being punished.
Travelling by Car
Think through your intended itinerary. Will there be times when you plan stop along the way and not be able to take your dog with you? Even in cool weather, a closed metal car exposed to the sun can turn into an oven in no time. Never, never leave your dog in a closed car. Even a short run into the store can turn fatal. Other factors to keep in mind when travelling by car:
- Safety first! A free-roaming dog in the car is unsafe for everybody. Plan to have him travel in his crate or with a harness and leash that can be buckled into your car’s seatbelt system. Also, only roll the window down a crack for him to sniff. Letting your dog hang his head out can lead to a bug or something else hitting him in the eye.
- Travel equipped with lots of water, food, treats, blankets and toys. If your dog gets a nervous stomach in the car, consider bringing a bland diet product that can be prepared with hot water from a gas station.
- Train your dog early to enjoy car travel. Start when they are a puppy for short distances and gradually increase the trips.
Related: Buckle Up, Bowser
Sedation or Not
Many pet owners wonder whether they should sedate their dogs on long trips in the car or on a plane. Most vets do not recommend sedatives because of their potential side effects which can lead to medical emergencies. If your dog is travelling as cargo, no one will know he is having a medical problem, and there’s no chance for stopping if one should be detected.
Instead of sedation, consider giving your dog a calming supplement which can help your dog deal with the anxiety of travel without the dangers of prescription sedatives. A calming supplement supports relaxation, balanced behavior and sleep during times of stress.
Where to Stay
Pet-friendly hotels and motels are on the rise, so travelling with your dog is very easy these days. Some may restrict sizes or breeds or charge a special damage deposit, but you have many choices. Make your reservations well in advance so you have time to sort out your best option. A few tips on hotel travel:
- Place your dog’s blanket on the floor to define his space, keeping him off the furniture and minimizing the shedding on the carpeting.
- Put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door whenever you leave, so the housekeeper doesn’t accidentally let your dog free or get startled.
Related: Fido Friendly Vacations
Leaving Fido Home
If the decision is to leave your dog at home during your travel, there are several options for his care. You might leave him with a relative or friend, have a relative or friend come stay in your home, hire a pet sitter or board him at a kennel. If a kennel is your choice:
- Visit a few top-rated kennels in your area. Check out the accommodations for kennel sizes, care and play schedules. Do the other dogs appear to be content and well cared for? Are the spaces clean? What is their protocol for a medical emergency?
- Once you’ve chosen a kennel, make your reservation early and confirm it. When you drop your dog off, leave a piece of your clothing with him, or something that is familiar and comforting. Don’t stage an emotional farewell which can cause anxiety for your dog. Leave your contact information and your vet’s number in case of emergency.
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