In This Chapter
—John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley in Search of America
Deciding Whether to Bring Your Dog with You
– Will you have time to spend with your dog? If you’re going on vacation, the answer will probably be yes — after all, you’re on vacation to relax, right? But if you’re going on a business trip, odds are your dog will end up having to spend a lot of time in the hotel room by himself. He’ll be in a new place, and being alone there won’t be as easy for him as it is at your house. Unless you’ll be able to spend most of your time with your dog, you’re better off leaving him at home.
– Is your pet in good condition to travel? If your dog is very young or very old, a road trip might be strenuous for him — he’ll have to relieve himself more often, and you’ll have to make lots of stops. Young pups need to run — unless you’re driving a monster SUV with a doggy playground in the back, your pup will likely chew whatever is within reach (arm rests, seat covers, head rests, suitcase handles). Old dogs may have difficulty getting in and out of your vehicle.
A sick or injured dog should remain in a quiet environment, not be jostled about in a vehicle or extremely stressed by a ride in the cargo hold of an airplane.
– Is there a pet-friendly place to stay at your destination? Most hotel chains don’t allow dogs in their establishments. You’ll need to plan ahead and make reservations so that you don’t end up driving around in the middle of the night searching for a place to stay.
– If you’re visiting family and/or friends, are they okay with the idea that your dog will be with you? One of the best ways to make yourself unwelcome is to arrive at someone’s house with your dog without first asking if they’re cool with it. Believe me, after many years of having a relative come to my house with dogs who urinated on my carpeting or showed aggression to my animals, I can totally understand people who’d rather not welcome other people’s pets into their homes — and I love dogs!
Finding Pet-Friendly Places to Stay
AAA publishes a great book, Traveling With Your Pet, that’s updated yearly, listing all the pet-friendly places to stay in the United States. You don’t have to be a AAA member to obtain this book at its Web site (www.aaa.com).
You can also find information on pet-friendly hotels at www.petswelcome.com, www.dogfriendly.com, and www.bringfido.com. Both sites allow you to see hotels in any city, state, or province you’re visiting. (As of this printing, www.bringfido.com is limited to just the United States, but the other two offer information on hotels in Canada as well.)
Packing for Your Trip
– Food and water dishes: The collapsible type are great when space is tight. Otherwise, lightweight plastic dishes work well.
– A bottle of water from home: If the trip is short, such as a day or two, a gallon of water should do. If longer, bring enough water for during the traveling and a bit for arrival to gently wean your dog onto whatever water is available at your destination. Water varies from location to location — a sudden change can upset your dog’s stomach.
– Food: Place kibble in an airtight container to maintain freshness. If you’re bringing canned food, be sure to bring a can opener if you’ll need one. Be sure to bring enough food for the entire trip.
– Your dog’s bed: If you don’t want to bring a bulky bed, bring along a mat. You can find zippered mat beds that double as carrying cases for dog supplies. I usually use it for doggy toys, treats, leashes, and packaged food when I travel with my dogs.
– Leash and collar with identification tags: If your dog pulls on the leash when you walk him, bring a training device, such as a head halter or Easy Walk harness.
– Treats and toys: Interactive toys — such as treat-stuffed toys or those that are edible — are best. I’ve found that a plain, old shank bone, stuffed with ground up food is great. It’s inexpensive and reusable.
– Grooming supplies
– Medications and supplements
– Bags for picking up droppings
– Your dog’s health records: Regardless of where you travel or for how long, have a copy of your mixed breed’s vaccination record and rabies certificate. This is especially important when crossing state lines or traveling in a foreign country.
Keep the following contact info handy while you travel:
– American Animal Hospital Association (phone: 303-986-2800; Web: www.healthypet.com): Contact the association if you need to find a vet while you’re on the road.
– Dogpark.com: This Web site can help you find a place to exercise your dog while you’re on the road.
Traveling by Car
– Crate: The crate is best for anxious dogs or those who tend to chew or whine or bark in the car. Whether your dog is anxious or not, a crate is the safest place for him to be in your car. I recommend a metal crate because it’s sturdy but provides ample air flow and gives your dog a view of everyone in the car and everything outside the windows. You can drape a reflecting blanket over it to keep the interior cooler on hot days.
Never keep your dog in a hot car on a hot day with the windows closed or left open only a crack. Your dog will die of heat stroke and suffocation in an agonizing, cruel manner.
– Seat restraints: Many brands of dog seat restraints are available. Most come in the form of an upper-body harness with a clip that attaches either to the belt or to the actual seat belt insert clip. For a medium to large dog, use the type that clips directly into the seat belt clip insert. For smaller dogs, I recommend a booster seat with the seat belt attachment to a body harness. The booster seat lets your small dog look at the scenery while in a comfortable cushioned bed.
– The rear cargo area: If you have a station wagon or SUV, you can place your medium to large mixed breed in the back cargo area, with a metal divider keeping him from getting into the front seats. It’s similar to a crate, though often larger. Your dog can see the passing scenery and remain secure behind the metal vehicle barrier. You will have to put up with nose smudges on the glass, though — a small price to pay from your dog’s point of view!
Don’t leave your dog loose in the cargo area if he’s destructive, has traveling anxiety of any sort, or likes to bark at everyone he sees while you drive. You’ll be more distracted worrying about what he’s doing back there than keeping your mind on the road. Also, don’t put a small dog in the rear cargo area — he could go flying if you stop suddenly.
Flying with Your Dog
Unless your dog can fit in his carrier under the seat, only certified service animals can remain in the cabin with their human companions.
Some types of dogs should not travel by air — period. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) specifies that dogs under 8 weeks of age can’t fly at all. If the dog is ill, injured, pregnant, or very old, they recommend that he doesn’t travel by air. Also, dogs with very short noses such as Pugs and Boxers, as well as long-nosed dogs such as Collies, are prone to respiratory difficulties, and the UDSA suggests they only travel by air if they can do so in the passenger cabin. Some airlines won’t accept short-nosed breeds at all if the temperature exceeds 70°F anywhere during the routing (between the terminals and airplane).
What to do before you leave
Checking out the airlines’ requirements
Buying an airline-approved crate
Making sure your dog has proper identification and health certificates
Caring for your dog before and after the flight
Traveling by air can be stressful for both you and your mixed breed. So here are some tips for making it better for both of you:
– Before the day of your flight, acclimate your dog to his air crate. Make sure he likes it before you leave. (You can get your dog used to his crate by leaving it open at home and using it as his bed and eating area.)
– Don’t check in your dog until the very last minute. Until then, allow him to be out and about with you, moving around and acclimating to the airport congestion and commotion. Stay upbeat and give him plenty of rewards.
– Make sure his water and food bowls are securely fastened to the side of the crate so they don’t spill in flight.
– Place a couple of his favorite toys in the crate, as well as some interactive chewies. Just make sure that you don’t leave him with anything he might choke on, such as rawhide.
– After the flight, remove your dog from his travel crate (on a leash) as soon as you reach a safe area where he can stretch his legs and go potty. Because he likely didn’t do his business while traveling, and was very stressed during the trip, he’ll be hopping from leg to leg by the time you arrive at your destination.
– After he’s emptied his bladder and bowels, offer him fresh water and food, and let him move around, play with some toys, and cuddle with you before you leave the airport.
Leaving Your Dog Behind
Finding an in-home sitter
Here’s a list of questions to ask a potential pet sitter:
– Are you insured for commercial liability and bonded? A sitter who is bonded and insured is serious about her services.
– What do your services include? Before you interview the potential pet sitter, make a list of all the things you’d want the pet sitter to do with your dog (walk him, hang out with him, play with him), and go down the list to be sure she’ll do everything.
– What does the sitter require of you? Does the sitter require access to current veterinary information about your dog? (This is important in case of an emergency — she’ll have to take your dog to a veterinarian and must have appropriate documentation.) Does she ask for a letter from you stating that she represents you in your absence?
– What kind of animals does the sitter normally work with? If the pet sitter normally only watches cats and fish, or if she’s used to small dogs and you have a 100-pound mutt, it might not be a good fit.
– How will the pet sitter handle emergencies? What if the pet sitter gets in an accident and can’t come to watch your dog? Does she have a backup plan for herself? And what if something happens to your dog while you’re away? Will she take your dog to your vet, or will she go someplace else? Make sure you’re comfortable with the answers.
– Does the sitter fully understand your mixed-breed dogs’ needs? Always fully explain to the sitter your dogs’ physical needs and overall behavior patterns. What times does he normally eat, sleep, play, and exercise? How does he behave while being walked? How much training has he had? What are his training commands? Explain the feeding process to the sitter — what your mixed-breed dog is fed, how much, where he eats, how he eats.
– How much time will the pet sitter spend with your dog? Many pet sitters charge by the 15-minute increment of time and allow you to choose how long you want them to stay.
Knowing what to look for in a kennel
Here’s a list of questions to ask any boarding kennel:
– What’s included in the fee? Just feeding and cleaning, or also exercise and attention?
– What vaccinations are required? If the kennel requires no vaccinations, stay away! The kennel should require rabies, parvo, distemper, and other contagious-disease vaccinations, including bordetella (kennel cough).
– How will emergencies be handled? Is there a vet on call? Will your dog be taken to the vet he’s used to seeing?
– Where will your dog be housed? A cage, run, or suite? What’s in the room with him? His own toys and bed from home?
– How often are the dogs fed and interacted with?
– How often are the dogs’ sleep and other areas cleaned?
Bring your dog’s regular food with him to the kennel so that he isn’t fed something that doesn’t agree with his digestive system. Prepackage each meal and label it, so that there aren’t any skipped supplements.
by Miriam Fields-Babineau