How to Travel With Dog

Taking Your Dog on a Vacation – Tips for Traveling with a Dog

When I was a kid, we had a black poodle named Pepi.  He loved all of us so much.  It truly was a joy for him to live with our family and be a part of our lives.

Sometimes on weekends, our parents would take us on day-long road trips.  One particular Sunday, we were packing up my dad’s pickup truck – the truck had a cover and Dad would put a mattress in the truck bed so the three of us kids could ride back there and have lots of space and be comfortable.  Just before we were going to lock the house and jump in the truck, we look inside…and there’s Pepi – sitting inside the truck bed, tucked up tight toward the back with a look on his little face like, “Plllleeeeeaaaaasssse take me!!”  We all melted – and of course, Pepi was allowed to go. How in the world could we say  no?

What happened, though, as you might already know, is that having Pepi along turned into a nightmare.  The dog wouldn’t sit still, and whined the entire day. He was panting so much that the entire truck filled with stinky dog breath.  We had to stop too many times for him to pee.  Honestly, I loved that dog with all my heart, but that day was a nightmare!  And no fun for the dog, either.

So before you decide to take Fido on a trip with you, consider whether it’s feasible – and whether it’s even beneficial for the dog.  Taking your dog on a vacation takes care and planning!

Taking Your Dog on a VacationTips For Traveling With Dogs

Any veterinarian or professional dog trainer will tell you that before you decide to take your dog on any sort of trip with you, you should always consider what you are going to be doing, where you are going, and whether you will have time for your dog. If you will be sight-seeing in places such as museums, galleries or restaurants, it may be best to leave your dog with a friend, find a pet sitter or board your dog while you are away.

Taking Your Dog on a VacationShort Car Rides

Buckle up your pooch. When traveling by car, even if it’s just a short trip, consider your dog’s safety. Invest in an accident-tested safety harness or dog seat to help your dog stay safe and secure in the event of an accident, and also, so that your dog stays put and is not distracting you from driving.  I once had a miniature doxy who was small enough to fit under the car seats.  While I was driving down the highway at 55 mph, she got under the driver’s seat, then proceeded to go directly under my feet – under the gas/brake pedals!  I could not push on the gas or the break – we could’ve had a very serious accident.  Not to mention the distraction it is when your dog is running all over the car, jumping on passengers, etc.  Buckle them up – it’s safer for everybody!

Avoid letting your dog stick his head or paws out the window.  I know it’s one of the cutest sites in the world – a dog with his head out the window, lips flapping in the wind…but just like humans on a motorcycle, eyes exposed to high speeds and wind without protection are prone to dangerous debris. Keep the air conditioning on, or just crack the windows to let them sniff the fresh air instead.

Dogs should never ride in the front seat with you. They can distract you from driving, and if you stop short, they could be thrown into the windshield or injured by airbags.  The same little doxy I mentioned earlier was once thrown from the front seat violently onto the floor when I had to stop fast.  Dogs should stay restrained in the backseat either in a dog seat or a crate.

Taking Your Dog on a VacationLong Car Rides

Keep their collar and tags on. It might seem more comfortable for your dog to have his collar off in the car, but if you crash and your dog panics, he may run away. Not everyone checks for microchips, so the dog having a tag with his name and phone number on it might be what gets him back to you should you have an accident.

Remember your dog needs food, water, and pee breaks. Feed your dog a small meal a few hours before your trip. Then stop for food breaks as needed.  Don’t allow eating or drinking in the car.  Keeping a bowl of water sloshing around in the car while you drive isn’t practical.  Stop every hour or two, or when your dog seems restless — so you can both stretch your legs, get a drink, and go potty.  And always make sure you get your dog on the leash BEFORE you open the car door. You don’t want to risk their getting away from you, especially if you’re far from home.

It’s never safe to leave a dog alone in a car, even if the windows are open and it’s only for a few minutes.

Realize you are taking a risk if you do this.

 

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Taking Your Dog on a VacationFlying

Travel in the cabin. The best way to ensure your dog’s safety on a plane is to travel with them in the cabin. Unless your dog is small enough to fit under your seat in a travel-safe carrier, it is recommended that you do not fly with your dog. If you absolutely must, then be in communication with the airline personnel, make sure your dog is in a travel-safe carrier or crate – make sure the carrier or crate is clearly marked LIVE ANIMAL.  And I would strongly suggest you talk with your vet’s office because they will likely be able to offer much more advice on making sure your dog is safe.  Also, learn the airline’s pet policy. There are often fees associated with flying with your dog, and certain breeds are almost never allowed to fly or only allowed to fly seasonally. Some airlines will not even accept dogs as passengers.

Select the right size carrier or crate.  Your dog should be able to stand, sit, and turn around comfortably inside the crate or carrier.

Prepare your dog to be alone in the crate or carrier for hours. Practice with your dog before you get on the plane.  The dog should associate his crate with positive experiences, and be happy to spend some time in the carrier or crate with you nearby. Give your dog several weeks before the flight to form a positive association with being in the carrier or crate, and practice being calm and quiet in it. Leave the carrier out in your home with the door open, with a comfortable blankie in it. Feed your dog with the crate or carrier door open, then work your way up to feeding with the door closed.

Create a comfortable crate. If your dog has to be checked into the belly of the plane, I suggest you freeze a bowl of water. This way, it won’t spill when you’re transporting it, but will melt by the time the dog gets thirsty. You might also attach a small bag of dry food to the outside of the carrier or crate so airline staff can feed your dog if he gets hungry.  And make sure your dog has a favorite blanket or toy inside to comfort him.

Taking Your Dog on a VacationCamping

Camping is one of the most popular vacation activities for families. And with so many new smells to explore in the great outdoors, it can be exciting for a dog. But there are also dangers to be aware of — from wild animals, to poisonous plants, and, God forbid, your dog getting lost. So keep your dog on a leash during a camping trip.  And though it may not be appealing to have a dirty dog that’s been playing in the woods all day asleep beside you, a dog tied up outside is at risk for weather hazards as well as dangerous, even possibly fatal encounters with wild animals.  Keep them in the tent, cabin or RV with you.

Taking Your Dog on a VacationHotels

Check the hotel policy on pets before booking. If you are bringing your dog to a hotel, do some planning. You don’t want to arrive at the hotel only to find that they have pet restrictions.

Bring your dog’s crate. Bring along a crate (and a dog bed if it’s practical) from home, as it will be familiar to your dog and will help him feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment. By having a crate, your dog has a piece of home, and a place to stay when you aren’t in the room. Make sure to train your dog before the trip, so he will be comfortable and at ease in the crate.

Make sure your dog has proper ID. Specifically, either a microchip or a tag with his name and phone number. And make sure it’s your CELL number.  You don’t want people calling your house if you’ve lost the dog while you’re away. You might also bring vaccination records in case your dog bites someone, and of course bring any medication the dog will need for the duration of your trip.

Taking Your Dog on a VacationConsider the Dog’s Comfort and Safety

I go to several festivals during the summertime and I always get upset when I see people have brought their dogs.  The poor dogs are panting – it’s way too hot – they’re being forced to spend the entire day walking on HOT pavement. Honestly, do you really think the dog is having a good time?  I think when it’s hot outside and the event you’re going to takes place on a street/pavement, it’s better to leave the dog at home where he can have easy access to his water dish and be cool and comfortable.  He may give you the sad face when you leave, but it’s up to you to make smart decisions for the dog and decide whether where you’re going is something that’s good for him…or Not.

Taking Your Dog on a VacationTaking Your Dog with You On Vacation Can Be Fun!

As long as you do some planning ahead of time, and consider all aspects of your trip and your dog’s safety and comfort, you and your dog will have a great time camping in the woods, hiking the trails, or running on the beach.  And after all, your dog deserves a vacation too!  Debra 🙂

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14 thoughts on “Taking Your Dog on a Vacation – Tips for Traveling with a Dog”

  1. I love this article. I have 2 big husky’s that love to go on car rides. We usually put them in the back of the jeep wrangler. We did end up getting a harness that buckles into the seat belt slot. Do you know anything about these? Part of me doesn’t think they are safe.

    1. I think people wonder about dog harnesses the same way we wonder about our seat belts. They are there for safety, but also “hold you in” when what if you needed to get out? ‘Know what I mean? I think the verdict is likely the same for both people seat belts and dog seat belts – that based on likelihood, it’s safer to wear them than not. Thanks for the comment! I love (love love) huskys!

  2. I love this article. Pepsi is an amazing name for a dog! I have 2 big husky’s that love to go on car rides. we usually put them in the back of the jeep wrangler. we did end up getting a harness that buckles into the seat belt slot. do you know anything about these? part of me doesn’t think they are safe.

  3. My husband and I have two dogs and love taking them on vacation with us but I always have a hard time finding hotels that will let our dogs stay with us. Do you know of any way to make my search easier? The same goes with beaches. The pups love the beach just like us but it’s hard to find beaches that are dog friendly.

    1. I think you’d have to go to the hotel’s website to see if their pet policy is posted – if not, email or call them ahead of time. As for beaches, the city’s website would have contact info to find out who you would call. It’s extra effort, but it will save a lot of trouble if you find out these things before you arrive. Your dogs are SO lucky to have you and your husband – sounds like they (and you!) have a great life!

  4. Hi there.
    Interesting article you’ve got.
    People very often do the same mistakes like you said in your post. Letting your dog to put his head trough the window while driving is the most common, you can see that every day. Fortunatelly most of us are aware of that kind of mistakes.

  5. Hi there Debra,

    Lady, my senior dog isn’t the best canine traveler, but sometimes, I still need to take her in the car for grooming and medical check up.

    I used to have an old car that had a faulty air-conditioning system (I live in the tropics) and non-tinted windows. She was never calm in that car.

    Then I changed to a new car that has a collapsible back seat and the cooling system is 5 stars. I noticed that she’s a lot calmer and doesn’t pant as much.

    Of course, I don’t suggest that every owner change their cars whenever they want to travel with their dogs, but a good cooling ventilation really helps to minimize the travel stress.

    Just thought I share my experience.

    1. That’s a very good tip. My senior dog will pant at night in her bed. As much as I tend to want to cover her with a warm blankie, she gets too hot and gets much better sleep without the blanket! Go figure. 🙂

  6. I have a rescued dog, whose owner we summized passed on. He spent almost 2mos. at the Humane Society until we picked him up. His frame of reference goes back to that every time I put him in the car. He is much older now and he literally screams like a baby when I take him to get groomed. We are now moving back to AZ from MN and I am wondering about sedating him for his own wellness. I will going to the holistic pet store to see what they offer. Perhaps some dramamine? Do you have any suggestions? Someone told me they give their dog benedryl for long trips.

    1. I just read your comments. My Scooby is also a min-daschund. But his long haired brother Wiley loves the car.

    2. I would strongly suggest talking with your vet about this because it seems quite serious. It might also help to put him in a crate, with a pillow and blanket inside, in the back seat of the car to travel. You can use the seat belt to secure the bottom of the crate for safety. Then cover the crate with a sheet (making sure he’s getting enough air). If he can’t see everything, it might help him to be less fearful. You have my prayers for a safe trip for this little sweetie.

  7. It really annoys me when I see dogs leaning out of car windows whilst travelling, what a dangerous carry-on.
    Like you say, we used to buckle the dog basket on the back seat when taking our dog Bonnie for trips out plus we kept her lead on and fastened to the rear seat belt to stop her roaming around.
    Our dog suffered terrible travel sickness on her first long journey, it wasn’t fair so we kept our future trips short when vacating for a day-out.
    Is there a way to stop a dog suffering travel sickness? We never found a solution for this.
    My Auntie & Uncle had a black poodle named Pepi too, What a coincidence!
    Simon.

    1. That’s funny about Pepi LOL  One suggestion that can help with the travel sickness is ginger.  You can use regular ginger from the spice aisle in your grocery story..sneak it into something yummy like a little peanut butter.  It helps settle the stomach. 

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