While taking your dog along can make the family vacation more fun for everyone, if you plan carefully. Here are some trip tips to make traveling with your dog enjoyable and fun for the whole family.
Health And Safety
- WE suggest Health Checks. Bring your dog to the veterinarian for a checkup before going on an extended trip. Make sure all his vaccinations are up-to-date; take shot records with you. Health certifications are required for airline travel.
- To keep your dog healthy as you travel, bring along a supply of his regular food. We recommend ROYAL CANIN, as they offer both dry and wet food options that are carefully formulated to ensure not only nutrition, but taste for everyday excellence. Don’t forget bottled water and be sure to bring any medications he needs.
- Be prepared for an emergency. Find the number of the nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital and program it into your cell phone, along with the office and emergency number for your regular veterinarian (in case the veterinarians need to speak with each other). That way, if there’s a situation where your dog needs medical attention, you are prepared with the necessary information on hand.
A crate is an excellent way to keep your dog safe in the car and is required for airline travel. It can also keep your pet from getting into trouble in a hotel or at your host’s home. Crates are available from most pet supply stores. Look for these features when purchasing:
- Large enough to allow the dog to stand, turn, and lie down.
- Strong, with handles and grips, and free of interior protrusions.
- Leak-proof bottom covered with absorbent material.
- Ventilation on opposing sides, with exterior rims or knobs to prevent blocked airflow.
- “Live Animal” label, arrows showing upright position, with owner’s name, address, and phone number.
- Stock the crate with a comfortable mat, your dog’s favorite toy, and a water bottle, and your dog is ready to go.
The same can be done for any new situation your puppy or young dog may encounter over their lives. Gannon recommends slowly introducing dogs to new situations like being in the car, going on a train, or staying over at a friend’s house or hotel. Start by practicing in short sessions and then gradually increasing the time from there.
Introduce your dog to as many new things as possible, as safely as possible.
Start young. Even with puppies, you can carry them or have them ride in the car to get exposed to bigger cities, loud trucks, and other new sights and sounds.
Practice in a nearby pet-friendly hotel lobby before booking accommodations. Have your dog walk in, sit, and walk out, and make sure to praise their good behavior.
DO: Start Small
If you have time before your next vacation, practice ahead of your trip by taking your dog and a crate to a friend’s home. From there you can leave your pet in another room, listen in, and even set up a tablet to Skype in and see how things are going. If they’re sitting there quietly, you can say over Skype, “quiet, good quiet,” so that, even though they can’t see you physically in the room, they know you’re there watching.
“Now when you go on a trip, your dog has already practiced. “I do it as often as I can. Mix it up when possible as well.”
If you’re doing crate training, keep doing the same things you’re doing at home while on the go.
Bring familiar items like your dog’s towel or blanket.
DO: Teach What Good Car Behavior Looks Like
Open the two back doors of the car.
Put two leashes on your dog.
With two adults present, walk your dog to the car, with one adult standing next to one of the open back doors, and another on the opposite side.
Have one person practice getting your dog in and out from one side of the car.
Finally, practice having your dog get in and out of the car from the other side.
The goal of this exercise is to have the dog accomplish the task while maintaining a calm, even demeanor. Once your pup graduates from this activity, you can have a friend practice driving you and your dog around, with the two of you seated in the back seat.
DO: Encourage Positive Traveling Behavior
To us, the things our dogs are doing may not seem like a big deal, but something as small as sitting in a new house or hotel lobby may feel like a big accomplishment.
“The best thing you can do when traveling is letting your dog know, ‘you’ve got this. “The more praise we can give them, the more confident they become.”
DO: Keep Up Good Routines & A Calm Tone
When traveling with dogs, we think we want to give them a great vacation. But, we often think about trips through the lens of the human experience. Some people may think that, because they don’t like rules on vacation, their dog doesn’t need them either. That’s a mistake, as routines help dogs thrive.
Practice leadership and being calm.
Help your dog be calm, relaxed, and happy.
DO: Be Aware of Stressful Elements of Traveling
Even dogs that act calm and obedient at home may be startled or act differently in situations that frighten or stress them out. Things like crowds and loud noises may be problematic.
DO: Redirect Issues As They Arise
Instead of correcting, it’s best to walk away or redirect when your dog begins having challenges. If needed, put your dog in a crate or keep them on a leash to maintain control over the situation.
DO: Keep Your Dog Occupied With Toys
Your dog may just need to blow off a little steam or focus on something different other than all the new stimuli involved with traveling. Having a few toys around can help give your pup something else to look at and focus on.
DON’T: Set Expectations You Can’t Maintain
For instance, while you’re traveling in the car, it may seem like a good idea to sit next to your dog and pet them. But doing so early on may establish a routine wherein dogs think they’ll get petted every time. This may lead to issues when you’re unable to fulfill that expectation every time.
DON’T: Encourage Troubling Behaviors
Every moment you spend with your dog, you’re teaching them something. Some of that includes the things you may not want to be teaching. If you allow or encourage things like panting at the window or circling in the backseat of the car, you’re letting your dog think those things are acceptable.
Never take your dog out of the car when they’re jumping around.
Don’t introduce your dog to new situations in an excitable way, as this may make them overly animated.
Establish expectations for travel in the car. This is a time for relaxing and taking a nap, not being excited.
DON’T: Inadvertently Praise A Fearful or Anxious Dog
One of the biggest mistakes owners can make is to vocally give dogs sympathy and empathy in a way that comes across as praising a negative behavior. Saying things like, “it’s OK, it’s OK” can be harmful. While you may think you’re calming your dog down with a voice, it actually may translate to them as praise for fearful behavior. Instead, try saying “leave it” when a dog is anxious or giving them a command they can be praised for, such as “sit.”
Traveling with your dog can be one of the best things about a vacation. As with any aspect of travel, good preparation is key, however, so make sure you establish good behavior from your dog from the start to maximize enjoyment.