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Travelling with Pets - Air & Road Travelling Tips

Tucker The Road Warrior’s Top 10 Road Tips for Traveling with Your Pet

You’re off on your first family vacation in ten years, and you’ve taken Muffin and Sparky along.  The dogs have written you a thank you note for not leaving them at the boarding kennel, and are positively panting with excitement.  They each have their own small suitcase packed chock full of their favorite dog treats and stuffed toys, and are ready to see the sights.  Here are our top ten pet travel tips to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable trip:


1.  Research Where Pets Are Welcome.  The United States lags behind European countries, where dogs seem to be allowed just about anywhere, including restaurants, grocery stores and boutiques. We all aspire to reach this high level of civilization.  In the interim, it’s always a good idea to check ahead to make sure that there are hotel and camping facilities along your route that will accept dogs.  Some places make restrictions based upon the size of the animal, with smaller dogs having greater acceptance.  Others require room deposits or pet fees that can actually be quite substantial.  There are many guidebooks on the market now that list accommodations and local attractions that accept pets, and the AAA trip books are also an excellent resource for locating dog friendly accommodations. Be sure to book ahead, particularly during peak tourist seasons. 

2.  Keep your pets safe.  This one sounds pretty obvious, but many people forget that their dogs are in an unfamiliar environment when traveling, and may inadvertently compromise their safety.  At home, your dog may know every nook and cranny of the woods down the street, but on vacation has no idea of where he is.  An animal that won’t budge off the front porch at home may wander off when left outside a motel or B&B door to explore his new surroundings….or he may take off to chase a chipmunk when hiking on a trail.  Many animals on vacation end up at local shelters when they become lost or disoriented, so be sure to accompany your dog at all times, and to make sure they are under your control. 
3.  Leash Your Dog.  Even if Fido is the best behaved 120 pound Bull Mastiff in the world, you should leash him whenever there are people or cars nearby.  Many people are uncomfortable with dogs large and small, and appreciate knowing that they are under your control.  When you are hiking or away from others and don’t want to leash your pup, consider a remote controlled electronic collar.  These devices are now quite affordable, and many dogs can be easily trained to come when signaled. Your dog is now in unfamiliar turf, and you want to ensure he does not run off and become lost. Remember that “leashed is loved”, particularly when on the road.   4.  Never Leave Your Pet in a Hot Car.  One of the most frequent tragedies for dogs on the road is when they are left in a hot car.  They become trapped in the “but I’ll only be gone for a couple of minutes” syndrome, but leaving a pet in a car in the hot sun can become deadly in a matter of minutes.  If its 85 degrees, the temperature inside a car can climb to over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes, even with the windows cracked.  A dog cannot withstand this sudden rise in temperature, and can actually experience brain damage or death.  We all love to have our pets come with us in the car.  But when it’s hot outside, you’re not doing your pet any favors by bringing him along for the ride.

P.S.- parking in the shade is not enough to prevent a build-up of heat on hot summer days.  If you are traveling during the dog days of summer, you may want to consider leaving Sparky at home, as he inevitably will not be welcome everywhere you go. 

5.  Expect the Unexpected.  Anyone who has ever lived or traveled with a dog knows that anything can happen at anytime.  A dog can bolt out of a room when a hotel worker opens a door, or can dart off into the woods after a squirrel while getting into a car.  Always have an ID tag on your pet’s collar with a phone number where people can leave you a message if they find your four-legged pal.  You may also want to consider having your pet micro-chipped at your local veterinarian’s office.  Most animal shelters in the US routinely scan these chips to determine the pet’s ownership, and will enable them to contact you in case your dog becomes lost and found.  You should also bring along your pet’s medical records in the event that your pet becomes ill or injured during your trip.

6.  A Routine Will Alleviate Pet’s Anxiety- Pets are like small children---they love having a daily routine so that they feel safe and secure.  To help them while on the road, your dog will feel more relaxed if there are some familiar elements.  Bring along your dog’s regular food so as not to upset his stomach, and take along his favorite toys and blankets.  Many dogs view the family car as being an extension of their home, so Fido may feel more relaxed waiting for you in the car when you are eating in a restaurant or in other places where dogs cannot go (as long as the temperature is not too hot or cold).  He will also enjoy having his regular walks when he is used to going out, so that he knows he can continue to depend upon his beloved schedule.

7.  Car Safety.  Many dogs are injured every year while riding in the family car, so you can take some steps to make sure Fido is well protected.  Never let your dog ride loose in the back of a truck (it’s also illegal in many states to do so), as he can fall or jump out, or be hit by flying debris.  Car safety studies have also shown that dogs, particularly small ones) can literally fly through the air and through a windshield upon impact.  A dog car seat or a crate can help protect your pet, as can a “doggie gate” which can be installed in the back of many wagons or SUV’s.  Dogs should not be permitted to ride hanging out of the window, for similar safety concerns.

8.  Travel by Air. For dogs traveling on airplanes, make sure that your pet’s crate is large enough for him to make the journey in comfort.  He should be able to stand, sit, turn around and sleep in comfort. And pets should never be sedated during a flight, as the high altitude combined with medication can be a deadly combination. Always check with your airline to determine their regulations for traveling with a pet, and make a reservation well in advance.

9.  Use Good Judgment on Exercising Your Dog.  Most dogs love being out of doors and going on long walks, and will be in seventh heaven on your vacation.  But if your dog is normally a couch potato the rest of the year, be sure that he can handle a sudden increase in exercise.  Senior canine citizens just won’t be able to do that ten mile hike in the mountains, and it may be too strenuous for a little dog to climb steep ledges.  Be sure to bring along plenty of food and water for your pooch at all times, and be aware of when he is being pushed too hard.  There are situations where dogs have had to be rescued and carried out on liters when taken on walks or hikes that were beyond their ability.

10. Stop and Sniff the Roses. Have a great time with your pooch.  While traveling, dogs often remind us how important it is to stop and “sniff” the flowers.  They also let us know that one of the greatest pleasures in life is just taking a nice walk with your best friend in the whole world.   


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