If the winter weather has you daydreaming about planning a getaway, don’t feel that your fun can’t include Fido! Traveling with your dog can fetch a lifetime of memories without unleashing potential travel problems. The key to successful travel with your dog, like any kind of travel, is to plan and prepare.
We frequently travel with our large mixed breed dogs, Irie and Tiki. This past year, we put in thousands of miles traveling Texas to research and write our new guidebook on Lone Star State dog travel. Although we had spent 20 years on the road as guidebook writers, this was our first guidebook with our dogs along for the ride. We quickly learned some important lessons:
Research Your Stops. With two dogs each weighing over 60 pounds, we learned that “dog friendly” doesn’t always translate into “big dog friendly”! We learned to check the weight restrictions as well as breed restrictions. Our Tiki is part American Bulldog; although most hotels would never guess her lineage, we don’t want to support properties that have breed restrictions. If you have a pit bull-type dog, also research breed-specific legislation (BSL) as you plan your journey to make sure your dog’s breed isn’t prohibited at any destinations along the route.
Prepare for Cleanup. Let’s face it: messes happen. We’re always ready with our cleanup kit of paper towels, plenty of poop bags, and a cleaning product like Rug Doctor Spot & Stain Remover. We’re happy to say we’ve never lost a hotel deposit. (And, yes, this included the time Tiki returned to the hotel to vomit after eating a live crab on the beach.) Although your dog’s housetraining may be flawless at home, the scent of previous four-legged guests and other factors may lead to a dog mess.
Travel with Food and Water. Your dog’s food may take up some additional room in the luggage but the trade-off is well worth the space. Traveler’s diarrhea isn’t just a human ailment! If you have an extended trip in one location, consider a food delivery to your hotel or vacation house.
Buckle up. Just as with children, always buckle up furry family members in the car. Both of our dogs wear Kurgo harnesses and are buckled in during our journeys. With the safety harness, we know that they are secure in case of an accident. Also, they’re not distracting us by trying to come up into the front seat during the trip, and, once we stop, we can open the car without worrying about an excited dog jumping out before we’re ready.
Make a Pre-Trip Vet Visit. If you’ll be crossing state lines or flying with your dog, talk with your veterinarian about the Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and any other paperwork required by your destination. If your dog isn’t already microchipped, your veterinarian can chip your dog (a quick and easy process) and you can register the microchip number to identify your dog if he should become lost. Not only do we carry our dogs’ microchip numbers but we also carry an extra copy of our dogs’ immunization records.
Play Tag. Even if your dog wears a dog tag, now’s the time to create a second tag with your cell phone number. If you have a high-tech QR tag, you can go into your record to add additional numbers like your hotel, veterinarian, or a family member back home. We also have a Tagg unit, a GPS tag, on our dogs so, in case a dog is ever lost, we can track her on our smartphones.
Plan for Dog Fun. Don’t just bring along your dog on vacation; make your dog a participant in the fun with stops at dog parks, beaches, and lakes along the way. On the road, we plan a quick stop every two hours; not only does it help our dogs burn off energy but it also makes us safer drivers!
Carry the Scent of Home. Whether a blanket, a doggie duvet, or just a plush toy, bring along the scent of home for time on the road and for your hotel stay.
Plan for the Unplanned. Although we always hope we won’t need an emergency veterinarian on a trip, we make a quick online search to compile a list not only of veterinarians but also of boarding facilities at our destination in case we should become ill and need help. Packing a simple dog first aid kit also helps with minor issues along the way.
A little bit of pre-trip planning can help you and your dog have fun on your getaway, enjoying time together in a new environment and bringing home precious memories. After all, that’s what a family vacation is all about, right?
About the Authors: Paris Permenter and John Bigley are professional travel writers and the authors of over 30 travel guidebooks. The husband-wife team recently authored DogTipper’s Texas with Dogs, a full-color guidebook on the most dog-friendly destinations in the Lone Star State. Paris and John publish DogTipper.com; Paris also hosts the weekly Dog Travel Experts radio show on Radio Pet Lady Network.