If you’re considering traveling this summer and bringing your best furry friend along with you, you aren’t alone. It’s estimated that 53% of dog owners travel with their canine companions.
While pet travel is on the rise, it can also be challenging to navigate. Rules and regulations can vary between airlines, hotels or even between states and countries.
Here are 9 steps that will help you and your dog be prepared for travel:
- Double check airline regulations and expectations before you book as they can vary greatly. Many airlines have height and weight restrictions for in-cabin vs cargo traveling. Even service dogs and Emotional Support Animals (or ESA’s) can be subject to changing rules between airlines that may require specific certifications, veterinary recommendations, and classifications. Check with them again closer to your travel date to make sure nothing has changed and solidify arrangements with them.
- Map out your drive. You may be tempted to assume there will be plenty of rest stops for exercise, potty and water breaks. However, there are many stretches of highway that don’t offer these at a frequency your dog may need. Err on the side of taking more time.
- Visit your vet. Get a full checkup done just to make sure that Bella is as happy and healthy as she seems. Discuss concerns that may arise while traveling. If Max gets car sick, your veterinarian may offer suggestions to manage that. I recommend having a copy of your dog’s shot records on hand while traveling.
- Get your dog used to his travel gear well before you travel. If your dog isn’t already crate trained, it’s always a good idea to do so. While some dogs transition to confinement easily, many dogs struggle with a sudden loss of freedom to roam and don’t understand that you’re doing it for their safety. Same goes with seatbelt harnesses and leash training. If you know that potty needs could prove challenging, our Porch Potty Small is great for travel. You can begin transitioning your dog to using it before hitting the road.
- Train your dog to mind his manners, as well as learn to stay vigilant about other dogs or humans that don’t. Test out how your dog will do in crowds, high traffic areas and places of business while you have time and are not distracted with a thousand and one other things. Talk to a dog behaviorist or trainer about ways to keep everyone safe. While you may know your dog’s every tendency and temperament, other people and dogs are a mystery. Don’t be caught off-guard by unknown children that may rush up and manhandle your dog, or other dog owners that should have their dog on lead but don’t.
- Ask lots of questions! Before booking hotels, Air BnB’s and the like, ask them important questions. Where is the nearest veterinary hospital? Are there dog parks nearby? Where can you get your dog’s food should you run out?
- Give your dog a “lovey” of her own. Favorite toys, blankets, beds, treats or sweaters can help reduce travel-induced stress with the smells and familiar comfort of home.
- Always keep your dog on a leash when out and about. In my past life as a dog trainer, nothing broke my heart more than receiving a phone call that one of my dogs had been injured or worse after uncharacteristically darting off. Remember, your dog is a living, breathing, thinking creature that can behave unexpectedly when faced with novel and stressful situations.
- Be flexible and take a healthy sense of humor with you. Not everything is going to go as planned. Pay attention to your dog’s body language and behavior cues. Are their tails up and wagging? Is she shy around a family member you thought for sure would be bathed in kisses and cuddles? Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your travel plans when needed.
Traveling with your dogs can be an amazing adventure that adds fond memories and strengthens your bond. Try new things! You might find new interests and hobbies that you can both share. With a little bit of preparation, you can remove much of the common stresses and enjoy the journey!