Tips for Traveling with a Dog
Traveling with a dog can prove to be an exciting adventure for the whole family. Bringing Rover along, though, may require some conditioning especially if your canine is the jumpy type or naturally craves for physical activity. With your kids, you just give them a Gameboy or show them a cartoon on a tablet and they’ll behave like angels for the duration of the trip.
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple with your four legged friend. While a little more work is required, embarking on a long road trip with your canine is more than manageable as long as you follow a few steps.
At Euro Puppy, we compiled the following tips for traveling with a dog to make the travel as bearable as possible for both you and your pet. This includes both travel by car and plane as well as a pre-travel to-do list.
Preparation Checklist for the Trip
ID Tags and Collars
If your dog doesn’t already have a collar with an ID tag, then you need to get one containing at least a contact phone number. It’s worrisome as it is when your dog runs away from home, and the problem is amplified if it gets loose thousands of miles away. If this happens and your dog doesn’t have an ID tag, then the odds of getting your dog back is slim. Sure, there are stories of dogs and cats making their way home after being separated from their owner while hundreds of miles from home. However, don’t count on your dog having a GPS for a brain.
Speaking of GPS, for an even greater safety measure, consider getting a dog collar with an embedded GPS tracker. This will enable you to track your dog’s location should it somehow get loose.
To Crate or not to Crate
Crating your dog is optional if traveling by car and almost always required if commuting by plane. If you choose to crate, then gradually assimilate your pet several weeks before the trip. For small intervals several times each day, place it inside a crate and steadily increase the time spent inside.
To prevent your dog from getting anxious or seeing the crate as a confinement, adhere to the following:
- Only close the crate when your dog is relatively relaxed.
- Open the crate and allow your dog to enter on its own accord. You can do this by placing a treat or toy inside. In any case, never physically force it inside.
- Be by your dog’s side while it’s crated. Once it becomes more accustomed, you can gradually spend less time in its presence.
If you crate your dog, be sure the pet carrier is large enough to allow your dog to stand upright and easily turn around. The crate should also contain water from a dispenser bottle and one or two familiar toys from home.
If traveling with a dog by plane, a pre-health check from a certified veterinarian is required by some airlines before you are permitted to bring your pet along. You may be required to submit a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection signed and dated by your veterinarian within 10 days of your travel date. Certain vaccinations may also be required if traveling abroad.
Regardless of whether you’re traveling by car or plane, you should have the number and address of the veterinary clinic closest to where you’re staying. You should also bring along copies of your dog’s medical records from its latest health exam.
Traveling by Car
Perform Several Trial Runs
If your dog has never traveled inside a vehicle, then don’t take it for a lengthy road trip cold turkey. Assimilate it to being inside the car much the same way you would for a crate. Condition your dog to associating a car ride with a positive experience. There are several ways to do this; for one, you can place some kibble inside the vehicle so that a nice treat awaits it the minute it gets inside. Short car rides during the trial run can also include trips to the park or a pet shop where you buy it a new treat or chew toy.
As mentioned, crating is optional if commuting on four wheels. Even if you opt not to use a crate, though, you still need to use proper safety restraints, such as a pet seat belt or pet barrier. According to AAA, roughly 30,000 automobile accidents occur annually as a result of a distraction from an unrestrained pet. Letting your dog roam freely about in the vehicle is also a hazard. This is especially the case for smaller dogs that could make its way to the driver’s side where it could get under the driver’s feet and block or step on the brake or gas pedal. Additionally, an unrestrained pet can also be violently flung and thrown out of a vehicle in the event of an impact.
On the issue of safety, your dog faces potential harm even if the car is parked. Never leave your dog unattended in a vehicle especially on a hot day. If you wouldn’t leave your own child in a hot car, then don’t do so with your pet. Canines are more vulnerable to heat exhaustion than people, so don’t think it’s okay to leave it in a car even if just for five minutes or with the window rolled down.
Make Regular Pit Stops
When you make a pit stop, let your dog out and give it a short walk or use the restroom. This allows it to stretch out and replenish its battery before resuming the trip. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends a stop every two to three hours.
Traveling by Air
Traveling by plane is a little more complicated for you logistically and comfort-wise for your dog. As the owner, find out what the policies are regarding traveling with a pet. You should know, for example, whether your dog can board with you as a carry-on or whether it will be placed in a separate cabin. If the latter, then you need to be really certain that your dog is adept at handling long periods inside a crate in your absence.
Traveling with a Short-Faced Breed
Also keep in mind that some breeds are not recommended for air travel. Species with a flat snout, such as a pug, boxer, and bulldog, are more susceptible to breathing problems and may experience labored breathing if placed in an aircraft cargo hold with a pressurized cabin and different air quality. In addition, being inside a crate may also create ventilation problems. A statistic from the U.S. Department of Transportation revealed 122 dogs have died from 2005 to 2010 as a result of health issues stemmed from air travel. Of these, roughly half the deaths were from short-snout breeds.
This isn’t to say that you can never travel by plane with a short-faced dog. It just means that you have to be aware that your canine friend is at a greater risk. In any case, a veterinarian will determine whether your pet is fit for flying.
If your flight has one or more layovers, research the airports online where you’ll be making temporary stops. Every airport is required by federal regulation to include designated “pet relief areas” where you can let your dog out of the crate to stretch and answer nature’s call.
If the layover is fairly short and doesn’t afford you enough time to use the pet relief area, then you can take your dog to a regular restroom. If vacant, use a stall designated for the handicapped and bring along a rolled up pee pad used for indoor potty training. Just be courteous of other travelers and clean up any mess left behind.
Additional Advice Applicable for Both Car and Plane Travel
Be Mindful of Your Dog’s Breed
Regardless of your dog’s breed, you need to assimilate it for long distance travel. However, some breeds are naturally more up to the task than others. These often include those that aren’t particularly physically active or require a lot of exercise. Such breeds include:
- Great Pyrenees
- Basset hound
- Shih Tzu
- Japanese Chin
This isn’t to say that breeds that fall into this category are automatic eager beavers when it comes to traveling. It also doesn’t mean that those that don’t fall into the category should never be part of a family travel plan. It just means that you should be more cognizant of how your specific dog may react once on the road or in the air.
Monitor Your Dog’s Anxiety Level
Some dogs will feel right at home during travel while others may show blatant signs of distress and a “get me out of here” demeanor. If your pet falls into the latter, then there are ways you can calm it down. If your dog is crated and you are unable to be in close proximity to it, then one good technique is to place one of your worn and unwashed shirts inside the crate. The shirt contains your scent that might be able to keep it calm.
There is also a recently released device known as a Thundershirt. This is a garment for your dog that alleviates anxiety by “hugging” its body, and thereby producing a calming effect on its nervous system.
Wherever your travels take you, it’s understandable that you want to experience it with your furry friend. However, long car and plane rides may be an alien experience for it, which can lead to anxiety and uncharacteristic behavior. This is why Euro Puppy strives to arm you with the knowledge necessary to make the trip as manageable as can be for your dog. This way, your dog rearing experience is a positive one whether at home or on the road.