By: Tracie Hotchner
It used to be, at least in recent modern history, that people went on vacation without their dogs. These days, dog owners have a different perspective on their pet pooches: they consider them full fledged family members and are reluctant to leave them behind when they go away.
As this new attitude toward dogs becomes more pervasive, it is increasingly common to see dogs accompanying their humans on the road. Happily, they’re being welcomed by more and more travel establishments. But, as fun as it may seem in your mind, in reality, traveling with a dog can be challenging. I have found that It helps to be prepared by setting realistic expectations as well as having useful dog travel accessories on hand.
The first thing to remember when traveling with your dog is that he’s, well, just a dog—and can’t be expected to behave like a human, no matter where he is. Your dog is a creature of habit and anything that upsets his sense of place and routine is likely to make him stressed. In addition to making an effort to maintain his regular schedule, bring some of his favorite “stuff” along for the trip, such as a favorite toy, blanket, as well as a portable sleeping mat (ideally, broken in), if you can manage. Having some familiar possessions will make him feel more at home on the road.
Most importantly, you need to ensure your dog’s safety and physical comfort at all times while you’re on the go. No matter what your mode of travel, following is a list of supplies you will need, at a bare minimum:
- I.D. – Make sure he is wearing a collar with contact information, including your cell phone number, in case he gets loose in an unfamiliar place. Microchipping him is helpful too, though a microchip will only help if someone—like a vet—has a scanner available to retrieve the information. (By the way, be sure to update the microchip vendor’s online database if your contact information changes.) Also, bring along a photo of him, which should not be difficult if you have a smartphone.
- Food and Water – Make sure he has access to water at all times. Food is less important—especially while he’s moving—though he will need to eat eventually. Depending on your mode of travel and itinerary, transporting food can be difficult because of its bulk. One solution would be to pack a few portions in airtight containers, and purchase additional food when you reach your destination. Experts recommend taking care not to feed him within several hours of your departure or you increase the risk of having him get sick en route. And, never feed him rich, fatty human food—it’s not good for him!
- Other Daily Essentials – Leash, harness, treats, travel dog bowls, poop bags as well as any necessary regular medication.
- Dog Travel Crate – Depending on your dog and your mode of travel this may be an indispensable travel accessory not only for your dog’s safety and comfort but also to adhere to carrier regulation.
- Certificate of Health – It’s important to have this on hand in case of emergency. Take a photo of it with your smartphone so it will always be, literally, at your fingertips.
- Canine First Aid Kit – Though some people may think this is overkill, it could prove useful in an emergency.
- Cleanup Supplies – Even if you’re trying to travel as light as possible (flying, for example), you need to have some wipes and a towel on hand to clean up inevitable dog drool or worse.
This list includes general supplies you will need to take along on your travels with your dog, whether you are traveling by car, plane, train or boat. Please refer to my other posts about traveling with dogs, such as “Air Travel with Dogs” for more mode-specific recommendations.
Even if you have the most mellow dog in the world who has been accompanying you almost everywhere as part of your daily routine since he was very young, you need to think through the logistics of taking him on vacation, especially if you plan to stay at a hotel. Though there are many more pet-friendly hotels than there used to be, they’re still the exception rather than the rule. Make sure you inquire about the pet policy before making a reservation.
In addition to lodging, you need to figure out whether your dog is going to be welcome at other establishments and tourist attractions you plan to visit along the way. You may discover that having your beloved dog along is more trouble than it’s worth. At the end of the day, it might be better for both of you to leave him behind in someone else’s expert care.