Top 10 Tips for Traveling with Dogs
1. Proper Identification
Make sure your pet has a microchip and wears an ID tag on their collar with your home address and phone number in case he or she gets lost on the trip. To be extra cautious, place a GPS device on her collar to track your pet if they are out of sight. Under any circumstance, do not put a choke collar on your pooch.
2. Proof of Vaccinations
Have your pet’s health certificates and proof of vaccinations (especially rabies), handy for both domestic and international travel. Some airlines require proof that your dog has been dewormed or administered tick and flea medication. If your dog is going on an international flight, you will need an international health certificate, also known as an "Interstate & International Certificate of Health Examination for Small Animals,” which you can obtain from a qualified veterinarian.
3. Safety During Car Rides
Dogs love road trips. Keep them safe in the car by properly securing them in a comfortable crate. If your dog is too large, invest in a hammock seat cover and buckle the harness to the seat. Roll down the windows just enough that they can sniff but can’t put their head outside. Your dog may seem like they’re enjoying themselves sniffing the fresh air, but this can cause injuries from flying objects. When exiting the vehicle, leash your dog before opening the door. Never leave your animal alone in a parked vehicle on a hot or cold day.
4. Research Airlines and Consider the Time of the Year
Many people are still afraid to bring their pets on a plane. This anxiety can be eliminated by researching the airline’s safety records and regulations and ensuring that your pup is properly cared for during the flight. Choose non-stop flights and travel on the same flight as your pet; ask if you can watch as they are loaded and unloaded from the cargo hold. Some airlines even allow owners to keep their dogs in the terminal until boarding. If it is too hot or cold, it may be unsafe for your canine to fly. If you must travel, choose either an early morning or late evening flight in the Summer; and afternoon flights are best in the Winter.
5. Choose the Right Crate for the Flight
Your pet’s size determines if she can travel in-cabin or in the hold. If your pet needs a carrier to go in the hold, get one that is airline-approved (preferably with wheels). Give your pet at least a month before your flight to become familiar with the crate. They should be able to stand, lie down, stretch out and turn around. Place a comfortable mat, a few favorite toys and something that carries your scent, so your pet feels safe. Most importantly, bolt a food and water bowl to the grill to minimize spills. Affix stickers on the top and sides of the crate with the pet’s name, airline and flight number, departure and destination cities, departure and arrival times, and a mobile phone number where you can be reached.
6. Bring Food and Water
Pack your pet’s food so she can have a treat shortly after landing. It’s one way to bring along a little bit of “home.” In-flight dehydration is the greatest danger. Freezing the water bowl before boarding helps eliminate spills and ensures that your dog has water during flight. Another option is to fasten a drip bottle (if your dog knows how to use it). On car rides of any duration, always be prepared with a few snacks, water bottles and a portable water bowl; keep your dog hydrated every few hours.
Do not medicate your pet. Experts in the pet transport industry do not recommend sedatives, as they increase dehydration. If you are worried that your dog may get anxious on the plane, slowly introduce her to flight sounds over time while you sit beside her. For car rides, familiarize your dog with the car. Sit in the back seat with her and give her treats. Take her on short rides to the park or the beach before embarking on a long journey. Take frequent breaks. If music calms her, play soothing tunes. Crack open the windows for fresh air that may lull your pet to sleep.
8. Upon Arrival
New places are always thrilling for dogs and they may get overly excited. Upon arrival, bring your dog on a leash to a pet relief area at the airport or take them for a short walk outdoors to empty their bladder. Allow them to sniff the new surroundings and get acquainted with the area. Let others know your dog is friendly if they approach. In hotel rooms, never lock your dog in the bathroom. They will feel trapped and this might result in a meltdown, incessant barking or worse! If you brought a crate, leave its door open so they can go inside to feel safe.
9. Travel Essentials
Making sure your dog is comfortable on the trip is critical. Dogs sleep up to 14 hours a day and nap time is an important part of their routine. Bring your dog’s bed, rug, or a blanket they sleep on at home and place it close to you (along with their favorite toy or pillow) for a sense of familiarity. Have paper towels, wipes, and poop bags in the car for quick access. Keep a first-aid kit for emergencies. Pack two leashes, in case one is lost.
10. Learn Your Dog’s Travel Needs
You are your dog’s best friend and know more about their needs than anyone else. If you’ve traveled with them before, you know how they act on the road and what their needs. If they always whine or bark when your car slows down, you know not to panic. If they pace the room, you know how to calm them down. If they want to follow you, let them so they don’t feel nervous. More importantly, have fun! With all your preparation, you are sure to enjoy your vacation with your furry companion.
Main Image Photo Credit: © iStock/WebSubstance
About the Author: Lavanya Sunkara is a writer based in New York. Her love of adventure has taken her all over the world from Australia to Zanzibar. When she's not traveling, she's hiking with her dog, and planning her next getaway. Follow her on twitter @Nature_Traveler. Read her articles at www.nature-traveler.com.