With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, many of us are preparing to visit family over the festive period and as dog lovers, many of us will be traveling with a dog.
This is the time of year that everyone tends to become uber organized, from knowing months in advance what pie you’re picking up for the Thanksgiving table, to knowing which presents you’re buying your Great Aunt’s Dog. But, speaking of dog’s, another area that requires meticulous planning, is how you will make sure that your four-legged-friend is comfortable traveling to and staying at your holiday destination.
It’s no good just grabbing a lead and sack of dog food on the day of travel. Any travel with a canine companion requires planning to ensure your pup’s optimum comfort. It’s not overly complicated to travel with a pet, so long as you put together a checklist and cross everything off before heading out.
To make your life easier, we jotted down the below cheat sheet of what you’ll need to think about before traveling with your dog:
1. Are His Vaccinations Up To Date?
Depending on how far you’re traveling, if you’re crossing state lines or traveling internationally, you will need to check which vaccinations are required and how far in advance they must have been given.
2. Did You Bring Enough Food?
It’s never a good idea to switch your dog’s food all of a sudden, least of all when he’s likely to be slightly more stressed than normal from being away from home. For that reason, it’s important to either bring enough of his food to last the entire trip or confirm that you’re able to purchase the exact food at a store near your destination.
3. Are You Ready For The Weather?
This works either way! Getting your dog ready for hot or cold weather is important. Overheating is incredibly dangerous for canines as this can result in a worst case scenario - organ failure - and being too cold can pretty quickly turn dangerous as well.
If you know that you’re traveling somewhere that has much colder weather than your dog is accustomed to, consider packing a doggy jacket and plenty of bedding to keep your pooch warm in his crate.
Heading to Florida? Depending on the length of time that you’re planning on spending in the Sunshine State, it might be worth taking Fido to the groomers for a quick clip just before you set off so that he is carrying a cooler coat.
4. Do You Have Your Paperwork and Licenses?
As a rule, I always keep my dog’s paperwork and vaccination records in the car, just in case. If your state requires a license, you should also bring that with you while traveling with your dog.
5. Are You Staying With Family?
Have you confirmed with your family that you’ll be bringing Fido for the holidays? If so, it’s important to check whether any other doggies will be staying over and whether they’re well mannered. If you decide to stay in a hotel instead, there are certain tools you can use to find dog-friendly establishments, such as BringFido.
6. Have You Packed a Doggy First Aid Kit?
Better to be safe than sorry, or so my Mom always says. You can buy first aid kits from your local pet store or head to the local pharmacy and put together your own.
Road Trips with Dogs
This is one of the busiest times of year to hit the road, but a road trip is always made more enjoyable when you’re driving with your dog.
When traveling with a dog, there are additional considerations and stops required. Best advice? It’s always best to give yourself plenty of time if you’re traveling with a pooch. Packing them up in the car and going non-stop for eight hours will not be enjoyable for you or for them. If you don’t let your dog stop to relieve himself and stretch his legs periodically, he can develop medical problems.
Also for consideration is that during long car rides, some dogs become nauseous. We recommend that you check with your vet before travelling and be prepared with some prescribed medication if need be.
As a rule of thumb, we recommend taking your dog on at least two walks each day when road tripping. The length of walk depends on how long you usually take him out when you’re at home. Many dogs become sluggish during travel, so you shouldn’t push him to go on incredibly long walks. However, it is important to encourage him to exercise so that he doesn’t become stiff from being in the car.
8. Feeding and Watering breaks
As many dogs are prone to motion sickness, it’s a good idea to feed them little and often when you’re not moving. Pull over every two hours to allow them to relieve themselves, to drink some water and have a snack!
9. Vet Contact Info
Do you know the route that you’re taking? How about jotting down the number of a few vets along the way? I’ve been stuck in an area with no internet signal before and wished that I had written down the phone numbers of a local vet.
Training your dog to be comfortable in the crate not only makes it easier for you during transit, but it makes any travel much more comfortable for him. A dog that has great crate training experience will feel as though his crate is his little den, his cozy dog cave if you will. Whenever he’s in his crate, the hope is that he’ll feel “at home,” so no matter where you are, as long as he has his crate, he’ll be entirely comfortable.
When you’re prepping for a trip I’m the kind of person that cleans everything thoroughly before we set off, but while it’s completely fine to give your dog’s crate a good clean, make sure that he has some bedding or a cushion in there that smells like home. This will minimize his stress when getting used to a new place, and allow him to go into his crate if he becomes anxious about his new surroundings. Bringing spare bedding, and a waterproof bag that you can throw soiled blankets in is also a must.
12. Dog Potty Pads
It’s not always safe to pull over as soon as your dog needs to go, and sometimes your dog’s nerves can get the better of him, which may cause him to have an accident. If you travel with dog potty pads in his crate, you can pop these underneath his blanket so that he’s more comfortable and they’ll do a great job of soaking up accidents. When you stop, you can whip out the used dog pads, pop some new ones down, and use your spare blanket so that he’s back to full comfort in no time!
Dogs are prone to feeling bad when they have an accident, so cleaning it up and letting him see that you’re not mad will help him to shake off his bad feelings in no time.
Flying with a Dog
The thought of a twenty-hour road trip during holiday traffic isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but luckily, most airlines - international and domestic - are more than happy to allow your pets to fly with them.
TOP TIP - When booking your air travel with a dog, it’s better to book by telephone if you’re hoping to fly on the same flight as your pet. If you book online, you’re not guaranteed that they will have room for your beloved pooch on the same flight which can be a costly nightmare.
We also suggest, that for long flights, it’s best to consult with your vet and to see if you should get any tranquilizer for your dog, just in case.
At no time is it more important that your dog is comfortable in his crate than while on a plane. Check with the airline that you’re flying as to what size of crate is allowed to ensure that your pup has plenty of time to become accustomed to the specific crate that he’ll be flying in. Not to mention, it will give it more chance to smell like home, which will make him more comfortable during transit.
Normally when your dog tries to lie on your laundry at home, it results in him being shooed off hastily. But when he’s flying it can be a great idea to give him one of your items, such as a sweatshirt, along with his regular bedding. Having your scent in the crate with him will be a great source of comfort. After all, in his eyes, you’re the alpha in his pack.
16. Dog Pee Pads
Accidents are inevitable during flights, but using dog pee pads that can absorb not only the liquid but the smell as well, will make your dog far more comfortable. Try the dog pads at home before the trip so that you can see how well they work and how they can make the small crate a comfortable place to be even after your pooch has had an accident.
17. Feeding Well In Advance
On the day of travel most airlines and dog travel experts agree that you should feed your dog well before the flight so that he can relieve himself before going into his crate. As a rule of thumb, you should feed Fido six hours before loading up into the crate.
Likely the last thing on your mind on the day of travel will be heading out for a nice relaxing stroll around the park with your fluffy friend, but to reduce jet lag and stiffness that your pooch is incredibly sensitive to, it’s imperative that you take the time to take him on a walk.
Sure, you probably don’t have a private jet to practice in, but taking Fido on gradually increasing road trips in his crate and letting him get used to using his potty pads will allow him to become accustomed to the sensation of moving while being in his crate and will take some of the anxiety out of flying.
Traveling with your dog can be stressful, after all, they’re our little fur babies! But, nothing can beat having your fluffy family member around for the festive season. As long as you’re prepared, and have put the time into training your dog, you should be all set for the best Thanksgiving and Christmas of all time!