While my husband and I LOVE our travel, and have a bucket list of places we would like to visit a mile long, our travel plans are almost always better when we can include our two favourite four-legged travel companions.
Its almost comical how many people tried to convince me when adopting Daviana that any chance of travel was going out the window. Sure, there are trips where we hire a pet sitter and go without them, we didn’t take them up Mt Kilimanjaro…. But when the opportunity arises to take them along I love having them as part of the experience! My pups love road trips, camping and hiking!
For all of you who are considering adding your pups to your own travel plans, here are a few tips I have learned from my experience to help make your adventure run as smoothly as possible:
- Visit Your Veterinarian!
There are several reasons that you should speak with your veterinarian prior to any travel plans. The first is in relation to vaccinations and preventative medicine. There are the standard vaccines that you should ensure are all up to date, that goes without question. Depending on where you travel to, there are also other options that are worth considering. Having a discussion with your veterinarian will give them a chance to educate you on any possibilities you may have so you can make a knowledgeable decision about what is right for your dog.
This is also a great opportunity to pick their brain about some of the less obvious options for travelling (unless you have taken your dog on the road before, and experienced one of these situations). For example, what does your veterinarian recommend for motion sickness, or anxiety during travel?
Lastly, while you are there you have the opportunity to have your veterinarian and/or their staff ensure that all travel documentation is completed accurately. I will discuss this documentation in more detail later…
- Research Your Destination
When you are travelling there is always some leg work required before going, however when you are travelling with your pup there are a few extra steps to consider.
First, you need to find a place to stay that will also be accommodating to your four-legged travel companion. Most campgrounds are more than welcoming, although doing your research in advance will give you the opportunity to plan which parks offer extra features such as dog parks and dog beaches. Our favourite go to campground in Ontario now has a dog beach that my pups LOVE to make use of!
If you are planning to stay in a hotel, it is even more important that you take the time to do the necessary research. Some hotels are pet friendly, whereas others are not. The rules for each chain are different – with some applying additional housekeeping fees, and others applying weight restrictions to the pets that they will allow. Red Roof Inn has been a pretty steady go to for us when on road trips as we have always been more than welcomed at any of their locations we have come across. BringFido.com has a great database of pet friendly locations, and is a great place to start this search!
Once you know where you are staying, there is one last important piece of research to do… Take the time to find out where the nearest vet and/or animal hospital is to this location. Make sure that this information is written down and kept somewhere that you can find it quickly in the event that something happens (I recommend keeping it in your travel document package, as discussed in the next point).
- Travel Document Package
One of the most important pieces of prep work is to ensure that all necessary documentation is together in case you need it. Personally, I recommend creating a travel document package in a seal-able Ziploc bag, labelled with everything that is contained within it.
You should keep concise medical information for your pup. If you are travelling to any other country, they may require a specific document for this information. The Government of Canada keeps a concise list available of recommended documentation in many different countries HERE.
Many countries accept the International Health Certificate, a government document available HERE. Even when travelling within the country I recommend that this document is completed as it ensures that you have all relevant information that you may require during your travels compiled in one document. If the destination company accepts it, the document can also be endorsed by an official government veterinarian for a fee.
Lastly you should include a recent photograph of your pet, and copies of any identification if you do become separated from your pup during travel.
- Packing for your Pup
While I’m not going to say that your pup should necessarily have their own suitcase, you are more than welcome to without any judgement from me! Since beginning to travel with our two dogs we do generally have their own separate bags to keep their various items in so that I can make sure that we don’t miss anything to make their trip as enjoyable as we can!
There are a few specific items that I find always help when travelling with my two…
First, lets talk food and water. You should never switch your pets’ food without transitioning them as this can cause issues with digestion and upset tummies – so the last thing you want is to end up without the ability to purchase their food at your destination, or along the way! For this reason, make sure that you pack more food than is going to be required for the length of your trip. Water is another consideration worth mention – drinking water from an area that your dog is not accustomed to can lead to an upset stomach, so I recommend packing jugs of water for your pup. Don’t forget the food and water bowls!
For your pup’s comfort, and to help minimize any potential anxiety they may experience, pack his or her favourite blanket to lay on in the vehicle. This gives them a sense of familiarity and comfort from home. I also make a point of packing a couple of their favourite toys both for in the vehicle as well as once you have reached your destination.
I always make sure I have a few old towels available in the vehicle for any breaks that we take along the way. Depending on the time of year, weather conditions, etc. you may be battling puddles, snow or mud at each stop. Rather than tracking all of this into your vehicle, old towels will allow you to clean your pup’s paws before getting back in!
Don’t forget to pack plenty of baggies for any bathroom stops along the way! You wouldn’t want to be that pet owner, would you?
- Secure your Pup During Travel
We all love that image of the pup happily sitting with their head hanging out the window, tail flapping in the breeze, that is until we think of all the possible injuries that specific scenario could bring about! While we want our pets to have fun on our road trip, it is also our responsibility to make sure that we are taking the necessary steps to keep them safe!
While your vehicle is in motion, it is important to ensure that your pet is properly secured. There are a couple of ways that this can be accomplished: through the use of pet specific seat-belts/harnesses, or by using a crate. In the event of an accident these are designed to protect your pup by keeping them from being thrown from the vehicle or significantly injured from being thrown around within the vehicle.
If you are using a crate, the size is an important consideration. The crate should be big enough your dog can stand up and turn around, but if you go too large then you are going to see the same potential problem of your dog being thrown around during an accident, but this time within the crate. The crate itself should also be secured in the vehicle.
- During Travel
Now that you have everything packed and prepared, your travel documentation package is in hand and your pet is properly secured, lets discuss a few pointers for during the actual travel itself!
A well exercised dog is a tired dog! You don’t want your dog to be antsy, high energy and worked up while you are travelling, this will perpetuate any possible anxiety. Burn off any and all excess energy possible before travel, as well as including regular pit stops to get your pup out and walking throughout the trip. A tired pup is more likely to rest calmly creating a pleasant travel experience for all involved.
Also, and this should go without saying but I am going to include it anyway, NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG ALONE IN THE CAR! Even with a window cracked, this is not a safe place for your pup! When my husband and I road trip with the pups we take turns running in for bathroom breaks, and food is picked up by one of us and brought back to eat together in the vehicle, or outside picnic tables at the various rest stops. We all know it isn’t safe to leave you dog in a vehicle in a grocery store parking lot – the rules don’t change just because it is at a rest stop or restaurant parking lot!
Travelling with your four-legged best friend(s) can be a great experience so long as you take the extra steps to make sure that you are prepared!
Have you recently traveled with your pups? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below, or share pictures of your travels with me by using the hashtag #AltSpeaking across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!