Vacationing is all about having fun and making memories with the ones you love. As passionate dog lovers, we know our pups are more than animals—they’re family members. It makes sense
that we’d want them to come along on all our adventures!
According to a 2017-2018 survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 37% of pet owners travel with their pets every year. That’s almost double the percentage compared to a decade ago!
The not-so-secret truth about traveling with our dogs is that it’s not easy. Just as our human children add a new layer of complexity to travel planning, so do our furry children. However, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Traveling with your dog can bring you closer together and make amazing memories that you’ll both treasure for the rest of your lives.
With that being said, how do we ensure traveling with our dogs will be a fun experience for everyone involved? Let’s go beyond the basics—we should all know by now to pack extra food and not leave our dog in a hot car. These 15 must-know dog travel hacks range from tips you can start working on today to things you should keep in mind when the day of the big trip arrives!
1. Use Your Best Judgement & Put Your Dog First
It’s easy to get caught up in how cute and fun having your dog along for the trip will be for you. Just think of all the Instagram-worthy pictures you’ll take! However, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate the situation from your dog’s perspective. Sure they love spending time with you, but depending on where you’re going and the details of your trip, it might be more stressful than fun for them.
How pet-friendly is your trip? Will you be doing outdoor activities where they can join or will they be cooped up in your hotel room while you explore a museum? How do you plan on getting there? Road trips are great, but plane-travel is usually smart to avoid as it can be stressful and sometimes risky for your pup.
After considering the details of your particular situation, you may end up deciding that your dog will be happiest staying with a trusted pet-sitter or family member.
2. Brush Up On Training
Training is important all the time, but upcoming travel can be a good reminder to make sure your dog’s skill stays sharp. Two very important commands for traveling are “come” (for obvious safety reasons) and “quiet.” Hotel walls are thin and if your dog hasn’t mastered “quiet” yet, you’ll thank me later for this tip when you’re trying to avoid getting a noise complaint!
Keep in mind that just because your dog knows these commands at home doesn’t mean they’ll transfer over into a new environment. Practice in different locations and with various distractions to make scenarios more realistic.
3. Turn Your Dog Into a Potty Pro
This may seem silly at first. How does one become a “potty pro?” Think about it—your dog is probably used to going to the bathroom on just one surface. For most pups it’s grass. What happens if you have to stop to go to the bathroom and there’s no big patch of lush grass available?
Help your dog be less stressed and more prepared to adapt by practicing at home first. Try various surfaces like dirt, gravel, sidewalks, and pavement. The time for your dog to experiment and try new things is in the comfort of their daily routine, not when they’re traveling and easily overwhelmed.
4. Do a Trial Ride
If your dog isn’t a seasoned traveler, going for a long road trip might be a big step for them. Some dogs love car rides and some dogs hate them! To avoid unexpected car-sickness or other not-so-fun surprises, go for shorter rides with your dog first. Let them get comfortable and see how they react before you commit to them joining you on a lengthy road trip.
5. Book Dog-Friendly Lodging
Don’t assume that your furry travel companion is welcome everywhere. There are plenty of dog-friendly hotel chains, but make sure you call and confirm before you book. Keep in mind some chains pet policy varies by location and some have weight limits or charge additional pet fees. Alternatively, many dog owners have had positive experiences using Airbnb.
6. Fun for the Whole Family!
There’s more to do on vacation than just hike with your dog! More and more businesses, amenities, and events are becoming pet-friendly. Use a website like BringFido to look up various restaurants and attractions that will welcome your pup! Keep in mind, you should always call to verify as online reviews can sometimes be inaccurate or out of date.
7. No Vaccinations? No Vacation.
Ensure your dog is up to date with all of their vaccinations and is healthy to travel. Not only is this simply being a responsible dog owner, but many dog-friendly hotels and businesses will ask to see proof. While you’re there, if your dog hasn’t been microchipped yet, now is a great time to do so!
8. Know Who to Call
Make sure you save the phone number and addresses of emergency veterinary hospitals not only at your destination but along your route. It’s not fun to think about, but if your dog gets sick or injured the last thing you want to be doing is frantically Googling this information.
9. Turn Your Car Into a Dog-Friendly Chariot
Having your dog roam free in your car is a safety hazard to both you and them. Yet according to a 2011 AAA / Kurgo pet passenger survey, only 16% of dog owners who drive with their pet use a restraint. (Source: https://www.kurgo.com/content/2011_survey_sheet.pdf) Did you know that an unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert about 500 pounds of force? As the dog gets larger, so does the impact. An 80-pound dog going 30 mph at the time of the accident will exert roughly 2400 pounds of force!
If you don’t have your vehicle equipped with the proper dog restraints already, hopefully, those statistics help convince you to take action for both you and your dog’s sake. I use a “dog hammock” in my car to help my pup avoid falling off the seat onto the floor. In addition, he wears a crash-tested travel harness with a seat belt clip. In my opinion, this is the best compromise between safety and enjoyable experience as my dog still has some mobility. All of these items are readily available on Amazon or at your local pet store.
10. Crates are Great
If your dog has a crate, it’s often a good idea to bring it along. Even if your dog is completely fine being left alone at home during the day, you never know how they’ll act in a new, unfamiliar environment. Bringing a crate along with lets you have some peace of mind if you need to leave your dog alone for any period of time during your trip. Keep in mind, this is fine to do on occasion for short periods of time, but if your dog will be spending more time in their crate than out and about with you, it’s probably best to leave them at home anyway.
11. Bring a Piece of Home
Comfort items from home can help alleviate anxiety and make unfamiliar situations less scary for your dog. Pack a few of their favorite toys and some high-value treats they love. If they have their own mat or bed, consider bringing that along as well. Anything that helps your pup stay within their routine as much as possible will be greatly appreciated by them.
12. Always Be Prepared
It’s never a bad idea to be prepared for emergencies. We already discussed saving the information on local veterinary hospitals, but it helps to go one step further. There are comprehensive dog first-aid kit lists available online, but I’d recommend packing a few items at a minimum:
- Hydrogen peroxide (3%) for inducing vomiting
- Tweezers for removing ticks and splinters
- Gauze and non-stick adhesive bandages for cuts
Remember, always call your vet for their recommendation before providing medical treatment to your dog.
13. Tired Dogs = Happy Dogs
Ample exercise might be the single biggest key to making your trip a success for both you and your dog. Especially if a lot of driving is involved, make sure you schedule extra time in before you start for the day to get a nice, long walk in. Combine that with some breaks every few hours and you’ll have a much more well-behaved, happy pup.
14. Manage Motion Sickness
Building up your dog’s comfort with car rides as mentioned in our fourth tip is a great start. There are also things you can do during your trip to help prevent motion sickness and make your dog more comfortable. Avoid feeding your dog a few hours before traveling as the additional food will make them more likely to vomit. Make sure they have access to freshwater before and throughout your trip. Bring a cooler of ice cubes if necessary to help regulate your dog’s water intake.
15. Routine, Routine, Routine
It’s no secret—dogs love routine. Keeping as much of their daily routine as possible will give them some sense of comfort and stability despite the day-to-day changes that come with traveling. What time you wake up and go to bed, when they eat, when they exercise, and where they sleep are all opportunities to remain consistent. It’s obviously not practical to keep everything the same as when you’re home, but even just a few things are enough to let your dog relax a bit more.
Thomas is the Head Human over at PopularDoodle.com, the online lifestyle magazine dedicated to doodles. Alongside Chewie, his trusty Goldendoodle sidekick, and Chief Treat Officer, he shares entertainment, news, and information with the best community of pet parents on the web!