7 Critical Things (and more) to Remember For a Safe & Fun-filled Fur-Kid Holiday
We love to travel. We love our fur-kids. So, naturally, we only travel where our fur-kids can go too. In fact, over the years our dogs (3 at the Rainbow Bridge and our current 3) have collectively logged over 150,000 kilometers with us on the road. Trips that began back in 2005, with a cottage rental on the shores of Delaware Bay in Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, with our two-year-old Norfolk Terrier to our most recent jaunt last summer across the continent to the shores of southern BC, and a dozen trips to Arizona and the Canadian east coast in between, as seasoned fur-kid family travellers, we have learned a lot over the years. And as summer vacation time approaches, families everywhere will be planning, booking, and embarking on adventures of a life time. To educate first time fur-kid family vacationers or remind seasoned travellers, I have summarized much of that information as a helpful guide to relieve some of the fear and worry about vacationing with your pooch. After all, when the family includes fur-kids, there are several important things to be considered long before locking the front door behind you.
You spend hours pouring over routes, stops, accommodations, and attractions but it's critical to take the same approach to planning how you'll travel with your pup. From the moment you decide Fido is going to be joining you, it's wise to begin planning for his inclusion.
Travelling can, at times, be very stressful. Heading out into the unknown is already a risky adventure. So, it is important to ensure that your pup (and you too for that matter) are healthy enough to travel. It's a good idea if you're not sure, to talk to your vet, especially if your pup is older or has underlying health issues. If your pooch is a nervous traveller, you may want to discuss a light sedative or calming application to ease the jitters. In our experience, Childrens' Gravol worked wonders for a one-year-old Norfolk Terrier who suffered from motion sickness and travel jitters. Our vet provided the proper, safe dosage for her.
Ensure your pup is up-to-date on all necessary and mandated vaccines and consult those of your destination also. When crossing any border, you'll need proof of certain vaccinations. For example, between Canada and the US you need proof of up-to-date Rabies vaccinations and we have been asked many times to produce proof. I have created a special travel folder with all pertinent information for all our fur-kids to have at my fingertips when required.
Double check to be certain your pooch's online microchip info is current. If you don't know your baby's chip info, you can have your vet scan it to give you the details. Be certain your pup is instantly identifiable by wearing ID tags while you're in transit. The tags should include the pup's name, your name and contact info or, if you're uncomfortable with your own info on there, add your veterinarian's contact info.
When you're busy researching all the restaurants and galleries you plan to attend, you should also search out a vet or two in the area and have their numbers handy. Should you run into an emergency, they will be able to direct you in what action to take. Avoid taking your pup to places that will be scary or stressful such as festivals with crowds of people or busy and loud city streets. If you're hiking, have a carrier handy in case your pup becomes fatigued. If you're heading to a beach, be mindful of the dangers of open water and follow any posted regulations. You can find water safety tips in Pooch Plunge: 5 Critical Things You Should Know Before Swimming With your Dog
A few links to "pup"ular websites that may help you with your planning include:
All Trails – This has the largest collection of trail maps (over 50,000). Browse photos and reviews, and filter your search by dog-friendly trails so you know which hikes to hit with your dog.
Bring Fido – The Yelp of the dog world. Bring Fido helps you locate nearby hotels, attractions, and restaurants that welcome pets.
My VCA – This app helps you locate the nearest emergency animal hospital, and provides step-by-step instructions for common pet emergencies. If your vet isn't registered with this group, they may be connected with another similar veterinarian organization.
As you lay out your clothes, toiletries, and other accessories for your trip, remember to pack for your pup too. Since you're going to a new and unfamiliar place, your pup will likely be more stressed and nervous than filled with joy (at least at first) so taking along lots of familiar and safe-feeling items is important. As well as the obvious things such as a crate, food and water bowls, water bottle, poop bags, spare harness/collar and leash, flotation device (if you're heading to the water), be sure to include lots of puppy's favourite toys and blankets. Other items you need to consider include baby gates, x-pen or other type of corralling enclosure.
And don't forget any medications your fur-kid will require while you're away. If she's on a regular medication, your vet will be able to dispense enough to last your entire trip, saving you a panic if you run out while you're away. Many vets will refuse to dispense meds (even with a prescription from your own doc) if you're not a registered patient however, we have been able to fill a canine prescription at a human pharmacy in a pinch.
Stay on Schedule
If you're travelling a long distance, you'll likely pack some snacks and beverages for sustenance while on the road. You'll need to do the same for your pups too.
From experience, we've learned that, depending on the border guard, you may be questioned about the pet food you're carrying on board. If you're taking a large quantity to last while you're away, it's wise to carry an unopened bag/package packed with your cargo. But, be sure to keep enough in an easily accessible container to feed at meal times while en route. As well, any meds that need to be administered while travelling should be at your fingertips and be sure to keep lots of treats available for dealing with stressful situations.
We are considered "road warriors". We travel in exceptionally lengthy blocks of time; stopping only for fuel, potty breaks, and driver changes. Over the past 13 years, our trips to Arizona have been prime examples with our record of 36 hours, 22 minutes door-to-door from Sun City West to St. Thomas, Ontario. But, our utmost concern is always the comfort and safety of our fur-kids. So, we make regular stops approximately every 4 hours. It's a well choreographed pit-stop that involves a gas fill up, potty stops for all 5 of us, a coffee top up, and reorganizing our positions. We endeavour to maintain meal times and co-ordinate our pit-stops to be able to keep the pups on their breakfast and dinner schedules. Those stops tend to last a little longer since we like to allow the fur-kids time to stretch their legs and enjoy some fresh air.
Maintaining a schedule as much as possible during travel is also helpful to keep your fur-kids "regular" with their potty habits and also to prevent against any accidents. If you have a pup you're uncertain about, doggy diapers work well. Again, from experience, if you choose to use them, I caution you to check them often and change them the moment they're wet!!! The risk of a UTI is greater if your baby sits in a wet diaper too long.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!!!
This is such an important rule for travelling with fur-kids; especially small ones!!! Little pups tend to become dehydrated much quicker, but even human passengers will do so while in transit. Be certain you have a good travel water bowl and lots of fresh water available at your fingertips and monitor your fur-kids as you travel. Try not to wait until they begin to pant and hang their tongue out because they're clearly dehydrated by then. Our pups sleep while we're in transit, but generally, as soon as they wake, I offer them each a drink of water. Of course, depending on how much they drink, your pit-stops may be need to be more often.
Buckle Up, Everyone!
We have all seen the tragic results of accidents involving unrestrained fur-kids in vehicles. They can happen in the blink of an eye whether you're 5 minutes or 500 miles from home. So, it's critical to take your pup's safety seriously when taking them along in the vehicle; regardless of whether it's to the corner store or across the country! NEVER, EVER let your pooch roam free in your vehicle while in motion and for GOODNESS SAKE, do NOT allow the driver to hold the pup while driving! Not only is that irresponsible and seriously dangerous to both the driver and passengers as well as others on the road, it is also illegal and may result in a traffic ticket and fine.
Oodles of research has been conducted on various restraints for pets travelling in automobiles. I have watched many video comparisons of simulated vehicle crashes with pups on board [https://www.centerforpetsafety.org/test-results/harnesses/2013-harness-crash-test-videos/] and they're hard to see. However, it really behooves you to watch these videos to see just what can happen! I cannot honestly say that there is one product out there (in my opinion) that looks 100% safe to me, but we do our best to ensure our fur-kids are safely harnessed and "clicked in" before shifting the vehicle into drive.
Being in a collision will be catastrophic for anyone on board, human or canine, but when some measure of precaution is taken to ensure every passenger is restrained, the outcome could be less disastrous.
Another word of caution and piece of common sense advice is to NEVER allow your pooch to pop his head out of a moving vehicle! EVER! The risks for injury to eyes, nose, ears, and face are great. Flying debris -even a large flying insect- will have the impact of a stone and can cause serious damage. But, if you must resort to this (honestly, why, I cannot imagine), fit your pup with safety eye wear.
I admit -and we laugh about it now- I was extremely nervous about staying in an hotel with our fur-kids and the very first time, I was so anxiety-ridden I didn't sleep a wink. Worried that they would lick surfaces that had been cleaned with heavily toxic products or that they'd bark at every little noise (they were terriers, after all) like distant voices, car or room doors slamming, or the elevator dinging. Admittedly, I slept (no, laid in bed) the entire night with a pup on each side of me, their leashes tightly wound around each wrist, just to be safe.
Well, that's an extreme example of being concerned about others' comfort. But, it is still important to be aware of your surroundings (whether you have fur-kids with you or not, really) and do your best to be considerate.
Assuming that you've confirmed (and reconfirmed) that the property you've chosen is pet-friendly, you should always verify the rules when you check in. Never try to sneak your pup into a non-pet friendly establishment, for obvious reasons. Nor should you try to bring your pup in "under the radar" to avoid paying a pet charge. We know that it feels unfair to have to pay extra for a pup to sleep with us, but as pet parents, we must understand that there are rules set out for us that we are required to follow.
If you're planning to leave your pup alone, you should first, be certain that it is permitted. Some hotels don't want dogs left alone in the room. Also, you need to have a crate or other kind of corralling enclosure. When you leave the room, ensure that the "Do No Disturb" sign is displayed. Some hotels even provide a "Dog in the Room" sign so that housekeeping will know to skip entering your room. But, having your pooch contained inside is a simple way to prevent heartache should someone open the door in your absence and your pup gets out.
When it's potty time, don't just assume that all green spaces are dog-friendly. Many pups (ours included) have highly acidic urine and burn the grass so it's likely that the hotel doesn't want their main entrance grass covered in brown pee spots! We sure don't even want that in our own back yard! And, be sure to scoop if your pup poops. Always carry extra poop bags in your pockets in case none are available where your fur-kid goes. (GO BACK and pick it up if you have to go get a bag!)
I'm happy to report that after several more stays over the years and with our other fur-kids, my anxiety has abated -mostly- and having our hounds stay in hotel with us has become a much more pleasant and enjoyable experience.
Flying the Friendly Skies
We have never yet flown with our fur-kids. I'm not saying that we've forfeited travel somewhere because of our pups but, our destinations have always been places where we could travel by road and we'd need a vehicle while staying there.
If, however, you do embark on a trip that involves flying, it would be advisable to double, and triple-check the rules and pet policies of the following:
~ the airport, to know where the pet friendly areas are
~ the airline, to ensure your pet falls into the acceptable parameters weight-wise, breed-wise, and carrier-size-wise, and any additional cost premiums
~ the city/country of destination to ensure that your pet will be permitted when you enter the country, and understand if there are any quarantine requirements
~ any public transportation you'll need to access to or from the airport or throughout your destination city/country
As what might be considered an "over-protective" fur-kid mom, I know I would researching as much as possible, every scenario that might involve my pups. Certainly, it's wise not to risk taking your fur-kid if they cannot travel in the cabin with you. Flying your pup as "cargo" carries enormous risks and horror stories abound when it comes to tragic outcomes from pooches who've been loaded on planes as "checked cargo" and met their demise en route. For further excellent tips check out the Whole Dog Journal article [https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/lifestyle/how-to-travel-with-a-dog-on-a-plane/]
A Summary for Summer Fun
Planning ahead and anticipating needs and requirements are two of the most important keys to travelling with fur-kids. But a few other little things should be considered.
Leash, leash, leash! Always, always keep your pup on her leash! It doesn't matter how "perfect" your pooch's recall is, there will always be that one time it fails, and that could be tragic. I cannot imagine a worse nightmare than my precious baby breaking away and getting lost in an unfamiliar city or at a roadside stop.
If at all possible, do not leave your pooch unattended in your vehicle. Certainly, the obvious reason of hot weather is one scenario but in unfamiliar roadside stops, the unimaginable may happen. When we stop for a food break, we always park in a spot close to the establishment and in a place where we can observe the vehicle at all times. If that's not possible (or it's too hot for them), we'll either use the drive-thru or one of us will go in and purchase "take out".
Always, always be a respectful, courteous, and considerate traveller with your pup. Regardless of how others may act toward us, as pet parents, we should always make a point of being respectful of those who may, for some unimaginable reason not like fur-kids, and supervise and control our pooches while they're in public.
No matter your destination, travel with our beloved fur-kids is always a wonderful way to share and teach and bond with them. But, we must be deliberate and purposeful in creating a safe and rewarding experience by careful planning and preparation.
When you're all loaded up and buckled in your vehicle and take that first "hitting the road" family selfie, you'll be on your way to a fun and memorable vacation!
Happy Trails to you all this summer!