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When you're planning a road trip with your dog, the last thing you want is for you or your dogs to be stressed on the trip. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make sure your dogs have a great time on the road.
Your bags are packed! You've got the dog food, any medications needed and all other essentials handy. You've worked to prepare your dogs for a long trip in a tent, a hotel, or wherever your journey might take you. What could go wrong between when you leave and when you reach your final destination? Unfortunately, more than a few things!
Here are a few tips so you can avoid the common pitfalls and mistakes a lot of pet owners make when traveling with pets:
Tip 1: Plan your route(s)
If you're traveling with your dog it can be tempting to just hit the road with no plan and let the road take you. Don't do it! Plan a route. How long will you drive each day? How often will you need to stop for some fresh air and a quick walk? Where will you stop? Can you take your dog everywhere you want to go?
To determine the best travel plan for your dog, consider the following:
Your dog's age
- If your dog is very young or getting older, your pup may need more frequent stops to potty to ensure there aren't any accidents. Line some of these up with breaks for you as well!
Your dog's exercise needs
- If your dog is very active he/she will need more opportunities to stretch their legs along the way. Rather than gas stations, look for rest areas with green spaces, or even better a national park, dog park, or open space where you can toss a ball or let your dog sniff for a bit to expend energy.
Dog friendly accommodations:
- Plan where you're going to sleep. Not all hotels/motels or even campgrounds welcome dogs. Be sure you plan your route and drive so that when you need to stop for the night you know the accommodation will allow pets. Make a reservation ahead of time if possible to save the headache of finding yourself without a room after a long day of driving.
Number of pets:
- How many pets will be traveling with you? If you have two pets or more make sure there's enough room for them to be comfortable in the back seat. Dogs should never be in the front seat! Make sure you pack enough seat belts and safety harnesses for all of your pets.
Plan your trip with your dog in mind before you leave. Decide where you will stop, make sure every place you want to visit along the way will allow pets, pick up all up-to-date medications from your vet, purchase seat belts for your pets. Plan it all!
Tip 2: Allow your dog to acclimate
Once you arrive at your destination, give your dog some time to get situated in his/her new environment before you get settled. Let your pup sniff, relieve themselves appropriately, engage in natural behaviors such as running, digging, chewing etc. This will lower stress levels. It's a new strange place so let your dog check it out!
I would highly recommend having a few of your dog's toys or new toys on hand as well as treats and enrichment toys. Let your dog choose the activity he or she desires. And if you've missed regular meal time - feed your dog some food and water.
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One thing that is extremely important when traveling with your dog on a trip is to keep some semblance of your normal routine. Bring their regular food, don't change it. Bring familiar items and bedding if possible. A new toy may catch their interest and distract them from the change.
Always make sure your dog can see you and maintain eye contact with you (or another family member). Your dog should always feel safe being able to look at you for direction or reassurance. If your dog is crated or confined to a certain area, be sure to go for walks and spend as much time as you can with them.
Pack your pup's food, favorite toys, enrichment toys, and bed. When you arrive at your destination, let your dog check the place out. Give your dog food and water and let him/her pick a toy to play with to get settled.
Tip 3: Look for anything dangerous for your pet
Safety first, no matter where you are. Many dogs (yes, even your perfectly well-trained dog) like to explore. Double check everything before letting them stick their nose in too many unknown crevices. Can your dog access any wires, dangerous areas of the campground? Do you have a safe place to tether your dog's long leash? Can your dog reach the fire? Will your dog run out the door if it opens? Are cars zipping by?
Expect issues. Things will go wrong, maybe something small but maybe something big. Here are just a few of the things that went wrong with my recent move from California to Colorado and how we combated the dogs becoming overly stressed:
Problem 1: Three extra unexpected traveling days in a hotel
- Solution for the dogs: Extra mental enrichment daily in the form of puzzles, chews and decompression walks. Purchasing extra dog food before we left so we didn't need to feed anything new and unfamiliar along the way resulting in an upset stomach (tummy upset happened anyway).
Problem 2: Heat wave resulting in shorter stops along the way
- Solution for the dogs: Finding water spots for our stops so the dogs could swim for exercise. Getting up earlier to exercise before it was too hot. Remember, heat stroke is a real issue for dogs! Don't leave them in your car alone (ever) but especially when it's hot outside.
Problem 3: Cat that was always outside our hotel door - all the time
- Solution for the dogs: Seriously. There was a cat outside of a hotel room that we stayed at for 3 days, every morning and it wasn't afraid of the dogs. The dogs could smell it. Hear it. It drove them crazy. Barking, whining. So we put a towel under the door, kept the TV on loud, and did a lot of on-the-fly training. Not ideal but we made it work!
This could also apply to raccoons, deer, bunnies, other dogs or any animals that are in nature if you are camping or visiting somewhere in nature. Do you know how your dogs will react? Have you gone through my recall guide?
Overprepare for your trips. Buy extra food before you leave, just in case. Check out all new environments thoroughly before letting your dogs explore freely. Always think about safety for your pet first and how situations that arise will affect them.
Tip 4: Have fun with your dog
All in all, traveling with dogs (or without) on vacation or even just going on a road trip can be stressful but if you prepare and do your prep work it should be F.U.N!!!
If you want traveling with your dog to be successful, think of your dog first. What does your dog need? What in the environment will cause stress or harm? Because if your dog is upset, you will be upset too...and the whole point of going on a trip with your dog is to enjoy each other!
Next up in the Manners Channel on Dogly
You're now ready for a road trip with your dog! Before you leave, there are a few trainings in the Manners Channel here on Dogly that would be really beneficial to work on with your dog. In Basic Manners, the Dogly Training Advocates teach you how to train your dog to stay even with distractions and happily go to his/her bed or mat when asked. The guides in Food Manners teach you how to train your dog not to steal food or beg. Or Leash Manners teaches you how to stop your dog from pulling on leash. Dive into any of the guides in this Manners Channel or I'm always happy to work with you 1-1 if you'd like more personalized training.