We are currently en route home from a trip to Florida – so not exactly “snowbirds” (i.e. the group of Canadians who escape to warmer climes in winter)- but a nice respite from the chilly Ontario December weather! Our trip included 4 adults and 2 Dalmatians…and was a lot of fun.
Whether you are escaping for the entire winter or a few days, it can be wonderful to bring your whole family, pooches included. However, there are some things to consider when planning a trip that involves your dogs (or, if you are particularly brave, your cat, bird, iguana, etc.).
Here’s my top 5 K9 Travel Tips:
1) Connect with your veterinary team. Different areas may bring different health risks for your pets, and your veterinary team may recommend vaccines, parasite prevention, or other preparation to keep them safer.
2) Prepare for ‘on the road’ hours. If your pooch isn’t used to long car rides you might want to work up to a cross-country trip to help them acclimatize to travel. Either way, be sure to plan frequent stops along the way where you can walk your dog, let them go to the bathroom, and give them a break from the car.
3) Make sure they are safe in the vehicle. The ideal set up for your dog in your car is a crash-tested kennel secured down to your car. If this is not possible, investigate one of the crash-tested harnesses to keep your pooch safe. Important to note – most harnesses are not crash-tested and thus are not the best option for safety.
Please don’t leave your pooch loose in the car. They will get hurt (or killed) if you are in an accident, they can hurt (or kill) you when they become a projectile, and their enthusiasm to see you or something else in the car could be the cause of an accident.
4) Pack EVERYTHING they will need! Food is obvious, but there are lots of other things you will want to pack to ensure a smooth trip.
a. Toys and chew toys– if your pooch is used to having a selection of toys at their disposal (as mine are!) then pack a few favourites to keep them entertained in hotel rooms, etc. Chew toys – some dogs will appreciate a chew toy or treat. Remember to always supervise your dog when they are chewing on anything (so if they are having a treat on the road you need a passenger who can safely keep an eye on them). Your veterinary team can advise you on safe chew treats/toys.
b. Water – some pets are sensitive to changes in water, and an upset tummy on the road is no fun for anyone. You might want to consider bringing water from home, and/or buying water en route. Either way, remember to have fresh water available at all times. We can all get a bit dehydrated sitting in a car all day.
c. Medications – if your pet is on medication, ensure you have enough for your trip. Talk to your veterinary team about antihistamines – these (along with the correct dose, product and formulation) can be good medications to have on hand in case of an encounter with an unexpected insect. Your veterinary team can advise you on appropriate use.
d. Coats/jackets/boots (+/- snoods) – ensure you and your pup are prepared for weather you may encounter on your way so you can still enjoy your walks!
e. Collars/ID – ensure your pet has current ID tags in case of an accident or other event where they may be lost. I wear a wristband with a tag containing a few emergency phone numbers and the phrase “check car for dogs”. If I am in an accident I want people to realize my dogs are in their kennels, as in the chaos of an accident they could be missed.
f. Leash and poop bags – be a responsible owner so that everyone can continue to bring their pups along on trips 😊.
5. Pre-book pet-friendly places to stay. When traveling with a pooch (or two) it may be easier to pre-book your hotels. Not every hotel is pet friendly, so if you wait til you are on the road you may have some difficulty. Many, many hotels are pet friendly these days, so you should not have any problem finding a place that will accommodate you and your pooch. Some dogs LOVE camping, so if you are an outdoorsy person this can be a good option! Definitely try this out before taking off on an epic trip – as it may take your dog(s) some practice to adjust to tent life.
I have a ton of fun travelling with my dogs and with a bit of forethought and preplanning we are prepared for the expected and unexpected. This also means that I am never lonely on long car rides (though they are not the best conversation artists) and we have so much fun exploring new places along the way… whether they are snow-covered or not.