Traveling With Your Dog

From your dog's perspective, being with you is the cat's meow. So taking your dog with you when you visit or go on vacation is great - if you do it right. Here's what you need to consider:
  • Your dog's behavior - It's a pleasure to take along a well-behaved dog. And people you visit love having you bring your trained, well-mannered dog. So first on the list of things to do is train your dog. That happens before you start packing. Long before.
  • Plan ahead - Check with hotels or friends/relatives to make sure your dog is welcome and what requirements they have. Many places need the reassurance that your dog is trained and under control. Some hotels insist a dog be crated when left in the room. If you're crossing state lines, be sure to have a current health certificate, proof of vaccinations including Rabies. If you're traveling to a foreign country, check what paperwork you need and in what time frame - current health certificate, inoculation record and the like.
  • Your dog's psyche - Consider what the trip will mean to your dog. Going on vacation means upheaval and stress. This can be minimized, and the dog can have a good time in spite of this, but you need to work to make it as easy for him as possible. Stick as closely as possible to your dog's normal routine - feeding times, bed times, etc. Bring familiar objects and toys for him, his blanket or bed, his crate, chew toy - and of course your clicker and treats.
  • Water & food - Bring your dog's normal diet and water from home (or bottled water). Changing what he ingests - food and water - can upset his digestion, resulting in distress for everyone. If he's on medication, remember to pack it.
  • Crate - Traveling with a crate makes being away from home less stressful for your dog and easier for you. Because dogs that are stressed often express their anxiety by chewing, it is far safer to leave your dog in his own crate when you go out to dinner and the like. If your dog is not crate trained, get him used to it well before you leave for your trip.
  • Elimination away from home - Before you leave for your trip, make sure your dog will relieve himself on leash (see impediments to housetraining). It's helpful to have a cue word (see housetraining).
  • Other items - If your dog sleeps on the bed, bring your own bedspread. And don't forget towels for when it rains.
  • Be a Dog Ambassador - Both at home and on the road, we dog owners have a responsibility to other dog owners and non-dog people alike. Many hotels and recreation facilities have had negative experiences with dog owners. We remember the night we were trying to sleep in a hotel, and another guest had left their dog alone. From midnight till 2:00 a.m. unable to sleep, we listened to that dog bark. It is this kind of thoughtlessness that causes hotels to adopt a "No Dogs Allowed" policy. It is up to each of us to be thoughtful, considerate dog owners and neighbors.
  • And Finally, be honest with yourself - Consider whether you truly want the responsibility of your dog when you travel. It's OK if you decide you'd rather not take the dog. It doesn't make you a bad person or a bad dog owner. Nor will your dog resent you for it. Leave the guilt at home with the dog. Relax and have fun - with or without your dog. (For information on choosing the best place to leave your dog, click here.)