On the Road with the Family Dog

Not all situations require your four-legged friend to miss the adventure of a road trip or a family vacation. Before her tap-dancing feet anticipate the words, “Jump in,” here is a list of tips to encourage a wonderful excursion with the family dog.

  1. Contact Your Vet: If your dog has not received his or her latest vaccinations, it is important to schedule an appointment.   Ask for a copy of your dog’s medical records, and have two or three copies, just in case it is requested.

Tip: Research a veterinarian clinic at your location, especially if they offer 24/7 emergency service. Along with your dog’s medical records, it would be wise to have all contact information on your phone.

Tip: Make sure the dog tag is clean, and her name and contact information is clearly visible; otherwise, order a new one.

  1. Plan Your Route: In traveling with a dog, do not schedule an arrival time. Dogs will require ample space to take regular breaks and experience a new environment every four hours.   A proper 30-minute walk will rejuvenate your body, as well. As you plan your travel route, take notice of pet-friendly attractions, as well as rest stops. This may be the vacation where you get to experience all the wonders of small and large towns and beautiful parks.

Tip: Checking the weather in advance will help you better prepare for conditions, especially rain. A wet dog traveling with passengers in one vehicle may not boost excitement levels. (Aren’t you glad you gave her a bath before leaving!)

  1. Consider Seating and Comfort: If your dog is an avid seat passenger, you may want to consider alternative accommodations during long trips. For safety, dogs cannot sit on a person’s lap, especially the driver’s. You may want to offer the third row by removing the seats and adding a dog bed. Dogs will need the ability to sit and lie down and sleep in a safe location. Having her kennel along may provide comfort during the trip and at night.

Tip: Keep a small bag with your dog’s immediate needs close by, such as leash, water and bowl, treats, and poop bags.

Tip: Maintain your dog’s morning and feeding routines!

  1. Book Pet-Friendly Accommodations: There are a wide range of hotels that are pet-friendly, and will declare it on their website. In making your reservation, ask about pet policies and whether a fee is associated. (On arrival, a copy of your dog’s medical records may be requested.)
  2. Family Excursions Require Dog Care: Planning a day to see the local sites, it is important to determine who will care for your dog while you are away. Most dogs will feel anxious in a new environment, and among strangers. One solution is to schedule a day care or boarding service for the day. (If you cannot ask for a recommendation from a family or friend in the local area, contact the local veterinarian’s office.)   Dog care often comes with wonderful affordable packages such as additional walks, or a bath and nail care. Allowing your dog to receive professional care may ease the worry for everyone in the family.

Packing for the Pooch! Before you begin packing, consider two bags. One will require important, easy-to-reach essentials, while in the second are less important items.

  • Pack the morning and evening meals in individual Ziploc bags. This will ensure you have just the right amount for each day while you are gone.
  • Yes, take the dog water dish and food bowl with you. It will be a form of comfort for your dog. Invest in a collapsible water and food bowl for the car. For frequent car riders, you’ll be glad you had the travel bowls.
  • Treats!
  • Leash (take two)
  • An absorbent pad, paper towels, or extra towels, and disposable bags for potential accidents
  • Dog pillow and a few favorite toys
  • Shampoo, dog towel, and brush
  • Pictures of your dog
  • Medical records
  • Medications! Stay on your schedule for heartworm prevention.
  • Poop bags!

Prepare the Family: Traveling with the family dog can be a wonderful experience for everyone in the family. Discuss in advance what the trip may entail, in terms of both positive and negative aspects, and especially the opportunity to spend quality time together. With the focus on sightseeing and walking, everyone will be much happier to have the family dog in step.