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Tips for traveling with your dogs

Chinook dogs from Outlaw Chinooks
Chinook dogs from Outlaw Chinooks
Kathleen Riley-Daniels via iPhone

Having a good travel experience with your dogs (and other pets) takes some planning. If your trip involves a car or an airplane, your animals can come, but you should consider all the options. There are many animals that don't handle travel stress well, and they can be exposed to dangerous situations that you'll have no control over. No matter what, your dog's well-being should always come first.

Your Pet is Coming Along

  • Get a check-up at the veterinarian. You'll want to have copies of all your vaccination and health papers and your pet's identification tags.
  • Make a temporary tag listing the information at your travel destinations.
  • Bring supplies: a crate/kennel/carrier, leash or harness, food and water dishes, toys, beds and grooming supplies.
  • Bring a current photo and written description of your pet in case they get lost.
  • Pack your pet's usual food to last for the trip plus an extra 2 days. Regular diet helps your pet remain calm and prevents upset stomach.
  • Pack some favorite items like a toy and a bed. Familiar items makes pets feel better.
  • Provide plenty of water to keep your dog hydrated and energized. Bring water from home or buy bottled water on the trip.
  • Litter box - cats and litter box trained dogs will appreciate their own bathroom on the trip.
  • ALWAYS clean up after your pet . If we take care of the places we stay at, they will keep allowing pets.

Road Trip
As a general rule, dogs are usually pretty good automobile travelers -- cats usually not as much. Good news though, both can learn to travel safely and happily with a little practice. If your companion has never been in a car, take some short practice trips so they can acclimate. Before you head out, secure your pet in a crate or carrier.

Flying the Friendly Skies
Thousands of pets fly every year without incident, but remember that your companion will be flying in the cargo hold where they can be exposed to extremes of temperature, long periods of confinement and rough handling. There are experts that advise against shipping your pets via air as cargo. The best approach is to only book non-stop flights and since the cargo space is not unlimited, be sure to book early for your pet and yourself to guarantee a spot for Spot.

Leaving the Fur Children Behind
There are options for you when leaving your pets behind: boarding kennels, pet sitters and live-in pet sitters. Remember that arranging a stay for your pet takes planning and you should be certain to make a reservation early. Ask friends, family, neighbors, veterinarians and other pet professionals to see who they recommend. You can also check with the American Boarding Kennels Association for locations near you.

Kennels
Call and see if they can take your companions during your trip, and then schedule a visit to see their facility. If your pets have special needs, be certain to mention that to the facility management as some kennels can't accommodate special requirements. Here are some basic tips to consider when evaluating a kennel.

  • Does the facility look and smell clean?
  • Are the dog runs adequately sized for the animals in them and is there an exercise plan?
  • Is there bedding provided so your companion doesn't have to rest on cement?
  • Are cats kept in a separate area?
  • What is the feeding schedule and what are they fed? Can you bring your own brand of food?
  • Are the staff knowledgeable and caring?
  • How are the rates calculated?

Before going to the kennel, be sure your pet is current on vaccinations or titers. Talk to your veterinarian about kennel cough and whether this is an appropriate preventative for you pet. When you are ready to drop off your pet, remember to bring any medications, special foods, your veterinarians telephone number, contact telephone numbers for you while on your trip and a local emergency contact person.

Pet Sitters
Pet sitters allow your pets to stay in your home and get personal attention without a major disruption of routine. You can choose to have a pet sitter make a certain number of visits per day or choose to have the sitter live in your home. The pet sitter should have proof of commercial liability insurance to cover accidents or negligence and they should be bonded to protect your pet against theft. Have your companions meet the potential pet sitter to be sure they get along. Look for experience and check references. As with the boarding facilities, make reservations early, especially during holidays and other busy times. Here are some basic tips to consider when evaluating a pet sitter.

  • Does the pet sitter have an on-call veterinarian for emergencies?
  • What is the back up plan if the pet sitter is sick, injured or has vehicle trouble and can't get to your home?
  • What system is used to be certain that you have returned home?
  • Did the pet sitter ask about your pet? Likes, dislikes, habits, health, medications, routines?
  • Have you gotten a written contract explaining services and fees?

No matter what you decide, come along or stay behind, this should get you started on the right path for you and your pets.