Road Trip! Tips for a Happy Dog Traveler

Spring break is around the corner and summer not far behind, so many pet parents will soon be hitting the road, possibly with their dogs in tow. But is your pooch miserable during the trip? There are things you can to do help!

Travel By Car

First, make sure you are getting your dog enough exercise before you head out on the open road.

road trip

Road trip! Make sure your dog is prepared for a long car ride.

“Just like kids, you need to tire them out so they can rest or sleep during the ride,” behavioral therapist and trainer Beverly Ulbrich says. “It will cause less stress and anxiety for them if you drain some of their energy first.”

We usually head to the dog park for an hour before getting in the car. You have to factor this into your travel time for a happier ride-a-long.

“I recommend walking your dog the minimum you typically walk him every day,” Ulbrich says. “So if he’s used to at least a 45-minute walk every day, then you need to have a 45-minute walk before putting him the car for a few hours.”

Extra exercise isn’t necessary on trips less than an hour but make sure your dog goes potty before you leave.

Also make sure to bring plenty of water and a dog-friendly dish. Our favorite to-go water dish is Gulpy, a portable water dispenser that comes in different shapes and sizes.

Even if you can go ten hours straight in the car, it doesn’t mean you should force your dog to endure it. Obviously, your pooch needs bathroom breaks and stopping every couple of hours to let him out for a quick walk will help him be more at ease during the trip.

Dogs going for ride in the car

Sundown loves hanging out the window and sniffing, but be careful when the car is in drive.

“As a guideline, I’d say no more than a couple hours of driving during the day without a break,” Ulbrich says. “If you’re driving late at night when your dog is used to being asleep, you can get away with longer stretches. Also, puppies will need more stops than older dogs who have learned to control their bladders better.”

Travel By Air

But what about the friendly skies? Flying can be a scary proposition for a dog, even if he is small enough to fly in the cabin with you. Dogs must fit in a carry-on crate that slides completely under the seat in front of you; the maximum for most airlines is 20 pounds, including the crate.

It can be costly for dogs to fly in the cabin; airlines charge $75 and up each way and you are required to keep your dog in his cage from takeoff to landing. Consult this composite list of airline requirements and fees for more information.

The cargo-hold can be even worse. Dogs are treated like luggage and can become sick or injured in transit with the airline bearing little responsibility. Twenty-nine animals died in the cargo hold of airplanes in 2012 alone, and another 26 were injured.

“There are many airlines that won’t [fly pets in cargo] anymore because of the risks, especially in hot and cold weather,” Ulbrich says. “I would only do this if absolutely necessary and never with a layover or connecting flight. If you have a layover, stay an extra few hours or even overnight so you can get your dog and walk him before the next flight.”

Some dogs can handle the cargo hold, though.

“The most important thing is your dog is comfortable in his crate,” Ulbrich says.

But there have been horror stories of dogs not making it through the flight. Model Maggie Rizer’s Golden Retriever Bea died while in transit in the cargo hold. Her vet’s necropsy showed heatstroke as the cause. Another man’s dog died while travelling United around the same time frame. Yet another dog, a Great Dane, died of apparent heat stroke while en route to Seattle. The Humane Society also does not recommend flying your pet in the cargo hold. They offer travel tips and alternate options on their website.

Leaving Your Dog at Home

There are options for leaving your dog at home while you travel. You can get a two-for-one deal with a pet and house-sitter; this way your dog is comfortable in his own surroundings and your home is being looked after.

Rover.com is the leading nationwide company offering vetted sitters with more than 25,000 sitters registered across the country. Every single sitter is reference checked by Rover before they are allowed to list their services on the site. Sitters can complete training and background checks, and sitters with those qualifications have “badges” displayed on their profiles. And Rover offers 24/7 support for sitters if something goes wrong.

“Our goal is to connect pet parents with loving sitters who are trained and qualified to provide just the right care for the dog,” Rover CEO Aaron Easterly says. “Rover.com is both the largest and fastest growing network of dog lovers in the United States.”

You can also send your dog to a kennel but be careful with rescue dogs; the upheaval and constant moving from their rescue days will make them uneasy about staying in a location and with people they are not familiar with.

“Any dog can be nervous being left somewhere new,” Ulbrich says. “Always bring your dog to a boarding place and spend some time with him there. Make sure he’s comfortable with it. Leave him overnight on a practice-run before you actually go away for several days.”

Not all boarding services are created equal. It’s important your dog is able to get out of his crate and go for walks.

“I prefer places where people are with the dogs 24/7,” Ulbrich says. “If they leave the dogs alone overnight, that is not safe. And some places charge extra for any time out of the kennel.”

The Wag Hotel offers posh suites to pamper your pooch. Photo courtesy of The-Puparazzi.com.  http://photos.oceanbluephotographyanddesign.com/pet-photography

The Wag Hotel offers posh suites to pamper your pooch. Photo courtesy of The-Puparazzi.com. http://photos.oceanbluephotographyanddesign.com/pet-photography

Now there are even pet-specific hotels popping up, like The Wag Hotel chain in Northern California.

These hotels offer plush rooms with all sorts of amenities – down bedding, TVs and two-way Skype so you can check in on your furry friend. You can also pick and choose from various options, including grooming, before-bed belly rubs and playtime. Wag offers themed playgroups, wine and cheese for dogs, and even snow in the winter for dogs to play in.

“It’s one of the most exciting experiences your dog will have,” Wag Hotels Business Development Manager Kristen Rau says. “And we work with some of the best in the world to give us insight to have such a clean, safe environment.”

The Bottom Line

Whether you take your dog on the road with you or leave him at home, make sure you do your research and are prepared. In the meantime, check out Beverly’s useful travel tips, including how to find a dog-friendly hotel. Safe travels!

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