There’s a secret a lot of people don’t know about our co-founder Gordie’s dog, Baxter. He absolutely hates riding in the car. He nervously shakes almost every time he gets into the car, and his family works hard to calm him down on longer road trips to make travel more relaxing for him. The holidays can be extra tough as he’s part of a large family, which can mean lots of luggage, multiple stops, and him likely wondering if the trip will ever end.
Whether your dog likes the car or not, a well thought out travel plan will go a long way towards making it feel like the most wonderful time of the year for both of you. According to AAA, more than 54 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving in 2018, with 48.5 million of those individuals doing so by car. We know that many of these people are bringing their dogs along too. We've provided a few tips below to find out what you can do to make this holiday travel season your easiest one yet.
1. Make sure your dog is road trip-ready. It would have been a great idea to take Baxter out for a few practice runs before that trying first road trip where he shook nonstop! Before you think about taking your dog in the car for a lengthy road trip, try taking him for a short drive. If he seems too anxious or stressed out by the car, you could consider making plans to leave him home with a trusted sitter. If leaving him home is not an option, talk with your vet about anti-anxiety medicine or other ideas they may have for keeping him calm in the car.
2. Always keep identification on your pet . Pets can get scared easily in a new environment, and, while hopefully your dog won’t run off, if he does, you need to make sure that whomever finds him will be able to find you. No matter your method of travel, make sure your dog is always wearing a collar. Always put ID tags on your dog’s collar too– they are worth every penny. Additionally, you should consider micro-chipping your pet – while all pets should wear a collar with contact information, a microchip is the only form of ID for your pet that is permanent and cannot be lost. Just be sure to keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.
3. Safety first – especially in the car. When we leave our driveway, we buckle up. The same should be true for our dogs. According to a study done by Kurgo, over 83% of respondents said they know it would be a safer option to restrain their dog in the car – however, only 16% of respondents do. A dog car harness is a simple way to restrain your dog in the car, and some, like Kurgo’s Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Smart Harness and Impact Dog Harness, have been crash-tested. If you want to allow your dog to have some movement, you can also buy other types of car restraints such as an Auto Zip Line or a Backseat Barrier which will prevent them from getting into the front seat.
4. Make your pup comfortable. Having some essentials along for trips with Baxter always makes him more at ease. If your dog has a favorite type of treat, pack some for the ride. It is essential to bring along lots of water as well as food travel bowls for your dog. Be sure to pack his usual food as changing a dog’s diet when you are away from home can be a recipe for GI upset. A travel bed will keep him comfortable and may make him feel less anxious. Finally, if you are traveling somewhere cold, bring a dog jacket. This will not only keep him comfortable during the ride but will also ensure he can happily enjoy outdoor activities once you’ve reached your destination.
5. Avoid air travel if you can. The Humane Society of the United States recommends against air travel for pets unless it’s truly necessary. Air travel can be very stressful for pets, and very dangerous as well. It can cause oxygen deprivation and heat stroke, or, during the winter months, hypothermia. If you do need to fly, make sure you double-check all rules with the airline, and travel with her in the cabin whenever you can. Your dog will feel less anxious knowing you are right there. Generally, only small dogs are allowed in airplane cabins, so if your dog does not meet the size requirements, consider leaving him at a kennel or with a sitter. Additionally, always be sure to choose a proper carrier as well.
6. Watch out for holiday hazards. Being in a new environment will require you to pay special attention to your surroundings so you and your dog aren’t caught off guard. An active dog left loose and unsupervised inside can lead to smashed decorations, an overturned tree, and an annoyed hostess who might not be inclined to invite you back next year. Many dogs love to chew, and holiday lights both inside and out can pose a serious risk of electrocution to them. We’ve also never met a dog who doesn’t love to eat, and ingesting something dangerous could turn your dreams of relaxing by the fire into a trip to the vet instead. Both poinsettias and chocolates are at the top of the list, but many types of foods should be avoided.
Whatever you do, if you are traveling this holiday season, the best thing you can do is make sure your dog is safe, so you can both rest easy and have an enjoyable holiday together. If you would like to see how you and your dog can be everyone’s favorite duo, also be sure to check out our article on Tips for Being a Considerate House Guest.
What tips do you have for easy holiday travel with your pet?
Brooke Spater runs Social Media Marketing at Kurgo. Among other things, she manages the Kurgo blog and enjoys spending time with her husband, 3 kids, and 90 lb. Goldendoodle named Baxter.