Summer vacation and opportunities to travel often go hand in hand. Our dogs want to be with us, and we love to bring them along on vacation when we can. To ensure that you both have a wonderful time, some advanced planning can make a significant difference. You want to be sure you both get to relax and unwind upon arrival and that you can enjoy worry-free time together. We’ve assembled some tips to make summer travel with your dog go as smoothly as possible.
Before you go…
1. Find pet-friendly lodging
If you plan to stay in a hotel during your vacation be sure to call ahead and find out exactly how they define “pet-friendly”. It’s important to explain your expectations in detail in advance of arriving to make sure you are on the same page. Some hotels will be fine with you leaving your dog in the room during the day, but others will not allow that. If you are renting a home, be sure you are both clear as to the rules for having dogs on the property.
2. Organize the essentials
Make a packing list for the trip to include things you know your dog will need. For example, one pet parent we talked with never leaves the house without a first aid kit. There are many other items to remember including medications, plenty of water, enough food, travel bowls, a travel bed, a leash, and favorite toys. Your dog should always be wearing a collar with tags so be sure they are current, legible, and secure.
Also, be sure your dog is up to date on shots. Never leave home without a copy of your dog’s current vaccinations or any other important medical information. You might want to consider keeping a copy of these important records in your wallet or secured in the glove box of your car.
3. Get them used to the car
Some dogs are anxious in the car so may require getting acclimated in advance of a longer journey. If this sounds like your dog, build up to the longer trip by taking shorter ones around town. Once underway, consider offering a favorite toy or treat to associate the car ride with to hopefully make things go smoothly.
On the road…
4. Buckle up
The last thing any of us wants to think about is an accident, so it’s important to keep your dog secure while driving. A dog left loose in the car is dangerous for both the animal and the driver. Take the time to outfit your car and your dog with the right gear. A smaller dog will be safe and secure in a booster seat. Owners will have peace of mind when their dogs ride in the car using a crash-tested safety harness.
5. Plan to make stops
On a long trip it’s inevitable that both of you will need to stop to use the bathroom, stretch your legs, and have a water break. Your dog will probably need a break every 2 to 3 hours, but if you have a puppy you will have to stop even more frequently. Be sure you pack a leash to clip on before safely helping your dog out of the car.
Since you’re already traveling, you might as well try to find a way to take in the views or discover a beautiful place for a snack along the way. Many people like the @roadside_america app to find unique places to stop.
Also, it’s imperative to never leave a dog alone in a hot car because they can succumb to heatstroke within 15 minutes. Ideally someone in your group can walk your pooch while you run in to use the bathroom. If you are alone and the only option is to leave your dog for a minute, you may need to lock your car and leave it running with the air conditioning on.
6. Offer toys and treats
Many dogs, especially active ones, get bored sitting still for prolonged periods of time. Pack a bag with their favorite toys and offer new ones periodically throughout the trip. For a special treat, consider offering them a bone or chew to keep them busy.
When you arrive…
7. Let them explore!
Once you’ve reached your destination, there will be so many new things to see and smell. Your dog will need to let off some pent-up energy and could benefit from some exercise. Let him take time to get acclimated to the new space and smells. Ideally, you can find a spot for them to run around or to take a swim.
8. Have fun!
Bringing your dog along on vacation can make your time away even more special. You’ll be out of your usual routine and can hopefully relax and bond together. Take lots of pictures, enjoy your new surroundings, and have fun making memories together!
Brooke Spater runs Social Media Marketing at Kurgo. Amongst other things, she manages the Kurgo blog and enjoys spending time with her husband, 3 kids, and their 90 lb. Goldendoodle named Baxter.