How to decide whether to bring your dog with you on your next trip. By Kim Salerno
My dogs are my kids, and I love spending time with them. I would be completely happy to take them everywhere I go, and I know that other pet parents feel the same way. However, as fun as it seems, the decision to take a pet on the road – particularly on a lengthy trip – is one that requires some thought. Before you load your pets in the car, it’s important that you take some factors into consideration – keeping their best interests in mind.
Does Your Pet’s Temperament Lend itself to Road Trips?
Some of my dogs are more easygoing than others, and some of them enjoy road trips more than others. If your pet is adaptable and friendly, choosing to take him along is a pretty easy decision. However, if he’s nervous, uneasy on car rides, or if he gets anxious going to new places or meeting new people, he may not be an ideal travel companion (not to say that he can't be with a llittle bit of training).
It’s also important to consider others when you plan your trip. If you will be going anywhere where there may be crowds, children, or other pets, your pet needs to be well-behaved and well-socialized.
Will Your Pet Enjoy the Trip?
Will your pet be comfortable? Will he enjoy the activities you have planned? All of my dogs love a good outdoor adventure, so a hiking or beach trip is a no-brainer. Tucker loves coming along when I go window shopping, or when I stop for lunch at a dog friendly restaurant. You know your dog best, so you are the best person to judge whether he would have a good time.
If you will be stuck in meetings throughout your trip and forced to leave Fido in doggie day care (many pet friendly hotels prohibit pets from staying in your room without you), or if you and your Great Dane will be staying in your sister’s tiny apartment, you may want to reevaluate whether your pet should come along on.
Is Your Pet in Good Health?
If your pet is unwell or hurt, your first instinct may be to travel with him so you can keep an eye on him. After all, who would care for him better than you? However, it may be best for your pet to stay behind until he feels better. After all, he may need more care than you can give him while you’re busy driving, and since he can’t tell you how he feels, there’s no real way of knowing how uncomfortable he really is. Pain and discomfort can even cause your pet to act out, making him a less-than-pleasant travel companion.
If your pet is elderly, but otherwise feels well, you’ll need to make the call. If he is used to taking car trips, still enjoys them, and feels comfortable, taking him along will probably be good for him. If you’re undecided, a quick consultation with your vet can help you figure out whether taking him along is in his best interest.
Are You Traveling Across State Lines?
Different states have different regulations and restrictions when it comes to pets. Some states require quarantines for cats, dogs and other carnivorous pets, and some require you to have an up-to-date certificate stating that your pet is in good health. While you may in all likelihood never be asked to present it, it’s best to ask your vet for a good health certificate if you plan any interstate travel.
If your pet is healthy, friendly and easygoing, hitting the road together is a fantastic way to break up the day-to-day routine and embark on some fun adventures. It’s also a great opportunity to spend quality time together. However, even if your pet isn’t the perfect travel companion right now, it doesn’t mean he never can be.
There are a number of ways to successfully deal with temperament problems. With good training and patient coaching, your pet can become less sensitive to stimuli and more comfortable with travel. Be aware that most desensitizing techniques take time to work, and if you want your pet to be a happy travel companion, you’ll need to be patient and understanding and let him set the pace.
If your pet suffers from travel anxiety, planning brief trips, or planning trips that end up somewhere exciting and fun can help teach him that travel is rewarding. If your pet experiences motion sickness during car rides, there are a number of remedies that may alleviate his suffering, including holistic remedies, reconditioning and medication.
All told, with a little bit of patience and some hard work from both of you, even a reluctant pet traveler can learn to like car trips, opening up new opportunities for you both to explore and enjoy each other’s company.