Most dog owners consider their pets members of the family, and some (mostly people without children) consider them the same as actual children. So the idea of leaving Mr. Sniffles in a kennel while your family sees the world can be as horrible as the idea of leaving your child with a bowl of kibble and a bunch of water while the rest of you vacation.
Of course, traveling with dogs adds another wrinkle to the already complicated process of traveling with children, so being prepared before you hit the road is key. Here are some tips to ensure happy trails for you and your pooch.
1) Get him car-ready. Some dogs love car rides, some consider them a form of torture, and some are such massive spazzes they don't even know what to do. Get your dog roadworthy by taking her on a few short trips ending in something she loves to do ... a trip to the ice-cream store, the pet supply place, or the dog park. If he associates the car with good things, he'll be much happier to spend a bunch of time there.
2) Buckle up. You wouldn't think of setting off on a road trip without your kids in the proper safety seats. Well, same goes for your dog ... not only can they be killed or injured in an accident without safety restraints, they can strangle themselves if they hang their heads out the window (our giant lovable dork of a dog we had growing up nearly did this). If you have room, there are dog safety restraints you can clip right into your seat belts, but a crate is the best way to go (this will come in handy at your destination, as well). Make sure it has a waterproof bottom lined with absorbent material, a "live animal" sticker on it (in the event of a crash, rescuers will know to help the dog), and no protrusions inside that could snag his collar or his skin.
3) Prepare for disaster. No one wants to lose their beloved companion on a vacation, so make sure your dog has a sturdy leash and collar, a tag with your name and cellphone numbers that is securely attached, and just in case, snap a picture of him with your cellphone right before you leave so you'll have a current picture to use for lost-and-found flyers, etc. Make sure your hand is on the leash and the leash is securely clipped to the dog BEFORE you open the car door.
4) Stock up on food and water. Food's kind of a no-brainer -- no one wants to suffer the consequences of an abrupt change in food when stuck in a confined space with a dog -- but did you know water could also cause a problem? One tip is to fill a gallon jug from your home tap and refill it with the local water along the way, so the change will be gradual.
5) Train your kids. Make sure they know not to harass the dog or to give him any of their road snacks. And try to convince them to keep sibling fighting to a minimum; if it stresses you out, imagine being your poor dog, who can't even get away from the chaos like he normally does.
6) Find a pet-friendly hotel and reserve early. Bring Fido has listings of pet-friendly hotels, with information on extra pet fees, weight restrictions, and more. Always call to confirm before booking ... some hotels may only set aside a certain number of pet-friendly rooms, or their polices may have changed. Make sure to be considerate of other hotel guests and staff: clean up messes, don't leave Poochie alone to bark all day, and leave a good tip for your maid.
Do you like taking your dog on vacation?
Image via Tobyotter/Flickr