Imagine the wind in your hair, the sun at your back, and your best friend by your side. Your furry best friend, that is. Traveling with your dog can be the best experience of both your lives, and there are many stories of pups and humans who have gone on amazing adventures.
There are some considerations to be made before you hit the road, though, so let’s go over some tips to make your next journey with your pooch a great one!
1. Plan ahead!
Pick a location that you’ll both enjoy. Visits to parks, national monuments, and breathtaking locations can create beautiful memories. These spots can also be very dog friendly–just check their guidelines first! If you are looking for a more populated getaway, be aware of how your dog feels around crowds. Central Park might not be best for an easily overwhelmed pup, but a quiet, quaint town like Frenchtown, NJ could be perfect.
Make sure you bring lots of tasty rewards to help your dog, should a situation become a bit too much to handle. Rewarding them while they are exposed to new environments helps forge a positive association. FACT: It is a myth that you teach a dog to be fearful if you feed or pet them when they are afraid.
2. Choose your destination carefully!
While summer is the time of year most people travel, hot weather is something that should be considered before you venture out. If your dog is brachycephalic (flat-faced) or has a thick coat, you might want to head north to cooler destinations.
But if your dog doesn’t mind the warmer weather, just be sure to pack some extra water and go have some fun in the sun! Remember: Test surfaces in hot temperatures and trust your dog. If they don’t want to walk on a surface, chances are it’s either too hot or unfamiliar.
3. Practice your dog’s off-leash skills!
Looking to give your pet a little freedom on your adventure? Research locations the allow dogs to be off-leash. All national parks require dogs to be on-leash, but there are some exceptions, including most dog parks and dog beaches. Check the policies of each place before un-clipping that leash! Also, work with your dog to make sure he will come back when called.
It’s one thing to call your pup into the house from the yard. It’s another to call him away from new smells, wildlife, and canine friends. Want some help mastering that recall? Be sure to heavily reward him (WITH TREATS!) the moment he gets to you. Remember, you’re competing with all sorts of awesome sights and smells, so give a reward for ignoring them and listening to you.
4. Buckle Up!
Transportation is another consideration when heading out on your big trip. Few forms of mass transit allow dogs, so it is likely you will be chauffeuring your pooch to your destination. But who doesn’t love a road trip?! Just be sure they are safely secured in your car in either a seat belt, crate, or other car containment device. In fact, some states require that your pet ride safely and will ticket you if they see your pup with their head hanging out the window.
To make the car ride easier, give your dog something to do. A food puzzle toy that dispenses kibble and other lovely treats will keep him busy and relaxed along those long stretches of road. Also, help your dog get used to seat-belt harnesses and crates by taking short trips around the block at first, and rewarding them for sitting calmly. Consider having someone help you for the first couple of trips.
5. Keep your dog close!
If you are headed into a town, city, boardwalk, or other populated area, be sure your dog is on a leash no longer than 6ft. Besides most towns having leash laws, it’s just common courtesy to keep your dog close and out of the way of bikes, strollers, and crowded walkways.
Identification is important, too. Tags with your dog’s name, your contact information, and their proof of rabies will keep your pet safe in an emergency. We highly recommend you consider a microchip for even greater security.
If your dog is unsure or barks at strange people and other dogs, help him out by giving them some space. Consider crossing the street and finding a spot where he can observe from a distance. Once he has had a chance to calm down, he can usually better enjoy these social situations.
6. Rest stops are the best stops!
Don’t be in a rush. Pick a route with frequent rest stops so you and your pouch can stretch your legs and relieve yourselves. Because rest stops are along busy highways, always inspect your dog’s collar and leash before exiting the car to ensure he is safe and with you.
Many rest stops have picnic areas or historical landmarks to visit. Go ahead and let your dog explore. They will enjoy the new environment and smells while you relax and learn some cool new information about the area. This kind of mental stimulation helps keep your dog’s brain healthy and staves off possible future behavior problems.
7. Roughing it doesn’t have to be ruff!
Whether you’re staying in a hotel or in a tent, make sure you bring along somewhere for your dog to sleep. Bring a crate if you plan on ruffing it in a tent to keep your dog secure as you enter and exit. A favorite bed is essential, but there are a few additional suggestions to make accommodations that much more comfortable.
If you’re more of the hotel-living kind of traveler, bring a blanket to cover any bedding or furniture your dog might lounge on–housekeeping will thank you for it. Sleeping quarters are a great place to practice good manners, like a down and stay. Don’t take good behavior for granted. The more you reward it, the more your dog will repeat it.
8. Lighten your load, but not your dog’s!
When you’re done packing your suitcase or backpack, pack one for your dog, too. Be sure to bring all the essentials and then some. This includes bowls, food, toys, treats, a towel, and poop bags. Always bring extra water. While your destination might this, your dog may get an upset tummy if the water is more hard or soft than he is used to.
If you find that your dog gets anxious or feels sick, try some ginger or pumpkin to settle their stomach. Trust your pup! If they seem unsettled, eating more grass than usual, or pacing, check to see if they need to go to the bathroom or need something to relax their tummy. If they are still out of sorts, keep an eye on them and consider contacting a local veterinarian. Observation is very important when traveling–once you start paying attention, you’ll be amazed how much your dog expresses himself.
9. Give your dog a job!
And finally, as they say in every park, “Carry in, carry out!” In other words, always clean up after you and your dog, and take the waste out with you. Not all parks have garbage cans, so make sure you have a way of transporting garbage with you until you can find one. Pristine locations only stay that way with the cooperation of its visitors.
If your dog is willing to wear a backpack, they can help carry supplies in and out, too. To get him used to a backpack, start at home. Feed your dog tasty treats as you put it on and adjust the straps. Then have a play session with it on so they realize it’s not some kind of alien saddle on their back. Take it slow and repeat in short sessions. Pretty soon your pup will be a valuable hiking partner.
With the proper preparation and training, your dogs will likely be your greatest traveling companions. They won’t change the radio station, they don’t care how off-key you sing, and they might even sing along. Have a great trip!