By: Donna Gleason, CDBC, CPDT, MA; CCBS Research Associate
With the COVID - 19 restrictions slowly being lifted, chances are your plans might include some form of travel. Developing your travel plans typically is the easy part! What can become difficult is determining if you should bring your family pet with you - or not. Whether you're planning to get away for an extended period of time or an overnight excursion, a good place to start is to take an inventory of your type of travel and then determine where your pet would be happiest. Let’s take a look at some of the questions that should be asked to help make this decision process easier.
Does your dog need routine and consistency? Some dogs are happiest when life is predictable. Many years ago, I knew of a family who took their dog with them on their annual vacation. Although they thought bringing Fluffy was the right thing to do, Fluffy was miserable the entire time. He was unable to settle, began to bark at even the littlest noises, and became slightly anorexic. Needless to say, the next time his owners went away on their annual vacation, he stayed at home with a trusted pet care provider. This solution became a win-win as everyone, both humans and canine, were much happier.
NOTE: Sometimes pets who need routine and consistency can benefit from staying in familiar surroundings with a trusted pet sitter. According to Derek Dermane, owner of Home Sweet Home - Dog Walking and Pet Sitting, “The best way to prepare a pet to stay at home with a pet care provider is to make sure everyone has ample time to meet beforehand so that a relationship can be developed before the date of the actual trip. In the end, it is all about trust. If a pet is comfortable with their pet care provider, the owner will be able to relax and enjoy their vacation knowing that their pet is in good hands.”
Does my dog have the right amount of energy for the trip we are taking? Bringing your dog on a vacation where he will be left alone with limited opportunities for physical stimulation may not be the best choice for a high energy pet. Conversely, taking a dog who is a couch-potato on a camping/hiking trip through the Appalachian Trail may also not be a good fit. Here’s what happened to our friend Fluffy. Prior to leaving on vacation, his owners fantasized about the endless hours of off-leash activities while on the beach. This never happened. On the first day of vacation, his owners were presented with a $50 fine. You see, Fluffy was off-leash in a town that took their leash laws seriously. Needless to say this “perfect” vacation was becoming quite miserable.
NOTE: When planning a vacation, take into consideration the energy level of your dog and if you are going to be able to take care of that need based on your planned itinerary. You might wish to consider boarding your pet. Typically, boarding facilities are either cage-free or have individualized kennels. I would recommend getting referrals, recommendations, and visiting the facility prior to making any boarding decisions.
Does your dog have any health issues? Does your dog get car sick on long trips? Does your dog have joint issues that traveling for long distances exacerbates his level of pain? Does your dog require special bedding to alleviate pain? Are you traveling with a senior dog? Sometimes senior dogs may be taking medications that are necessary for their survival. If that is the case, will you or someone else be able to consistently give the needed medications throughout the entire vacation? These are all questions that should be asked if traveling with a pet who has special needs.
NOTE: If your pet is traveling with you or if you are leaving your pet at a boarding facility, always have the following documents available:
Current copy of your pet’s veterinary records
Medications (including dosages and how administered)
Proof of vaccinations (including rabies)
Pre-existing medical conditions
A list of emergency contacts, including your veterinarian
Does the environment where you are staying offer pet friendly accommodations? Doing your research beforehand when planning a pet friendly vacation can be worth its weight in gold. Websites like www.dogfriendly.com can help. Here are some questions, you can ask the resort/facility to determine if it is right for you:
Does the facility have restrictions based on the size or breed of the dog?
What amenities (Grooming? Pet-Sitting? Dog Walking?) are available to canine travelers?
What are the rules for being on or off-leash?
Are there areas in the facility that pets are not permitted?
Will there be an extra charge for traveling with a pet?
NOTE: When traveling with your pet make sure identification information is current, including your address and cell phone number. Remember, do not use your home telephone as you will not be home. Consider having a microchip put on your dog or cat as a permanent form of identification. Finally, always travel with a picture of you and your dog together as added proof of ownership.
Bottomline: When making your summer travel plans, factoring in the type of travel you will be doing and the needs of your dog, will make the decision process of where your dog should stay much easier.
Donna Gleason, CPDT, CDBC, MA, is the owner and operator of TLC Dog Trainer, LLC (www.tlcdogtrainer.com) in Sherman, CT.