The ultimate how-to guide for keeping your dog happy and safe while travelling

by John Woods
Stripes Europe

Whether you are planning regular vacations with your four-legged friend or family members simply want you to take Fido when you attend holiday gatherings, travelling with your dog certainly can be easier said than done.  Here are some top tips to help you keep your dog happy and safe when racking up those miles!

Start with the car
If you are planning on travelling by car, it pays to have done some dummy runs before any longer drives.  This is so your dog can get used to being in the car, the sensation and movement.  It also gives you an indication whether travel sickness needs to be on your list of things to manage too.

Travel sickness can be quite common with smaller designer dogs. Ensure your pup is restrained in the car, whether this is by harness or crated in the back and start with short journeys around the block.  Providing your dog copes with this, you can increase the time spent in the car. 

As distances get longer, practice stopping to go to the toilet. It gives you an opportunity to get Fido out of the car in a strange place, along with encouraging him to toilet in a strange place.  Then you have the experience of getting him back in the car, when everything else around him is super-interesting. 

High value treats will be your life saver here!  If you know what to expect, and figure out what works for your dog, you’ve got more chance of your planned trip going without a hitch.

Don’t forget toilet breaks
When you arrive wherever you are going, the first stop needs to be a toilet break.  If you are meeting family, friends or any humans — providing your dog is sociable — he’ll be excited. 

You need to get the toileting out of the way before he gets too excited and forgets. It sometimes helps to stop a little further out from your destination to take him for a short walk, you can burn off a little energy and make sure he’s done his business.  You’ll soon figure what works best for you. 

Introduce him to the accomodation
Observe and monitor him as he’s exploring his new holiday home, and watch for signs of stress.  If he’s panting excessively, salivating, pacing or appearing frantic, he could be stressed.  Some dogs would rather a quiet meander outside to help calm themselves down. For some dogs, this can heighten their stress levels more. 

If your dog is crate trained, take their crate with them.  It can help some dogs settle as they know it’s their space; they are safe, it smells of them and it smells of home.  You may want to give them a chew or their meals in the crate to reinforce that it is still their crate even though it’s moved.

Keep their routine
Whie you are away, try to keep their routine as similar as possible.  So, if you usually have two walks per day, one in the morning, one in the evening, try to keep to this.  Even if you have longer walks planned for your vacation, you may head out for a longer one in the morning, still pop out for a quick stroll later in the day. 

Try to keep their mealtimes to similar times too.  We know that you may eat out while you’re away, but if your dog usually has lunch and dinner, try to keep to that general structure.  They learn that even though they’re away from home, they still get what they need. 

Rest days and re-socialization
It’s easy to plan plenty of activities while you’re away but be mindful not to over-load your dog.   Whie they are exploring new places, seeing new people, smelling new smells and hearing new things, their body will be in a state of arousal.  Some dogs will cope with this, some dogs won’t.  Some dogs may become hyper or frantic and some may become withdrawn and lethargic. It’s easy to misread these situations as a dog being excited and interested and then tired from all the excitement respectively.  If your dog is displaying new or different behaviours, it’s worth looking at the environment and whether you should take a recovery day!

Wherever you choose to travel with your dog, it’s important to be prepared.  Be mindful of the temperament of your dog and how new experiences and places will affect him.  Will he be happy joining in with the high-adrenaline adventures or would he rather a quieter stroll in a calmer town?  Practice shorter journeys before you head out on longer ones, and ensure he’s securely restrained during the drive. 

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