Hitting the road this Summer with your furry friend
As the days grow warmer, many of us start daydreaming about summer trips—weekend trips, day trips, and, of course, that long and elusive summer vacation. Hitting the road for a couple of weeks during those dog days of summer is the ideal break from our work-a-day lives. But, why not give your dog a break too? Many dogs love to travel.
My dog has been a road-dog since her puppy days and there's nothing she likes better than a ride on the open highway and a few nights camping in the great outdoors or cuddled up in front of a strange fireplace. Unlike humans with our limited senses of smell, dogs experience whole new vistas with every sniff. A musty cabin or a woody campsite is a doggy diorama and a history lesson all in one for your furry pal. So, why leave your dog behind when you set out this summer—grab your doggy seatbelt or carrier, your lease, and your dog's favorite toys and you both can be on your way to new adventures!
Luckily, more and more hotels, public transportation systems, beaches, and campsites are welcoming canines and other pets. Several online websites such as DogFriendly.com, Petsonthego.com, and Petswelcome.com, provide information on dog-friendly lodgings, restaurants, transportation (public and air), and tourist sites. DogFriendly even posts a list of the most dog friendly cities in North America each year. And, many cities are now allowing small pets on public transport—and a few now allow pets of all sizes. Some airlines will allow small pets to ride in the passenger area, provided their carriers meet the "carry-on luggage size" requirements. But, of course, if you are travelling in your own car, then you won't have to worry about travel restrictions. All you'll need is a dog crate or doggy seat-belt and a time allowance for several rest stops in transit.
If you're planning a long road trip, there are certain things you'll need to do before you hit the highway. First, make sure your dog likes to travel. Some dogs don't like strange new places. I'm lucky that my dog actually gets excited when she sees me throwing things in a backpack. My cats have the opposite reaction—when they see a cat carrier come out of the closet, they run for the nearest bed. But, if your pet does enjoy the open roads (or friendly skies), then you'll need to plan ahead to make sure that your chosen summer spot accepts pets. Most city guides (online and paper) will list pet-friendly lodgings.
You'll also need to check into local veterinarians, in case an emergency should arise. You may want to ask your own vet if he has any old chums in your city of choice. If you and your pet are venturing to a remote locale, you'll need to call the nearest good-sized city and map out the location of a veterinary clinic or emergency care center. You'll also need to pack a first aid kit—for those doggy cuts and scrapes. Keep in mind that your dog may encounter insect stings, sunburns, and all the other problems that beset the average human on holiday.
You'll want to make sure that all your pet's vaccinations are up to date—often proof of vaccinations for rabies, Kennel Cough, and the like are required by pet-friendly lodgings—and you'll want to bring along your pet's medical records in case you do need to see a vet. If you're planning an excursion that involves hiking, camping, or much time in wooded areas, you'll also want to add a Lyme Vaccine to your dog's check list, if you haven't already. Ticks and fleas can be a particular hazard when you're camping—especially if your dog is napping one sleeping bag over. Make sure your dog is well protected against fleas and ticks before you're sharing a tent. I usually find that my dog weathers our camping trips tick-free. While I, on the other hand, am not so lucky.
During the trip, your dog will need lots of fresh water. Doggy energy drinks can provide a nice change of pace if you're taking a longer trip, but, in the end, there's no substitution for good ol' H2O. You'll also need to pack your dog's favorite foods, dishes, blankets, and toys. You may also want to have an extra collar with identification on hand, just in case your dog's collar gets lost in the underbrush. My dog has an uncanny ability to wiggle out of a collar—usually when I'm miles from anywhere. It helps to have another one stowed somewhere complete with your furry friend's name and address. And, don't forget your leash. While your dog may be fine walking beside you at a campsite, many beaches and most all cities require dogs to be on-leash. You can usually check beforehand (online or using a City Guide) to see what restrictions your vacation spot has regarding pets and leashes. Your dog should always be leashed in a new place where he encounters other dogs or strangers, regardless of what the leash laws are. If you frequent the same stops every summer, you furry pal may be more accustomed to people and places, and, if the leash law allows it, you may feel free to let him run a bit.
Summer is a time for fun in the sun! Don't let your best friend miss out on those long walks on the beach, strolls through the woods, or runs in the park. Take a few precautions and then take your pet along. He'll certainly thank you for the adventure and the memories will last you both a lifetime.