SAFER TRAVELS – Secure pets are a better bet on the road
By Gina Spadafori
The number of people who travel with their dogs is growing, and so too are the options for pets on the road. From “ruffing it” at campgrounds to enjoying fabulous four-star hotels, the time has never been better to pack up your pet and go.
Still, traveling with a dog is no picnic sometimes. Finding lodgings can be difficult, luxurious inside dining is largely sacrificed in favor of eating takeout in the car or a park, and spending hours tripping through quaint shops becomes a thing of the past when a dog is waiting. Traveling with dogs offers some challenges, but nearly all are surmountable with common sense and creativity.
The travel industry wants to help, that’s for sure. Countless books cover traveling with dogs, and some travel agents have carved out a niche booking canine-centered vacations. People in the travel industry have learned that many people with dogs are exceptionally grateful for pleasant accommodations, and so return to the places that treat them well year after year. As a result, some entrepreneurs have gone to great lengths to attract dog lovers. You can even find canine camps, where people do nothing but share a slice of “dog heaven” with their pet for a week or more at a time.
Is your pup ready to hit the road? As with all other training, ending up with a good car-rider starts with molding correct behavior when your dog is a puppy. No matter how cute or how small, do not allow your pup to ride in your lap, and don’t make a fuss over him while you’re driving.
Traveling with your dog in a crate is often easier and definitely safer. Depending on the size of your dog and the size and shape of your car, a crate may not be feasible. It should always be considered, though, especially for those dogs who are so active that they distract the driver. Collapsible crates are available for easy storage in the trunk when not in use.
Another safety tool is a doggy seat belt. Some models attach to the vehicle’s seat belt and then to a harness you provide, while others come complete with harness. Also good for keeping a pet in place — if you have a station wagon, van or SUV — are widely available metal barriers that fit between the passenger and cargo areas. These barriers aren’t considered as safe in the event of a crash as a crate or a safety belt, but they do solve the problem of a dog whose behavior can distract the driver.
If your dog’s only exposure to travel is an occasional trip to the veterinarian’s, don’t be surprised if he hates car rides. Try to build up his enthusiasm by increasing his time in the car and praising him for his good behavior. The first short trips should be to pleasant locations, such as parks.
Because most of the car-sickness problems come from fear, not motion sickness, building up your pet’s tolerance for riding in a car is a better long-term cure than anything you could give him. Ask your veterinarian’s advice for any medication to help in the short term.
On the road, remember to stop at regular intervals, about as often as you need to for yourself, for your dog to relieve himself and get a drink of fresh water. Always keep your dog on a leash for his own safety. And don’t forget that your dog’s ID tags are never as important as when you’re on the road.
With a few short practice trips and some training, you’ll be on the road in no time.