Hobo's Advice Column
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Current Column - Travel by Car Part II
We discussed Traveling by car by providing a checklist in Part I. Now we will discuss some of the other prepartions you should make as well as what to expect during the trip.
Is your dog able to travel?
You may have an puppy or an older dog, or there may be some medical condition that would suggest you leave your dog at home with supervision or in a kennel. Your veterinarian can help you determine if your dog should travel, or possibly prescribe something to help him be comfortable for the trip. In some cases dogs just do not have the temperament to travel and can make your and their life miserable during any sort of long trip by automobile. If you do kennel, take care in choosing the right kennel, plan and reserve well in advance, and make sure they know how to reach you. Kennels will require complete veterinary records and up to date vaccinations. It is a good idea to authorize vet care with your veterinarian.
Preparing your dog for travel.
If your dog is not used to the car, you might want to take a few steps well in advance to make the trip more comfortable for you and your dog. Start by getting your dog accustomed to traveling in the car. Usually you can do this by starting out with short trips. These trips can be just a few minutes at first. Make sure you praise your dog when the trip is complete. Gradually extend the trips to greater distance. We have found that a short trip to the dog park, for example, is rewarding to your dog. Take along some water and a bowl, stop and have some fun and give him a drink, and return home.
Get your dog used to a crate.
You will be using a crate during the trip. Many hotels require their use. At first you will leave the door open. You can toss in a toy or a treat and give a command (like "crate") and praise him when he goes into the crate, and once again when you call him out. Later you can use meal time to your advantage by putting his dinner n the crate (still with the door open). Do this for a few weeks in advance of the trip if possible. After a couple of weeks, close the door during one of his dinners. Leave the door closed a short time at first, and gradually increase the time. Later, take the crate into your bedroom and see if he will sleep in it over night. Use the same process, gradually increasing the time.
Crates can actually provide security and make your dog feel more comfortable traveling. Toss in a familiar toy or padding from his bed at home for added sense of security. Make sure the crate is secure, but well ventilated with space around it.
Dogs don't have to travel in Crates
If you have someone to take charge of your dog while traveling, you may be able to provide adequate space to travel without a crate (but you will need one for the hotel). The person should be able to control the dog. Of course one of the reasons for the crate is for the safety of the dog. Nowadays there are dog restraining harnesses available for cars that work with your seat and harness belts. Check into those. In any case, your dog needs room to lie down and be comfortable for a long drive. Remember, some sort of restraint is required for the safety of your dog and for your own safety. Just braking fast can result in the dog becoming airborne and injury. And you will need to provide for accidents (many dogs get car sick even if they are used to traveling in a car).
Not matter how you dog travels, putting him in a place where he can view the scenery usually helps prevent car sickness. Also, some ventilation from an open window can help. But don't let him stick his head out the window as objects can fly into his eyes, nose or mouth and cause injury.
The need for food and water
It is best not to overfeed your dog during the trip. Not feeding pets for about six to eight hours before traveling will help prevent upset stomachs. In part I we noted you should bring along the type of food your dog normally eats. Remember, it may be difficult to find this along the way, so bring a supply that will last through the trip. Water is important. You can obtain special bowls or buckets for use in the crate. The bowls are very deep dishes that have "no spill" edges. Keep a supply of bottled water. In some cases you can freeze a bowl of water, and allow the dog to lick it during the trip. Generally, you will be making frequent rest stops and can provide water at that time. Make sure to clean out your dogs bowls regularly to keep them sanitary.
Be sure to stop every hour or two along the way. This will be the time to provide water as well as a little exercise and potty break. We generally recommend keeping the dog on a six foot leash, and walking in the area provided. Make sure to clean up after your dog. Just a reminder, one of the reasons you made a visit to the vet to make sure all vaccinations were up to date is because these rest stops are frequented by other dogs who may carry some sort of disease. Just walking in the same are could be a concern. Always keep your dog leashed and attach the leash before you open the door.
Always park in a shady spot with good ventilation. Never leave your dog in the car more than a couple of minutes. This is particularly important in weather extremes. In the summer the car can heat up to over 120 degrees F in just a few minutes. Thgis of course can result in a great deal of damage to the dog's health, or even death. On top of that you should be concerned for your dog's safety from theft or damage to your car (another reason for the crate).
Finding Hotels and Motels.
There are many books and internet resources you can use to help find accommodations that accept pets. Note that some of these have special rules. Once you have identified which hotel or motel you are going to stay at, call ahead and find out all the requirements. They may have restrictions on the number, type and size of the pet for example. They also may require a security deposit. Get all the details.
Some resources you may find useful.
At the Hotel (or Motel)
Upon Arrival - tell the desk clerk about your dog. Ask about where you should walk it and where he is not allowed. You may also want to check about any safety hazards, chemicals being used or dangerous areas. Most hotels do not allow pets near pool areas.
It is likely that your dog will not be allowed on beds, chairs, and other furniture unless covered with your own protection (remember to take along some extra sheets or blankets). Also, you may be charged if you bath your dog in the bath area and clog drains. We have even heard of pet friendly hotels charging for excess hair on the carpet. This is one reason for the crate (which will likely be required by the hotel).
It is not recommended that you leave your dog alone in the room. Of course it happens, you need to use the restaurant for example. But if you can plan to eat in shifts, and leave someone in charge of the dog, then do so. Also, all too frequently we have heard of the maid or other hotel employee entering the room and letting out the dog. You must leave your dog in a crate. Don't be surprised if you are asked to leave the hotel if your dog is barking while you are away (or even if you are with the dog when it barks). Some don't understand this if the hotel is dog friendly, but not all guests have a dog - if they complain, then you may be out.
Never let the dog ride on an escalator. They can catch their claws in the mechanism. You should even be careful in an elevator.
Be prepared for muddy feet - have something to wipe them off before entering the hotel.
If something is damaged, then advise the hotel immediately and offer to pay for it. If you do not report it you are far more likely to be charged for the damage.
Have a safe trip!
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