Autumn is the season of weekend getaways by car. We take short trips to attend alumni events at our high school, to enjoy the changing colors of the leaves, or to attend family day at our child’s college.
Many of us are eager to bring along the family pet along, but wonder how to make a road trip work with our canine best friend in the back seat. Following are my suggestions for successful car travel with a pet.
• Know Your Pet. Before you make any arrangements, think about your pet’s personality. Does he do well in new situations and greet new people eagerly, or does he become shy and nervous? Does she enjoy going for a car ride around town, or does she get carsick on the way to the vet?
• Think about Health. If you are traveling to a different area of the country -- especially into the woods or countryside -- you might encounter parasites that are not common to your home region. Check with your veterinarian for advice about risks to your pet and how best to safeguard against them.
• Consider your Route and Destination. It’s best to leave your pet behind if you plan to visit sites that are not pet-friendly. It’s just not fair to keep your pet cooped up alone in a strange hotel room, and you should NEVER leave a pet in the car.
If you decide that your pet is a good traveler and that your destination is safe and pet-friendly, it’s time to start planning.
• Book Lodging Early. While more hotels are opening rooms to travelers with pets, those limited accommodations can fill up quickly. Call early and ask about any restrictions, especially if you have a large or very active dog. If your hotel won’t accept pets, check for nearby boarding facilities where your pet can spend the night. Make sure you bring along your vaccination records. Best Friends offers quality boarding at more than 40 Locations around the U.S.
• Prepare Identification Tags. Be sure your pet is wearing two sets of identification – one for your destination with your cell phone number on it and one for home. If he gets lost or separated from you, you want whoever finds him to be able to contact you right away.
• Use your leash. Always use the leash when you leave the car. Even if your dog is well trained and responsive off-leash at home, he could become disoriented in unfamiliar territory. (Make sure his collar is snug when you walk him in strange places so he doesn’t slip out of it.) You don’t want your pet to disappear into the woods when you stop at a rest area on the highway.
• Pack the Familiar. Bring along a few of your pet’s toys and bedding from home as well as his food and treats. Dogs, in particular, are creatures of habit; familiar items will add a bit of comfort in a strange place.
Once you get underway, enjoy the road, but don’t forget your pet’s special needs:
• Stop for Stretch Breaks. You should make a stop about every two hours to give your pet a chance to get out and stretch.
• Offer Plenty of Water. Always carry fresh water and offer it to your pet frequently so he won’t become dehydrated. A collapsible water bowl is easy to pack and carry.
• Don’t Leave Pets in the Car. Never leave your pet alone in a parked car for more than a few minutes at a time. Even in autumn, the temperature inside your car can rise rapidly on a sunny day, putting your pet at risk for heat stroke.
If you decide your pet would be happier staying behind or if you plan to use a boarding kennel on the road, be sure to make your reservations early (and find out hours of operation so you can mesh your schedule with theirs). Good boarding kennels fill up quickly during the peak fall travel season weekends.