It’s been more than five years since we’ve taken Riley on a long road trip. That time, he rode shotgun as we moved from Tampa, Fla, to the San Francisco Bay area. He did great. Soon, at the beginning of October, we’re loading up the Starship Enterprise and all taking off for a month in Santa Fe, NM. We expect the trip to take about two days and may stretch it out to three. Fortunately, Riley loves the car and adores a road trip.
It’s just August, but we’re already talking about how we can make the road trip and our month away more comfortable for our little cutie pie. So how about it if I share some dog travel tips?
Travel crate or travel seat.
If you were savvy enough to start your dog in a travel seat or crate from puppyhood, it should be fairly easy to restrain your pet safely. Dogs should not roam free in the car, even though we see it all the time. It’s not safe for the dog should you stop quickly, nor is it safe for you. Riley is a little dog and he travels in an airline travel crate that is seat-belted into the back seat. He NEVER rides in the front seat because the deployment of an airbag could kill him instantly. It’s why I hate to see drivers holding their tiny pets as they drive. You can never anticipate when someone might hit you and the bag might go off. A friend’s friend lost her dog this way. Keep your small dog safe in a crate affixed to the backseat.
I don’t like to see dogs hanging out car windows, either. The wind can blow sediment into their eyes, which could cause an infection. Or your dog can get spooked and jump out. It’s just not smart to let your dog do this. If he’s used to doing it, retrain him before you leave for your trip.
In fact, get your dog acclimated to road trips well in advance of your trip. If he gets car sick, consult your vet for a preventive and/or remedy.
Potty breaks on the road.
Under-feed your dog in the morning so he doesn’t get an upset stomach. And potty often! Don’t let your dog wait too long! You know what it’s like to have to go, so make sure that you potty him after breakfast and again less than an hour later. Then, every couple hours. Since Riley will potty outside or on a potty pad, but sometimes not on gravel, we bring small potty pads with us. If all that’s available is gravel, we put one down and voila! He knows to go.
Speaking of potty pads, if you have a small dog, they are a godsend in a rental house. Riley never has accidents and now he rarely uses a potty pad, far preferring to do his business al fresco. But in Santa Fe, we’ll only have an outdoor patio, no grass, and coyotes abound. We’ll be using potty pads more often there.
Leash and harness with tags.
When you stop for your dog’s potty, be sure to leash and collar/harness him or her up before exiting the car. It’s easy for a dog to get spooked in a new place. Be sure the leash and harness have identification tags. You don’t want your beloved pet to get lost.
If you’re leaving your dog in the hotel while you go out to dinner, crate him in a larger crate. Maids, mini-bar restockers–any worker, really–could come in and your dog could escape if she isn’t created. Don’t fill it with pillows–the crate should be large enough for the dog to stand, turn around and lie down. You may think a cushy bottom is enough, but imagine hours stuck in one position unable to stand up and turn around.
Bring medical and vaccine records.
This is just common sense. You can’t count on a vet being open if an emergency hits at an off time–be sure you have a copy of all medical and vaccination records.
Don’t forget to pack any dog meds she might need, from supplements to heartworm preventative to anything that might be needed for a chronic illness. Riley has had some eye infections, so we will bring the leftover ointment just in case a vet prescribes it.
Food and food/water bowls.
We’re bringing his regular food. Period. Also, Riley has a small, collapsible travel water bowl for the car. but we’ll also bring his familiar food and water bowls for when we get to Santa Fe. We’ll bring one for upstairs and one for downstairs.
Another common sense item–bring a few of your dog’s favorite toys when you travel. Since we’ll be in Santa Fe for an entire month, we’ll probably bring 10 or so of his favorites. He probably has more than 100 toys and we rotate them.
At home, Riley has a bed in every room (just about). For Santa Fe, we’ll bring his familiar sleeping bed for our room and a bed or two for the downstairs living area. We’ll want his beds to smell like home, so we won’t be washing them beforehand.
Be aware of dangers in your vacation city. We’ve talked with our dog loving friends about coyotes in Santa Fe, but even here in California we have mountain lions and coyotes or even birds that prey on small animals. Never leave a small dog alone outside if you live in an area with predators.
Keep the car well-ventilated, too. Never leave a pet in a hot car–NEVER.
What have I not mentioned that you think is important? Add anything that you do or think we should do below. Thanks!