Traveling With Your Puppy
Summer is here, and so our thoughts inevitably turn to travel to places far and away — places different from where we live. We head to the beach, the mountains, or maybe just a theme park or other tourist destination of our dreams.
I imagine that for some folks those dreams include their puppy.
Frankly, between you and me: I’m not taking my puppy with me to Disneyland. In general I don’t vacation with my dogs. This year is posing a particular challenge because Mia, my lab, is all grown up and too big to board for free at my work due to space constraints.
I had no idea how expensive boarding dogs is! You guys have my sympathies. Thankfully, I’ve got staff members who can house sit for me and take care of all my critters for less than it would cost to board everybody. (Everybody being three dogs and a rabbit. The fish get those feeding log things and the hermit crab just died … may he rest in peace.)
Mia does travel with us to our place in Galveston (a lovely barrier island off the coast of Texas, for those who may not know).
So for this assignment, I’ll think back to those early days when we took the 300-ish mile trek down to the beach when Mia was a puppy.
For the record, I’m not sure how great an idea it is to bring your puppy into a rental or hotel room situation, given their potential for destruction. I suppose if you crate them that could minimize the potential damage, but there is also the noise issue of an unhappy crated puppy. Your neighbors might not think little Fluffy is too cute after a day of her hollering while you are emptying your wallet out at the nearest theme park.
When it came to traveling with young Mia, I first made sure there was a crate available at our final destination. One of the first times we took Mia to the beach house, we used this big fabric collapsible crate that my mom used to use for her previous dog Destin, who was perfect.
Mia, being 100-percent "not perfect," chewed out of that crate the first time we ever had her stay in it. Thus, we bought a wire crate that stays at the beach house.
I guess the next most important thing to remember is to pack dog food. I usually measure out enough food to last the duration of the trip plus a few extra portions, just in case. Plus, I’m usually thinking about many things at once and I often lose count of the number of portions I’ve just put in my baggie.
I also pack a supply of her treats, chews and favorite toys so she won’t get homesick.
Being a vet, I also pack an emergency kit. Initially I took diarrhea and vomit medication, ear wash, suture material and sedative. Now I always bring probiotics (started ahead of time) to prevent garbage gut diarrhea from eating dead things on the beach, and the ear cleaner. I figure I can get the rest of the stuff from a local vet if I need it. (The ear cleaner is just to dry her ears out after she swims in the ocean.)
This is kind of random, but Mia used to have a light that attached to her collar for walking her in the dark. She got it wet and it stopped working, but at a minimum, a flashlight is nice to have, since she insists on only pooping on the beach and it gets very dark out there at night. There is a great flashlight app for your iPhone that turns the camera flash into a light if you are in a pinch.
During the road trip itself, I think the scariest parts (for me) were the rest stops. I travel with little kids so we stop several times (including a requisite stop at Buck-ees, quite simply the finest Truck-and-rest-and-snack spot between Dallas and Houston).
I was pretty nervous about letting little not-fully-vaccinated Mia walk around out there on the same grass that hundreds of other dogs walk on, picking up their germs. I tried to pick the areas less traveled by other dogs and kept the walks short.
She always travels with her harness and leash on, in case she tries to jump out of the car when we stop. Mia rides on the floorboards because there is no space for her between the kids. In an ideal situation, the safest places for the dog would be: on the seat (wearing a seat belt), or in the very back of an SUV behind a grate.
Mia is a great traveler; she just sleeps all the way there (even when she was a pup). Scully, my other dog, used to get carsick. I quickly learned not to feed her before any road trip or she would wait until about 20 minutes till we got to our destination and then she’d "ralph" her entire breakfast. Then we had to smell it for the duration of the trip. She hated riding in the car.
Now she does better if she rides in one of the kid’s car seats so she can see out the window, and she largely has outgrown the car sickness thing. Ask your vet, though, because there is now medication that is labeled for preventing motion sickness for dogs that, according to the drug company, is pretty effective.
Oh, and this is random too, but it might be a good idea to have things for the dog to chew in the car. Mia once got bored and chewed a water bottle, which then spilled water onto the power strip the kids were using to power their electronics and shorted it out. Even worse was when I was driving home in the dark with Mia in the back seat. She was awful quiet, but who was I to complain? The next day I realized that she had chewed my seat belt in half.
Anyhow, those are just a few tips for traveling with your pup. You guys have anything to add?
Dr. Vivian Cardoso-Carroll