It is summer! The sun is out, the beach is beckoning, and the open road is calling you. Whether you’re taking advantage of summer vacation to go out and make some memories, or you’re taking a cross-country trip or move, there are plenty of things that you can do to make your trip a success for you and your pet.
Consider the options
Before taking your pet with you on a trip, consider your options and know your own pet’s behavior and preferences. Is your pet prone to severe carsickness? Does your pet have a difficult time coping with change? Is your destination pet-safe and pet-friendly? Although it is wonderful to have man’s best friend along for the trip, if it isn’t necessary for your pet to come along, consider setting up an alternative solution, such as a kennel (where your dog can get the socialization and attention he needs), or a pet sitter (so your dog, cat, or other pet can remain in the familiar comfort of home while still getting one-on-one play time and care from a friend).
If you know you do want your pet along for the ride (you’re going for a weekend to the beach or the lake, or perhaps you’re moving from one state to the next, or even across the country) these tips will help you stay safe and happy for the ride.
Before the Trip
Prepare a home away from home.
Everyone feels comforted by some familiarity. Bring along your pet’s favorite toys, your pet’s bedding, and something that smells like home (a blanket or a shirt or sweater you’ve recently worn). Set these items up in a special pet spot that is designated specifically for your pet. Remember, pets like to have their own space too!
Consider crate training
Another step toward making a comfy zone for your pet is to get them a crate. Crates are great for traveling pets because it gives them the security of an enclosed, safe place. Crates are also great for you because they create a barrier between you and your pet, allowing you to drive without so much distraction. Prior to a trip, take the time to crate train your pet. Put the crate in your car and introduce your pet to it. Let them explore and sniff it out. Spend time every day in the crate, working up to the point where your pet willingly enters the crate and lets you close the door and walk away without putting up a fuss. Start to take short car trips with your pet in their crate. This will help them transition to a much longer car trip. When crate training, remember that attitude is key. If you don’t treat the crate like a prison, your pet will be less likely to see it that way.
Plan your packing
Plan carefully for the items that you’ll need to bring for your pet. Bring more than enough food to cover the length of your trip (don’t get caught without your pet’s specific preferred brand of food away from home. Remember, brands can change as you travel across the country). Also bring a good supply of treats. Remember any medications your pet needs (especially those he may take on a monthly basis, such as topical flea treatments and others). If your pet is sensitive to change, bring bottled water from home for drinking and gradually mix in greater proportions of the water in your new location. Invest in a spill-proof bowl and other items that will help your car to stay clean (such as a back seat cover and extra bags to dispose of waste at rest stops). Be sure in your choice of toys that if you bring a noise-making toy that you’ll be ready to listen to it for much of the trip.
Double check that the accommodations you’ve arranged are pet friendly. Call before you reserve if you’re not sure.
On the trip
Burning off the energy.
Right before you go, and right after you arrive at your destination, be ready to help your pet burn off energy. A brisk walk or run before a trip will get your dog’s energy out and it can also help you to clear your head and stay more alert on the road. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, remember that while you may be tired, your dog probably won’t be after keeping still for so long. Be prepared with a game, find a park nearby, or take another walk to keep your dog happy.
Take a break!
Give your pet and yourself the luxury of lots of breaks. For an extended trip, try to stop at least every two hours. This will keep everyone comfortable and will give your pet chances to relieve himself.
Where to eat?
Many establishments will not allow you to bring your pet inside. Plan ahead for meals by bringing food or getting take-out food that you can eat outdoors, maybe in a nearby park. This will prevent you from having to leave your pet alone in the car, which is not recommended, especially in warm areas.
A timely snack
If you’re looking for ways to keep your dog or cat occupied on a car trip, try giving him a toy that combines food and a puzzle. One of the most popular toys of this variety is the Kong toy, which is a hollow, rounded toy made of hard, pliable material. You stash food and treats inside and then let your pet try to figure out how to get the food out again.