Traveling with Dogs: Easy Ways to Make the Car Trip and Stay Stress-Free
If you caught our post on what to pack for your dog’s boarding stay, you know that boarding is like a vacation for your dog at Cold Nose Lodge. I know we all wish our best friends could pal around with us on our trips, and at the Lodge, we love hearing about pet-friendly vacations! If you’ve planned a trip your pup will enjoy just as much as you will, use the guide below to make both the car trip and the stay a fun and enjoyable experience.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Make an emergency plan
At home you know exactly what to do in an emergency. You have your vet’s number handy and know the fastest route to the nearest 24-hour emergency pet hospital. Make sure to research the same information and have it on hand for your vacation spot. Keep your vet’s number on hand as well in case they need to confer with the local vet. Accidents can happen anywhere, and exploring a new and exciting place away from home may increase the risk of little mishaps. Being prepared with this information is invaluable in an emergency.
Practice car trips
If your dog isn’t used to riding in the car, in the weeks or days leading up to your vacation, take some test drives. Make sure to make the ride a positive experience with plenty of praise and a treats. If your dog only takes rides to the vet, they may not understand that they are going somewhere else. This isn’t a problem if they love the vet, but if they’re not a huge fan, it could be an issue. Bring them down to Cold Nose Lodge for a quick shop around our boutique or even a fun day of daycare to teach them that the car is the gateway to many fun experiences.
Plan dog friendly stops along the way
Keep your pup in mind when planning your rest stops. If you enjoy stopping at a restaurant along the way for a break, find one that is pet friendly. There are resources online you can use like www.bringfido.com. Call the restaurant to make sure the information you found online is correct and up to date. *Remember, if you’re hot, they’re hot. Never leave your dog in a car on a summer day, even if the window is cracked. For reference, on a 70 degree day, a car can heat up to 89 degrees in just 10 minutes, and to 104 in 30 minutes. At 80 degrees outside, a car can heat up to 99 degrees in 10 minutes and 114 in 30 minutes. It happens much more quickly than many people realize and can be fatal.
Bathroom breaks should also be planned with your dog in mind. Stop somewhere where there is room for your pup to go as well. As always, please make sure to clean up after your dog.
Consider crate training
Most crates collapse easily for transport and can be lifesavers on vacation. For many dogs, their crate is like their den, a comfortable, familiar space that is theirs alone. Something to remember is that your vacation home or hotel is strange and unfamiliar for your dog. If you need to run out to the store or you’d like to go out for a nice dinner and need to leave them alone, they may not be comfortable in this new place by themselves. Dogs who can usually be left alone with no issue may be loud and destructive in a new place. The familiarity of the crate can assure your dog that just as other times you’ve secured them in the crate, you’ll be back to let them out soon.
If your dog is not crate trained, give it a try! The crate should absolutely be a happy place, so when they enter, give them plenty of praise. Treats help too! If they can be trusted alone with blankets and some of their favorite toys, add theses items to a crate. Start out with just 5 minutes alone in the crate and work your way up. Some dogs take to the crate with no issue, while others need more time. Play it by ear to see if the crate can be a comfortable, safe place for your pup. Keeping a light sheet or blanket covering the crate can also make it feel den-like and cozy. Just make sure there is adequate airflow.
Exercise your dog
Wouldn’t it be ideal for your dog to nap during your trek? Getting your dog extra exercise during the the days leading up to your trip, and on the day of is possible, can make the drive easier. Longer walks and games like fetch that get your dog moving are great options. Bring your dog to daycare at Cold Nose Lodge for a full day (10 hours of play) or half day (5 hours of play) so that they can expend all that extra energy with their daycare friends as well as dogs who are spending their vacations with us!
WHAT TO BRING
Food, water, & any medications
Pack your dog’s regular food to eat while you’re on vacation. An abrupt change in diet can cause gastric distress and make your dog sick. This is one of the reasons we require owners to bring their own food when dogs stay at the Lodge. If your dog has a sensitive stomach or you know they get motion sickness, wait to feed them until you arrive at your location. As long as they’re not on medication that is required to be taken with food, a small fast during your trip can prevent a mess. If they are on medication, consult with your vet to come up with a game-plan. Many times, the medication can be given at a time where they have time to digest their food and eliminate before traveling so that the medication (and their food) isn’t thrown up.
We all get thirsty during long summer drives so make sure to pack water for your dog to keep them hydrated along the way. If you’re able, have a passenger give your dog water 15-30 minutes before a planned rest stop so that they’re able to relieve themselves.
Bring any regular medications your dog takes so that you’re able to administer them as usual during your vacation.
A dog seat belt/seat belt harness to secure your dog
Make sure your dog is secured and in the back seat in case of a collision to prevent tragedies like ejections and the impact of an airbag. From seat belt harnesses to simple connectors that can be used with any harness, there are many options to secure your dog in your car. We have a few options in stock at the Lodge if you’d like to stop by and check them out. Do not secure your dog with anything connected to their collar, but instead a harness that will spread any impact over a larger area of the body instead of to the neck. Just like children, please keep your dog in the backseat as they can be killed by the impact of the airbag. If your dog absolutely must travel in the front seat, move the seat back as far as possible.
Make sure your dog is wearing identification (tags, collar) and that the information is up to date in case of escape. Is your dog microchipped? Make sure that the microchip database information is correct as well. It’s easy to move or change a phone number and forget to update it on your dog’s microchip. Is your dog not microchipped? It’s not as expensive as it sounds. For under $50, your vet can quickly and easily insert a microchip under your dog’s skin (you and they won’t notice it’s there and there is no recovery time). If your dog is lost, the chip can be scanned so that you can be reunited with your dog. It’s universally known here in the US that found dogs should be scanned for a microchip. Also keep recent, clear pictures of your dog, and vet records just in case you would need them at a moment’s notice if you lose your dog or during another emergency incident.
Toys and familiar items
For the long ride, toys can be a useful distraction, especially puzzle food toys. For example, a frozen Kong can provide a special cold treat on a hot summer day and keep your dog occupied. Just make sure to protect your car seats with a towel or blanket. Toys are a great alternative for entertainment to letting your dog hang their head out the window. As much as some dogs love it, you don’t want your dog to get injured. Save this activity for slow, leisurely drives, and consider investing in Doggles.
Don’t forget to bring along some familliar items to make your accommodations feel like home. Your dog will appreciate their bed and some blankets from home to cuddle up with. Bring along their regular bowls so that you can keep their routine as close to normal as possible.
- Pheromones: Designed to mimic the comforting pheromones that calmed your dog as a puppy, products like DAP can help relax your dog on a car trip. At the Lodge, we carry both travel Adaptil spray as well as Sentry calming collars and drops.
- Thundershirt: Thundershirts are not only for storms! A compression wrap can bring a dog comfort during travel. Think of this calming pressure as a gentle hug. Thundershirts come in all sizes from XXS to XXL. If you’d like to purchase a Thundershirt to help calm your dog, stop into the Lodge. Bring your pup along! We’re happy to show you how to put it on your dog with the correct amount of pressure to alleviate anxiety.
- Calming Music: There is frequency-modified music that is clinically proven to help calm dogs and reduce stress, for example, Pet Acoustics’ preloaded speakers, and Through a Dog’s Ear. However, listening to some Pop, Country, or Classical music on your road trip are great options to help calm your dog.
- Supplements or Medication: If your dog struggles with anxiety on a daily basis, options like Herbsmith’s Calm Shen can be life-changing, but take a few weeks to see effects. If your dog is pretty even keeled and just needs a little help for the car ride, consider supplements that are immediately effective. We have a variety of options at the Lodge that are perfect for the occasional car trip. Stop in and we can help you find the one that is best for your dog and situation. You can also consult with your vet if you feel that prescription medication is called for in your case.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE
Do a once-through to dog-proof the vacation house/hotel room
Is that ceramic figurine on the bottom shelf just waiting to be tipped over by a happy tail? Is there anything you spot that could be harmful or just too tempting for your dog? Is there an escape route that your pup would find? You know your dog best and prevention is your best tool.
Set up a cozy area for your dog
Just like you unpack and set up your room when you arrive, do the same for your dog. Place their crate, bed, blanket, bowls, and toys in an area they can call their own for the week. Remember, feed them when you arrive if they’ve been fasting during the car trip. Afterward, you can show them where to eliminate during your stay.
Have a happy, fun, and safe vacation you lucky dogs!