It is well into travel season again, and we’re all excited about the journeys we take, including the dogs.  Our Newfs love road trips.

This morning I drove past an SUV that was packed to the hilt.  Luggage was crowded in around the cargo area, stacked on each side of a crate and across the top.  Hmmm.  So, when we pack, we don’t want to forget anything important, and it can be a tight squeeze to fit everything in that we may need.  However, a dog riding in a crate in the cargo area that is covered with luggage won’t have adequate ventilation.  Even IF the vehicle has rear air conditioning, there isn’t adequate space for air exchange between the dog in the crate and the vehicle’s conditioned air.  To make matters worse, the glass areas will allow light to pass through that will become heat inside the vehicle.

Clearly this dog is important to his family as his crate was included among the important items to take, and it was arranged so the dog could easily be taken out the rear cargo hatch when it needed to be relieved or watered.  Most problems don’t occur because people don’t care, but often, problems occur because people forget or they don’t have enough awareness to make a different choice.  A good general practice is to put yourself in your dog’s place:  If you put on a thick coat and warm socks and shoes, and you can only cool by breathing, would you be comfortable?

Another good practice is to make a list of travel essentials in advance, and either keep this list on your computer in a “Travel” folder where you can find it again, or print several copies and pin those to a bulletin board where you will easily find those when you are packing.  The more important thing is to CHECK the list before you leave.  Do you have your proof of rabies vaccinations?  Does your dog’s vaccination protocol include issues of significance in the area where you are traveling?  Are flea and monthly wormers, including heartworm prevention, up to date?  Do you have food and water for the trip?  Leashes?  Do you have an emergency contact number posted in your vehicle?  Do you have your veterinarian’s emergency contact number with you?  Is your contact information on your dog’s collar and crate?  Is your first aid kit packed, for you and for your dog?  Is your dog clean and groomed?  Is your vehicle serviced (oil, air pressure, tires rotated, etc.) and ready for a road trip?  What would happen if you were stopped on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck?

To keep dogs from getting elbow and shoulder injuries, it is best to use a vehicle ramp or a step to take them in and out of a vehicle, but most especially to keep them from jumping down.  Some dogs don’t like to enter a vehicle on a ramp, since the angle interferes with the normal use of their toenails.  We’ve had better success using these items:

Solvit Ramp  (can find these online for a little over $100)

Metal Folding Step by Stromberg-Carlson (be sure legs are fully extended before using)

Most tow trucks don’t allow pets in their cabs due to insurance reasons.  Also, in some situations, it can take hours for a tow truck to arrive.  Here is where a bucket of water and some shade would be helpful, and even better, some ice and a fan.  Shade can be constructed by putting a tarp across vehicle doors, while leaving the doors open for air movement.  The type of shade cloth used for gardening can be thrown across the entire vehicle.

Another problem that can occur is that where people need to stop, dogs must sometimes remain in the vehicle.  For short distances, where you can park and go into a restaurant, for example, an outdoor digital thermometer will help you keep tabs on the indoor temperature in your vehicle.  Remember that you will be sitting inside a small area wearing a thick coat and warm socks and shoes, so even 72 degrees can feel too warm.  Also, if the vehicle stops running or overheats, the temperature will go up in a matter of minutes, so check the thermometer or the dog, frequently.  There are now remote monitoring options, such as Acurite and LaCross, which use an iPad or cell phone.  These may or may not help your argument with local law enforcement where laws prohibit leaving a dog in a vehicle.  It is also a good practice to post your emergency contact number in an easily visible area of your windows.  Another option for remote monitoring is a wireless webcam.  This will allow you the flexibility of monitoring a dog left in a guest room.

Be courteous to your lodging provider or host:  it is good to have a couple of old sheets to cover a bed or chair in your room, and pick up after your dogs.  This will help all of us who travel with dogs to be more welcomed and to keep pet cleaning fees down.  To ensure that your dog doesn’t ingest pesticide sprays, it is good to have a light rug to cover the area where he will sleep and to use a crate or exercise pen to keep him in that area.

Big dogs attract attention, so be sure to carry your drool cloth so he can smile for the cameras and enjoy the extra attention rather than a reaction of disgust.  This will be an opportunity to teach people about big dogs.  Just tell them that the drool is free and offer to let them use the drool cloth if needed.

Road trips can be fun for you and your dog.  Be prepared so you can travel safely with your pet and enjoy a stress-free vacation.  And don’t forget the camera!

for more information on travel and camping with your dog, click here

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