Before you decide to travel with your dog, ask yourself these questions.
- Does my destination accept dogs? Many hotels and motels allow dogs, but you must call ahead and make reservations to ensure accommodations; there are often a limited number of pet reservations available. This is true for air travel too, so make your plans well in advance (ideally, three months ahead for airline travel). Always find out local pet restrictions and abide by them. Hawaii and some foreign countries require a sometimes-lengthy quarantine period for dogs. A number of Web sites for dog owners discuss good destinations for pets; a bit of time spent searching is sure to turn up good advice.
- Am I willing to pick up after my dog? Being considerate when traveling with your dog is a must. In addition to standard pickup equipment, such as a pooper-scooper and plastic bags, consider packing a spray bottle with an odor neutralizer. A solution of water and white vinegar works as well as any commercial product to remove "doggy" smells from upholstery or carpeting.
- Will the dog be with us most of the time? If you're going to a resort, for example, probably not. On a camping trip, on the other hand, your dog can go almost everywhere with you. Dogs should spend as little time as possible alone in a hotel or motel room -- or a tent, for that matter. When you must leave the dog in a hotel room, put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door and tell the housekeeping staff that there is a dog inside. Confining your dog in a crate will reduce the chance of damage or injury and help your dog feel more secure.
- Is my dog healthy? A week or two before you leave, take your dog to the vet. Make sure all her vaccinations are current and that you have the documentation to prove it, especially required health and rabies certificates. Not only is this better for your dog's overall health, it's also the law; "To travel interstate with a dog, you must have a health certificate," explains St. Louis vet Dr. Richard Albrecht. Also, certain vaccinations that are not routine, such as the vaccination for bordatella, will be required if you need to place your dog in a kennel on the vacation.
- Is my dog well-trained? In an unfamiliar environment, a knowledge of basic obedience commands -- sit, stay, and come -- is essential for your dog's safety, the well-being of your fellow guests, and your peace of mind. "If your dog gets off the leash, it would be very tough to find him if he doesn't know basic commands," warns Dr. Albrecht.
- Will my dog enjoy the trip? If your dog is not accustomed to riding in the car, take her for short practice rides before you go on a long trip. Try to create pleasant associations with riding in the car by going to fun places like the park (not the vet's office!) and rewarding your dog with a treat at the end of the trip. As you gradually lengthen the rides, you will be able to predict how well your dog will adapt to an extended journey. If she doesn't like riding, you could ask your vet about medications for carsickness or tranquilizers.
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