Ahhh, summer vacation. Long, leisurely hikes in the mountains, romping on the beach, camping under the stars… all great experiences for you to have with your pup. Preparing ahead of time will ensure that both you and Fido will enjoy your vacation. While planning your holiday, you may decide that sending Fido on his own “vacation” (boarding kennel), or staying with a Pet Sitter might actually be a better option for both of you.
Some things to consider BEFORE you head on your summer vacation:
1) Is your destination pet-friendly? Are you travelling to a big city where noise and commotion might be upsetting and out of the ordinary for your dog? Check to see if there are parks nearby, where you can exercise your dog. Practise walking your dog in busy areas of your town or city to allow your dog to become comfortable with the noise. Practice “hard-surface” elimination in case there are few grassy areas for your dog to relieve himself.
2) Is the hotel you are staying in pet-friendly? Many hotels have rooms designated for pets. When booking the hotel room, make sure to indicate that you have a dog (or two). Often there is a small fee per night added to your bill. Usually pets are not to be left alone in the room, but exceptions may apply if your dog is crated. Be sure to check with the hotel you are staying at, as each hotel has different policies.
3) Are you camping, or renting a cottage? Don’t assume that the cottage is pet-friendly and don’t try to sneak your dog in (cottage neighbours may report you and you may find yourself without accommodation). Be sure to check with the cottage owners to ensure Fido is welcome. Many campgrounds allow pets, with specific rules regarding leashing, dogs left alone on site, and where exercise and elimination are allowed. Again, be sure to check with the campground before arriving – being turned away at the end of a long day’s drive is not the way to start your vacation!
4) How will you get to your vacation spot? Will you be travelling by car, plane, or train? If you are travelling by car, consider where you will stop for bathroom breaks. Plan out bathroom breaks at rest stops or welcome centers – stopping at the side of the freeway is dangerous both for you and your dog! By planning where you will stop every couple of hours along the way will prevent emergency stops. If you plan on travelling by plane or train, check with the airline or train carrier to find out the specific regulations for travelling.
5) Does Fido suffer from motion sickness or car stress? Many dogs will salivate excessively and vomit while on road trips. Reducing the stress of going in the car before you head out on your vacation is well worth the time commitment. Train your dog to like car rides by spending time in the car playing and exploring – be sure to give treats. Gradually increase the time spent in the car, start the car, turn on the air conditioning, and eventually introduce short drives – first around the block and then increase the length of the drive. It may take some time for your dog to become accustomed to the car, but it sure beats your dog vomiting each time you drive somewhere! See your veterinarian for other options if your dog continues to become sick in the car.
6) Have you packed everything you will need? Food, water, food and water dishes, treats, leashes, proof of ownership, vaccination records, identification tags, toys, comb/brush, bed, crate, towels, medications (including flea, tick, and heartworm preventives), waste bags, and travel water containers for hikes. Don’t forget to pack Fido’s toothbrush and toothpaste!
7) Will you be in extreme heat or humidity? Your dog may be accustomed to the heat, but not to the humidity; others may not be used to the heat at all. Don’t plan big hikes or a lot of outdoor activity until your dog has acclimated to the new climate. Make sure to have lots of water on hand at all times as dogs can become dehydrated quickly in extreme heat and humidity.
8) Will you be hiking? Or hiking in the mountains? Bring along a collapsible water bowl or dog water bottle (be sure your dog is comfortable drinking from the dog water bottle before your trip) and carry lots of water with you. If you are hiking in the mountains, take it slow and allow your dog (and you!) to stop every 20-30 minutes for a water break – it is easy to get dehydrated if you or your dog are not used to higher elevations.
9) Be aware of parasites at your destination. While heartworm, tick-borne diseases, and fleas may not be a concern in your hometown, your destination may be a different situation. Your veterinarian can provide you with information on what parasites are present at your destination and provide you with any preventives that your dog needs.
10) Ensure your dog is properly identified. Losing your dog would ruin your vacation. Make sure your dog is microchipped before you head out on your vacation. Verify that the contact information associated with the chip is up-to-date. Consider buying an ID collar for your dog that has your cell phone number on it.
11) Are you crossing state/line or going to another country? If so, check to see if you need a health certificate. This is a government document signed by your veterinarian indicating that your dog is free from communicable disease and that your vaccinations are up-to-date.
12) Finally, consider if you (and your dog) will enjoy your vacation. A vacation is only fun if everyone is having a good time. If you plan on going out a lot and leaving your dog in your camper or hotel room, that may not be fun for your dog. If you think that the activities you will do on your vacation will be unsuitable for your dog, have him stay at home with a Pet Sitter, or send him to “camp” at a kennel with his furry buddies!
Family vacations are all about having fun and making memories! Including your dog is great, especially if you have planned for him to be a part of the fun!