Should you take your dog on vacation? What you need to know
Toying with the idea of taking your dog on vacation? Not sure whether it’s the right thing to do?
It’s a decision that a lot, if not all, pet parents face. We spoke to animal behavior consultant Emily Cassell about taking your dog on vacation and what you should consider before you hit the road.
Take health and safety precautions
“Have a conversation with your vet and let them know that you’re going on vacation, where you’re going and how long you’re going to be there for. This can help you understand what your dog will need. They might need certain vaccines for those places, for example,” Emily explains.
To best prepare for the health and safety of your dog, Emily also recommends checking airline requirements if flying. Alternatively, if you’re driving across the country, pet parents may need different records when crossing state lines, such as health certificates and proof of vaccination against rabies.
Emily stresses the importance of making it easy to ID your dog if they become lost while you’re travelling. “The biggest safety thing if you’re taking your dog on vacation is to get them microchipped! The more ID you can put on your dog, the better, especially if they’re travelling in a crate. You can put a tag on their collar or harness, I recommend tags everywhere and proof that you are that dog’s owner! It’ll be crucial,” she says.
Know your reasoning
“Think long and hard about your vacation, what you’re wanting to get out of it and what your plans are,” says Emily. “It’s not really going to be a vacation, because it’s a lot of work having your animal out of their environment.”
Be prepared to put to all the necessary effort into making sure they get bathroom breaks and exercise, are comfortable and safe, and don’t have the opportunity to run away.
"If you’re going on a family vacation and you are going to do activities every day like a theme park, the beach, a museum and so on, would it be better to leave the dog at home with a good pet sitter that you trust? This way you can enjoy your vacation and your dog is not stuck in a strange place,” advises Emily.
Know how your dog reacts to environmental changes
Is your dog comfortable in strange places? Or are they happiest hanging out in familiar surroundings? If it’s the latter, leaving them at home can solve a lot of problems before they start.
For example, if you leave your dog in a hotel room to go explore, they might become stressed and bark, even if they don’t bark much at home. If your dog causes too much disruption you may be asked to leave.
You need to understand your individual [dog] and how they will react to the situation you’re going to,” Emily explains “There are a million questions I would have. Does my dog get on with other dogs? Does my dog get on with other people? Am I taking them because of their separation anxiety but then leaving them anyway?”
Although it might seem like a good idea at first to take them along, the best decision might be to leave them at home.
See it from the dog’s perspective
“I work really hard on helping the owner see things from dog’s perspective,” says Emily. “Is the vacation for you or the dog? Will it really be fun for them, if it’s actually their worst nightmare? Is this something we want to do or something I’m hoping for?”
Pet parents should really consider how your dog is going to feel on the vacation. While it could be exciting for you to take your dog somewhere completely new, they might not get the same enjoyment.
“If you take the dog from their usual safe and stable environment to a novel environment - and your dog has never been in that situation - you just don’t know how they're going to handle it,” explains Emily.
Create a safe space
Crates are extremely useful for creating a safe space for your dog, providing an environment of comfort for them.
“A crate is good if dogs become overwhelmed and need quiet time, it can help mentally chill them out and keep them safe. Especially if they’re going to be around people who aren’t used to being around dogs and they leave doors open, and that kind of thing,” says Emily.
If your dog is going to be around kids, a crate can also help put up boundaries when it gets too overwhelming for your dog. “It’s also a great way to teach kids to be aware of an animal’s feelings, and demonstrating how to respect their emotions and mental state,” explains Emily, “it’s like us going to the bathroom at a party! It gives us a moment to just breathe.”
Emily also explains that it’s best not to just stick your dog in a crate with a Kong toy, but set the foundations for your dog to enjoy the crate. Make the crate cozy and comfortable and leave them with a long-lasting treat to enjoy! Chewing also relieves stress, helping to chill them out even more.
Test before you travel
“When your dog is crate trained it opens up a whole new world,” says Emily.
This is especially so for travel. It can be that safe space that some dogs need during a car journey, and in a worst-case scenario, like a car accident, any harm to a dog, or chances of them running away, is reduced.
Take your dog out in the car and do a test drive before the actual trip. This way you can gauge whether they get car sick or upset.
It can also be a good idea to test out your vacation on a small scale beforehand. “If you’re going hiking, do it with them first. You don’t want to find out halfway on a major trail or camping trip that they are really hating it. If dogs are used to the sidewalk, they might go a little crazy if you take them into a forest or field,” says Emily
Drive out to locations similar to your vacation, like the beach or a dirt road. Test the car journey and the place. If they get car sick or nervous, your vet can maybe prescribe something for that.
Clean up after your dog
“Be mindful of what your dog is eating and where they are eating it, and what they might be leaving behind - especially if you’re outside. This is to not attract wild activity, which will be - crucial for safety,” Emily says. Dog feces can also attract unwanted wildlife. So, if you’re planning on taking your dog on an outdoors vacation, it’s best to be wary of any food – or other surprises! - they leave behind.
Leaving them at home?
Sometimes it’s best for everyone to leave your pup at home.
“If you have to leave them, get a video camera! This way you can check in on them as much as you like and make sure they’re good. It gives peace of mind if someone else is looking after your pets,” recommends Emily.
If your dog really struggles with travel, new environments, or the kind of situation you’re going into, the kindest thing you can do is leave them with a trusted person. This way both you and your pup can relax!
Looking for a high-quality video camera to watch your dog while your away? Check out PupPod’s HD video streaming feature -> https://puppod.com/en-gb/pages/puppod-feeder
If you need advice before going on vacation with your dog, contact your vet first. Alternatively, you can contact an animal behavior consultant, such as Emily Cassell, to get professional guidance.