Traveling With Your Dog

Traveling With Your Dog

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Sam Basso
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Man Burned Trying To Save Dog
July 27, 2001
By KOMO Staff & News Services

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – “He gave it his all to try to save his faithful family friend. A Shoreline man was treated for burns after he tried to rescue the family dog from a thermal pool in Yellowstone National Park. Thirty-nine-year-old Donald Hansen was taken to the University of Utah’s Intermountain Burn Center in Salt Lake City after the incident Thursday afternoon. Hansen was treated for first- and second-degree burns from his elbows down and for first-degree burns to his knees. He was released Friday. The Labrador, named Mocha, didn’t survive. Mocha had jumped into the nearly 200-degree pool in the Lower Geyser Basin after bolting from the family’s motor home. Park officials say Hansen was able to grab the dog, but couldn’t hang on because of the heat.”

Once a year my extended family goes on vacation. This year, we went to California. Of course, we brought the dogs, too!

Taking your dog on a summer vacation with you requires some advance preparation.

I am NOT a believer in flying dogs unless you are very careful about it. It is risky. If your dog gets lost along the way, say the airline puts the dog on the wrong flight, or gets stuck on some 100 degree runway, your dog would die. They will even shoot a dog that escapes onto a runway if they can’t get it back. I would consider flying if I had one of the miniature breeds that can fly in the passenger compartment in one of those tiny carry on fabric crates, or if I took a midnight non-stop flight to my destination.

It is worth considering the weather. Some dog breeds, like Pugs, don’t do well in hot temperatures, and others don’t do well in the cold. When choosing a dog, I always pick a breed that can handle hot weather, since I normally take vacations in the summer. I also take extra pains to get my dog in excellent shape before I leave town. A dog in good shape can handle hot weather better than one that is flabby and out of shape. They also handle the stresses of a trip better when they are in shape.

Health considerations should also be factored in. First, if the dog is elderly or requires special medical attention, you need to consider if it is safe for the dog to travel at all. You also need to make plans to address the dog’s health issues when you might be hours from the nearest veterinarian’s office.

Hotels are also a major consideration. I make a special effort to find hotels that take pets. I want a first floor room, since it is quieter for the other guests if my dog plays in the room. I want a door near an exit, so I have an easier time of loading and unloading. I also want a room AWAY FROM THE LOBBY to make pottying easier and to be as inconspicuous as possible. I always assume that the hotel manager might not like dogs, so I try to be as invisible as possible.

Of course, I also brush up on my dog’s training and manners before I leave town. There is a serious risk that something bad can happen while on the road, since you and your dog are in unfamiliar situations! I tell this to people all the time. Unfortunately, some don’t believe me, and don’t take their training as seriously as I recommend. When your dog gets loose in a strage place, they can become so afraid they won’t trust you, and they will run away. Other dogs, if they get loose, will openly defy you and run away for the sport of it. You have to plan for the possibility that your dog will get away from you.

I remember one customer, while we were halfway into the obedience training classes, saying “Well, I really didn’t want my dog to obey; I just wanted to give him an activity to do, so I signed up for lessons.” I remember thinking to myself, “HUH?! You paid all that money just to go through the motions? Don’t you realize that every dog eventually gets away from the owner? Don’t you love your dog enough to protect him through training?” I tried to explain the dangers to them, but they didn’t believe me. (Hmm, no wonder they only put in a halfhearted effort on the daily homework) For me, I want INSTANT responses in dangerous situations, and I don’t want to have any hassles on trails, in the city, in the car, in the hotel room, elevators, hallways, or anywhere else! My dog’s training was really useful a couple of weeks ago at the beach in Carmel, CA. It is an off leash beach (ever wonder why we can’t do that everywhere?!) Dillon was having a grand old time with me, and at the same time visiting with other dogs. However, from time to time, I needed to call him back to me since he occasionally intimidates shy dogs because he is so confident and friendly. I called and he’d come back to me and walk with me until I released him to go and play with another dog.

When traveling, I am always concerned that my dog gets enough exercise. When you are on a road trip, there are often days when you are just blowing by a lot of miles just to get to your next destination. So, for hours on end, your dog is laying there in the car doing nothing. If you have an active dog, s/he is going to be bouncing off the walls for lack of exercise when you get settled into your hotel room at night. That’s why it pays to teach your dog to play fetch and tug of war. Then, you can find a small patch of grass somewhere nearby and burn off all that “steam” before bedtime.

Every trip, I always bring along chew toys and play toys. Dogs get bored, and if you have them in the habit of chewing a toy when they are bored, then that goes a long way towards keeping them out of trouble in the car and in the hotel room. I bring a small variety so that I can rotate toys from day to day.

It is my philosophy that I want to make every day a good day for my dog, whether on vacation or not. Every trip is planned in such a way that my dog gets to do things along the way that will be enjoyable for him. Hikes, city walks, exercise/ play sessions, and personal time are all included.

I am especially careful in where I park the vehicle. I look for shady spots, places where the dog can walk on grass instead of hot pavement, covered parking garages, shady sides of buildings, and other sheltered areas. You have to know how well your dog can handle both cold and hot weather, and how fast your car heats up and cools down in order to do this properly. You will read that you shouldn’t ever leave your dog in a parked car, but that’s not accurate. Really it is no different than what a police, military, search and rescue, etc. dog goes through. You just have to be smart about it. When I lived in Seattle, my dog went everywhere with me, and was in the vehicle during every appointment, throughout the year, regardless of the weather. Once I moved to Phoenix, that became impossible. It just gets too hot here. Just remember, you should never leave a dog unattended in a car unless you have made plans to make sure the dog is going to be 100% safe. Here are some ideas:

Use a crate so that s/he can’t tear up the car or escape;

Stay out of the direct sunlight when parking the vehicle. If the vehicle is in direct sunlight, say at a restaurant, put all the windows down, park in a space where you can see the car from inside the restaurant, and check on your dog after 15 minutes, right after you order your meal, and again during the meal, or if you are concerned, just to see how things are going.

Put a thermometer in the car. You can buy them at pet stores in the reptile section. The programmable ones will record high and low temperatures, plus humidity. This is invaluable for determining your dog’s comfort and safety.

Put 1/2 water/ ice in a bowl in the crate. And bring lots of extra water. You can douse a hot dog’s head with water if you fear s/he is getting overheated.

KNOW YOUR DOG AND VEHICLE. Not all dogs do well in heat, so it might be that you can’t travel with them. Not all vehicles do well in direct sunlight, and can heat up excessively. I’ve never had a problem, but I am ESPECIALLY diligent in supervising my dog’s welfare, and I sacrifice some of my comfort and convenience for my dog’s safety.

I bring a first aid book (yes, I have already read it!) and kit on every trip. I also make sure my dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date, have my dog microchipped and bring photos (.jpg format) on a CD or DVD in case my dog ever escaped or was stolen so I could make up lost dog posters.

Bring lots of old bath towels. They absorb a lot of dirt that would otherwise end up in your car, they provide padding in the crate, and are necessary in case of a major mess (like vomit).

I have used a professional kennel on a trip. One year, I went to Sea World in San Diego. I knew that the parking lot wasn’t shady, and it was predicted to be hot and sunny. Before I left town, I asked around for referrals. I located an air-conditioned veterinarian operated kennel in San Diego. I made reservations there before I left, and everything worked out great that day. I knew Dillon was safe, and therefore I could relax and have fun at the park.

Be sure to bring your own food, unless you are SURE that you can buy the same brand and type along the way. An abrupt change in diet will often lead to diarrhea. I have my dog on a premium dog food that is hard to find. So, I fill up lots of Ziploc baggies with fresh kibble and stuff them under the seats to keep them cool. I bring more food than I know that I will need, just in case some of it is lost or destroyed, or in case the trip is unexpectedly lengthened.

Kids, relatives and other dogs… don’t let your dog become the punching bag when visiting other’s homes. Also, don’t endanger others with your dog. I had a call from someone the other day that wanted me to work with their dog, to make him not growl at children even when the children were abusing the dog! She went on to describe how her 2 1/2 year old nephew had poked her dog in the eye, pulled on its tail, yanked its ears, and did other things that caused the dog pain, which then caused the dog to growl. I’m sure she was offended by what I had to say, since I told her that children needed to be supervised and corrected when they were hurting a dog. You can’t expect a dog to be in constant pain through abuse, regardless of the age of the abuser, and to not eventually defend themselves! This isn’t the same as having a dog that is tolerant of the normal roughhousing that all dogs get when around small children. It is important to choose a dog that is tolerant of children. But even the most tolerant dogs can’t take abuse and will eventually defend themselves.

I’ve also had customers that put their dogs in with relatives dogs, without a proper greeting, with dogs that weren’t normally good with other dogs and a major dog fight broke out. In one instance, the daughter’s mixed bred Bulldog got in a fight with the mother’s two Chow Chows. The mother reached in to stop the fight and was dragged down into the turmoil by her own dogs and was severely bitten about her inside thighs and groin. What makes this all the more troubling was that both people KNEW that their dogs were dog fighters, but they still put them all in together and assumed that everything would be just fine.

I have also had calls from people with dogs that didn’t like children or strangers, but they brought their dogs along on vacation, and without warning or protecting their relatives, put the dogs down in the midst of everyone, only to have someone get bitten. It would have been better to just board the dog at home, or to keep it in a crate while visiting, instead of endangering others.

It is important to consider potty stops, constipation, and water requirements when on a road trip. Younger dogs, under 1 1/2 years old, might not be truly trustworthy when in the hotel room, so you have to exercise greater supervision and bring along your clean up materials. Older dogs might have to urinate more frequently, so you have to plan on making extra potty stops along the way for your dog. With the relative lack of normal exercise on a road trip, plus the fact that your dog will probably be slightly dehydrated (from dry air, plus dogs will eat and drink less on vacation) on a long road trip, your dog will become somewhat constipated. I encourage my dog to drink water at every potty stop. Exercise will help the dog to eliminate normally during the trip, as well. Sometimes a restless dog in a hotel room just has to potty.

When you are in your hotel rooms, and while visiting friends and relatives, be sure to supervise your dog. I take extra precautions to keep my dog out of my suitcase since I have medicines and things in there that could be harmful if swallowed. I also don’t want my dog destroying anything in the room. Further, the person who was in the room before you might have dropped pills that bounced under a bed or into a closet, and your dog will find them and eat them. And, when you are visiting people, you can’t expect that harmful things aren’t lying around for your dog to get into or eat. I don’t let my guard down, just as if I was babysitting a 3 year old. I also teach my dog not to go into hotel bathrooms as an added safety precaution.

One of the main benefits of taking your dog on a trip is that you will improve your relationship with your dog. I can’t describe it very well, but I have noticed that every time I have taken one of my dogs on vacation with me, they came back a better dog. I noticed more attentiveness, more affection, better obedience, a happier attitude, more trust… just an all around better relationship. And it is good for me, too. I get to unwind and just be my dog’s friend and pal for a few uninterrupted days.

NOW is the time to start planning for your next vacation. Train your dog. Make detailed plans. Do a few short road trips for practice, and then you’re going to have a great time together when the big event happens! Happy Traveling!

Written in the Spring of 2001

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