10 Mistakes to Avoid when Traveling with Your Dog

Traveling with a dog
Photo Courtesy of Joseph Ken

Traveling with a dog can be an enjoyable experience if you prepare properly. Having problems during your trip can ruin your vacation as well as end it abruptly. Here are ten essential tips to help you get the most out of your shared traveling experience.

Not booking your airline and pet friendly hotel well in advance

Booking in advance is essential when you are traveling with a pet, not just in terms of the accommodation you will use at the end of the journey, but in securing the best means of travel. Booking well in advance give you ample time to follow all the steps on this list, allowing you to select the most comfortable means of travel for your pet, and giving you the preparation time you need to avoid last-minute stresses. You should contact your airline or pet friendly hotel to make a reservation for your pet.

Not checking travel policies and procedures

Before you travel, it is essential that you consider all the policies and procedures that cover traveling with a pet. Whether it is by auto, airline, bus, train or boat, if you are using a public service, there will be strict pet regulations that you must adhere to. Read up on everything, and check if there is anything that you are unsure about. The last thing you want to happen is to arrive at the airport, for example, and find that your pet is not allowed to travel because of some oversight you made during your research on traveling with your pet.

Not ensuring you have the right documentation

Speaking of air travel, it is now essential that, when traveling internationally, pets should be transported with the correct pet health certification. Pet insurance is not mandatory to fly, but is highly recommended if it is available. Is your dog or cat microchipped? Many countries will require this. Almost all countries will require that your dog or cat be vaccinated for rabies. Does your pet have a pet passport? You didn’t know you needed one?! You see how things can happen. Simply ensure that you are up to speed with all the requirements, and don’t get caught unprepared.

Not training and socializing your pet

If you are traveling with a dog, it is highly recommended that you start to train them before you depart on your journey. If you are going on a long road trip, for example, and your dog never accompanies you in your car, that is not good preparation, so start to take your dog on shorter trips leading up to the event to get them used to the experience. Train your dog to behave during the trip by employing a rewards process in these practice runs too.

Likewise, if your dog is rarely or never in a public environment, but you are about to set off on a long bus or train journey, or take them on the subway, this foreign experience could provoke fear. Instead, take them to a nearby dog park or pet friendly restaurant. Get your animal accustomed to people bit by bit, and train them in all of the necessary manners you would expect of an animal traveling in a public space. Other people will thank you for it, and it could help immeasurably reduce your stress levels too.

Failing to keep your pet adequately fed and watered

This is common sense, but your animal may become agitated if they are not adequately cared for during the trip. Although you should reduce their food intake prior to travel, do not limit their access to water and plan for those necessary toilet breaks. Which leads us to…

Failing to pack properly

Your dog’s needs will involve plenty of pre-planning, so ensure that you pack for every eventuality. Your dog will need to take a toilet break, as will you during the journey, so ensure you have all the necessary equipment, including a sturdy leash, from a hygiene perspective (also making sure you conform to airline rules with regards to what you can and cannot bring with you). Pack treats, toys, towels and any necessary medication. It’s just like packing for yourself, just give it a different perspective.

Not adequately securing your dog during travel

Have you checked up on all the rules stipulating how your animal must be secured during travel? From crates to carriers to leads to harnesses, restraints and even seat belts, there are a number of regulations surrounding the transport of your animal, so don’t get caught running afoul of the law, which could lead to a hefty penalty and even separation from your animal, which can cause distress on both sides.

Choose the wrong time of day to travel

Avoid the heat of the day by traveling in the cooler mornings or evenings. If your pet is nocturnal, day travel might be better. Just think about what suits best in terms of their comfort and security.

Not updating tags / microchips / contact information

If your pet has a tag or microchip, now is the time to make sure everything is completely up to date. Names, cell phone numbers, email addresses and what to do in case of an emergency should all be detailed clearly so, if a separation should occur, you can be safely and quickly reunited with your beloved pet. Considering microchipping your pet as it is the best protection you can give your pet when traveling.

Failing to plan in case of emergencies

A bit like planning in the case where you and your pet getting separated, no one wants to think about emergency scenarios, but it is just good planning to make sure that you do give every scenario ample consideration. If you are flying, consider what the emergency procedures are in airports and what type of policies airlines themselves employ. If you are going on a long road trip, it’s a good idea to consider options for vets along the route, as well as your final destination. If your pet has medical requirements, make sure these are covered on your pet’s tag or microchip too so they can be adequately cared for in the interim. It probably won’t happen, but you’ll be grateful you prepared if it does.

Traveling with a dog is certainly worth all the effort. A few simple steps ahead of time will go a long way in ensuring a safe and happy trip for everyone.

Animal trainer and writer Joel Syder can be found at Originwritings and PhdKingdom. Assisting in the care and development of your pet is Joel’s passion, and you can also find his insights at AcademicBrits.

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