By Janet McAfee
Dogs love to travel! If you own a dog, chances are he races to go with you whenever you gather up your car keys. Dogs are natural nomads, traveling in packs in the wild. They are curious creatures who love seeing new places and meeting new friends. Traveling with pets has become easier with more hotels and restaurants with outdoor seating happily accommodating them. Coachella Valley residents are taking off for trips to cooler locations and their dogs often accompany them on day trips and longer vacations. Wise planning and safety precautions make the experience more enjoyable.
In the past decade while the economy tanked, spending on pets increased 73%. Marketers realized that people who treat their pets like family are an attractive demographic with disposable income. It is good business to cater to pet owners. Some restaurants even have “doggie” menus with special cooked items for canines. Your well behaved leashed dog is welcome at many retailers including Home Depot, Lowes, Apple, The Pottery Barn, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Many major hotel chains including Marriott’s Residence Inn, Motel 6 and Best Western allow pets. Campgrounds are full of family pets. Doggie day care programs and local pet sitters can provide coverage if you visit tourist sites where dogs are not allowed.
Single gal Karen Goldberg took her 86 pound Golden Retriever, Riley, on vacation to a dog focused resort, Canine Camp Getaway in New York. Off the chart activities at the camp included scent-detection workshops for the dogs, decorating home-made dog biscuit classes for the humans, and sharing celebratory beverages at “Yappy Hour” for everyone.
Backyard pools and hotel pools pose a possible risk to dogs. While many dogs swim and know how to get themselves out, other breeds with heavy coats are not able to sustain themselves in pool water. If you have an older dog that sometimes gets disoriented, he should not be unsupervised near pools. Life preservers for dogs are an extra precaution.
A host of new products ensures the comfort and safety of your dog during car trips. Cool pads inside his carrier cool down the temperature during hot weather. Socks or little shoes can keep his feet from burning on the hot pavement. Tiny sunglasses with UV protection guard against sun damage to the eyes and block dust & debris. “Cool down” harness vests containing cooling crystals help on hot days. Car harnesses protect your dog if you have to stop suddenly. A sturdy dog crate is essential. Crates keep your dog secure in your car and are required for airline travel. A crate must be large enough for the dog to stand, turn around, and lie down. Be sure to take along his familiar food, treats, and extra water. Pack a recent photograph of your dog just in case he gets lost and you have to prove ownership.
Pictured here is Lilly, an adorable rescue Bichon mix, who recently traveled by car from her home in Alameda, California, to a vacation home in La Quinta. Lilly enjoyed a lunch break at the Harris Ranch outdoor snack shop and a trip to Nordstrom, another dog friendly store. Of course, unlike this fun photograph, dogs should not be left alone in cars.
NEVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN A CLOSED VEHICLE ON A HOT DAY, even with the windows cracked. The temperature inside can soar in a matter of minutes. Unattended animals inside cars are also at risk of being stolen. It takes less than a minute for someone to break a window and steal your pet. If you are traveling alone with your dog and can’t find a responsible person to watch him, no one will object if you take a calm dog into a public restroom while keeping him on a leash. Drive through restaurants and a picnic under a tree may replace restaurant meal stops.
Health certificates available from your veterinarian are required for all airline travel. Bring copies of shot records including rabies. Check in advance with your airline as pet requirements can differ, starting with a check of their online pet policy. If you have a small dog under your airline’s weight limit, it is recommended you take them in a carrier in the passenger cabin where they travel under your seat. Some groups advise against shipping your pet in the cargo area due to instances of loss, injury and even death. Ask the airline if their below cabin pet area is climate controlled and pressurized. If you must ship an animal below cabin, book a direct flight. Pets’ airline reservations must be made in advance.
Your trusted veterinarian can decide if sedation will make the flight easier for your animal. However, check first as some airlines will not accept sedated pets because sedation may impact their respiratory function while below cabin.
Amtrak does not allow pets, other than service animals. Smaller regional rail companies are more hospitable, but call first to find out about crating and other restrictions. Some transit companies don’t allow animals during crowded rush hours. Short leashes are recommended.
Whether you are on the road or at home, the upcoming July 4th holiday is the worst day for dogs when terrified animals left outside jump fences and go on the run. July 5 is the busiest day for animal control and the shelters are overloaded with strays. Dead and injured animals scatter our streets and freeways. Owners should walk their dogs before the fireworks start, and keep them securely INSIDE the house or hotel until the night and fireworks are completely over. Playing soft music can sooth them from the extreme sound.
A wonderful resource, U.S and Canada Dog Travel Guide, can be obtained by going online to www.dogfriendly.com. Grab the car keys, load up Fido, and hit the road for a new destination. Turn on the stereo and listen to the awesome oldie by Lobo, “Me and You and a dog named Boo, Travelin’ and livin’ off the land. Me and you and a dog named Boo, how I love being a free man”.