By Janet McAfee
After two years of “sit & stay” at home, Americans are hitting the roads in record numbers, booking airline flights, train travel, as well as planning car trips. Coachella Valley residents look forward to vacations in cooler climates, and their dogs are often included.
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. Wise planning and safety precautions make the experience more enjoyable.
Businesses realize that people who treat their pets like family are an attractive demographic with disposable income, and 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. Some pet boarding facilities require the new canine influenza vaccine, so prepare ahead. Ask questions from the boarding facility. Do they have overnight coverage? How often and where are they walked and exercised?
A host of new products ensure 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. 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. Nor should they hang out an open window while traveling.
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.
A recent health certificate from your veterinarian is required for all airline travel. Bring copies of shot records including rabies. Check in advance with your airline as pet requirements can differ 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. Pet 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.
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”.