Traveling with your dog

Have dog. Must travel. Tips for traveling with your dog

I really despise when I meet someone (sorry friends of mine who have said this to me but this does go through my brain), “Oh I would just LOVE to get a dog but I couldn’t, I still love traveling”. I always think “So?”. Just because you have a dog doesn’t mean you can’t travel. In fact, I travel in part so I can bring Nan. I love finding new places to explore and well she is a dog, so she does too! I am not really sure if this is just a topic that I think is interesting or if it is something that other people think about as well.

Here are my tips for traveling with your dog

Nan in Parry Sound

Admittedly, I am a dog manic. I know that. Since getting Nan, my life has improved times a 1,000 (minimal estimate). Part of that is taking her with me. It is so much fun. It is harder in some ways but is incredibly rewarding thus cancelling anything that is logistically ‘harder’. Seeing your dog romp around in a new place beside you is the best feeling. I thought it might be nice for people to know how “I do it” when I have travelled with Nan. I also asked friends/family. Friends who are experts, like Andrew Knapp and Momo. Here are some tips for making travelling with a dog as care free as possible.

  • From the first day I adopted Nan, I took her most places with me. To stores, parties, other peoples homes, dog parks, you get the idea. By exposing her to so many different environments, I normalized being in different environments. She didn’t know any different. In the first 3 months of Nan’s life, she slept in cars, a crate, other peoples homes and at the park when she got tired.

20140627-112925-41365230.jpgWhat does this tell her? If she is with me, she is safe and can sleep anywhere. Andrew Knapp said the same to me in conversation two days ago. He takes Momo everywhere with him. Don’t believe me? Check out his Instagram feed. That includes the car.

Nanna on beer

I feel like some people get stressed about the idea of having their dog in a confided space (the car) for long stretches. My thoughts? If you can do it, your dog most definitely can too. Dogs want to be with us. We are their masters. They are happy when they are beside us, doing their dog job of companionship. Know what sucks more than sitting in a car with us for several hours a day on a road trip? When they are stuck in a kennel with some strangers looking after them  while you sit on the beach. There. I know I sound like an asshole but it’s true. I understand that not all trips are dog friendly, take my trip to Holland in April or my trip last year to Nicaragua. Not dog friendly. North American trips…Nan friendly.

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Part of taking your dog everywhere is finding places that are dog friendly. Andrew and Momo had an awesome recommendation that I had never considered: throwing the term “dogs inside ________” into the old Google. Andrew and Momo actually made a video for the Associated Press on this topic (Taking Rover on the Road). Go check it out!

Nan on ferry

Travel essentials for Nan:

  • 2 leashes (in case you lose 1!)
  • Lots of extra water and a dog dish in the car – you never know how long it will be until you are somewhere that has fresh water (especially when travelling close to the sea – the dogs can’t drink the water when they go for a swim!)
  • Chuckit ball and thrower in the car (so you can exercise your dog wherever you go, no matter how dismal and limited the surroundings are)

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  • A copy of the dogs vaccination history and Vet information in case of an emergency or you need to cross the border (ya never know!)
  • Extra dog food – it’s best to try to feed your dog their normal food and many small towns don’t have the extensive dog food selections that we get here in the city
  • Extra blankets for ‘bedding’ and extra dog towels
  • I have now started travelling with her dog bed. She seems to like it and now has her ‘spot’ in the car

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  • Dogs that can’t be off leash are a tricky issue. The better your dogs recall and ability to stay close, the easier your life will be. It is a total pain if you need to have your dog leashed all the time when you are road tripping. Before leaving, work hard on training your dog to stay close. And to have good recall. Nan is good most of the time but her kryptonite is animals (especially squirrels and ducks) and food. If she finds either of these things, she isn’t the best. Thankfully last summer we didn’t have many issues. We were lucky. I think it is a good idea to know what kind of animals roam around where you are heading. For example, when I first adopted Nan – I stayed in Wawa, Northern Ontario. The owner of the cabin I stayed in advised me to be careful when I did puppy pee breaks in the night as the bears were extremely active at night. NOTED! We didn’t stray from the front grass that night.
  • My sister’s dog is good off leash but has a tendency to run off if he thinks someone is ‘intruding’ or coming into his territory so last year they kept him leashed all the time in Algonquin. The one issue they encountered was what to do with him when he went swimming. He is part Labrador so he loves the water. Awesome solution? Putting a huge ass rope on him. They could let him swim out quite far, he could fetch balls – but always be able to rein him back in if necessary.

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  • Car time. There has been so much media about cars heating up quickly and it being extremely dangerous to dogs (read more about it here). I couldn’t agree more. It is dangerous. Deathly dangerous during the summer in Canada… Dogs don’t have the same temperature controls that we do but its a tricky issue for me. But to be honest, I am sometimes put into a hard situation when I just need to use the washroom quickly but the surroundings are a little sketchy. I worry about Nan being stolen and they won’t let me bring her into the WC with me. I park in the shade, put the windows down and keep it to a 2-3 minute break. If I am going to be longer, I will drive further and try to find somewhere safe where we can both get out and be safe. But sometimes there are pee emergencies that can’t wait. If you need to stop and eat, try to find somewhere that you can order your food and eat outdoors. And to be honest, after you have been on the road for a few weeks and have forgotten to be a lady, finding a secluded spot to quickly go works just fine for me (if men can, why can’t women?!?!).

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I found lots of other great sources for road trip tips online:

  • ASPCA – article here. My favourite tip from here? Teaching your dog to pee on command. Although Nan doesn’t pee on command, I have taught her that if we go to grass and she needs to go, she will go right away. She doesn’t fuss around.
  • Edmund’s 10 tips. My favourite tip? Making sure your dog has up to date tags with your cellular phone number in case something happens while you are away. Another good tip that a friend did – put your email on your dog’s tag! Some people may not want to make a long distance phone call to your cell but wouldn’t mind emailing you!
  • The Humane Society

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  • I tried to create routines to the day. Getting up roughly around the same time for the first ‘walk’ of the dog. Feeding generally around the same time of the day. It creates a little structure for your dog. I read somewhere that people travelling with the dog may consider feeding more ‘lightly’ on the days that you are in the car a lot. This makes sense if you dog gets car sick. Or isn’t receiving as much exercise that day.

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Another rule of thumb I had on the road was how long between breaks. Having a dog with you forces you to stop more often. And I think we humans need that. Many websites about taking your dog on road trips advise every 2-3 hours… Although I agree with that to some degree, I was a little more realistic. When you are at home you don’t walk your dog every 2-3 hours do you? I would push it out to 3-4 hours – then stop for a longer period. Stop, find something new to explore – let the dog run around for a bit… and relax. Or better yet, go for a swim! On the road there can be a tendency to get from A to B. Having a pet with you forces you to stop – see unusual things, find a quiet spot where you won’t bother locals and slow down. Last summer on the East Coast, we would often stop at a coffee shop and ask a local where local dog owners let their dogs off. We got some absolutely amazing suggestions. Don’t be afraid to ask.

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Travel by water – Nan and I experienced this 5 times last year (or maybe more?). The ferry from PEI to Nova Scotia, Cape Breton to Newfoundland (roundtrip) and Newfoundland to Fogo Island (roundtrip). Thankfully Nan settled down into the trips pretty well. I think dogs inherently feed off their owners vibe or tone – so if you react and are nervous, fuss over the dog, move around a lot etc. – the dog senses that you are nervous and responds accordingly. Find a less busy spot on the deck – and settle down for the trip.

There are obvious tips too. Make sure the pup is up to date on vaccinations. Ticks are rampant out on the East Coast and I was picking them off the dogs regularly (so gross). Also – dog friendly bug repellent. I sometimes put citronella essential oil on Nan to help keep the mosquitoes off her. She reacts to the bites much like I do and gets big massive bumps. I also brought Polysporin. On the beach, the dogs were being bitten by something. It seem harmless enough but was leaving big pink marks on their bellies. A little Polysporin helped and they would go away.

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So those are my tips. I hope you take your dog with you on your next trip. It will be awesome. Here in Canada we are heading into the long weekend – the perfect time to pack up the pooch and rock. Take it easy and when in doubt, EMAIL ME!

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