If you’re a pet parent, you know how difficult things can be when you have to leave your baby (or babies) at home. You might be subjected to guilt trips when you return, at very least, or be greeted by worse (torn up chair? dead mouse? the possibilities are endless). If you’re like me, you’re bound to want to bring the pieces of your heart with you on your next journey. Just consider these tips before you hit the road.
Know Your Animal
My dog, Amoretta, is a real Travels with Charley type. She absolutely adores the car, can handle long rides, and will wait to go to the bathroom until we stop. My cat, Rowan, tops out at about 2 hours. He doesn’t cause too much havoc, but he’s definitely not happy after that point.
Knowing which animal is going to be your best travel buddy and who is going to be a nightmare is especially helpful for making the decision of inclusion. In addition, knowing their signals can help prevent accidents in the car. Some dogs, for instance, are extremely non-verbal about when they need to go out and, since you’ll be watching the road and not them, this can cause accidents.
Accommodate Your Animal (But Safety First!)
One of the times I had to transport Rowan, I made the mistake of letting him out of his carrier. Once we were back on the road, he decided to try to get under my legs. He may not like the carrier, but he has to ride in that now. However, that’s not to say he’s lacking when he rides in it. He gets a fuzzy blanket, toys, water, and a small thing of food (I free-feed at home).
Amoretta also has a blanket when we travel and drinks out of a cup in the cup holder. She stays in her seat and drools everywhere but otherwise isn’t a problem. There are so many gadgets out there to help your pet travel better, from seat covers to seat belts, you just have to figure out what works for them.
Know Your Stops
If you’re heading out on a particularly long adventure, be sure to know where you’re stopping. Having pet-friendly accommodations planned along your route can save you time, money, and a massive headache. The last thing you need is to find out the hotel you booked with a non-refundable deposit won’t let your German Shepherd past the parking lot (you might double-check breed restrictions, too, because a lot of places get really nitpicky). Another thing is to realize you’re pretty restricted. It’s much more difficult to go into places because your animal is in the car. Especially in the summer, you have to be really careful as temperatures in an enclosed car can soar quickly. If you absolutely must leave them by themselves (emergency rest stops happen), be sure to crack windows and leave fresh, cool water accessible. And certainly take the least amount of time possible.
Keep Them Updated
I don’t mean talk to them about your route- although that can be a fun way to pass the time if you’re a dork like me. I mean keep their shots updated. Have them microchipped and keep the information on that valid. Change out their tags if you change your phone number. Keep an extra copy of their records in your glove box or with their travel implements (Amoretta has a kennel made for travelling, I put hers in the carrying case). Prepare for the worst.
Don’t fly with your animal unless you have to or unless you know the airline’s record with animal handling. In most cases, animals are treated like cargo and have to endure loud noises, runways, rough landings, and turbulence all by themselves in their crate.
Don’t ever leave your animal in a locked car for longer than necessary. Running in for emergency stops happens, but leaving your companion locked in the car while you go in and sit at a restaurant for a meal is a no-go. Especially don’t leave your poor baby locked in overnight.
Don’t let your animal off-leash in an unfamiliar place (excepting perhaps off-leash parks). Your pet may be well trained, but many municipalities have leash laws and you’re bound not to know all of them by heart. In addition, this can prevent tragedy.
Don’t forget to include your animal in your activities! But, also don’t forget to check their welcome status carefully.
Don’t be afraid to leave them at home with a good pet sitter. Find someone you trust who loves your animals as much as they love you and you’ll be golden.