Traveling with my dog is something that I've had to do quite a few times this year. I wanted to share some tips with you to help make traveling with your dog much easier, especially those who have active and high drive dogs! Like me!
Whether you're traveling 4-5 hours or you're traveling a few days, these tips will help ensure that you and your dog have a good trip. It is tough for many dogs to sit still for long periods. You want to allow for and plan things so that your dog is still able to get some type of exercise, a workout or just some fun play to break up the monotony of the drive. You want them to not only stay physically fit, but mentally fit throughout the trip as well.
#1 – Plan Your Stops
The first thing is to plan the stops you will be making. When I take Ziva on a road trip, I not only plan the route, but I also research the rest areas and the parks along the way. I know approximately when I will be stopping either for gas, get something to eat or stop for the night. I locate several good rest areas on Google, as well as, parks along the way. I always choose more than one in an area just in case a rest area is closed, an exit is shut down or the park does not turn out to be what I anticipated. Have a backup.
#2 – Make a List of Equipment/Reward Items
The second tip is, prior to leaving, make a list of the equipment, including rewards and water, that you may need. You may think, “oh, I have a leash, and my dog always wears a collar, so I’m good. But, what other pieces of equipment might you need? What do you use to reward your dog? Do you want to work on obedience? Do you want to work on retrieves? Do you want to do K9 Fitness? Also, what length of leashes do you have in your vehicle? Will you need a short or a long line – or both? You may want to let your dog run around but you only have a 6-foot leash – now what do you do?
Do you want to bring a ball for reward or to play fetch? Do you want to bring dumbbells? Do you want to bring cones and practice going around the cones or practice figure eights? If you are on a long trip, your dog will need both the mental and physical energy release so think about all the equipment and reward tools you may need.
While on my trip out west Ziva and I stopped at a rest area in Utah with a huge hill for Ziva to climb. I was able to let her run up the hill and have fun! Thankfully I planned in advance and had her 33-foot tracking line with me to give her some freedom to play and still follow the “keep your dog on a leash” sign.
#3 – Plan Activities/Training
Many times, when you are traveling, you may have limited time during your stops. You want to be able to make the most out of that time with your dog. He not only needs to time to potty and stretch his legs, but also time to be challenged mentally and/or physically. If you haven’t planned out several options for activities/training, you either will just take them out to potty and a short walk or do the same activity over and over - kind of boring to your dog and not very stimulating.
Making a list of potential exercises/training/activities will allow you to maximize the time you have with your dog during the stops along the way.
For example, my list of exercises consisted of retrieves, dumbbell training, flip finish training, active K9 Fitness exercises, stretching, balance work, tugging, drive work, tricks, sit and down in motion and just good old fun fetching the ball.
When we stopped at the rest area in Utah, not only was Ziva able to do a little endurance work running up the hill, but once we got to the top, there was a half wall where she was able to some balance work. There were also some smaller rocks that she did some back-foot targeting and a nice grass area for her to play with her ball.
So, having a list of several activities/training options you can choose from whether it's fitness, obedience, fun play, endurance, trick training. . .planning ahead will save you time and allow you to enjoy your time with your dog.
#4 – Meal Planning / Digestive Tract
Traveling can get a little challenging for some dogs. I feed raw and it's very challenging to travel with raw food for more than a few days at a time. For those who feed raw and will be away from home for more than a few days, I recommend researching and contacting butchers in the area you will be staying. When I traveled to Washington over the holidays, I brought enough food to feed Ziva until I got to Washington. Once I arrived, I had already made arrangements with a butcher and was able to purchase more food to feed Ziva.
If you feed kibble, it is easier as you don’t have to worry about it having to stay cold or frozen, but regardless of what you feed, you still want to think about feeding times. Your dog may or may not be fed at the normal time you usually feed at home depending on your travel schedule. Even if you can feed at or near your dog’s normal feeding time, traveling can be stressful and depending on the amount of exercise and movement that your dog gets while traveling, this may upset or affect their normal bathroom routine.
Because I don't know always exactly when I will be able to stop, I need to consider when I feed and when I will be exercising/playing with Ziva. I don’t want to feed her and then play with her and then have her sit in the crate for the next 3-6 hours. So, there is a lot more planning when you are traveling.
If your dog is like Ziva, his or her potty schedule may change when traveling. Despite the activity during the stops, your dog still won’t be as active in the same way as when they are home. So be prepared for the bathroom schedule to be off and how to handle that.
#5 – Cool Down
Many of you have heard me talk about this before, but as it is so important, I want to add it to this list.
When you are done playing, training, exercising your dog, remember to do a cool down routine with your dog before putting him back in the car, especially when it may be 3-6 hours again before you stop.
When you are traveling with your dog, reducing their body temperature, heart rate and doing some stretches will help prevent cramping and soreness. Even if they have room and can spread out, only stopping two to three times a day for 10 to 20 minutes is not always enough for full stretching and you risk your dog getting sore and potentially getting cramps.
Taking your dog for a long walk allowing the body temperature and heart rate to return to normal will be very beneficial for your dog. Of course, being careful on the water intake after playing or exercising is important as well to help prevent upset tummies or potential bloat.
You want to avoid potential health issues while so far away from your veterinarian.
While traveling with your dog takes careful thought and planning, the fun and experience is priceless!