Let's talk about what is needed to travel with a dog happily and safely!
If your travel goals for the new year wouldn't be complete without your dog, we're with you! When your dog is your adventure and walk buddy at home, it's no wonder your visions of walking a beach, hiking in beautiful surroundings, or even exploring a favorite charming town always have your dog in them.
We've learned from experience with our own Mighty Paw pups that the secret of smooth, successful travel with your dog by your side is, first and foremost, planning! That doesn't mean a surprise won't pop up now and then, but advance planning and being prepared is the surest way to a relaxed, fun trip for both of you.
2 important questions to ask yourself before traveling with your dog
When you are ready to plan for your next adventure with your dog, there are two questions you should ask yourself first:
1) Will my dog be happy and comfortable to be part of this trip?
It's one thing to picture your dogs with you on some idyllic activity but it's always a good idea to be sure to think about the reality from your dogs' perspective. Will your dog share your enthusiasm for this trip or adventure? For example, if you're thinking of a trip centered around water sports (who among us hasn't imagined our dog on the front of our paddle board or in our kayak?), does your dog genuinely love the water or are they more likely to feel stressed?
You know your dog.
Take an honest look at your potential trip through your dog's eyes. If whatever you're planning sets up your pup to feel comfortable and relaxed, great! You can both settle in and enjoy your adventure and each other.
2) Is your destination welcoming to dogs?
Not just where you're staying - is the area or town generally known as a dog-welcoming place? Many places are becoming known for going beyond "pets allowed" to embracing dogs widely throughout the community and activities, including beaches, nature trails, boating, wineries, coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants (some inside as well as on patios).
Check out the destination you're thinking of online to see how welcome your dog will be to be part of activities with you. You don't want to make a long trip to be limited to a dog park or leaving your pup in your hotel or rental!
Pet owners often wonder: what's the best method of travel with a dog?
The answer comes back to two underpinnings that guide just about everything with dogs:
1) Know your dog.
2) Keep it predictable, as much as possible.
What's going to be the most comfortable type of travel for your dog?
Likely it's where you'll have the most control over the environment. That means where you can do whatever, whenever to keep your dog comfortable, like stopping as needed for potty breaks or a leg stretch.
For most of us, that translates hands-down to car travel over air travel. Not all dogs travel well on planes; there's a lot of hubbub, you're in someone else's space, on someone else's schedule. But for some dogs it makes sense and certain necessary circumstances can make it the right choice.
If you do opt for flying, be sure to confirm your specific airline’s pet policies. The rules for pet travel change often. Certified service dogs are still heartily welcomed on flights as a special exception, but emotional support animals are now considered "pets" on many airlines and fall into the usual guidelines such as small dogs only with a weight limit including a carrier that can fit under the seat.
However you choose to travel, remember planning is the secret to being able to relax and enjoy your travels together to the fullest.
How to make traveling with pets predictable and fun for your dog and you
As dog parents, we know that tricky situations can appear anywhere for you and your dog, even within a block of your home when that off-leash dog runs up to you or a noisy skateboard appears out of nowhere. But on your home turf, for the most part you know how to keep things consistently in your dog's comfort zone.
Dogs thrive on predictability. It's the safe foundation they need as a springboard to venturing out to experience the world confidently and contentedly. That's why it's up to all of us to plan our trips for predictability for our dogs and lay the foundation for fun.
A couple of pro tips to set you up for success when traveling with dogs:
Pro tip 1: Bring familiar things from home to help settling into a new place.
Your dog's sense of smell is the number one way your pup takes in information about what's happening. Help keep your dog comfortable with favorite blankets that smell and feel like you and your home.
If you're on a longer road trip with stops along the way, you can use these blankets to cover the hotel bed and eventually couches and beds at your ultimate destination. Your dog feels cozy and your hosts will appreciate you as a good guest minimizing dog hair.
You'll also want to include cherished toys, and if it's a road trip with plenty of room for packing, bring your pup's well-loved bed too. The blankets or bed can be spread on the back seat, making the drive more comfy as well!
Pro tip 2: Take time to look at photos and read real reviews from other dog people.
Whether you're staying at a pet-friendly hotel even for overnight stops on the way or a rental property like an Airbnb or VRBO, take a good look at surrounding areas for grassy spots and other dog-friendly spaces.
Many hotels and property hosts along with previous guests often share multiple photos, so you can scope out how and where you'll be able to get your dog outside and whether the general environment feels right for your pup. Take a minute to read through the reviews from guests to get a sense of what works or maybe doesn't about the place for other dogs and plan accordingly.
You'll, of course, want to check out specific pet policies, any pet fee, and possible additional pet fees. It goes without saying, but be sure to book in advance so you have peace of mind that you're all set!
10 must-haves when traveling with your dog
Be prepared on the essentials in advance so you're free to focus on fun and spending time with your dog. Here are 10 key things you don't want to leave home without when traveling with dogs:
1) Your dog's usual food
If your dog's usual food is all homemade, then start incorporating a good freeze-dried raw or other clean, nutritious prepared food into your dog's dish well in advance of your trip. Then on your trip, your dog will be used to it and you can add a few elements of fresh to it as they are available or feel confident with it as your dog's food en route.
2) Plenty of nutritious, delicious treats
You'll have plenty of opportunities to reward your pup in group or public situations. Use the good stuff - high-nutrition treats your pup loves and will help support your dog's immune system and health while you're at it.
3) Calming chews/treats
Try natural calming treats to keep your dog relaxed while you're in transit and whenever you think they can be helpful out and about in new places.
Other functional treats that support the immune system against allergies or your dog's gut and overall health with probiotics can be a great idea to pack as well.
4) Food and water bowls
In addition to regular food and water bowls, you'll need easy ways to hydrate and feed your dog in transit and on your various adventures. Our dogs love our water bottle with built-in dispenser and our collapsible travel bowls. You'll also want to have some fresh, filtered water you can access easily for drinks along the way.
5) Regular leash and extra-long leash
Of course, you'll want to include your regular 6 foot leash. But when you're on exploratory hikes, beach walking, or hanging out together in an unfenced area, you'll be glad you brought along an extra-long leash (15 or 30 feet) to give your dog freedom while staying safe (especially in unfamiliar territory).
6) Properly-fitting harness
You'll want a comfortable, well-fitting harness with front and back leash attachments for any time your dog is on leash or hooked into the car seat belt. It helps distribute the weight of any pressure evenly across your dog's body and alleviate stress on your dog's neck from a collar. It's also a good way to make sure your pup is safe and securely attached; a good, adjustable fit helps prevent wriggling out which can happen more easily with a collar or less-than-snug harness.
7) Strong safety seat belt
To keep your dog safe on a road trip, use a seat belt that fastens into your dog's harness to secure him or her. A strong safety belt keeps your dog safe in case of sudden stops or swerves. Test out fit before using it on the road, and for especially long trips you may let your dog get used to it at home with some short test rides.
8) Up-to-date ID tags in addition to your dog's microchip
Even though your dog is microchipped, be sure to have updated tags with your mobile number on them. Especially when you're away from your homebase, it's a good idea to have tags quickly readable by anyone without the need for a chip reader.
9) Your dog's current medical file
You most likely won't need it, but just in case, you'll be glad you have it if you end up at an away-from-home vet. If you're traveling by plane or other public transportation, you'll also want the required health certificate that verifies the latest rabies vaccination and other vitals. Make sure you have the number of a vet and emergency vet in your destination area - if you should ever need it, you don't want to be scrambling for it.
10) Medications and medical supplies
Be sure to have any medications your dog needs handy for whenever you need them. The same goes for just-in-case medical basics like whatever antihistamine your vet recommends, tweezers, a simple tick-remover tool, and a natural flea, tick, or bug spray.
Get ready, get set with your plans, and go!
At Mighty Paw, we're big believers in doing everything with our dogs, whether that's everyday adventures and exercise or longer-distance travels. That's why we're committed to providing high-quality products that are safe, durable, and practical for everyday use for everything you want to do together.
Here's to great adventures with your pup, near and far, large and small, in the year ahead and always!
Whether you're enjoying regular walks and outings in your neighborhood, cuddling at home, or hitting the road together, we've got you covered.