Guest Post by Anne Handschack

Do you love to go on trips and take your favorite four-legged companion with you? As both a dog trainer and a hiking enthusiast, I have taken many trips across the country with my own four dogs. Those trips often become lifelong memories and are a highlight of the year for both owner and dog. 

By following a few tips and tricks, you can ensure that the trip will be an all around success. Today, I share my own life hacks for traveling with you!

Take a practice trip

Maybe you just adopted a dog from the shelter or you welcomed a new puppy into your life. Before you start out on a big adventure with your new companion, make sure to take a short practice trip. Not all dogs react the same to traveling and being away from home, and you need to know how your dog will behave!

Some dogs (especially rescue dogs that have a history of being abandoned) might be triggered by leaving their known surroundings. Instead of enjoying the trip, they could be anxious, stressed, and reactive. They may have stress-induced diarrhea or refuse to eat. It is impossible to predict how your dog is going to react without trying it out.

You can start with your practice trip by just taking your dog along for a long day at the beach, one night in a tent close to home or a bed and breakfast not far from your house. That way you have an easy out if your dog starts to panic – you can just return home right away.

Pack light and smart

Dog owners often pack too many items – and also the wrong ones! Your dog won’t need 5 leashes or 6 kinds of dog food. He may however really benefit from you packing something that smells like home, such as his snuggle blanket, dog bed, or even an old t-shirt. But in case you forgot, you can easily find comfortable and under-budget dog beds for miniature schnauzer or for any other dog breed online.

Instead of taking a dozen different toys, just pack his favorite ball. He will be just as happy and you save yourself a lot of space and weight in your suitcase.

If your dog takes any medication (even preventatives such as heartworm pills or flea medicine), make a checklist for those to ensure you do not leave any at home. It is inconvenient and pricey to try and locate prescription medication away from home – also for pets.

Get a doggy first aid kit

Accidents happen, and we all know they often happen at the worst times. Be prepared for small mishaps by taking a doggy first aid kit along. That way you can take care of small injuries, insect bites or broken nails by yourself without having to find a vet at your vacation destination. 

Have your dog groomed before leaving

Especially if you will be staying in tight quarters (such as if sleeping in a tent or driving in an RV), make sure that your dog gets groomed before you leave. There is nothing more frustrating than sleeping near a stinky dog when you are on vacation, or having his long nails scratch up the door of your hotel room. You also won’t want to spend your free time running around with lint rollers trying to remove all the stray hairs he left on the vacation rental’s furniture.

Take your dog to a groomer before heading on your trip. They can remove any dead hair, give him a bath, clip his nails, clean his ears and let you head out on the trip with a beautiful dog that smells fresh and has shiny fur.

Containment considerations

You do not want your dog to get lost during your vacation. Especially in new environments many dogs are at flight risk and can take off as soon as they get the chance. Make plans before you leave about how you will contain your dog at your destination.

In some cases (such as city trips) you should plan to keep your dog on a leash the entire time. If you are heading to an RV park or vacation rental, bringing a play pen will let your dog enjoy some outside time in a secured enclosure. If you are staying in a hotel, you may want to also bring a foldable crate that your dog can sleep in.

Do not let your dog roam around off-leash, especially unsupervised. In unknown locations it is impossible for the dog to find his owner again after running off. This does not only apply to your destination by the way – you should never let a dog be off-leash at a rest stop while on the road either. Every year, many dogs disappear forever when they take off during a quick pit stop.

The Bottom Line

Having a great vacation with your dog comes down to smart planning, being proactive and keeping everyone safe and comfortable. You can never prepare too much when it comes to a great trip with your pup. If your dog has never traveled before, take a short practice trip before heading out on the big journey. 

Getting your dog groomed before your vacation will make riding in the car together much more pleasant, and you don’t have to worry about stray hair or nail marks at your destination.

Whenever you are traveling with a dog, keep in mind that he needs to be contained at all times – dogs tend to be a bit more on edge in new places and likely to run away and not find their way back.

And now, enjoy the vacation with your best friend!

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