Travel with dogs can be an adventure any time of year, but during the hectic holidays it can be especially exciting! Whether you’re embarking across the United States or just down the road, there are plenty of dog traveling ideas and tricks to make the ride safe and comfortable for everyone!
Here are some guidelines for how to travel with a dog during the holidays.
Holiday Travel Safety Tips
Make sure the trip is right for your pet. Before exploring the best way to travel with a dog, consider whether you should bring your pup along at all. While we’d all love to bring our pets with us over the holidays, it’s important to be mindful that not all trips and destinations are pet friendly. Sometimes the best option is to have a trusted pet sitter watch your buddy until you return. If you’re not sure whether a trip will be safe or enjoyable for your pet, consult your veterinarian.
Avoid leaving your dog in the car unattended. This is important advice for anyone wondering how to keep dogs safe in cars. Even on crisp fall or winter days, the inside of a car can get dangerously hot in a surprisingly short time if the sun is shining. Whenever possible, always bring your dog with you when you leave the vehicle.
Before you go, find a local vet at your destination. When traveling with a pet, it never hurts to be too careful. To make sure you’re prepared for anything, look up veterinarians in the area you’ll be visiting, and make sure to call and confirm holiday hours so you know when and where to go, just in case. Also, if your dog is on any medication, make sure you pack these in a secure place and bring your dog’s medical paperwork with you.
Help your dog get in and out. Does your dog ever struggle to jump up into the car? Does he hesitate to jump down? Do you ever strain your back having to bend down and give him a boost? For many pet parents, the answer is yes to all of the above. Dog ramps and steps are a great way to take the effort out of loading dogs in cars, saving their joints and yours at the same time!
Put your dog in the back seat. Whether you have one canine copilot or multiple dogs in the car, it’s safer for everyone if each dog riding in the car stays in the back seat. Dogs in the front seat can be a dangerous distraction and are at risk of injury if airbags deploy, so consider getting a reliable dog barrier, a zipline, to prevent them roaming into the danger zone. When traveling with a puppy in a car, a comfy dog travel crate can be the perfect place for them to nap safely while you’re on the road. This portable dog crate for cars buckles into your car’s seatbelt for a secure ride.
Equip your dog with contact info. While in a new place, sometimes get a little too curious and try to wander off and explore. If your dog does get away from you, it’s very important that he has identifying info with him. Make sure he has ID tags on his collar or harness with an updated phone number where you can be reached.
Microchip your dog for maximum security. In addition to tags, it’s a great idea to get your dog microchipped. This tiny, harmless chip, placed just under the skin by a veterinary professional, can be scanned by a vet or animal shelter employee to quickly find your dog’s information (often including your contact info) on a national database. Microchips can be a lifesaver for dogs who get lost in a strange place!
Watch your dog closely in parking lots and sidewalks. During the colder months around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, paved surfaces are often coated in a salt mixture to prevent freezing. It’s also common to find leaked or spilled antifreeze in rest stop or gas station parking lots. These can be tempting for your dog to taste, but can be very dangerous if ingested. Make sure your buddy doesn’t try to lick the pavement during pit stops.
Holiday Travel Comfort Tips
Make regular pit stops. Be sure to stop regularly for brief, leashed walks to let your dog potty and stretch his legs. For long trips, consider looking up off-leash dog parks along your route. Some rest stops and travel centers offer fenced areas specifically for dogs. Pit stops are also the best time to offer your dog water, as it’s usually difficult to maintain an open water bowl in a moving vehicle.
Make sure your dog stays warm with a sweater or jacket. If your dog is small or has short hair, chances are he feels cold when you do and would appreciate something warm and snuggly to wear. There are all kinds of dog sweaters, dog jackets, dog hoodies and even dog raincoats available to keep him comfy. Remember, it’s also important to make sure your dog doesn’t get too hot. Some breeds like Huskies and Saint Bernards are built for the cold. If your dog is panting while wearing a sweater or coat, this can mean they’re getting too warm and it’s probably time to take it off.
Protect your seats from hair, paws and more. One of the easiest ways to make your car, truck, minivan or SUV more dog-friendly is with handy waterproof seat covers. Seat covers are great for keeping dog hair, muddy paws and other pup messes off your seats.
Give small dogs a boost. They can have their very own window seat with a comfy booster seat that includes a safety tether and attaches easily to a car seat headrest. These keep small dogs from wandering in the car and often help them relax by letting them watch the world go by out the car window.
Make your holiday destination feel like home. Your dog will be most comfortable at your travel destination if it feels familiar to him. You can make your buddy feel like he’s home for the holidays by bringing his favorite blankets, dog beds and toys along. Give him time to explore his temporary home away from home so he can get used to the sights, sounds and smells. According to the FDA, popular holiday plants like mistletoe, holly and poinsettias can be toxic to cats if ingested, so be sure to check for these.
Give your dog a space of his own. Find a quiet, place for your dog’s bed, crate and toys. Especially if your destination is crowded with people, many dogs will appreciate a peaceful place where they can take a break from all the attention. If he’s allowed on the furniture, lightweight, portable pet steps can help him get up and down. Place his food and water nearby where he can find it easily.
Make sure your dog has access to fresh water. If your dog is like many canine companions, he may be tempted to drink from the toilet or even the Christmas tree stand while visiting family and friends for the holidays. Make sure he has access to fresh, filtered, flowing water 24/7 with a pet fountain.
Stick to your dog’s usual meal routine. Another way to help your dog feel at home is to maintain his normal eating times. If your trip’s itinerary makes this a challenge, an automatic pet feeder can help ensure your buddy gets his meals on time, every time, even if you’re late getting back from shopping or other holiday activities. This will also help keep him full so he’s less tempted to beg for Thanksgiving dinner scraps or other holiday treats!
Keep your pup entertained with fun dog toys. Looking for a Christmas gift for your dog? An interactive dog toy is the perfect stocking stuffer to focus his attention on fun while he’s getting acclimated to his new surroundings. And don’t forget to put some treat-holding dog toys under the Christmas tree to keep him happy and occupied on the ride home.
Dog Travel Checklist
Here’s a handy list of common items to make traveling with your dog safe, comfortable and fun this holiday season:
- Collar and ID tags with contact information
- Leash and harness
- Dog jacket or sweater
- Poop bags
- Dog food
- Food and water bowls
- Dog ramp or steps
- Dog barrier or zipline
- Waterproof seat cover
- Collapsible travel crate
- Pet travel bag
- Beds and blankets from home
- Pet fountain
- Automatic pet feeder
- Interactive dog toys