“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our life whole.” -Unknown
After nine years without a dog in our home, we were excited to welcome Pepper, our sweet Miniature Schnauzer. Of course, as avid travelers, our desire was to teach little Pepper to love traveling so we could take her with us.
It turns out that she loves to go, much to our relief and these were some of the efforts we made to make her comfortable and helped her to enjoy traveling.
Start early, go often
Pepper joined our family at 8 weeks old so her travel indoctrination started early. On the day we went to pick her up, we had to travel two hours from our home. That meant that from the very beginning, our sweet new addition had to deal with a ride in the car. That first day was a big one for her as she tried to figure out who we were and why we were taking her away from the only home she had ever known so it was no surprise that her tummy was a little upset on the way home. That reaction was expected and thankfully, that initial tummy upset was temporary.
No matter your pet’s age, when you first start to travel with him/her, keep in mind that it can be a new, pretty scary experience for your pet so I recommend understanding, patience, and a little preparation. For that first ride, we took a blanket and a towel in anticipation of an upset tummy. Also, if you can, I would recommend keeping that first outing a short one.
Once your new friend gets the hang of the car, go for a ride as often as you can. We took Pepper everywhere we possibly could. We took her to pick up lunch, run errands, and to the local hardware store, expanding the distance in our trips so she would grow more comfortable in the car. She loved it and she quickly learned the routine of getting ready to leave and settling quickly in the car.
We also encouraged her to interact with people around us and in some settings, we carefully encouraged her to interact with other dogs, all in hopes of socializing her to be a polite traveler.
Pack for your pooch
Before leaving home, pack the supplies your pup needs to travel. Pepper has her own backpack with collapsible food and water bowls, food, plenty of poop bags, toys, and treats, and I always include a Hydro Flask water bottle with plenty of water to keep my little one happy. I often include a towel in case our morning walks are wet and dewey or she gets into something that might require a bath.
Oh, and don’t forget some basics like a leash, collar, and even a halter to keep your pup secure.
I also recommend that you have your pup’s shot records close at hand, just in case they are needed as you travel.
Create a safe place for your pup
Early on, we searched for a crate that we hoped would serve several purposes. We wanted a crate at home that would be a comfy place for Pepper to sleep at night and a secure spot for her on the rare occasion that we needed to leave her at home while we run out for a quick dinner or to grocery shop. Most importantly, we needed a crate that was easy for us to move, would fit easily into the car, and in which Pepper could safely and comfortably travel. That is a lot to ask of one dog crate! Of course, we looked to Amazon where there are endless options. The miracle crate that we settled on was the Rolcheleego Collapsible Dog Crate. Read all about it: https://amzn.to/3Y3VDFo. Pepper’s new home away from home is soft-sided and collapses for easy transport. The sides and the top can be zipped and locked closed if needed and since she was a puppy, we like that this crate could be washed and easily reassembled. When we started traveling with her crate, we include her favorite blanket so she could cuddle with familiar smells from home and a couple toys to play with including a chewy toy since Pepper is a chewer.
Pepper loves her crate. When she sees us preparing it to go out to the car, that is her sign that we are going somewhere and that she is going with us. We try to save loading her crate until the last minute to keep her from getting too excited.
In the car, she usually curls up and falls fast asleep right away and unlike other pups that we’ve had, she continues to doze even when we stop and start getting out of the car. She likes the motion of the car and feels at home in her crate.
The first time we took Pepper on an extended trip, we discovered that a trip of four to five hours is just about her limit in the car for one day and I was thankful that her crate unzips on the sides so I could reach in to comfort her and play with her until we made it to our destination.
My husband and I are usually able to travel for many hours without having to stop and when we do stop, we try to keep the pause in our travel as short as possible. Now that we have Pepper, we try to stop regularly, about every two to three hours. Of course, as a little puppy, this was especially important since we didn’t want to test her tiny bladder. Now that she is growing, we have been able to stretch the time between stops and we always get her out of the car when we stop, even if all she wants to do is stretch her legs.
Friends that travel in their RV across the country recommended establishing a relationship with a vet who offers easily accessible care nationwide such as Banfield. This vet care is often found inside PetSmart but we are aware of free-standing locations as well. Because they have services nationwide, this could help with continuity of care for your pet with easy access to your pet’s medical records if veterinary care is needed as you travel.
However, if you are not near a Banfield location or prefer not to use them, having your pet’s health and shot records close at hand is a good idea. It is also a good idea to know where you can find veterinary care or an emergency vet around you as you travel.
As someone who regularly travels for my employer, I discovered Bring Fido. For the times that we need a pet-friendly hotel, Bring Fido is an app that you can load onto your phone that easily helps to identify hotels that allow pets with reviews and helpful information. The app is a great addition to your phone to help you plan your trip and to use it on the road if you need it.
I would want to caution you to be realistic. Before you get a dog with the idea that you will take it along on your travels, consider that not all pets enjoy travel. This could be due to anxiety or even motion sickness. As much as we wanted Pepper to love traveling with us, we would never have forced her to go if it was a terrible experience for her.
Pepper is a great little travel companion and as I travel for work, it is a blessing to have her and my husband waiting for me when I’m done for the day. I’m so glad that she loves to go where we go.
My hope is that you can enjoy your travels with your best friend like we do and I hope my tips can help your experience!