By Veronica Rigatti, VSA-CDT, Canine Behavior Specialist
With the world finally opening back up and many people getting out and traveling again, you may think about taking your four-legged friends for a trip. Traveling can be very stressful for pets, so if you do plan on vacationing with your dog, cat or rabbit, be sure you are all prepared!
If possible, driving to your destination is the ideal mode of transportation. You can make the trip more comfortable for your pet in a car than an airplane. If you must fly to get to your destination, be sure to check airline policies for animals before booking your tickets.
When driving, four-legged passengers should always ride in the back seat of the vehicle for safety reasons. They should never freely ride in a car, but instead need to be secured in a crate or tethered with a pet seatbelt and body harness. Have a bag packed with essentials such as towels, a water bottle and bowl, treats, an item that smells like you or anything else that may help to keep them calm. Be sure to stop every 2-3 hours to give them water and take a bathroom break.
If your pet does not do well in the car, begin some positive conditioning before the trip to get them more comfortable. Spend time in the car while it is turned off and parked to let them explore and acclimate. Next, turn the car on, but don’t drive anywhere just yet. Play calming music and give them praise and treats throughout the session. Progress with very short trips like up and down the street, around the block, to the store and back and slowly build up to longer trips. If your pet gets sick in the car it could be from motion sickness or anxiety, so consult with your veterinarian to determine if medication is needed.
When booking a place to stay, be sure to review the pet policies of where you might be staying. Upon arrival, check the accommodations for any potential hazards before taking your pet inside. Be sure to give them a quick potty break outside before going in. Create a comfortable space for your pet while you are there so they can enjoy their time, too. It is beneficial if they are already crate trained so you can bring it along as something familiar to them. If not, use an exercise pen and set up an area with their bed or blankets, food and water bowls, toys and any other items they may need. If there are any outdoor areas, make sure they are always on a leash or tethered.
Be sure to give your pet sufficient exercise and keep to a schedule as much as possible because a routine can help them adjust easier. With these helpful preparations, you and your four-legged family member can spend a memorable time adventuring, relaxing, and bonding together away from home!