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Here's everything you need to know about preparing your dog for travel

A 3-Month pre-trip timeline

This article was written by Raintown Dog Training


You’ve started planning that big trip - and of course your canine companion will be coming with you. It would feel wrong to see the world without your best friend by your side! With ample planning and preparation, a vacation with your dog can be an incredible experience. 


That said, traveling with your pup can be complicated, and at times stressful, when their needs and comfort are not adequately accounted for. Outlined below is a pre-trip timeline to set you and your dog up for success.


No time to prep? Scroll to the bottom for some last-minute travel tips!


PLANNING YOUR TRIP

The trip is no longer an exciting ‘someday’ idea - you’ve decided to make it happen! What special considerations should be made when planning the perfect vacation for you and your pooch?


Research Travel Options

The word ‘travel’ can mean many things, from road trips to airplanes. When choosing a destination and a method of travel, keep in mind your pup’s comfort. Can you make a road trip, giving them the comfort of a familiar vehicle? If choosing air travel, is there an airline that will allow your dog to ride in the cabin with you? Research, research, research!


Although the idea of travel with your pet is exciting, it is often wise to leave dogs home when possible. For dogs that struggle to adjust to new locations/experiences, a trusted pet-sitter may be the kindest option.


Ask Questions

Once you have decided on a method of travel (or during the research process), it’s time to find out exactly what conditions your pet will be traveling under. You will be spending the next few months getting your dog ready for this trip, and the more accurately you can replicate the real experience, the more prepared they will be. What size of crate will they be traveling in? Will it be made out of mesh, metal, or plastic? The more information you can collect, the better.


Manage Expectations

A trip with your pup will be a little different than a humans-only adventure. Think more outdoor activities and eating on patios, and less museums or indoor dining. Even if your dog is usually happy being left home alone, they may not feel comfortable being left in an unfamiliar hotel room while you go out. Be sure to plan activities with your dog in mind!

3+ MONTHS PRIOR TO TRAVEL

Now is the time to begin getting your dog comfortable with the sounds, sights, and experiences they will encounter on the trip. Socialization and desensitization are important to ensure your pup’s comfort while on the road.


Socialization

During your travels, your dog will likely encounter many new people, dogs, and experiences. To prepare them for this, begin bringing your pup to new and/or busy locations. The goal here is to make every experience a positive one. Have ready an ample supply of high-value treats (think stinky dried fish, or chopped up cheese). While in a busy or unfamiliar environment with your dog, shower them with praise, pets, and treats to create a positive association!


If you see any signs of stress from your dog (tucked tail, ears flat, stiff body), bring them to a quieter area. Socialization must always go at the dog’s pace, staying within their comfort level.


Noise Desensitization 

A few months beforehand is a great time to begin getting your dog accustomed to the sounds they will encounter during your trip. Especially if traveling by airplane, there will be many loud and potentially frightening noises. Throughout the day, try playing airplane sounds on a low volume (YoutTube is great for this). As your dog becomes more comfortable with the sounds, you can gradually turn up the volume.


2+ MONTHS PRIOR TO TRAVEL

It is a good idea to leave at least a couple months for training your dog before you depart! Crate training will be your main focus from now until the trip, but some extra potty training may be useful as well.


Crate Training

For a crate-trained dog, the crate can become a safe haven. This is especially beneficial when traveling as it brings some familiarity to their changing surroundings. Unfortunately, many pet parents accidentally rush the training process, resulting in a dog who dislikes their crate.


The key with crate training is to go slow. Begin by simply dropping a treat into the crate at random times throughout the day, as well as feeding them meals inside. All good things happen in the crate! Once your pup is happily entering their crate, you can begin closing the crate door. Start with shutting it for just one second, and then slowly build the duration. If your pup begins to cry, close the door for a shorter duration next time! Moving at the dog’s comfort level is key here.


Potty On Cue

While traveling, your dog will often have a short window of time in which they can go potty before hitting the road again. Teaching them a potty cue, such as ‘Go Potty!’ can be useful.


When out with your dog over the next few months, try capturing their pottying using these steps:

  1. When you suspect they are about to go potty (eg. they begin sniffing/squatting), say ‘Go Potty!’

  2. After they go, give them a treat!

Your pup will learn to associate your cue with going potty, and subsequently receiving a reward. Once they are pottying on cue, try taking them to potty on different surfaces, preparing them for whatever potty areas you may encounter in your travels.


Unsure where to start with training, or hitting a road block? Talk to a trainer!

1 MONTH PRIOR TO TRAVEL

Time to see the vet! Especially for international travel, a vet visit prior to departure is a must.


Health Check And Vaccines

Every country has different requirements for bringing an animal in! Be sure to look into what vaccines, medical records, and clearances you need for your specific destination. A current vet-check and updated vaccinations is necessary for most travel.


Dealing With Anxiety

If your dog experiences anxiety, it is a good idea to ask your vet about options for medications or calming remedies. In most cases, vets won’t recommend sedatives for air travel. A thundershirt or calming vest is often a good alternative to medication for anxious pups. 


If you are traveling by car with a dog who gets motion-sickness, you can ask your vet about medication to help relieve their symptoms!


DAY OF TRAVEL

The day is finally here! Follow the steps below to set your dog up for a successful trip.


Physical Exercise 

Your pup is about to be pent up in a small space for hours… better burn off some energy first! Be sure to give your dog a good run before the trip to avoid them getting antsy en-route.


Mental Enrichment

While physical exercise is important, you will also want to mentally stimulate your dog to avoid them getting bored/restless during your trip. It isn’t advisable to feed your dog much before a flight/long car ride, but you can try non-food enrichment options such as playing a game of tug, letting them dig and sniff outdoors, or playing hide-and-seek! Be sure to leave your pup with a few (safe) chew toys in their crate as well.


HELP! LAST-MINUTE TRIP WITH NO TIME TO PREP

For those of you planning a last-minute trip, this timeline may seem unrealistic. How can you spend three months socializing your dog if your flight leaves in two weeks?


If you are in a time-crunch, an expertly-planned trip may be the best solution. Can you find an airline that allows your dog to ride with you? Can you take a ferry or a train instead of flying? Since you don’t have much time for training, your best bet will be to choose the easiest mode of travel for your pup. 


HAPPY TRAVELS!

When well-prepared, travel with your pup can be extremely rewarding.


Have you been on a vacation with your dog before? DM us your favourite pup-cation or comment below!


Author: Rhiannon van Lidth de Jeude Roemer


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