Have leash, will travel

Hitting the road with a four-legged friend


Mountains.... Seashore.... The lake....A ranch....Grandma’s house.....

Canoeing.... sailing.... hiking.... biking.... fishing.

When summer looms on the horizon, Americans get anxious to vacate their normal environment and activities and heed the call of the open road or the friendly skies. Today’s citizens come by the urge naturally; the country was settled by those with a yearning to be free, to see the other side of the ocean or bank of the river or shore of the continent.

Most early explorers set out with an entourage, be it covered wagon train, barge crew, or family expedition. Each group included livestock to provide meat and milk and haul the worldly goods, and many included a dog or two for protection and tracking game for the table.

Today’s family traveling on vacation has different goals and schedules and most don’t need a dog for protection or hunting. Companionship, however, is another story.

Preparing Phydeaux for the journey

Mom should take Phydeaux to the veterinarian at least two weeks prior to the trip for a complete physical and update on vaccinations, including Bordatella for kennel cough. The visit should include a discussion of diseases and parasites that may be prevalent in the destination area to determine if he needs additional protection. Some pesky problems to be aware of include Lyme disease, leptospirosis, leishmaniasis, hookworms, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Flea treatment should be part of the package; if the pooch doesn’t have the wretched parasite, he could get ‘em in the country, so forewarned is forearmed. If he does have fleas, it’s good practice to eliminate them before the trip to avoid infesting cars, motel rooms, cabins, etc. There are several flea treatments on the market that do not involve poisons, particularly those with flea growth inhibitors or the chitin blockers, and at least one heartworm medication also protects against fleas.

Tick treatments are also a good idea if hiking is part of the vacation package. Ticks carry diseases such as the afore-mentioned Lyme disease and spotted fever; prevention is definitely in order.

If the vacation involves hiking, Phydeaux should be in good shape for the terrain and the altitude. Conditioning should begin months before the trip. Daily walks of a mile or more, particularly up and down hills or on parcours trails, will help get him ready. If Phydeaux is less than a year old (or less than 18 months if he’s a large breed), strenuous hiking is a poor idea. Check with the vet to make sure the dog’s weight and muscle condition are appropriate for the challenge.

About a week before the trip, Phydeaux should get a thorough home grooming and bath or a trip to the grooming shop for a trim, ear-cleaning, and nail treatment to reduce shedding in the car and at the motel, decrease opportunities for ear problems, and cut the potential for claws to tear furniture and bed linens in motels or cabins or damage tent floors. If he’s a heavy-coated dog and is shedding, the grooming session can be postponed to a day or two before departure.

Travel tips

Be sure to check pet policies when making reservations at motels, hotels, inns, lodges, or campgrounds.

Many motels and hotels require a deposit, often non-refundable. Some limit travelers to small dogs.

Some communities have breed restrictions, rules about clean-up, and noise ordinances. Campgrounds may limit or forbid dogs during the busiest seasons, and state and federal facilities may ban dogs from certain hiking trails.

Phydeaux’s travel kit should include:

Additional items include:

The crate is a bed inside the car or van, at the motel or lodge, or next to the tent or picnic table. Many motels insist that the dog be crated while in the room. Small dogs can ride in a crate on the back seat or floor; large dogs should ride in the crate in the rear of a station wagon or van. If there’s no room for a large crate, the dog must learn to sit or lie quietly in the back seat or cargo area, with or without a harness that can be attached to the vehicle’s seat belts. Crates or carriers placed on the seat should be buckled in so they do not shift when the vehicle turns.

Wire or molded plastic crates are preferred for travel; soft-sided crates are lightweight and easy to carry, but they do not provide protection in an accident.

Dogs should not ride in the front passenger compartment where they can interfere with the driver or get hurt in an accident.

A minimum doggy first aid kit should include

[More on canine first aid kits]


All dogs should wear identification of some sort. The most common but least reliable is the license tag hanging from a hook on the collar. The tag can be lost in the brush or can be removed.

A tag riveted to the collar is only slightly more effective; it cannot be lost unless the collar is removed.

A tattoo on the inside of a hind leg provides permanent identification. Tattoos can be registered with a national organization that can trace the ownership of any dog if the number is reported. Trouble is, the guy at the gas station in Podunk, Iowa, won’t know who to call even if he does find the tattoo. And finders – even at animal shelters – are often reluctant to flip a dog on its side to search for a tattoo.

The newest rage in identification is the microchip, which is implanted under the loose skin on top of the dog’s neck. The chip is cemented in place with a bio-glue that does not damage tissue and can be read with a special scanner. Microchips are gaining in popularity since a universal scanner came on the market. Now the chips can be read by a single scanner no matter which company did the implant.

[More on Microchips]

Chips and tattoos are only good if the number has been recorded with a registry. For more information about tattoos, visit www.tattoo-a-pet.com/ on the Internet or call (800) TATTOOS (828-8667).

The American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery program registers microchips. See page 18 in this issue and browse http://www.akccar.org/ for more information about microchips.

Good travel manners

Although formal obedience training is not necessary, a traveling pooch should have good manners. He should sit and lie down on command, stand to have his paws cleaned and his coat brushed, come when called, climb in and out of the car without rushing, and ride quietly. He should also sit to be petted, walk quietly on a leash, and not steal food.

Dogs that bark excessively or at all hours are not welcome in motels or campgrounds, so make a Herculean effort to get barking under control before leaving home. If Fido can’t seem to learn to “hush” on command, try an electronic or herbal no-bark collar available at pet supply stores and catalogs.

Most dogs need some acclimation to travel so they know when to bark at strange noises or activity. Many dogs will be alert to every sound the first night or two and settle in nicely when they come to grips with the situation.

On the way

If Rover gets car sick, try a desensitization program a couple of months before the trip. Take him to the park or other places he will enjoy. Take him on short runs to do errands. Don’t feed him before the trip. If car sickness persists, ask your veterinarian for a remedy.

While on the road, use the air-conditioning to keep the car cool.

Stop at rest areas every three or four hours so Fido can stretch his legs and relieve himself.

Seeing the sights without Rover

The rule of thumb is “Don’t leave Rover in the car during the day!” Even with the windows cracked. Even in the shade — shade moves. Rover can stay in the car after twilight if he is in a crate and the windows are opened an inch or two.

If you want to spend a day touring museums or a zoo or wild animal park, make arrangements to leave Rover at the motel or hotel or find a kennel that offers one-day boarding. Don’t leave him tied to a tree at a campsite. If he’s to stay at the hotel, leave a message at the desk so the maid doesn’t walk in on an animal determined to protect his new turf. Many hotels will not clean the room with a dog inside even if the dog is crated.

If Rover is to be left alone in the room for several hours, take him for a brief walk, put him in a crate, say goodbye, firmly close the door, and walk away — just as you would do at home. If he’s quiet, keep going. If he’s noisy, grab a quick bite to eat and return as if this was your intention all along. Then find a kennel for the day or change plans; a prolonged bout of separation anxiety in a strange place is bad for Rover and wears out your welcome really fast.

For more information about traveling with Phydeaux, see www.Takeyourpet.com.

Norma Bennett Woolf

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