Whether you are traveling “over the river and through the woods’ to Grandma’s cozy cottage or a sumptuous ski resort this holiday season, be sure your dog enjoys his vacation as much as you do. If you plan to take him with you or you decide to leave him behind, you will need to take the necessary steps to insure his safety.
Strategies for Pet Sitter Safety
One option for leaving your pet behind is to hire a pet sitter. In this way the dog can remain in his own home and be tended by either a live-in or visiting caretaker. Hiring a pet sitter requires diligence and care. Make sure the pet sitter is a professional. It may be tempting to hire your neighbor’s kid to drop in but your dog deserves much more than a quick scoop of food and a water bowl fill-up. A professional pet sitter will have training, accreditation, liability insurance, experience with a variety of breeds and personalities, and may also perform extra services such as bringing in the mail or putting out the trash. Get recommendations from your friends or your veterinarian and ask the prospective pet sitter for references. Call those references.
Reserve your pet sitter as far in advance as possible. Make a “dry run’ with her and have her demonstrate to you she understands feeding procedures, outdoor schedules and activities, and sleeping arrangements. Draw up detailed written instructions and go over them with the pet sitter line by line. Post emergency numbers for you, your veterinarian, and where you will be staying. Let your vet know the pet sitter has your permission to seek medical attention for your pet if necessary. Have a back-up plan in place, perhaps a friend that can drop in or book your dog into a boarding kennel if the pet sitter becomes unavailable suddenly. In short, be as cautious and careful in choosing a sitter for your dog as you would be for your children.
Safe and Suitable Boarding Kennels
Boarding kennels can be luxurious playgrounds or dismal dives. Well before you intend to leave for your holiday excursion, check out all the kennels available in your area. Don’t confine yourself to looking up kennels in the phone book or online; many veterinarians and doggy day care facilities also offer extended boarding.
Seek recommendations from friends and family. Drop into the kennel unannounced and ask to see the facilities. Ask to see certificates, licenses, or other validating documentation, as well as written policies and procedures and requirements for both the kennel staff and the pet owners. Yu want to make sure that all dogs being boarded there are required to submit complete vaccination records and that emergency veterinary services are available.
The ideal kennel is one that is regularly cleaned and well ventilated, has both indoor and outdoor areas for each dog, and regular playtime with experienced, trained, kind and caring kennel staff and other dogs. If you have more than one dog, choose a kennel that will allow your dogs to stay together or next to each other so they feel comfortable and safe.
Tips for Safe Travel
If you have a well-behaved, sociable dog, you may decide to take him along to your holiday dinner with you. If you are traveling by airplane, check with the airline to find out their regulations, requirements, and rates. Some airlines, such as Southwest, do not allow pets to travel onboard at all, but those that do have specific health and safety procedures. Make sure you book rooms in a hotel or motel that allows dogs and always take along a folding crate whether you are traveling by air or by car.
If you are heading to your holiday feast by car, here are some basic steps to traveling safely with your dog:
Take plenty of water from home with you. Your dog may be sensitive to water outside his local area. Never let your dog drink from a public fountain or water feature as these may contain fatal amounts of antifreeze.
Make sure your dog has identification tags, a microchip, and a sturdy collar. Take pictures of your dog to show in case he becomes lost, including pictures of your family with your dog.
Bring a first aid kit and copies of your dog’s medical records, as well as any medication (including heartworm, flea and tick repellant, and prescriptions) he may need.
Keep your dog on a leash at all times. You never know how he will react in unfamiliar situations and locations.
Discourage your dog from putting his head out the window while you drive. Foreign matter may injure your dog’s eyes or ears.
Never let your dog roam free inside the car. Secure him in the back seat with a harness designed for dog travel or confine him to his crate if your vehicle is large enough. If you have to brake suddenly, your 80-pound Rottweiler will become an unstoppable cannonball.
Look for more travel safety tips online on the PAWS (Partnership for Animal Welfare) and Animal Humane Society websites.
Whether you board your dog or take it with you, your dog is likely to come into contact with other dogs. Make sure his regular vaccinations are up to date and get him a Bordatella shot at least two weeks ahead of time to prevent his contracting kennel cough. Make sure his usual food, toys, and bedding accompany him so he will have familiar things around him in unfamiliar surroundings.
By taking these elementary precautions, not only will you be able to relax and revel in the holidays this year, but your dog will enjoy a safe vacation adventure as well.