The holidays are fast approaching and we're inclined to take our SideKicks with us for trips to visit family. If you follow SideKick Dog Training on social media, you know that I provide a new tip each Tuesday. November's Tip Tuesdays are dedicated to the topic of traveling! And you - as a subscriber - get the early scoop on each tip! Before you hit the road to drive to mom and dad's or grandma and grandpa's, consider each of these traveling tips!
Tip No. 1: Make sure your SideKick is up for the trip. Some SideKicks love riding in cars; others aren't big fans. Regardless, there's a big difference between a car ride to drop off some letters at the post office and a two-day road trip to visit grandma and grandpa for turkey day. Make practice car rides in the weeks before your trip, using the same harness or dog crate/carrier that you'll be using for the longer trip; and start out with short, small car rides in the beginning. Provide familiar and favorite toys and blankets in the crate/carrier or in the back seat with your SideKick and reward them (with praise, pets, and treats) for using them. There can be a lot of activity before a trip, as well, so take a little extra special care to see that your SideKick is calm and comfortable in the days leading up to the trip. Tip No. 2: Check your SideKick's tags and microchip!
Before heading out for a trip out of town or out of state, make sure that your SideKick's tags have all up-to-date information on them (particularly your contact information); and ensure that the microchip is registered and current.
Escapes happen sometimes and, being in a strange place, staying at a strange house, and surrounded by strangers, your SideKick may not be able to make it back on their own. Making sure your info for your SideKick is updated and current greatly increases the chances of a safe return! That said, our SideKicks are little explorers and traveling some place new is just as exciting for them as it is for us! Their noses often set them to wandering and even a dog with a perfect, beautiful Recall at home would have a hard time responding when hot on the trail of something good. During any breaks while traveling and when you get to your destination, keep your SideKick on leash. (Bonus tip: make it a long leash - 15-30 feet - if you want and are able to give your SideKick a little more space to roam and explore).
Tip No. 3: Keep your SideKick (and your family) safe when traveling on the road. Having a loose animal in the car is, on a normal basis, often difficult and hazardous because of the distraction they provide. Additionally, a loose dog isn't protected in the event of an accident or sudden stop. By extension, you and your family aren't safe with a loose dog during an accident either.
That said, some sort of restraint is recommended - a harness or a crate. Many harnesses attach to the car's child car seat anchors or buckle in with a seat belt attachment; and a crate or carrier can be strapped down. The Center for Pet Safety studies the pet restraint systems on the market and has certified a number of products for their ability to safely contain and protect animals during simulated crashes. Their list of approved products can be found at centerforpetsafety.org.
On top of the safety a harness or crate provides in the event of an accident, the two tools usually prevent a dog from sticking their head out the window. While it's cute and it seems like the dog is having fun while doing it, it's easy for your SideKick to be pelted with bugs, rocks, and other road debris, causing damage to ears and eyes; and if the window is open enough for your SideKick to get their head out, chances are that it's open enough for the rest of the body to wriggle out if they see something they really want to get to. Tip No. 4: Pack your SideKick's food, medications, and water in a handy spot.
While traveling on the road with your SideKick, pack their usual food to maintain their usual eating habits and schedule; you never know if your SideKick's usual food is available in other states, too.
Along those lines, if your SideKick takes any medications, you'll want to have those handy to make sure those are delivered at the appropriate times. Take plenty of breaks while traveling (one every couple of hours)to stretch the legs and get a drink of water.
Enjoy traveling with your SideKick this holiday season!