By Susan Claire, CPDT-KA
One of the privileges of being a well-mannered pooch, is getting to travel with your human. You work hard at being a good dog, and you deserve a vacation too. However, your human may have to make some sacrifices for the pleasure of your company. For example, they may have to downgrade a star or two when choosing a hotel. Since anti-discrimination laws don't yet apply to quadrupeds, you may be banned from some public places. Your human may have to do less sightseeing, shopping and tourist attractions, as these things do not always welcome dogs. Maybe this is the perfect time for a more laid-back, outdoors-y type of vacation, which can be refreshing and relaxing for you both.
When two different species travel together, advance planning is key. Your human may want to book you a day at a "doggy spa" while they visit some of the sites that are not dog-friendly. Encourage your human to do research and ask a lot of questions before you get there. If visiting a national park, for example, have them ask about alligators and other predators before letting you swim or run off-leash. And always know where the closest emergency vet clinic is. Tell them to pre-load it into the GPS.
If your vacation plans include a road trip, get lots of exercise the day before. This way you can sleep while your human drives. Have them pack all your familiar stuff, and put your bed in the car, so you feel right at home. When they buckle up, so should you- get a harness that straps into the seatbelt. If possible, you can even take your crate. Grab yourself a chew toy upon embarkment. Long rides are more pleasant when you make frequent stops, and take a walk with your traveling buddy. Don't forget your identification tags???it's easy to get lost when you don't know your way around town. If traveling in the summertime, don't let your human leave you closed in a hot car. Protest loudly if they try.
When traveling by air, things get a bit more complicated. If you're a larger canine, you're considered cargo, and must travel in the cargo section below, in an airline-approved crate. There are risks involved, so research carefully and leave the website up so your human can see it and make an informed decision. If you're of the "privileged class" of canines, i.e. a toy breed, you are portable and can travel in a carrier that fits under the seat. Have your human get a carrier on wheels, so they doesn't throw their back out and ruin the trip. When traveling by air, there's a fee and a space must be reserved in advance.
When you get to your destination, will you be staying with friends or relatives? Do they have family members of your species who will be glad to have a houseguest? Do they mind you accompanying your human? Do their children respect dogs? Is there a place for you to walk and exercise, and somewhere you can stay safely when the bipeds leave the house? To preserve your good relations, be sure your human discusses these details in advance. If you don't feel welcome, sometimes a hotel is the best choice.
More hotels and vacation spots are opening their doors to the canine traveler. The key here is to be considerate of others, and not be a nuisance, so these institutions don't change their pet-friendly policies. Dog waste is the number one complaint, so don't leave ammunition for the anti-dog people???tell your human to pick it up! Hopefully your human won't leave you alone too long in the room- it can be scary in a strange place. If they do, take them for a long walk first, so you can sleep it off while they're gone doing human things. Or better yet, have them take you along. Outdoor cafes are a great way to check out the locals of both species, while having a meal together. Have your human take your bed and chew toy along, and set a great example for traveling pooches everywhere!
A word to the humans: A well-traveled dog travels well, so if you plan on making your dog an enjoyable companion, get him out in the world early! Take your puppy everywhere you can while he is still under 18 weeks of age- that is the critical social period for a dog. Expose him to all the unpredictable things in the human world he will inhabit. This will ensure a fun, confident travel companion that is ready for anything!