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Holiday Travel Tips for Dogs

As the holidays draw closer we look forward to spending time with our friends and family. Oftentimes this means gathering at places far from home. While packing for yourself might be a cinch, what happens when your beloved dog is coming along for the ride? With a few basic tips you can make holiday travels with your dog easy and fun.


Car Trips Made Easy

If you’ve never taken your dog anywhere in the car, a ten-hour ride to grandma’s house might not be the best place to start. But if your dog is comfortable riding the car then you’re already in good shape. As all good pet parents know, it’s essential to secure your dog in the car. If he’s crate trained then using a crate is an excellent option. There are also doggy seatbelts available that will keep your dog secure for the ride. Make sure you stop often to give your dog a potty break and let him stretch his legs (on leash, of course!).


You should also pack essential items for your dog. Some items may depend on how long the car ride will be and how long you’ll be staying at your destination, but basic items include:

  • ·         Food and water bowls
  • ·         Bottled water
  • ·         Your dog’s brand of food
  • ·         Treats
  • ·         Leash
  • ·         Collar with ID tags
  • ·         Any medication your dog is taking
  • ·         Chew toys, such as a Nylabone, to keep your dog occupied
  • ·         Towels (to cover furniture or to shade the crate from the sun)
  • ·         Paper towels and cleaning supplies
  • ·         First aid kit
  • ·         Brush or comb

A Good Guest

If your dog has been invited to visit or stay in someone’s home it’s up to you to make sure he is good houseguest. First and foremost, make sure your dog is truly welcome. Don’t just assume that an invite to a holiday party includes your four-legged friend. Once you are sure your dog is on the guest list, take some time to reinforce his manners training. Brush up on all the basic commands, such as sit, stay, come, and walk nicely on a leash. If your dog is prone to jumping up on people, work on stopping that behavior with redirection.

You should also ask your host beforehand for some basic house rules. Something as simple as: “We allow Dogpoleon Boneaparte on the couch at our home; please let me know what’s acceptable dog behavior in your home” will go a long way to assuring your dog will be asked back.

During your visit, keep an eye out for anything dangerous your dog might come across. Your host may not know that there are several holiday items that can pose a threat to your dog. These include:

  • ·         Tinsel—if swallowed by your dog it can cause intestinal blockage
  • ·         Poinsettias, lilies, holly, or mistletoe—all are toxic if ingested
  • ·         Rich food—too much fatty food can cause pancreatitis
  • ·         Open doors—guests coming in and out of doors are an opportunity for your dog to dash out



Sometimes bringing your dog is not practical or even an option. Perhaps your host just can’t accommodate a dog, or your companion wouldn’t be comfortable making a long car ride. If this is the case and you need to leave your dog behind during a trip, you have a few options.

You may want to board your dog at a kennel. This offers your dog 24-hour care at the kennel’s location. The staff will feed, walk, and play with your dog; plus if he’s on any medications they will be able to handle that as well. To find a reputable kennel, ask your veterinarian, trainer, or friends for recommendations. Visit the kennel before your board and look for the following:

  • ·         Cleanliness
  • ·         Knowledgeable, caring staff
  • ·         Adequately sized indoor/outdoor run
  • ·         Dogs who look happy and not stressed
  • ·         Management requires dogs to be up-to-date on vaccinations

Pet Sitters

If you decide that your dog may be too anxious staying in a new place with strange dogs, you might consider hiring a pet sitter. A pet sitter will come to your house and care for your dog while you are away. This can be much less stressful for many dogs, as they remain in the comfort of their usual environment. Much like finding a good kennel, ask around for recommendations. You should interview the pet sitter before hiring him or her. Some questions to ask include:

  • ·         Are you bonded and insured?
  • ·         How long have you been working with animals?
  • ·         What would you do in an emergency?
  • ·         What services do you provide (walking, grooming, playtime, etc.)
  • ·         Do you have a backup plan in case you are unable to make it to the house on a specified day?

Pet sitters can be a wonderful option when you need to leave your canine companion behind. Many will even bring in your mail, water your plants, and generally look after your dog and your home. Don’t forget to ask your pet sitter to leave out your dog’s Nylabone chews, so he’ll have something to occupy him during his alone time.


Whether you’re taking your dog on a road trip, or leaving him in the capable hands of a pet care specialist, with a little planning your holiday travels will be marvelously merry! 


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