We love to travel with our family dog, a 13-pound feisty, fluffy Maltese with an attitude to rival a teen YouTuber. Bringing along Lily can make the experience better or worse depending on her mood. Sometimes she’s a cute trap, luring unsuspecting victims in with her big dewy brown eyes and classic teddy bear looks and then barking at them until they wished they were already in a middle seat on a crowded plane mercifully flying far away. Or, she’ll hold her tongue and allow the “oohs” and “ahhs” to happen with a haughty look of superiority until she flounces away from the attention with an air of “you’re welcome.” With any luck, the trainers we’ve hired will whip her superiority complex into a more manageable shape soon. We also have another dog who comes along when she can: a blind, elderly Kelpie with diabetes who puts up with Lily out of pure doggie pack love.
Amidst all this canine drama, we feel it is vitally important to keep all other aspects of traveling with dogs E-A-S-Y.
After all, we hate being away from the little monsters, even for one night. They mean the world to us.
Our consolation prize is that both of our dogs are unbelievably tidy, clean and neat little creatures. We leave rental cars, five-star resorts and vacation homes in tip-top condition with no trace of either us or them being on the premises. Some dogs may not be able to manage this, especially the drooling or destructive types, but even if yours unfortunately fall into this category, there are still methods, tips and tricks that will make your travel days better.
Take the stress out of traveling with pets. Here are the top 5 tips for traveling with your dog:
Bring her bed.
To be clear, bring a bed your pup actually uses at home. My favorite travel bed is the Sleepypod Air thanks to its sheer toughness and incredible versatility. It fits under the seat on the plane. It appears to be indestructible. It has a shade to promote a chill “don’t bark at people” atmosphere. Lily can stretch out on the included furry pad and snooze, oblivious to a cabin of strangers. If needed, it can be zipped completely closed to act as an inescapable crate. At home, the Sleepypod lives in the walk-in closet for a quick dog-nap or place to hide a treasure. In a hotel room, it’s a piece of home, promoting happy thoughts and a relaxed doggie demeanor.
Bring two collapsible silicone clip-on bowls. You may plan to arrive at your destination before meal time, but fate often has other plans and the unpredictable temperatures in cabs, hotels, planes and airports will make your dog pant. Good2Go makes a good travel dog dish and so do many other companies. Just be sure it’s thick and sturdy and has a carabiner attached. Don’t put it away in a pocket because just seeing it will remind you to give your furry baby a drink.
Bring toys. Just like toddlers, dogs get bored and stressed. Distractions can save you from the consequences. As scouts say, “be prepared.” Bring 1) their favorite toy, 2) a tough chew toy like a Nylabone (completely worth the price because it won’t break minutes into the trip), and 3) a brand-new toy they’ve never seen to be bestowed at just the right time as a bribe or reward.
Don’t be afraid to help your buddy calm down. An herbal supplement or (if a vet says it’s okay), an appropriate dose of medication will make life better for the entire traveling pack and everyone around you.
Travel with the right food.
I recently discovered JustFoodForDogs at a grand opening of their downtown Seattle store. The new company serves up human-grade food (every ingredient approved by the USDA for consumption by people) to dogs from their kitchen, where they make it by hand. Dogs and their human parents can order a meal at the counter or buy freshly made and then frozen food to take home. Of particular interest to me was the company’s line of dog travel food.
It’s vacuum packaged to stay fresh without refrigeration in the perfect size for one or one-half a serving, depending on the size of your dog. It won’t surprise you to learn that Lily is a picky eater. Even so, she hasn’t had a JustFoodForDogs meal she didn’t devour. The company will even deliver it to your hotel in many cities. BONUS: They also have a fantastic herbal calming supplement (see tip #2) called Calm(balanced fusion of valerian root and passion flower that works to naturally enhance the function of GABA receptors in the brain) and the best, healthiest dog treats I’ve ever encountered. Our dogs crave and will do anything for the beef liver bark. JustFoodForDogs clearly LOVES dogs and will help you take care of yours just as he or she deserves to be — on or off the road.