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Traveling with Charley

 In This Chapter

There was some genuine worry about my traveling alone, open to attack, robbery, assault. It is well known that our roads are dangerous. And here I admit I had senseless qualms. It is some years since I have been alone, nameless, friendless, without any of the safety one gets from family, friends, and accomplices. There is no reality in the danger. It’s just a very lonely, helpless feeling  t first — a kind of desolate feeling. For this reason I took one companion on my journey — an old French gentleman poodle known as Charley.

—John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley in Search of America

Over the hills and through the woods, it’s a travelin’ we go! If only it were so easy. Traveling with a dog requires careful planning. You need to know what to pack, how to find hotels that accept dogs, and special considerations for flying with your dog — and in this chapter, I lay it all out for you. I also cover what to do if you have to leave your dog at home.

Deciding Whether to Bring Your Dog with You

When you’re planning a trip and you own a dog, one of the first things that crosses your mind is whether you can take your dog with you. Although I’m sure you’d love to have your dog along for the ride, you have to ask yourself a few key questions to decide whether your mixed breed and this trip are a good fit:

Will you have time to spend with your dog? If you’re going on vacation, the answer will probably be yes — after all, you’re on vacation to relax, right? But if you’re going on a business trip, odds are your dog will end up having to spend a lot of time in the hotel room by himself. He’ll be in a new place, and being alone there won’t be as easy for him as it is at your house. Unless you’ll be able to spend most of your time with your dog, you’re better off leaving him at home.

Is your pet in good condition to travel? If your dog is very young or very old, a road trip might be strenuous for him — he’ll have to relieve himself more often, and you’ll have to make lots of stops. Young pups need to run — unless you’re driving a monster SUV with a doggy playground in the back, your pup will likely chew whatever is within reach (arm rests, seat covers, head rests, suitcase handles). Old dogs may have difficulty getting in and out of your vehicle.


A sick or injured dog should remain in a quiet environment, not be jostled about in a vehicle or extremely stressed by a ride in the cargo hold of an airplane.

Is there a pet-friendly place to stay at your destination? Most hotel chains don’t allow dogs in their establishments. You’ll need to plan ahead and make reservations so that you don’t end up driving around in the middle of the night searching for a place to stay.

If you’re visiting family and/or friends, are they okay with the idea that your dog will be with you? One of the best ways to make yourself unwelcome is to arrive at someone’s house with your dog without first asking if they’re cool with it. Believe me, after many years of having a relative come to my house with dogs who urinated on my carpeting or showed aggression to my animals, I can totally understand people who’d rather not welcome other people’s pets into their homes — and I love dogs!

Finding Pet-Friendly Places to Stay

Most hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts don’t allow pets. And in the hotels that do, room availability may be limited — they typically set aside certain rooms for people with pets. Even so, you can find hotels and motels that accept dogs — you just need to spend a little more time looking than you would otherwise.


AAA publishes a great book, Traveling With Your Pet, that’s updated yearly, listing all the pet-friendly places to stay in the United States. You don’t have to be a AAA member to obtain this book at its Web site (


You can also find information on pet-friendly hotels at,, and Both sites allow you to see hotels in any city, state, or province you’re visiting. (As of this printing, is limited to just the United States, but the other two offer information on hotels in Canada as well.)

Packing for Your Trip

When you’re traveling on your own, you may jot down a list of things you need to remember to pack. Well, you need to do the same for your dog when you’re bringing him along. The good news: I’ve done much of the legwork for you. Here’s a list of items to bring on your trip:

Food and water dishes: The collapsible type are great when space is tight. Otherwise, lightweight plastic dishes work well.

A bottle of water from home: If the trip is short, such as a day or two, a gallon of water should do. If longer, bring enough water for during the traveling and a bit for arrival to gently wean your dog onto whatever water is available at your destination. Water varies from location to location — a sudden change can upset your dog’s stomach.

Food: Place kibble in an airtight container to maintain freshness. If you’re bringing canned food, be sure to bring a can opener if you’ll need one. Be sure to bring enough food for the entire trip.

Your dog’s bed: If you don’t want to bring a bulky bed, bring along a mat. You can find zippered mat beds that double as carrying cases for dog supplies. I usually use it for doggy toys, treats, leashes, and packaged food when I travel with my dogs.

Leash and collar with identification tags: If your dog pulls on the leash when you walk him, bring a training device, such as a head halter or Easy Walk harness.

Treats and toys: Interactive toys — such as treat-stuffed toys or those that are edible — are best. I’ve found that a plain, old shank bone, stuffed with ground up food is great. It’s inexpensive and reusable.

Grooming supplies

Medications and supplements

Bags for picking up droppings

Your dog’s health records: Regardless of where you travel or for how long, have a copy of your mixed breed’s vaccination record and rabies certificate. This is especially important when crossing state lines or traveling in a foreign country.

If you’re going to the beach, be sure to bring some means of shading your dog from the sun, such as a beach umbrella or a tent; an extra towel or two for your dog; and a keep-cool mat. These are special mats that can be soaked in cold water and will remain cool for hours — a great way to help your furry friend control his body temperature when it’s very hot outside. You can carry it in a large cooler, along with your water bottles and soda.
If you’re heading to the mountains, bring along a mobile first-aid kit (see Chapter First Aid: Dealing with Emergencies). With exposure to wild animals and uneven terrain, your dog could get injured, and you want to be prepared. Bring along some insect repellent as well, such as Avon’s Skin-So-Soft — it may help prevent topical parasites on your dog.


Keep the following contact info handy while you travel:

American Animal Hospital Association (phone: 303-986-2800; Web: Contact the association if you need to find a vet while you’re on the road. This Web site can help you find a place to exercise your dog while you’re on the road.

Traveling by Car

Traveling by car can be a fun and easy way to get to places with your mixed breed in tow. To make sure your trip is a fun one for you and your dog, be sure to acclimate your dog to car travel gradually. Begin with short trips to fun places — this makes the experience more rewarding.
An important part of traveling with your dog is keeping him safe on the trip, and that means containing him in some way so that he doesn’t have free run of the car. If he can run all over the car, he may interfere with your ability to see or steer, or if you get in an accident or you have to brake suddenly, he could go flying.
You can contain your dog in a comfortable crate, strap him into a special body harness with a seat belt attachment, or let him hang out in a flat rear cargo area with a divider. The containment method you use depends largely on your dog’s size and temperament. Here’s the lowdown on each:

Crate: The crate is best for anxious dogs or those who tend to chew or whine or bark in the car. Whether your dog is anxious or not, a crate is the safest place for him to be in your car. I recommend a metal crate because it’s sturdy but provides ample air flow and gives your dog a view of everyone in the car and everything outside the windows. You can drape a reflecting blanket over it to keep the interior cooler on hot days.


Never keep your dog in a hot car on a hot day with the windows closed or left open only a crack. Your dog will die of heat stroke and suffocation in an agonizing, cruel manner.

Seat restraints: Many brands of dog seat restraints are available. Most come in the form of an upper-body harness with a clip that attaches either to the belt or to the actual seat belt insert clip. For a medium to large dog, use the type that clips directly into the seat belt clip insert. For smaller dogs, I recommend a booster seat with the seat belt attachment to a body harness. The booster seat lets your small dog look at the scenery while in a comfortable cushioned bed.

The rear cargo area: If you have a station wagon or SUV, you can place your medium to large mixed breed in the back cargo area, with a metal divider keeping him from getting into the front seats. It’s similar to a crate, though often larger. Your dog can see the passing scenery and remain secure behind the metal vehicle barrier. You will have to put up with nose smudges on the glass, though — a small price to pay from your dog’s point of view!


Don’t leave your dog loose in the cargo area if he’s destructive, has traveling anxiety of any sort, or likes to bark at everyone he sees while you drive. You’ll be more distracted worrying about what he’s doing back there than keeping your mind on the road. Also, don’t put a small dog in the rear cargo area — he could go flying if you stop suddenly.

Flying with Your Dog

Some dog owners never let their dogs travel by plane; others have never had any problems and do it all the time. The main thing to consider: Unless your dog can fit under an airline seat, he’ll have to ride in the checked baggage area or the cargo hold. Though the cargo hold is temperature-controlled while in flight (not while on the ground) and have an air-exchange system, it will still be more stressful for your mixed breed than remaining with you in the cabin.


Unless your dog can fit in his carrier under the seat, only certified service animals can remain in the cabin with their human companions.

If your dog has to remain in his air carrier for more than six hours straight, he may have trouble not being able to relieve himself. Imagine yourself having to do that — especially when stressed. It’s tough. And, if you have flight layovers or you have multiple flights, you probably won’t be able to visit with your dog. The airlines generally have people who check on your dog for you.


Some types of dogs should not travel by air — period. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) specifies that dogs under 8 weeks of age can’t fly at all. If the dog is ill, injured, pregnant, or very old, they recommend that he doesn’t travel by air. Also, dogs with very short noses such as Pugs and Boxers, as well as long-nosed dogs such as Collies, are prone to respiratory difficulties, and the UDSA suggests they only travel by air if they can do so in the passenger cabin. Some airlines won’t accept short-nosed breeds at all if the temperature exceeds 70°F anywhere during the routing (between the terminals and airplane).

What to do before you leave

When you’re flying with a dog, you’ll need to make some preparations beyond the more-basic road-trip ones. In the following sections, I walk you through what you need to do.

Checking out the airlines’ requirements

The first thing you need to do when considering an air trip with your dog is to determine the airline’s regulations. Airlines change their regulations frequently, so check with your favorite airlines before buying your ticket.

 Buying an airline-approved crate

The crate you use for your dog in your house probably isn’t an airline- approved crate, so the first thing to do when you start thinking about flying with your dog is to get one. You’ll want a crate that’s not only comfortable for your dog but that’ll keep him safe throughout the flight.
The crate should have a hard shell, so that if something accidentally falls on it, your pet will be protected. If the crate (and your dog) are small enough to carry, it should have a strong handle. If your dog is too large to carry, make sure you can either push the crate on wheels or lift it onto a wheeled cart.
The crate should have plenty of ventilation and a leak-proof floor. Place an absorbent bed on the floor so that your mixed breed will be comfortable during the flight. The crate door should open easily, but also be secure enough to prevent your dog from escape or from it accidentally opening when it’s jostled.
If you’re able to bring your small dog into the passenger cabin, his crate must be able to fit under the seat in front of you, and the dog must stay within his crate. The under-seat space is approximately 23 by 13 by 9 inches. Beyond being able to fit in this space, there aren’t any other restrictions on the kind of crate you use. Keep in mind, however, that your pet won’t be allowed out of his crate during the trip, so he must be contained in a comfortable carrier with plenty of ventilation.
If you’re traveling with more than one mixed breed, you can only have one per crate if either dog weighs more than 20 pounds.

Making sure your dog has proper identification and health certificates

Take your dog to your vet within ten days prior to your flight, have a complete physical examination, and request a copy of his vaccination record, rabies certificate, and a health certificate. If your mixed breed is traveling in the cargo hold, place his identification information (and yours) on the crate as well as any care instructions. When there are layovers or if you’re traveling internationally, airline employees will be caring for your dog and should be given appropriate instructions.

Caring for your dog before and after the flight


Traveling by air can be stressful for both you and your mixed breed. So here are some tips for making it better for both of you:

Before the day of your flight, acclimate your dog to his air crate. Make sure he likes it before you leave. (You can get your dog used to his crate by leaving it open at home and using it as his bed and eating area.)

Don’t check in your dog until the very last minute. Until then, allow him to be out and about with you, moving around and acclimating to the airport congestion and commotion. Stay upbeat and give him plenty of rewards.

Make sure his water and food bowls are securely fastened to the side of the crate so they don’t spill in flight.

Place a couple of his favorite toys in the crate, as well as some interactive chewies. Just make sure that you don’t leave him with anything he might choke on, such as rawhide.

After the flight, remove your dog from his travel crate (on a leash) as soon as you reach a safe area where he can stretch his legs and go potty. Because he likely didn’t do his business while traveling, and was very stressed during the trip, he’ll be hopping from leg to leg by the time you arrive at your destination.

After he’s emptied his bladder and bowels, offer him fresh water and food, and let him move around, play with some toys, and cuddle with you before you leave the airport.

Leaving Your Dog Behind

You can’t always take your mixed-breed dog with you when you travel. In this section, I cover your two main options for leaving your mixed breed behind.

Finding an in-home sitter

When you’re looking for a reputable pet sitter, your best option is to ask your family and friends for referrals. If you can’t find any good recommendations that way, try checking with either Pet Sitters International (phone: 336-983-9222; Web: or the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (phone: 856-439-0324; Web:


Here’s a list of questions to ask a potential pet sitter:

Are you insured for commercial liability and bonded? A sitter who is bonded and insured is serious about her services.

– What do your services include? Before you interview the potential pet sitter, make a list of all the things you’d want the pet sitter to do with your dog (walk him, hang out with him, play with him), and go down the list to be sure she’ll do everything.

What does the sitter require of you? Does the sitter require access to current veterinary information about your dog? (This is important in case of an emergency — she’ll have to take your dog to a veterinarian and must have appropriate documentation.) Does she ask for a letter from you stating that she represents you in your absence?

What kind of animals does the sitter normally work with? If the pet sitter normally only watches cats and fish, or if she’s used to small dogs and you have a 100-pound mutt, it might not be a good fit.

How will the pet sitter handle emergencies? What if the pet sitter gets in an accident and can’t come to watch your dog? Does she have a backup plan for herself? And what if something happens to your dog while you’re away? Will she take your dog to your vet, or will she go someplace else? Make sure you’re comfortable with the answers.

Does the sitter fully understand your mixed-breed dogs’ needs? Always fully explain to the sitter your dogs’ physical needs and overall behavior patterns. What times does he normally eat, sleep, play, and exercise? How does he behave while being walked? How much training has he had? What are his training commands? Explain the feeding process to the sitter — what your mixed-breed dog is fed, how much, where he eats, how he eats.

How much time will the pet sitter spend with your dog? Many pet sitters charge by the 15-minute increment of time and allow you to choose how long you want them to stay.

Knowing what to look for in a kennel

As with a pet sitter, the best place to find a kennel is through a referral from someone you trust. If you can’t get any recommendations, check with the American Boarding Kennels Association (phone: 719-667-1600; Web:
Depending on where you live, you can find kennels that range from the most basic (the dogs stay in a fenced-in area with a concrete floor, and minimal access to the outdoors) to the most posh (dogs have their own human-size beds — just like a hotel). Some kennels offer many different levels of accommodations and care.
Before making a reservation, visit the kennel and take a tour. Check for cleanliness, employee knowledge, and the comfort of the animals (if they’re making a lot of noise, pacing, or sitting in a dark corner, this may not be a good sign). Find out about the opportunities for your dog to receive attention, exercise, and grooming.


Here’s a list of questions to ask any boarding kennel:

What’s included in the fee? Just feeding and cleaning, or also exercise and attention?

What vaccinations are required? If the kennel requires no vaccinations, stay away! The kennel should require rabies, parvo, distemper, and other contagious-disease vaccinations, including bordetella (kennel cough).

How will emergencies be handled? Is there a vet on call? Will your dog be taken to the vet he’s used to seeing?

Where will your dog be housed? A cage, run, or suite? What’s in the room with him? His own toys and bed from home?

How often are the dogs fed and interacted with?

– How often are the dogs’ sleep and other areas cleaned?

When you drop your dog off at the kennel, leave your contact information along with a copy of your dog’s health records, in case of emergencies. Also, let the staff know about his feeding routines, what he eats, how he eats, the type of exercise he prefers, the type of people he likes to interact with, and any commands he may know, as well as any psychological quirks, medical conditions, medication, or supplements.


Bring your dog’s regular food with him to the kennel so that he isn’t fed something that doesn’t agree with his digestive system. Prepackage each meal and label it, so that there aren’t any skipped supplements.

by Miriam Fields-Babineau

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