Has your dog packed her favourite toy, ball and treat? Great. There are a few more things you can do to ensure your dog has a safe travel experience. Beth Ann Mayer gets the low-down from pet behaviourist Steve Debono
Summer travel season is about to reach its peak, and taking a holiday is hotter than ever this
year. In the U.S., summer holiday spending will reach a 10-year high, according to a new report
from travel insurance company Allianz Global Assistance; Americans are expected to spend
about $2,037 per household in 2019.
And for pet parents, family excursions can be more fun with some extra-special cargo: pups. A
PBS Pet Travel survey found that 14% of pet owners took their animals on trips longer
than 80.5 kilometres around the world. Dogs were the most popular globetrotters, accounting for 58% of travelling pets.
“Dogs are a part of our lives end we want them to share our experiences,” says Steve Debono, a
pet behaviourist at dog-rescue organisation Bideawee.
But he also cautions that it’s essential to keep furbabies safe. New locales and routines can
cause even the steadiest dog to display anxiety, and rising temperatures pose health risks.
Steve shares pet safety travel tips to ensure your pup’s holiday is as relaxing as yours.
Do a practice run
Though pet parents can’t necessarily replicate a flight or 80.5-kilometre trek to a new city
beforehand, they can build up by taking longer trips. “If you’re doing an eight-hour drive, doing
several shorter drives is probably a good thing, so they are used to the routine,” Steve says.
Be sure to get the dog used to the carrier or seatbelt harness during these primers. This is
especially key for air travel — unlike land or sea trips, it’s harder to do a dress rehearsal.
“What’s important is getting them used to travel in general,” Steve says. “The reasons dogs have
anxiety is generally because they have never faced it before, so it’s completely new.”
What to pack
People are advised to bring copies of IDs and medical information like severe allergies. Ditto for
dogs. Medical information, including vaccines, is important in case of emergency, and dogs
should always have ID tags on in case they get separated.
Bring medications and food, too. “You may not find the same brand,” Steve says. “The last thing
you need is a dog with stomach problems on a long trip.”
Favourite chew toys and treats can help distract pets and reduce anxiety. “Any time there is
something they are not comfortable with, you are competing with something that is making them
nervous,” Steve says. “If you have something fun like a treat, you can get them through it with
Research flight risks
When a dog died in an overhead cargo on a United Airlines flight last year, it made headlines.
Steve says it is essential pet parents research policies and reputations as part of the decision-
making process on which airline — if any — to use. Start with Google. Recent incidents of pet death or illness should be red flags. Call the airline and ask for the pet policy. The more specific,
the better, Steve advises. Ask how they ensure dogs won’t overheat. (Important note: Parents
can do their parts by using a well-ventilated crate.)
“If they are very transparent in how they do things, then that means they thought about it,” he says. “If they are vague about what they do, that means there are few protocols. That leaves it up to the employees to make the decisions… [more] things could go wrong.”
Talk to the family vet to confirm the pet’s age and breed are cleared for air travel. If in doubt,
leave the pup at home, Steve suggests. It’s better for them to be safe and sound with a sitter, family member or pet hotel than in a risky situation.
Long trips can cause restlessness. To minimise boredom (and the whimpering that often
accompanies it), Steve recommends tiring dogs out. Try longer-than-usual walks or spirited
play sessions. It could help the dog nap through the trip.
When boating, remember: life jackets aren’t just for humans — pets benefit from wearing one,
too. They’re easy to find in most popular pet stores or online and can help your pup stay afloat if
anything goes wrong. Prevent any doggie overboard situations by keeping animals away from
ledges. Even water-loving dogs are at-risk in unchartered waters.
Just in case, Steve suggests showing dogs how to get back on board if he falls or jumps off. “That’s always the issues with pools is that they don’t know how to get out sometimes,” he said. But the best bet is to keep an eye on Fido the whole time and to know his tendencies. “Certain dogs want to jump in if they see a person or duck,” Steve says.
The rule on number 1 and 2
Whether travelling by land, air or sea, it’s always a good idea to let pups relieve themselves
before the trip starts. Many airports have pet potties. In the car, keep an eye on the little furball.
“In the beginning, I’d go for a little more [bathroom breaks] than normal, especially if they are up
and seem nervous,” Steve says. “If they are relaxed and sleeping, you don’t need to stop every
minute. But if they are sleeping for a while and wake up, it’s a good idea to take them out.”