Prep the Family Pet for a Summer Road Trip


Thinking about taking your fur-baby along on your family’s next adventure?


If your dog or cat hasn’t spent much time in the car or been on a trip before, you’ll want to start getting them ready a few weeks ahead of time, so they won’t be unnecessarily stressed. A little preparation will make traveling together more enjoyable for you and your pet.


Start weeks before the trip

If you’ll be using a carrier for your cat or small dog, start getting them used to it now. Place some favorite toys or treats inside, leave the door open, and give lots of praise when your pet goes near it or settles inside. If your pet doesn’t ride in the car often, take a few short trips to visit friends before the big day to help them acclimate.


Spend a little time with your dog each day reinforcing simple commands like “down,” “sit,” and “stay.” Rotating the training among family members will get the dog used to responding to more than one person. If you haven’t established authority with your dog, a brief obedience course could be very helpful. 


If your cat is leash-trained, practice those skills with her. If not, try the leash for a few minutes each day to see if she’ll tolerate it. 


Visit the vet for a checkup and get your pet’s shots updated as far in advance of the trip as practical. You don’t want your pet to associate being in the car with a vet visit, and knowing he’s in good health will help you relax during the trip. If your pet has anxiety during travel, ask the vet about herbal remedies or medicines that might help.


If you’ll be using new pet dishes for the trip (such as collapsible ones), or a new harness or leash, start using them now. Don’t make your pet adjust to any more new experiences than necessary during the trip. 


Plan for your pet

Choose pet-friendly hotels along the way and ask questions about your specific needs. La Quinta, Red Roof Inn, and Sheraton are known for accepting pets. But some hotels charge an extra fee, and others are surrounded by asphalt and offer no green space for walks, so call ahead and ask plenty of questions.


Ask your vet or pet store about herbal calming treats and collars for felines. Many pet owners swear by these products to get their cats through stressful experiences. 


Pack food and litter from home, so the smells are familiar and reassuring. Bring your pet’s favorite bedding and toys, so he’ll be surrounded by familiar things in the hotel. Consider packing up a large bottle of water from your home tap, too. Changes in the chemicals added to tap water in different regions might upset a pet’s sensitive tummy. If you start running low on home-water, you can at least dilute the strange water with the familiar.


During the trip

If you’re traveling with children, teach them how to secure the carrier with a seat belt and how to speak reassuringly to your dog or cat if he becomes upset. Feed only a light meal before travel, but make sure to provide plenty of water along the way.


When you arrive at a new hotel, set up your pet’s space with their favorite toys and blanket and spend a little time in the room to send the message that this is “home” right now. Follow your pet’s cues to see what he needs from you. Some animals will want lots of affection and reassurance in a strange place, others will want to be left alone to explore and self-soothe. 


Some breeds and individuals generally travel better than others, and your pet’s basic temperament will be the biggest factor in how well he will travel. But advance planning can go a long way toward keeping your fuzzy best friend happy and calm on the road. 

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