5 Tips for Traveling with Dogs these Holidays
When we adopted Watson as a puppy we lived in Baton Rouge Louisiana. The only element we had to think about when it came to caring for our new pup was the heat. As we moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and then to Minnesota with many travels in between new climates, terrains and environments made being parents to our little Watson very interesting. He came everywhere with us which meant hiking in the desert, winter camping, swimming in the lake and road trips. Watson is one of the most well traveled pets there is.
But something we were not prepared for was holiday travel with our little guy. Staying with both sets of in-laws, his dog ‘cousins’, loud and crowded rooms, young kids and babies (which he wasn’t used to), lots of tempting food and new weather conditions made this a whole new experience. After our first Christmas we learned the ropes, made a bunch of changes and are far better prepared now.
Now the holidays with our little family is one of our favorite times of year. So I wanted to share with you 5 simple things you can do to make traveling with your pet this holiday season easy, safe and fun.
1. Make the car ride safe and comfy
When we first got Watson he just sat in the back seat of our tiny car on a blanket. Then one day we had to slam on the breaks and his little body went flying. It was then that we realized there might be steps we can take to make his ride safer. We bought a car hammock and never looked back. This thing has been a lifesaver. On our 20-hour road trip home for Christmas we didn’t have to worry about his safety or his snow covered paws hopping back in the car after potty breaks. It protects him and our seats. We have had it for a few years now and it still looks new while containing all the slobber and hair.
Bonus Tip: Put a long towel over the seat belts to make a flat bed for your pet and prevent the buckles from poking their back.
To add to his comfort level we also toss this blanket in the back with him. We got it to serve as his sleeping bag for winter camping because one side can be wiped clean.
2. Plan ahead for kennel time
From the very beginning we knew that we wanted the kennel to be a safe and comfortable place that we could fall back on during travel. Watson has this Umbra Tent which I’m actually jealous of and most often gets comments like;
“Where can I get one of those?” and “Do they make those for humans?”
It’s easy to set up, portable and we all love it! Watson loves his tent so much that he prefers it in many situations. When we’re traveling for the holidays we make a plan ahead of time regarding when he will go in it.
Some examples of smart times to use it are when there are young children around that may scare or injure Watson, during big meals, when we can tell he’s overwhelmed by the crowd or when there is something out being used that is too dangerous, breakable or tempting for him.
Having a plan ahead of time keeps us calm and on the same page when those instances do arise. To do this well, set it up ahead of time in a separate room then don’t make a huge deal out of it when it’s time to put your pet in there.
3. Keep an eye on Holiday Snacking
Protect your pup from getting too much people food from Uncle Joe and everyone else that decides to just to give him a bite. Those bites add up quickly and pretty soon you’ll have a sick pup on your hands. And no one wants that, especially the owner of the carpet. Start by explaining that your dog does NOT eat people food and then stand your ground. If they can’t handle those boundaries then this is a great time to use the kennel until the food is no longer an issue.
Another great option is to give your dog something more delicious during mealtime. A new bone or a toy put far from the table is a great way to avoid any food being snuck to him. No one is going to give him food from across the room and he’ll be a happy camper with his new treat.
4. Be prepared for the local conditions
One year we left during a blizzard and barely made it through the mountain pass only to arrive farther north to no snow and warm temps. This year it will likely be different. To keep him warm during the extremely cold temps that Minnesota tends to get AND to give Watson some color (since he looks like a fox and the place he’ll be romping around is full of hunters) we got him this vest.
This year’s temps are so low we will likely have to use booties like these. They are great for frozen or sharp terrain.
Another way we prepare for travel with our little pup is to know where the local animal hospital is and possibly look up their number. We have this down for our regular family visits, but for new travel we use the Vet 24/7 app. If there is an emergency it will immediately bring up the nearest vet. It gives us such peace of mind especially when we’re on road trips and we don’t actually know which city we’re in. (Yes, that happens.)
5. Enjoy the holiday with your pet
After you’ve made all of these preparations to ensure a safe and fun holiday relax and enjoy your pet. Watch them enjoy their new toys and treats. Go for long walks, take extra cuddles and simple share this special time with them.
Our first holiday with Watson was such a wonderful experience. We learned a lot about how to be puppy parents, but most importantly we loved being a little family during the holidays.
Katie is a change coach and lifestyle designer who started The Small Change Project in January of this year. Her and her husband plus their pup Watson have been moving around the country for the last 4 years currently settled in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Throughout their travels they have taken Watson (who was born in Louisiana) hiking in the mountains of New Mexico, camping at the Grand Canyon and on 20-hour road trips home for the holidays. He is one well-traveled puppy. Follow his adventures and learn more of Katie’s small changes at The Small Change Project. (P.S. Watson has his own section of the blog).