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Top tips for traveling with a dog

Top tips for traveling with a dog

Having a dog, like having a kid, doesn’t have to be a reason to quit traveling. If anything, it should be an extra motive: You just got yourself the most enthusiastic co-explorer, someone who will forever wag his or her tail at the prospect of an adventure, who lives in a world where everything is new and smells exciting. Be a bit more like them and book that flight now. Woof.

“I’m gonna hug you and kiss you and love you forever.” When it comes to animals, some people are born Elmyra Duffs, petting to death every innocent four-legged creature that crosses their path. I’m not one of those people.

I was never much of an animal person before Baxter came into my life, although I grew up with dogs. But Baxter, a 10th-anniversary gift from my husband a couple of years ago, is the first animal I really feel is part of my family. In my B.B. (Before Baxter) life, I never would’ve imagined how such a small little love bug could bring so much joy.

When you make the conscious decision to share home and hearth with a pet, you need to be prepared for the way this decision changes your daily life. (Unless your pet is a cat. But this article is not about cats. You have the rest of the Internet for that.) New York City, where we live most of the time, is very dog friendly—so Baxter is with us when we’re running errands or eating, since he can sit outside with us at cafes. But since my husband and I both travel a lot for work, we want to have Baxter with us as much as possible on our downtime. That means car rides for weekend trips and plane rides to visit family around the country. Fortunately, he’s small enough to take with us almost anywhere and is generally calm during flights. Baxter made his first trip to New Mexico from New York City at just 10 weeks old and has been a pro traveler ever since. Along the way, we’ve learned a few essential lessons.

Here are my top tips to make traveling with your pup stress free and fun:

1. Know your dog’s schedule
Between 6 and 8 a.m., Baxter thinks it’s party time. This is typically when my husband and I are busy around the apartment getting ready for work, and he feels our energy. By the time we’re walking out the door around 8:30 a.m., he’s ready for a nap. So if we fly somewhere, I try to take 9 a.m. flights, since this is a time when he’s usually relaxed and calm. Observe your pooch: When is he at the peak of his physical activity? When is he more subdued? Then, whenever possible, try to book flights that correspond with his calm time.

2. Find the right travel bag
Don’t skimp here! Having the right gear is important. Baxter used to dread going into his old carry-on case and it was stressful for everyone, canine and human. We tried several different bags until we found one that he liked. We have the Sherpa Element Dog Carrier, which has rods that don’t let the bag collapse on Baxter and mesh screens so he can see out and we can see in.

3. Develop a routine
Baxter gets a nice long walk and a bath before we head to the airport; he has an initial rush of energy after a bath and runs around like a four-legged tornado, but then gets sleepy and calm. The walk will help your dog burn off some of his energy and reduce the chances that he’ll need the doggy restroom during the flight.

4. Bring comfort items
To make Baxter more comfortable and calm during travel, I put a pair of socks or a T-shirt in his travel bag. Dogs have a very strong sense of smell, and feeling close to us can be calming to them. I also have some treats close by—and specifically choose ones that take a while for him to chew. You know how we need to pop our ears during flight? Dogs do, too. Having something for Baxter to chew helps alleviate any pressure he might feel during takeoff and landing.

5. Plan your accommodation accordingly
If we aren’t staying with family and friends, we stay at one of many dog-friendly hotels. Baxter was recently the king of the Mondrian Los Angeles. Bringing our own food bowls, toys and treats make it a comfortable adjustment for him. Looking for budget-friendly solutions? Find pet-friendly, affordable hotels at Pets Welcome. If you’re going the Airbnb route, many hosts accept pets—just make sure to read the house rules carefully.

Having a dog, like having a kid, doesn’t have to be a reason to quit traveling. If anything, it should be an extra motive: You just got yourself the most enthusiastic co-explorer, someone who will forever wag his or her tail at the prospect of an adventure, who lives in a world where everything is new and smells exciting. Be a bit more like them and book that flight now. Woof.

Find more information on airline pet policies here.

This piece was originally published on SAVOTEUR by Jac White.

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