Traveling with a small dog is relatively simple; many hotels accept dogs weighing less than a certain weight, and airlines let small dogs ride with you in the cabin if their crates fit under the seat. It's a different story with big dogs. Doing your homework before you take off on your trip can save you days of frustration and let you enjoy your journey with Tank.
Exercising your dog is key before and during your trip. In addition to giving him plenty of time to do his business when he's not in the car, exercise keeps him more relaxed when riding in the car and staying in the hotel room. Go for long walks or runs, especially before you take him into a new hotel. This lets Tank check out the new environment so it's not a mystery before taking him inside while it wears him out and gets him ready for some rest. Take frequent breaks, stopping every three to four hours, to let your pooch smell some new scents and work off some energy while keeping him from getting too bored. Research local and state parks, dog parks and hiking trails along your route so you're not confined to the small exercise areas at rest stops. You might need vaccination records to enter a dog park, so bring those with you just in case.
Big dogs don't always fit safely in the back seat. You don't want him to be able to stick his face in front of yours, get bounced around if you stop suddenly or dash out of the car without a leash the second you open the door. Dog harnesses attach to the seat belt and help keep him safely in place if he'll fit in the back seat. Larger dogs benefit from using a crate in the back of an SUV or similar vehicle. The crate offers a sense of familiarity in the car and hotel room while keeping the dog contained and safe until you're ready to let him out. If you're flying to your destination, airlines require dogs to be crated, but many have weight and size limits. Check with the airline to make sure it will accept your dog for the trip, and be prepared to pay a hefty fee.
Research is vital when choosing the accommodations for your trip. Most hotels that accept dogs have a weight limit that's likely smaller than what you need for your large pooch. Some hotels, such as Best Western and La Quinta, typically accept large dogs. Make reservations ahead of time, describing your dog and letting them know if Tank will be crated when you're not in the room; some hotels might bend their weight limits slightly if the dog isn't allowed to roam through the room unsupervised. If the outdoors is more your thing, check the campgrounds for dog weight limits before reserving your space.
To make the trip as enjoyable for your pup as it is for you, bring his favorite toys, treats and food. If his bed fits in his crate, bring that to surround Tank with familiar smells and textures. Don't change his food right before a trip; this can upset his stomach and make him nervous. Instead, bring food and treats he loves and is accustomed to eating at home. Use the treats as rewards to help keep him quiet in the hotel room; large dogs often have loud voices that can disturb other guests.
By Rob Harris
Cesar's Way: Cesar's Best Dog Travel Tips
New York Times: Travel Tips From a Dog's Best Friend
Peter Greenberg: 10 Tips on Road Tripping With Your (Big) Dogs
Best Western: Travel With Pets
La Quinta Inn and Suites: Questions
About the Author
While studying journalism in the Army and at the University of Missouri, Rob Harris developed a lifelong love of physical fitness and nutrition, contributing often to a dairy industry newsletter. He has also worked with and created blogs for several family businesses including a professional dog kennel and a flower shop, where he used his experience as an avid gardener to grow plants for sale.