Grandma & Grandpa's Farm

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wandering Wags

Travelling Time With Your Dog

I was going to title this Pet Pilgrimages, but my experiences in life lead mainly to travelling with the family dog so I figured best to write about what you know at least a little about. While I am on that topic -- don't take my word as gospel! Ask your Veterinarian, SPCA, Groomer, or other Pet Professional for advice and take that before you take mine -- Please! I know they should have good advice and information. I imagine that should include "Kennel Clubs" and Breed Associations, though not being an expert I can be missing some... and I think in the US, what we call the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is called the ASPCA.

Perhaps we have always been lucky in our family, but our dogs always travelled well. We never had a problem taking them on the highway with us on our vacation trips and quite often those trips could be 2000 mile round trips. (That was in the days the Mile was King which is why I used miles... that's over 3200 kilometres.) That was the round trip between Calgary and Southern Manitoba where my paternal Grandparents lived and it crossed the very hot and dry Canadian Prairies in Summer and equally frozen and windy same Canadian Prairies in Winter. As a child I much preferred the Winter crossing -- I didn't do too well in hot temperatures -- although with a parent who smoked in Winter with the car closed in we were all fairly well cured by the time we reached our destination. (I wonder how many packs 20 or so hours of second hand smoke is worth?)

Those were on simpler times, many of them at a time when seat belts were options on North American Cars and no thought was given to dogs or children being lose in the back seat. (or front seat for that matter) Mom would fret about the dog sticking his head too far out into the 80mph windstream... (sometimes faster) in summer worrying that the dog might take a hit from a big bug like a bee and the dog would end up being content with his head on Dad's shoulder while driving getting not quite so much air. I would worry most about the dog getting lost in a strange town. Dad was confident that the Dog would always come when he called him. We never did lose a dog. (A golden lab, a long haired corgi, a Chihuahua-Pekinese, cross, and a miniature poodle, over the years.) We never had problems with car-sick dogs or whining and crying or barking in the car. Maybe we were lucky or maybe we just acclimatized the dogs gradually with short trips that most often did not end up at a groomer or vet.

Today though we are a bit more conscious of things. They even have seat belts for dogs! -- I hear they don't allow children in the front seat any more though. I'm thinking that they'll be having us kennel the children in the near future.*

I totally agree with the concept of having a kennel for the dog. Dogs are den animals and so having a den in the home can be a comforting thing I am told. A nice cozy kennel with favoured blankets and cushion (I almost said pillow! We all know that never happens.) and a place for some toys. We never had a kennel for our dogs, but I think there is provision for food and water in the too. There are appropriate sizes for the different breeds too and if you ponder getting a nearly 50kg dog plus kennel into a car, van, SUV, or truck -- the dog has 4 legs and can jump up and into the kennel after it is in the vehicle. Then not only is there a secure place for the pooch that you can strap down, but the dog has their own home den with them and there is a place for the dog to stay at your destination as well.

Kennels are also well ventilated and while there are some cage sorts there are others that have vents that can be opened or shut. Regardless you don't keep the dog locked into the kennel the full time either, just as you wouldn't keep a child locked in a small room.

For shorter trips, I know there are harnesses which are intended to allow you to link your dog to the car's seatbelt system. I recall ones that allow limited movement allowing the dog to sit or lay down, but not run around and if there should be an accident keep them from being hurtled about the car. I think I might invest in a harness style collar though rather than the simple neck one. I have also seen systems for the backs of trucks which allow larger breeds more freedom while still restricting them and keeping them safely in the box of the truck. I note that professionals tend to use kennels still and if I recall K-9 squads actually have the back of the car set up as a kennel?

Most important is not to leave the dog in a car on even a warm day. The temperature will climb quicker than you would ever expect to levels lethal for a dog -- or for a child or elderly person for that matter. This is even with the window cracked a bit for ventilation. Dogs can not survive the heat that a Human can. Their panting is not as efficient as our sweating. When it gets hot, canines in nature have already sought out cooler spots with good ventilation and a source of water. That is one of the natural instinctive ways that animals survive heat. A dog in a car can not do that. Dogs, children, and the elderly die each year in cars due to heat on days that you wouldn't consider part of any heatwave or even excessively hot. I would imagine that cats and other small animals might even have it worse.

The last horse trailer I saw had air conditioning! Of course it was for the horses of the police department.

It does make me wonder if there is a market for air conditioned kennels...

Still, not all dogs travel well, for some it would be a gift to put them up in a canine kennel for the vacation time. They might fret and whine a bit when you leave them, but from my experience they tend to just settle in for a wait after if they are the sort who really miss you. For the ones you might have to sedate to travel with, maybe better they nap and mope a bit in a kennel rather than having to tranq and sedate them for a journey which might make them sick. For some dogs it might even be an adventure. I think it would be a good idea to know how they treat animals there and if you are comfortable leaving your dog in their care. Then at least there is an option if you absolutely must leave your dog -- even if normally you include them in on vacation trips.

Traditionally some people also have had house sitters who were also pet sitters. Often they were neighbours, nephews, and nieces who were responsible enough -- sometimes under supervision of an adult -- to come into your own house to take care of your dog. I have done it a few times. Traditionally too some people would leave their pets with a friend or relative for the duration of the vacation.

Regardless of what your plan is, do that -- plan! Do more than throw a cottage cheese container and bag of kibble in the back seat before making sure you have the leash that works with the collar. Do your homework, find out about hotels; motels; relatives allergies; shots and paperwork needed if you cross the border or even enter a national, or provincial park; special booking and requirements if you travel by boat, plane or train; and so many other things...

Consider this, even on a day trip -- if you plan on eating in a restaurant, where will the dog be? If it is anywhere between spring and fall and not a rainy day it will be too hot to leave the dog unattended in the car, someone might have to dog-sit while others are in the air conditioned restaurant. Some picnic grounds might even be a problem. How about getting the dog across a lava hot parking lot?

Things to consider. We normally were travelling to Grandma and Grampa's farm and only had to worry about keeping the dog out of the barn and cow pies.

~ Darrell


*Yah, yah, I know why children are not allowed in the front seats of cars. I do not agree with it... I think there is something wrong if airbags are too dangerous to allow children to safely ride in the front seat. But that is another article.

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