With the arrival of summer comes family vacation time. Planning the perfect vacation can take hours.  If you own a dog, you have extra planning to do before you can hit the open road, but it’s still possible for you to take a great vacation.

Many folks want to take their dog along on vacation with them.  Finding accommodations that will allow your pet to check in with you can be a challenge.  Some hotel chains are known for allowing pets. There are also websites such as petswelcome.com and dogfriendly.com that can aid you in finding a place to stay. When you call to book, make sure you verify the pet policy.  Some establishments that allow pets limit the number you may have in the room, or the size and/or weight of the dog.  Others also charge you an additional damage deposit, often refundable at the end of your visit, a nonrefundable cleaning deposit or even an additional “per day/per pet” charge, which can really drive up the cost of your stay.

Think about what you will do with your pet while you’re there.  You might find a place on the beach that will allow you to check-in with your dog, only to learn that city ordinance prohibits the dog from joining you in the sand and surf.  Will your dog be happy alone all day in a strange room, or will he become destructive or bark incessantly? Consider taking a crate along, as well as some of your dog’s favorite toys. This is also a great time to present your dog with a new and exciting toy.

Another important thing to ensure before you leave is that your breed is allowed at both your destination and the places you will pass through. Breed Specific Legislation in some locales allow animal control agencies to confiscate and even euthanize dogs on their banned list.  Bully breeds and powerful working or guard type dogs are the typical targets of these laws, but it’s wise to “know before you go.”

Before traveling with your pet, make sure he is up to date on his vaccinations, and take his records along with you. Check with your vet to see if there are any illnesses or diseases endemic to the area you’re visiting that your dog should be vaccinated against. Some states require a health certificate for traveling dogs, issued within 10 days of travel. Find out the regulations for both the place you’re visiting and any state you’ll pass through.

Make sure your dog has on a well-fitting collar with both his rabies tag and an ID tag with both your mobile phone number and another number that you can monitor while you’re gone. Having your dog microchipped prior to travel is another wise decision. Finally, having current photos of your dog along with you is a wise precaution.

Stress, food and water changes are the primary causes of digestive upsets in dogs. Make sure you take plenty of your dog’s usual diet along with you, and resist the temptation to share lots of extra treats and rich goodies with your pet.  Take along an emergency kit as well. Paper towels, a good supply of plastic bags, and a bioenzymatic cleaning spray will help you take care of any unexpected accidents in your car or your lodgings. Also consider taking along Pepto Bismol or Imodium AD. Check with your vet ahead of time for the proper dosage for your dog.

If you’re beginning to wonder if taking your dog along is a good idea, consider other options.  Sometimes it’s best to leave your pet at home and have a neighbor come in several times a day to care for your dog.  My personal choice is a pet sitter: someone who comes in, stays in my home and follows the schedule my dogs are accustomed to. This option provides the added bonus of having someone home rather than leaving my home an empty and unattended target for thieves.

You might also find a friend or family member who will keep your dog for you. If the person has pets of their own, be sure you have a “get acquainted” session to make sure they all get along prior to your leaving.  You might also consider a boarding kennel.  Remember to make reservations well in advance, especially if you plan to be gone during a popular travel time.

Whatever you end up doing with your pet, advance planning will ensure both of you have the best time possible.

Bon Voyage!

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years.