Travel Tips from VCA & Camp Bow Wow

With summer upon us, many people have vacation on their mind. Though a lot of pet parents would love to bring their furry friend along for the ride, it’s not always the easiest option, especially if your pup has travel anxiety. Whether you decide to bring your pup along for the adventure or leave them at a trusted boarding facility, there are many things to consider and prepare for. We teamed up with VCA Animal Hospitals to bring you tips and tricks for either scenario.

The Main Question: Should I Board or Bring My Dog?

The question of whether to bring your dog with you when traveling really depends on their personality. Consider whether they enjoy spending time in the car with you, exploring new places, and meeting new people, or rather have a smaller circle of preferred human and animal friends and become stressed with excursions to new places. Is it safe for them to join you during your travels and at your destination? For some dogs, staying behind at a boarding facility or with a trusted pet sitter may be less stressful, whereas for others, joining you on a trip can be rewarding for you both.

Choosing the Right Boarding Facility

Choosing a boarding facility is a big decision. Because this will be your dog’s home away from home for the next several days or weeks, it’s natural that pet parents want to find the best of the best. Follow these tips to find a facility that works for you and your dog:

  • Read reviews or ask for recommendations. Hearing about past pet parent (and pup) experiences can help you narrow down your options.
  • Schedule a tour. Get answers to your burning questions, meet the staff and get a feel for how the dogs are cared for.
  • Try day care first. Starting with shorter day care visits can help your pup get acclimated to other dogs, the employees and the location itself before a longer stay. Also, if your dog hasn’t boarded in a while, it’s a good idea to use day care to reintroduce them to the environment.
  • Ask about health and safety protocols. Ask about required vaccinations, whether dogs are separated by size and play style, how often dogs are out to exercise and play, what training the staff has, what will happen if your dog is injured, and any other important topic related to your dog’s care and routine.

At Camp Bow Wow, dogs play throughout the day in indoor and outdoor play areas, separated by size and temperament. Safety is our number one priority, and we ensure all dogs are vaccinated and able to thrive in our open-play environment.

For dogs who aren’t as social or would be more comfortable at home due to their age or medical conditions, consider a trusted pet sitter.

Tips to Prepare

  • Book early, especially during busy travel weekends like the 4th of July.
  • Prepare health information:
    • Speak with your veterinarian about any questions or concerns you have about boarding.
    • Ensure your dog has up-to-date vaccinations, including all that are required by the boarding facility and any others your veterinarian may recommend.
    • Provide all necessary health history and records to the boarding facility.
  • Pack the essentials:
    • Your dog’s regular dog food. Boarding can be stressful and a change in diet could result in an upset stomach, so it’s best to stick with their regular diet.
    • Your dog’s favorite toy, stuffed animal or blanket as a reminder of home.
    • Any medication your dog needs during their stay (check first with your boarding facility about their medication policies).
      • It’s best to keep medication in its original bottle with prescription information.
  • Give a calm goodbye. Don’t let your pup know if you are upset when you part ways. Dogs can sense emotions so the calmer you stay, the calmer your pup will be when you say goodbye.

Traveling with Your Dog

If you’re considering bringing your pooch along on vacation, consider these important things:

  • Speak with your veterinarian well in advance of your trip to ensure your dog is prepared for any health risk that may arise. If you're looking for a new veterinarian, VCA has over 1,000 animal hospitals in North America.
    • Many airlines, hotels, US states and countries have requirements for vaccines and health inspections.
    • Your veterinarian can also help you assess risk factors of infectious diseases or other hazards you may encounter during travel or at your destination. Note that if a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) is required for your pet, there will likely be a specific timeline for obtaining a veterinary exam.
    • If your dog isn’t microchipped, consider doing so before your trip.
  • Find proper accommodation. Choose a hotel whose policies make traveling with pets easier, for example with pet-friendly amenities and no surprises on fees. Through a partnership between Hilton and Mars Petcare, more than 4,600 Hilton properties across the US and Canada not only have pet-friendly policies, they offer free access to virtual support for pet parents with questions about traveling with their pet.
  • Prep for safe flying:
    • Check airline requirements and determine whether your dog needs a crate or carrier. Larger dogs may be required to fly in a crate in cargo, and smaller dogs who fit into a carrier can fly in the plane. Air travel (particularly in cargo) can present health risks, especially for short-nosed dogs or those with certain underlying medical conditions.
    • Make sure your shipping crate is USDA-approved. Travel crates should be large enough that your dog can sit, stand and turn around comfortably.
    • Fly direct to reduce the time in-transit and to lower the chance of your dog being mishandled by baggage personnel.
  • Prep for safe road trips:
    • Ensure you have a carrier or dog seatbelt to keep your pup safe while on the road. You’ll want to provide enough space for them to switch positions while staying safe.
    • Map out your road trip journey so you know what areas are safe to stop with a dog and provide the best opportunity for a potty break and leg stretch.
    • For more road trip tips for maximum wags, check out our blog post here.
  • Research dog-friendly activities and restaurants so you know where your pup can and cannot accompany you. The BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™ program recognizes cities that are taking steps to make pets welcome and help people and pets be together. See the list of certified cities here. You can also plan ahead by checking your destination’s official city and visitor websites to learn about local pet-friendly parks, trails, restaurants and other attractions.

Top Travel Tips

  • Pack the essentials:
    • Food and water with bowls
    • Leashes and collar with tags
    • Bedding/blankets
    • Crate or carrier
    • Toys, especially ones that provide mental enrichment
    • Medication
    • Poop bags
    • Towel in case of muddy paws
    • Treats
    • Cleaning supplies
    • Pet first aid kit including:
      • Veterinarian info and medical records
      • Saline solution
      • Gauze and bandages
      • Disposable gloves
  • Avoid a full meal before travel. It is very easy for your dog to become sick during travel, so check with your veterinarian on how long in advance you should feed your pet to provide plenty of time for them to digest, or if your pet has a history of motion sickness, your veterinarian may recommend a medication prior to travel.
  • Never leave your pet alone in a car. Even if you’re “just running in for a second” you should never leave your dog alone. Just a few minutes of sitting in a hot car can put your dog’s life at risk.
  • While on the road:
    • Take regular potty and water breaks and allow for a quick walk each time to burn off energy.
    • Be aware of wildlife while stopped.
    • Leash your dog before allowing them to exit the car and avoid walking along busy roads or highways.
  • Keep a routine. Maintain as much of your dog’s normal schedule and activities as possible, including plenty of time for exercise and enrichment.
  • Avoid situations that may overwhelm your dog. Crowded events or gatherings, groups of children and loud noises or fireworks are just some of the situations your dog may not be accustomed to.

Reduce Anxiety for Boarding and Traveling

Leaving your pup at a boarding facility and taking them along on your journey can cause stress and anxiety for you both. In either situation, your dog must be well-socialized and able to adapt and thrive in situations with new people, places and other dogs.

  • Reduce anxiety prior to boarding:
    • Allow your dog to get to know the facility, staff and other dogs through a few day care visits prior to their boarding stay.
    • Bring toys or blankets that will remind them of home.
    • Check in on your dog while you’re away to reduce your own anxiety about leaving them!
      • Some boarding facilities, such as Camp Bow Wow,┬áhave live webcams where you can watch your pup play and know they’re having a good time while you’re away.
  • Reduce anxiety prior to traveling:
    • Help your dog get comfortable with any new carrier, crate or harness that will be used during travel, as well as comfortable spending time in the car.
      • Pair the carrier, car, etc. with things your pup loves (like treats or toys), and slowly introduce and desensitize them to it. If your pup gets excited to see their carrier or hop in the car for a ride, then you know you’ve done it correctly!
    • Bring toys or blankets that will remind them of home.
    • Your veterinarian may recommend pheromones, nutraceuticals, or even pharmaceuticals to reduce stress around travel.

Have a Great Trip!

Whether you plan to board or bring your dog with you, preparation is key to ensure you and your dog have a safe, healthy and happy time. If your pup won’t be joining you on vacation, Camp Bow Wow is proud to offer safe and trustworthy day care and boarding services at over 200 locations in the US and Canada. And VCA’s veterinarians will help you ensure you’re ready for boarding or bringing your dog on your trip if you visit one of their 1,000+ animal hospitals across North America.