Holidays Are Better Together: Travel Safely With Your Dog

Holidays are for spending time with family and friends—whether they have two legs or four.  For those of us living with canine companions, traveling for the holidays can pose extra challenges—but it’s nothing you can’t handle with a little planning and preparation.  Read on to travel more smoothly, safely and comfortably with your dog.

Decide if your dog will stay or go
Before you book pet-friendly accommodations, decide whether traveling with your dog is the right choice for your family and your dog.  Taking an 8-hour road trip with a pet that gets carsick after a 10-minute ride to the dog park may not be the wisest option.  And if your dog is fearful of new places, people or other pets, it may be best for them to stay behind with a trusted sitter or boarding kennel.  But, if your dog is an eager explorer and frequent travel companion, there are a few precautions you can take to help ensure everyone has an enjoyable time away.

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Start with your destination in mind
Many hotels, lodges, B&Bs and campsites are happy to accept pets (often with a security deposit), but it is important to read and understand your accommodation’s pet policy before you make your reservation.  This is especially true if you choose to stay with friends or family.  Talk with your host before finalizing your travel plans to make sure they are willing to house both you and your dog.  If there is any hesitation, offer to stay at a nearby pet-friendly hotel or B&B, or consider leaving your dog at home with a trusted sitter or boarding kennel.

Determine how you will you get there
When traveling by car, look over your route ahead of time so you can plan frequent exercise and bathroom breaks.  To help minimize carsickness, feed your dog at least three to four hours before you head out.  Then give them plenty of time to use the bathroom one last time before you get in the car. If your dog gets nauseous or anxious during long car trips, you can discuss anti-nausea or anti-anxiety medications with your veterinarian.  To help your pet with anxiety, there are also calming aids available—including wraps, collars, sprays, diffusers and supplements.

Once the car is all loaded up and you’re ready to head out, there are some important guidelines to remember.  Dogs should never be allowed ride loose in the open bed of a truck.  Even when traveling in a closed car, truck or sports utility vehicle, securing your dog in a crate will be safer for them and you.  Keep the car well-ventilated and at a comfortable temperature.  When you need to stop, never leave your dog in a closed car, no matter what the weather is like.  For more car travel tips with your pet, check out this article.

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For air travel, check with the specific airline about travel requirements for pets (a good starting point is the Federal Aviation Administration’s website) and book your dog’s flight at the same time you book yours.  The airline may have limits on the number of animals that can ride on any given plane and whether animals can ride in the cargo hold versus in the cabin.  And for dogs that are too big to ride in the cabin, the airline may restrict travel during certain times a year, especially if temperatures are expected to exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  For domestic flights, airlines may require a veterinarian-issued health certificate dated within 10 days of travel.  International travel may involve additional documents and vaccinations depending on your destination.  Purchase an airline-approved crate that’s large enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around in.  Mark the crate with “Live Animal” plus your contact information and a photo of your pet and attach two dishes (one for food and one for water) to the inside of the kennel door.

Some trains, buses and boats allow pets, though options are fairly limited.  Research rail and bus company policies before booking tickets, or consider traveling by car or plane instead. 

Pack your dog’s travel bag
Make sure you have plenty of the essentials: your dog’s usual food and treats, a water bottle, travel bowls for food and water, a leash and collar/harness, toys, familiar blanket and/or bed, grooming supplies, any necessary medications and clean-up bags.  Above all, make sure you have plenty of water. (Some dogs may experience stomach discomfort if they drink water they are not used to.)  Hand wipes and a towel are also helpful for cleaning dirty hands and paws.  Other useful travel items include your dog’s current rabies tag or a copy of a vaccine records (which may be required for air travel or crossing state/international borders); contact information for your primary care veterinarian; a first aid kit and copies of their most recent veterinary visit and pertinent test results, if your dog has any ongoing medical issues.

Keep your dog safe in transit and at your destination
Always walk your dog on a leash and have identification for your dog when you travel.  Identification can be in the form of a tag on their collar or harness (that includes your dog’s name and your contact information), a combination of a tag and a microchip under the skin, or ideally a combination of an ID tag, a microchip and a recent picture of your dog.


Earn your welcome
Once you reach your destination, double check the pet policy where you’re staying and ask about preferred locations for walks and bathroom breaks.  Always clean up after your dog and bin your clean-up bags once they’ve served their purpose.  Don’t leave your dog loose and unattended in your room; if you need to leave your dog alone, place him in his travel crate to prevent any damage to the room and to help your pet feel safe and secure.  Remember, even the best behaved dog can get into mischief in a new environment.  Be courteous to other guests and your hosts so that you and your dog will be welcome back for years to come.

For additional information about traveling with your dog, talk to your veterinarian.  Pets are creatures of habit, so they may need some more time to get acquainted to the idea of traveling.  Rushing to get out the door can leave pets feeling anxious and confused, so make sure to allow more time (packing up the car, getting to the airport, etc.) than if you were traveling alone.  If you follow these steps and make sure you have everything you and your dog needs, you can both have a safe, comfortable, enjoyable trip.

If you plan to travel without your pet, read about how to find a pet sitter and how to keep your pets safe while you're away.

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Disclaimer: Big Business Scoopers received permission from a content marketing representative of Ghergich & Co. to republish this blog post.  Read the article, originally written and published by Lisa Weeth, DVM, MRCVS on December 13, 2016, on Petco's Community Page here.

Interview: Justyna Kuczaj of Waggin' Wheels Express

About a month ago I was driving in Livingston on a poop scooping route.  At a red light I saw ahead of me an extraordinarily eye-catching oversized white and black dog.  Only it wasn't a dog ... it was Waggin' Wheels Express!  The number on the dog/vehicle was 1-844-DOG-RIDE.  A ride? A taxi?  A dog taxi!  I thought, "Well this is AWESOME!"  It's awesome for people who love dogs but are so busy they can't shuttle them back and forth to doggie daycare.  Or for people who just need a break or don't want to get their car dirty.  Or for people who would like their dog to travel in the safest AND hippest dog ride ever... Waggin' Wheels Express is an incredible solution to one of dog owners' many problems.  I had to meet Justyna Kuczaj, founder and owner, and find out more about this unique dog service:

BBS: What inspired you to create Waggin’ Wheels Express?

JK: People always say best ideas originate out of a need and this is how Waggin' Wheels Express really started. I've always been a big dog person and while going through my EMBA program while working full time I realized that the only way for me to have a dog of my own would be  if somebody could help me get him to the doggie daycare. My hours were/are definitely not 9-5: I leave for work prior to doggie daycare opening up (most day cares by me are only 7 to 7) and I come back home after 7 pm. So that's how I came up with an idea of somebody taking care of the pick up and drop off to/from doggie daycare for working professionals whose schedule is not really 9-5 (and let's be honest most jobs these days are not 9-5 anymore). 

Check out the Waggin' Wheels Express vehicle.  It is a 2014 Mercedes Sprinter van with multiple safety features.  Justyna and crew chose this vehicle because of the history and reliability of the brand behind it.  If you drive luxury vehicles ... now so can your dog!    014 Mercedes Sprinter van because of multiple safety features it offers, as well as because of the history and reliability of the brand behind it. If you drive a luxury car, why can’t your best bud drive in one too

BBS: What can clients expect when they make a reservation with you?

Our business is definitely unique and there's currently nothing like that out there. There are services in the city which offer transportation for pups but it's in a minivan usually with no crates, etc. What our customers can expect is a super safe vehicle (Mercedes Sprinter) with custom made crates securely installed (i.e. no risk of movement). Crates are equipped with custom made pads which are waterproof, non-toxic and offer superior support during transport. Finally, unlike any other dog transportation companies, our car is operated by holders of commercial driver's license as they are subject to stringent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations such as annual medical exam, drug-free history and no recent history of traffic violations and accidents.

BBS: Your goal is to make your clients’ "pooch’s tail wag every time s/he boards the … van.”  We love that!  Is it pretty safe to say that the dogs you serve are the best part of this business?

JK: Without a doubt we are in business to serve all these pups! We don't even see some of the parents of our customers as we do picks ups/drop offs when they are not home so our customer is truly every single pup on board! We have a great pleasure in chauffeuring all of our guests whether they are small or big. Sometimes customers call us asking if we take pitbulls, etc. which is sad they even have to ask this but we keep on emphasizing that we do not discriminate - we love them all. Our favorite part of the business is that through providing services to these pups we get to help homeless pooches as we match every round trip our customers take with us with a can of dog food. In 2 years we've been now in business we already donated approx. 1,000 cans of dog food to Mt Pleasant Animal Shelter!

Here is the safe and comfortable interior of the Waggin' Wheels Express van.

BBS: What have been some of the biggest challenges that you've encountered along the journey?  Pun intended.

JK: The biggest challenge is getting the word out there about our services. Many people these days are still not even familiar with a concept of doggie daycares so they are having a really hard time understanding what we do when we say we take the pups from/to their houses to doggie daycares. Many people confuse us with mobile dog groomers. I thought the best way would be to describe the business as doggie taxi but then we get random calls from people in a local area asking us to pick them up (they searched for a taxi) and when I say we only transfer pups they tell me: "you've gotta be kidding me, right" and they hang up :-)

BBS: We love being introduced to dogs :-)  Tell us a little about Taffy and his influence on the business!

JK: Taffy is a very special pup! My dad found him at the mechanic garage in Chicago and brought him back with him to our then home in Pennsylvania. Soon after we got him my dad was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within few months. So during these rough few months all of us developed a special bond with Taffy. We would take him everywhere with us, even to Poland for winter holidays where we quickly realized he's not meant for cold Easter European winters. Taffy lives with my mom as I'm unfortunately not home too often due to work related travel. However, anytime I'm home I make up for that time and take him everywhere with me. Taffy used to come with us for pick ups and drop offs; however, because he enjoys barking at every single dog for some reason we stopped taking him with us because some of our customers were scared of him even though he's the most harmless pup you can think of! 

Here is Justyna Kuczah, her sister and mother (who also work with her) and Taffy, the faithful pup mascot of Waggin' Wheels Express!

BBS: What are your dreams for the growth of Waggin’ Wheels Express over the next 10 years?

JK: Because of the convenience we bring to working professionals and assistance to homeless pups, I really would like to continue expand the business over next few years. Haven't exactly decided on the expansion strategy though....

BBS: And now for some laughs!  Tell us your favorite funny dog story.

JK: There's so many :-) Dogs are such characters! So many different personalities! I think my favorite to date was when one of the Bernese Mountain dogs we were chauffeuring one day decided he would rather sit behind the wheel than in a crate (despite the fact that our crates can even fit mastiff size dog). He situated himself behind the wheel and would not budge! His owner and 2 of us had to use lots of treats to convince him to take a back seat! It's also funny to see how pups stare at the vehicle (it looks like a dalmatian)...they usually stop and stare and then the moment we play our "Woof Woof" horn (yes we do have a woof woof signal :-) ) they start chasing us thinking it's a big dog! At least they are not confusing us for a mobile groomer!

BBS: Thank you so much!  Good luck always and see you on the road!

So there you have it.  If you have any further questions for Justyna and the crew just head on over to their website: Waggin' Wheels Express.  They are also on Facebook and Instagram.