August – Last Chance to Get Away

A majority of American families consider August as the last chance to get away before school starts, anticipating a fun-filled time of enjoyment for all. Maybe…maybe not…if you have seen National Lampoon Vacation, you understand how the best laid plans can go awry. “This is no longer a vacation…it is a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun…we’re all gonna have so much fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our smiles.” Avoiding the pitfalls of a stressful vacation requires some advance planning, and dog caregivers need to decide whether to take the family pet along, or leave her home.

Where you are going, your mode of transportation, how long you plan to stay, what you plan to do, and the temperament of your dog are all factors to help determine whether you decide your pet goes along or stays home. The most important thing to consider about traveling with your dog is how accustomed he is to the type of travel you will be doing. Even dogs that are well behaved at home can have difficulty in a new environment, and your dog doesn’t understand that he should behave as a guest, and may surprisingly behave in ways that are unacceptable.

Most vacations require leaving the pet alone for extended periods of time, and dogs are seldom comfortable left alone in a strange place. Even with the best of care and attention, some dogs are homebodies and never become good travelers, which means that your wonderful vacation can become a National Lampoon sequel. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will your dog be welcome at the vacation destination? (If you are staying in hotels. be sure to alert them in advance that you are bringing a four-footed guest.)
  • Will your dog enjoy the trip or would he be happier left home?
  • Is your dog in good health, both physically and emotionally? If you decide that it’s a go for your dog, you need to prepare to make the adventure as smooth as possible:
  • Take him for a veterinary check-up and obtain a health certificate and documentation of inoculations. Ensure he is up-to-date on vaccinations and has current identification, with a recent photo, and contact information for you, and your vet, just in case he gets separated from you.
  • Use a pet carrier or crate large enough for her to stand up, turn around, and stretch out. No NOT allow the dog to roam free inside the vehicle! Driving without your dog restrained is an accident waiting to happen. (If your dog is not accustomed to a crate, start acclimating her to it for several weeks prior before the trip.) If you don’t have room for a crate, there are a number of tethering devices that can be used as an alternative to a crate.
  • Plan to make regular stops at rest areas along the route to stretch and take a potty break. Do not allow your pet off leash at rest areas. No matter how well-trained he is, this is a new experience and an accident could happen.
  • NEVER, under any circumstances leave her alone it a parked car. It takes only minutes for an animal to develop heatstroke.

Every dog needs his own suitcase packed with essential dog things:

  • Be sure to include his familiar bedding. We suggest not washing his favorite blanket. It will have the scent of home on it.
  • Don’t forget dog food. For special diets, take extra along in case you can’t find it along the way…if you use canned food, take along a can opener if it’s not in pop-open containers. Include bowls for water and food, and any grooming tools you might need. Be sure to have an extra supply of any meds or supplements – just in case you are gone longer than planned.
  • We suggest using bottled water. Water differs in different areas and may contain minerals that could create stomach upset.
  • A basic dog first aid kit including a first aid book would come in handy in case of a minor injury.
  • Clean up bags – responsible pet caregivers always clean up droppings!
  • And then there are toys. Take along his favorite ones from home, even though you will probably splurge for new ones.

Taking your dog with you on vacation has its challenges, but it can be a wonderful experience for both two-legs and four-legs. The better prepared you are, the fewer surprises, there will be, resulting in a rewarding adventure and happy moments. American adventurer, Peter Kulkkula, founder of August as American Adventures Month, encourages everyone to enjoy the byways, waterways, highways, and skyways of America to experience great adventures and create awesome memories for both two-legs and four-legs.

Planning a Trip with your Pet?

So you are planning your vacation, and you think it would be great to include your favorite four-footed companion. Maybe…maybe not.  A vacation with your dog can be an enjoyable bonding experience…or it can be your worst nightmare. It depends on many factors.  The trip can be fun only if it will benefit both you and your pet, and adequate preparation is essential, not only to ensure a good time, but also for the safety of both the humans and canine involved. BEFORE planning a long trip, ask yourself whether or not your dog is in good health and will really enjoy the vacation. (Some vacations are more suitable for dogs than others.) It is important to consider how accustomed your dog is to the type of trip you will be taking.  If traveling by car, make sure he is relaxed on long rides, and can settle down quickly, and if your vacation involves hiking, backpacking or extensive walking, it is essential that she is fit enough to handle your walking expectations. City holidays have become quite popular, but  will probably require leaving the pet alone in a hotel for extended periods of time while you enjoy the shows and museums, and although many hotels and bed and breakfasts are pet-friendly, that doesn’t mean that your dog will be comfortable left alone most of the time in a strange place.

  • Get a health check from your veterinarian prior to any vacation trip. If you are doing interstate traveling or using public transportation, a health certificate is required. Be sure to have an up-to-date copy of his records so any emergency veterinarian knows his background. If your dog needs medicines, be sure to fill any needed prescriptions ahead of time.
  • Make sure your dog has proper identification.  Two different forms of ID are suggested….a physical tag on his collar, and a microchip. (Dogs do get lost and collars and tags can be slipped). Be sure to have a clear photo of her with you, just in case!
  • Make any reservations well ahead of time to find out specifically what is expected of you and your dog, so that you avoid any unpleasant surprises. recommends booking a ground-floor room for easy access to the outside, and reminds travelers to keep dogs from eliminating on flowerbeds, manicured landscaping, and swimming in public pools—behavior that other guests do not appreciate.
  • Some dogs only feel comfortable eliminating at home, so before you leave, spend a few weeks developing a potty cue.  Whenever your dog is on the verge of eliminating, say a phrase like, “Get busy,” or “time to go”. When he’s done, praise him and give him a treat, so that by the time you hit the road, saying your cue should get him to do his business on demand.
  • For a dog not comfortable with traveling, begin adjusting him several weeks in advance.  Start with short rides to familiar locations, and as your dog becomes more comfortable, go on longer rides. (Like humans, some dogs suffer from car sickness, which can present major problems on a trip)

Vacations are wonderful  (but usually hectic, sometimes stressful) times, and with careful planning, your dog can be a part of them, but your canine companion depends on you to make wise choices, and if you are not totally convinced that your dog would be a good traveling companion, it may be best to leave her home with a pet-sitter.

Fido not a Traveler? – Dog Friendly Options for Boarding Your Dog

For those of you have been honest about yourself and your dog’s personality and have concluded that both the two-legs and four-legs will be happier if the four-legs stay home, there are many dog-friendly options for boarding.  Traditional boarding kennels usually have an area for each dog with an attached run or exercise area. The place where the dogs spends most of his time may be a comfy, roomy area, or something more like a crate.  Whether it’s a loving staff, convenient location, or cost consideration, make a list of things essential to you, and be sure to visit any facility you consider using in advance of your travel to make sure the kennel meets your expectations. Four basic requirements to look for:

  1. Security…look for kennels with security systems and adequate fencing heights to prevent escape. Check for double gates that prevent your dog from slipping out when another dog is being moved.
  2. Supervision…dogs should be supervised at least most of the day. Staff should be trained to understand basic dog behavior, and recognize signs of distress or illness.
  3. Safety …dogs need a safe, temperature-controlled enclosure that is protected from outside elements. There should be walls or barriers to ensure that your dog cannot be stressed by other nearby dogs.
  4. Sanitation…Dogs need clean beds and toys, and fresh food and water daily. Many dogs are stressed in a new environment and may have accidents. It is important that kennels be kept clean.

Kennel owner Barb Gibson offers the following tips:

  • Make a “test run” at the facility of choice for just a night or two. It is worth paying for a short stay that might reveal any potential issues before you leave for an extended trip. Some dogs find it difficult to adjust to the unfamiliar.
  • Be upfront and honest about your dog’s habits and quirks.  If your dog is a barker, or a biter, or if he’s prone to chewing, tell the staff. The more they know about him, the better care they can provide.
  • Make sure your dog has two forms of ID. His collar should have an up-to-date, well-secured tag, and he should be implanted with a properly registered microchip ID or tattooed with information that can quickly lead a rescuer to you.
  • Take your dog’s regular food with him, so that he will eat his own food and have his own routine. A change of food or an addition of treats can induce gastrointestinal upset. Pack his bag to include his blankets or bed, favorite toys, and anything that will make him feel more at home.
  • Make sure you provide clear instructions for feeding and any required medications. Give specific guidelines on what you expect of his activity, playtime, and interaction with other dogs. Also be sure to provide good contact information in case of an emergency.

Experts agree that if you experience a dirty facility or inattentive staff that you should run, not walk, to another facility. It is reasonable to expect a burst of barking when a human or dog travels through the kennel area, but continued barking likely points toward a bigger problem such as a lack of exercise, lack of mental stimulation, inadequate potty opportunities, or an overall high stress/anxiety level.  If you see inappropriate handling such as physical or shouted “corrections”, find a different facility. Experienced dog handlers don’t need to hit or “alpha-roll” dogs, ever! If for any reason you feel uncomfortable with a facility, regardless of its glowing recommendations, trust yourself and your ability to know what’s best for your pet.  All boarding facilities are not equal, and your gut instinct is usually right!  Peace of mind is important while you’re on vacation, so research boarding kennels carefully!

Dog Days of Summer

Although we often use the term, “Dog Days of Summer”, I had to do a little research to discover what “Dog Days” really means. The name comes from the constellation called Canis Major or “Big Dog” because the brightest star in it, Sirius, rises at the same time as the sun around this time of the year. The Romans believed that this star was the cause of the hot weather and other bad things, like dogs going mad and people suffering various diseases.  According to Wikipedia, the Romans sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius.  The lectionary of the 1611 edition of the King James Bible indicates that the Dog Days begin on July 6 and end on September 5, but recent reprints of the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer contains no reference to the Dog Days.

The phrase is mentioned in the short story, “The Bar Sinister,” by Richard Harding Davis, when the main character, a street dog, explains, “but when the hot days come, I think they might remember that those are the dog days, and leave a little water outside in a trough, like they do for the horses.” The Prologue of Tuck Everlasting, a fantasy children’s novel by Natalie Babbit, set in the month of August, says, “These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.”  This book received numerous awards including being chosen as one of the top books for children.  Tuck Everlasting was made into a Disney movie in 2002.

Surveys usually discover that many people believe the phrase is in reference to the conspicuous laziness of domesticated dogs, which is a myth. Dogs lie around on hot “dog days” because they are in danger of overheating.  In recent years, the term has also been used in reference to the American Stock Markets. Typically summer is a slow one for the stock market, and poorly performing stocks are frequently known as “dogs.”

Rather than focus on the negative aspects of “Dog Days”, why not take some actions to make them happy days for the dogs? Your dog, your neighbor dogs, the lonely dog down the street, and the frightened shelter dogs would all enjoy a little extra attention.  Even if you don’t have a lot of time to give, consider volunteering as a dog walker once a week on your lunch hour. Take the opportunity to stretch your legs as well as your dogs. Offer to be a socializer for a neglected dog. Just a half hour interaction can make life better for an animal.  Provide comfy blankets (they don’t have to be new) for the “outside dog”…sure, they will get chewed up and ruined, but for at least a short time, the dog will enjoy them. Check regularly and replace them.  Ask your friends to sort out their old blankets, or stop by the local thrift shop.

If you or the kids like to bake, try a batch of sweet potato chips. Quick and easy… cut them up and let them bake while you watch your favorite TV program!

Scrub and slice 6 large whole sweet potatoes into rounds. (No need to peel)  Cut into thin slices (the thinner the slice, the shorter the cooking time). Thinner chips will be crunchier, thicker ones will be chewier chips… the dogs will appreciate either. Place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake for 250 degrees for about three hours. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

With a little effort, the “Dog Days of Summer” can be great days for both humans and canines.

Including your dog in your Vacation Plans

As I researched the idea of including your dog in vacation plans, I concluded that, for most dogs, staying at home is the better option.  Traveling with a pet involves more than just loading him up and taking off, especially if you will be driving long distances or plan to be away for quite a while. Even with the best care and attention, some dogs are home bodies and never become good travelers, which means that your wonderful vacation can become a nightmare. However, I also know that many caregivers are going to take their furry friend along with them, so please do some careful planning and take safety precautions to make your travel enjoyable for both four legs and two legs.

Every dog needs his own suitcase, packed with essential dog things. Include in your doggie bag:

  • Bedding (we suggest NOT washing his favorite blanket…it will have the scent of home on it)
  • Bowls for water and food
  • Brush and any other grooming tools that you regularly use
  • Dog food; for special diets, take extra along in case you can’t find it in stores at your destination. (If you use canned dog food, include a can opener if it’s not in pop-open containers.
  • Plastic jug of water or bottled water for your dog to avoid possible upset stomach…water in new areas may contain minerals that a dog needs time to adjust to.
  • Supplements that are given and any prescribed medications.
  • Crate or seatbelt restraint system for traveling in the car.  Practice using your chosen system before the trip. Keep your dog out of the front seat. Air bags can save a human life in the event of an accident, but they can be deadly for dogs.
  • Leashes and halters. An extra set is suggested
  • Keep identification tags with current information and your cell phone number on your dog at all times. We encourage you to have your dog micro chipped and registered prior to the trip. In the event of an accident, your dog may get loose and consequently lost in a strange place.
  • Ramp for senior dog or one with joint problems.
  • Towels for muddy paws… small scissors, nail clippers and tweezers. Paper towels can be used in many situations.
  • His favorite toys (and possibly a few new ones)
  • Her vaccination records and vet health check report. Include your veterinarian’s telephone number, just in case it is needed.
  • Basic first aid kit including a first aid book. A good pet first aid book is the American Red Cross
  • Spiral bound book, Dog First Aid [az_easel item=”1584804017″ show_image =”small”]
    • This book even features a section in the back where you can record phone numbers of your vet, a poison control center, and other emergency info.  Copies are available through Amazon for about $l2 (And remember if you use the above link, we receive a portion of the profit at NO extra cost to you!). And it is well worth the cost. Eye wipes and ear cleaning solution, and an antibiotic ointment should be included as well as sterile gauze pads and rolls, and tape for securing wraps or bandages, cotton balls, and swabs. Do NOT use human adhesive bandages such as Band-Aids on pets!
  • Clean up bags.  Responsible pet caregivers ALWAYS clean up droppings.

Traveling with a pet has its challenges and requires a caregiver to be as prepared as possible. The more homework you do, the fewer surprises there will be, resulting in a safe and rewarding adventure for everyone, whether two-legs or four-legs.