So this isn’t as much an equine-related post, but it is animal related! If you have pets, and elderly ones at that, read on for my experiences and two cents about making travel as smooth as possible for you and your senior puppers.
Meet Ziggy and Ollie, my two miniature dachshunds. Ziggy just turned 12 this month and Ollie will be 10 in July.
Since they joined the family when I was on my horsey hiatus, unfortunately they aren’t “barn dogs.” And at this point in time, they’re too old to risk trying to teach them the dangers of horse hooves, staying out of the ring and not running off after a barn cat, rabbit or squirrel.
That being said, luckily when I have to travel for horse shows, I have my mom and husband to help me with dog duty so they’re rarely left behind! Since I started riding again, they have traveled all over with us – to Vermont, Florida and South Carolina to name a few destinations.
Driving vs Flying
For me, driving with the boys is 100% less stressful than flying. They are quite comfortable in the car and I don’t have to medicate them like I do when we fly, which frankly, I hate doing. They have nifty car seats that keep them comfy and in place (obviously not going to work for a large dog, but for small and medium-sized ones, they are great!)
If you’re traveling long-distance, driving might not be an option, so here are some things to keep in mind:
Flying requires you to have a TSA approved carrier and (unless your pet is a certified service animal) they must remain in the carrier throughout your entire time inside the airport and the duration of the flight. If you’re checking in 1-2 hours before your flight and have a 2-3 hour flight, this means your pup may be confined to the carrier for 4-5 hours. Yikes! That is one of the major reasons why I medicate my dogs prior to flying. I mean, if anyone tried to keep me in a small space for over an hour I would probably have a nervous breakdown. My vet prescribed the appropriate medication and dosage for their weight and age, so please do not take a guess at what you should give your dog solo. Consult with a vet.
The major bummer about flying? Having to pay the pet fee. There isn’t a way around this because, trust me, I’ve looked. Unless you get your dog certified as an emotional support animal (and please, don’t do this just to scam the system) you have to pay the fee. This varies from airline to airline, and certain companies have restrictions on the number of animals per flight so make sure to book your pup on your flight the same day you buy your ticket. With Jet Blue, you can do it online. With Delta and American, I had to call them after purchasing my ticket and wound up paying their fee at the airport the day of.
I recently bought new carriers on Amazon that have a zip out side that allows for extra room after take-off. As soon as I’m settled in my seat I’ll expand the carrier to give them a little wiggle room. It makes a huge difference and I’m so happy I stumbled upon them. When it’s time to get off the plane, you can just zip the side back up and the bag goes back to it’s normal size. To make them more comfortable I always put a shirt I’ve recently worn in the carrier with them, I do the same thing when I leave them in a new hotel or rental for the first time.
Zig testing out the new gear.
Another thing I never travel without is a collapsible water bowl. I can fold it up flat and keep it in the side pocket of the travel bag – please always make sure your dog is offered water before, during and after the flight. I’ve haven’t flown longer than 3 hours with my boys but always offer them water pre, during and post flight and they’ve never had an accident. I also keep a ziplock baggy of treats handy so they have something to chew on during takeoff and landing, since I can’t share my gum.
Finding a pet-friendly hotel or Air BnB is much easier nowadays! Most have a search filter option, but if all else fails just call the hotel and ask if they accept pets. Requesting a room on the ground floor makes bathroom breaks much easier, too.
Like I mentioned before, I always leave a worn tee on their bed and a familiar toy or two to help make them more comfortable in their new surroundings. Chews are a great source of entertainment as well, but never leave them alone with one that could be a potential choking hazard.
If I’m only traveling for a weekend, I’ll usually pack their food and bring it with me. If I’m driving, bringing things like dog beds and bowls is much easier, since space is limited when you’re dealing with a checked bag or carry on so I’ll end up stopping by a PetCo or something to pick up some cheap ones if I’m flying. If I’m driving, I can pack the DOG STROLLER, which gets a lot of laughs – but, Ziggy can’t walk very far before calling it quits and sitting down, so having the stroller to bring to the show or take him for longer walks with Ollie has been a real game changer.
Traveling with pups (and two at that!) can be stressful on both you and them, but it doesn’t have to be. Planning ahead helps tremendously. Here’s a quick checklist for the next time you’re getting ready to hit the road (or sky) with your four legged friend:
- Any necessary medication (and Pill Pockets, if you need them!)
- Food, treats & bowls!
- Dog beds (I like these because they don’t take up much room, come in a bunch of sizes and can pack flat in a suitcase if needed – plus they’re priced well.)
- Harnesses, leashes and poop bags (don’t be that person that doesn’t pick up after your dog please, it’s gross.)
- A potty plan – if you’re traveling solo, make sure you are able to bring your dog with you during the day or you’re able to get back to let them outside. Try to keep their daily schedule as close to normal as possible, it will make being in a new place a little easier on them.
- If flying, make sure to book them a ticket with the airline and that your carrier is TSA approved prior to getting to the airport.
- Talk to your vet and make sure your pet is healthy enough to travel. If you don’t want to medicate them, this is an all-natural option that I’ve used before with some success.
And that’s it! Happy travels!
Taylor, Zig & Ollie