Thursday, September 3, 2009

Have Crate will Travel

Ten years ago, I took my Shiba Inu, Mitsu (then a 6 month old puppy) up the coast of California to attend a friend’s wedding in San Francisco. At that time, pet-friendly accommodations were few and far between and many of the accommodations were motel chains such as Best Western, Howard Johnson’s or the Oxford Suites. I had a great time with my puppy running along the beaches in Big Sur and Cambria and walking the streets of Ojai. It was a great socialization opportunity for my dog and this out-of-town trip helped her become a resilient and adaptable dog. Over the years she and I went to the Sierras and even Las Vegas. The Vegas strip was her favorite, she is partial to bright lights and chaos.

Flash forward ten years and another puppy. I decided to take Kiku and Mitsu for an out of town trip. Kiku, my Akita, had never been out of town and I was not sure how she would react to being in a strange place. But being a young dog, I thought the exposure would be good for her. Fortunately, in the last few years, the number of accommodations accepting pets has expanded tremendously giving people many options. In addition to hotel and motel chains there are a number of Bed and Breakfasts and vacation home rentals that allow pets. I settled on a mountain cottage in Julian, California. The dogs loved the wilderness and they adapted well.

Picture of the cottage we rented

What saved me on this trip (and every trip that I have taken with my dogs) was crate-training. So, in addition to all the other benefits that crate-training provides (see my previous blog on crate training) , traveling with your pet is another one on the list. I was able to load the dogs in my truck in their crates providing for a more secure ride. They slept most of the way and were comfortable.

The crate is also handy when you arrive to your destination. There is always a risk that a dog may forget housetraining in a strange place or that they may decide to gnaw on a piece of furniture. Having crate-trained dogs provides you with the peace-of-mind that you can leave your dogs unattended for short periods of time. It also provides them a secure, familiar place to sleep in when you are in a strange location. Moreover, owners of some establishments are more comfortable to rent a place to you if they know the dogs are crate-trained and therefore less likely to cause damage to their property.

Kiku and Mitsu await our arrival back at the cottage. Kiku has a water bottle attached to her crate and Mitsu has a water bowl.

In addition to bringing your dog’s crate here are some other tips to keep in mind:

1) Identification and Microchipping - Make sure your dog has a secure collar with I.D. Dogs can panic in unfamiliar locations and bolt. Microchipping is also critical if you frequently travel with your pet. Lost dogs can lose their collars and most shelters and veterinarians have scanning equipment.

2) Water bowls – dogs can get dehydrated during the car ride so stop every few hours to check on their water bowls. Better yet, teach your dog to drink from a water bottle (like the type rabbits drink out of) that hooks on to the crate. I taught my older dogs to drink out of a water bottle by putting peanut butter on the nozzle. My puppy did not need any prompting.

3) Vet information – Take the number of your veterinarian as well as the phone numbers of vets in the area where you will be staying.

4) Copies of shot records – sometimes you run into a situation where you cannot find pet friendly accommodations or hotels where you cannot leave your pet unattended. In such cases you may need to put your dog in daycare if you are going to a function or will need to leave your pet for an extended period of time. Day cares require shot records so it is helpful to have them handy in case you need to board your dog. Make sure your dog is current on vaccinations especially rabies if you are going to wilderness areas.

5) Cover for Crate – often I will bring extra blankets to cover the crates. Covering the crates can help quiet the dogs when they cannot settle down in a strange location. My dogs know that the blanket means they need to go to sleep.

6) Extra towels and brushes – in case your dog gets wet or dirty.

7) Flea, Tick and Heartworm Treatments– make sure your dogs are current with flea, tick and heartworm applications. Many mountainous areas and regions of the U.S. have ticks or mosquitoes that transmit heartworm. Do your research and protect your pet accordingly. Ask your veterinarian about the appropriate treatments to apply.

8) Finding Pet Friendly Accommodations – here are some of my favorite websites for finding pet-friendly accommodations:– nice search engine and photos of properties– this one has been around for a long time and has a good list of accommodations for hotels and restaurants.– provides list of vacation rentals if you would like to rent a home. Several dog friendly properties are available such as the one I rented in Julian.