holiday travel tips dog

Tips for Traveling with Your Dog During the Holidays

The holidays are coming and that means lots of trips to visit family and friends. According to a recent Kurgo Survey of dog owners, 36% of people travel to a destination other than their home for Thanksgiving and 43% travel at Christmas time. Over 80% of dog owners will bring their pup along on these trips, because, of course, their dog is part of the family too! It’s fun to bring along your dog, but that might require some planning to make sure it’s fun and safe for everyone!

Check if Your Pup is Welcome

Thanksgiving turkey dog at the table

Check with your family or friends to make sure your dog is welcome. Not everyone likes dogs or can welcome them into their home. Find out what spaces your dog will be allowed in and what equipment (bowls, beds, etc.) your host can provide you. Also, figure out what activities your group will be doing and whether your dog can participate. Then you can weigh whether your dog will be comfortable and entertained to make it worth the trip. If not, think about hiring a pet sitter or using a boarding kennel.

Make sure your dog is road trip-ready

Does your dog regularly ride in the car? Car travel can be stressful for pets and if you are planning to drive for a few hours it’s time to get Fido used to the car.  Start by taking short trips, adding time to each trip building up to your expected driving length. Be sure to give your dog lots of praise and talk to him in a pleasant but not overly excited voice while driving. Carve out a spot for him – whether in the back seat or cargo area – that he can feel secure and safe. If you believe in training with treats, giving a nice treat when your dog gets into the car and then one when they get out can help reinforce positive memories of the car.

Double Check Dog IDs and Microchips

Pets can get scared easily in a new environment and commonly run off. Rest areas and roadside stops are especially busy during this heavy travel period, so make sure your pup is wearing his collar and id tag at all times. If your dog isn’t micro-chipped, consider having it done. It’s the only way he might find his way back to you if he loses his id tags. Just be sure to keep your contact information up to date with the microchip company.

Prepare the Car for Travel

Grey shepherd looks out of the car travel autumn fall leaves

Let’s face it, dogs can be messy sometimes and you don’t want to spend your precious holiday time cleaning up after your pet. Consider covering the areas in your car where your dog will ride with car seat protection. By using a dog hammock or dog bench seat cover, you will protect your seats and gather all that hair, mud, and slobber on one surface. These car seat covers can easily be wiped clean or even thrown into the washing machine after your trip.

Contain or Restrainkurgo seat-belt tether

While it is tempting to let your dog roam around in the car, especially if he is generally well-behaved, this can lead to distracted driving accidents, the number one cause of car fatalities. Imagine your dog jumping into the front seat and interfering with your driving or distracting you as he gets into the yummy food or sparkly presents you are bringing to your hosts. It’s safer for everyone if you either contain your dog in a safe area or restrain him in his seat. With the Backseat Barrier, you can create a soft wall between your front and back seats so your dog can’t interfere with your driving. The Wander Cargo Barrier can contain your dog in the cargo area of an SUV or station wagon. If you want to keep your dog in his own seat, then a simple first step is the Kurgo Direct to Seatbelt Tether, which works with any dog harness to buckle your dog into your car’s seat belt system. For even more protection, you could also opt for a crash-tested dog car harness which will both restrain and provide protection in the case of an accident.

Watch out for Holiday HazardsGrey shepherd looks out of the car

Be careful once you arrive at your destination to assess the possible hazards, particularly if your hosts don’t have a dog themselves. Shiny ornaments and tinsel are attractive to pets and they could pull the whole tree down on them, not to mention ruin grandma’s most sentimental Christmas ornament. Tinsel is particularly hazardous leading to vomiting and dehydration. Poinsettias are also poisonous to dogs, so if your dog tends to chew or try everything, be sure to set them out of reach. Also, be sure to warn others not to feed your dog from the table. Many holiday foods are not good for dogs or can even be poisonous. Avoid things like chocolate as well as fatty and spicy foods to be sure the vet won’t be part of your holiday plans. Read this Kurgo article on What Thanksgiving Leftovers You Can Share with Your Dog for more tips!

A couple with her Dog in Autumn park. Bernese Mountain Dog travel holiday

We hope these tips are helpful and help you decide whether to bring your dog along or set him up for his own holiday celebration. If you do decide to bring your dog, read up on how you and your dog can be everyone’s favorite duo with our article on Tips for Being a Considerate Houseguest!

This post was written by Jennifer Joyce. Jennifer is the VP of Marketing for Kurgo, the leading dog travel, and outdoor gear company. She enjoys skiing and snowshoeing with her family in Oregon when she isn’t hopping around New England planning or attending dog-friendly events!