When traveling with working dogs to a field trial or on a hunting trip, proper preparation will allow you to focus on getting the best performance from your dog when you arrive at your destination.
You may think your dog is resting while you travel, but traveling stresses his body in ways you may not realize. “Travel time is not the same as rest time. Dogs don’t rest well when the truck is moving,” says Purina Veterinarian and Senior Research Nutritionist Arleigh Reynolds.
It may be tempting when traveling long distances to drive straight through in an effort to get to your destination faster, but Reynolds recommends that dogs should have at least eight hours per day to rest with the vehicle stopped.
“This will make a huge difference in how they handle travel and how they perform,” he says.
Make Time for Pit Stops
Plan for frequent stops along the way to allow dogs to air and stretch. Reynolds recommends stopping every three hours, and even more frequently if you are traveling with a puppy. Make sure your dog is on a lead and under control. Water should be offered at each stop.
Get Pup Comfortable
Before you travel with your dog, it is important to get him acclimated to the crate, dog truck or trailer he will be traveling in. Dogs should travel in a special crate or kennel. They should never travel unrestrained in the bed of a truck. Sudden stops or sharp turns of the wheel may cause your dog to slide around, even out of the vehicle, and potentially become injured.
If your dog tends to get carsick, try to condition him to being in the vehicle by taking him with you on short trips, such as when you run errands. The more comfortable he is in the vehicle, the longer he can ride. Wait to feed your dog until you are settled at your destination to help prevent an upset stomach.
A Clear View
Make sure when hauling a dog box or trailer behind your truck that it is clearly visible from behind. These carriers tend to be lower than a truck, and people who are coming up behind you might not see them. Check to be sure your tail lights, tires and hitches are in working order.
Right Sized Kennel
It also is important to make sure the kennel your dog is traveling in is large enough, but not too large, so he can lie down and stretch lengthwise comfortably. Ease of getting in and out is one of the most important things to keep in mind when considering the kennel your dog will be traveling in.
“To feel comfortable while the vehicle is moving, dogs need to brace themselves. If your dogs can’t brace themselves when they’re lying down in the box by pushing their paws against the side, they may stand up to do so, which puts them at a greater risk of injury,” Reynolds says.
Add a Cushion
You should make sure your dog’s travel kennel has a cushion on the bottom, rather than a hard surface. Manmade bedding materials or natural materials, such as cedar shavings, straw or hay, can be used. What you choose depends on your dog. Reynolds cautions against using cloth bedding because it can be harmful if ingested.
Find the Air Flow
Proper ventilation also is key to making sure your dogs arrive safely at your destination. You should be able to adjust the amount of air flowing around your dog to allow for more air flow in warmer temperatures and restricted air flow in cold weather. Reynolds cautions not to close vents all the way, even in cold temperatures, as this can result in a lack of oxygen. You also should monitor the temperature in the kennel or crate with a remote thermometer.
Keep it Clean
When cleaning your dog’s container, use a mild antibacterial cleaner without a strong odor. This is important for working dogs that rely on their sense of smell and may be overwhelmed by a bold scent.
Food, Water Considerations
When traveling, a dog’s food requirements are typically less than normal because they are less active. Be sure to keep in mind that dogs need more water when traveling. Remember that more water will mean more frequent stops.
If your trip requires you to be away from home for multiple days, be sure to bring an adequate supply of your performance dog food as it may not be available in remote areas. You also should bring several gallons of water from home to help avoid bacterial contamination from unfamiliar water.
Travel Has Impacts
Stressful situations, such as travel, working in unfamiliar field environments and change in routine can trigger gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea, ultimately impacting a dog’s performance. Purina Veterinary Diets FortiFlora brand canine nutritional supplement provides dietary management of dogs with diarrhea. FortiFlora with Enterococcus faecium SF68, a live beneficial probiotic, or bacteria, offers a way to help maintain a normal intestinal balance by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria. FortiFlora also helps support a healthy immune system.
Experts also advise that you should arrive at your destination early to give your dog and yourself time to rest before you head out to the field. You don’t want to arrive at the last minute after traveling a long distance and then ask your dog to immediately go to work.
Know the Vets
Make certain your dog is current on vaccinations and that you bring a printed record of these vaccines. It is a good idea to identify a veterinarian in the area and bring his or her phone number and address with you.
With proper planning, traveling can be less stressful and more enjoyable for both you and your dog.