Of course you want to take your pup along for all of the season's festivities—they're part of the family! And just like family members, they come with a certain amount of baggage—you know, like a paralyzing fear of suitcases and an unfortunate propensity for throwing up on long car rides. We consulted our go-to trainer, Rachel Cohen Maso of Brooklyn Dogtime, to get some expert tips for minimizing bumps on your holiday itinerary.
“Train” your dog ahead of time
If you have a younger puppy or a dog without much car experience, dedicate some time to acquainting them with slightly longer rides leading up to the big travel day. If a positive reward system works for you and your pet, bring treats and reward them along the way for getting into the car, lying down, eating on the go, or going to the bathroom at rest stops.
Scope out your destination
Yes, everyone should be a dog person. But sometimes the reality is that Aunt Rita does not think your pup's epic slobber is endearing. So first clear attendance with whoever is hosting the festivities, and find out what other animals are RSVP'ing yes. Because your Uncle Bob's cat might not be a big fan of slobber either.
Plot out pet-friendly hotels
Whether you need accommodations along the way or as your home base once you reach your destination, you’ll want to identify the pet-friendly hotels in advance (BringFido’s site and app can help you find and book properties and also alert you to any feed or size restrictions). For peace of mind, many pet-friendly large hotel chains have developed new protocols for cleanliness and safety since COVID hit. Some accommodations have even leveled up their pet offerings for the holidays, from doggy gift bags to plush beds. At the Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite National Park, for instance, dogs are welcome at Christmas dinner and there’s even the option to treat your pup to a dog massage in the spa.
Anticipate the suitcase freak out
Luggage often strikes fear in the hearts of our pups and for good reason—it often signals to them that they're about to be left behind (with a dog walker or friend.) To ease those fears before your next trip, start taking out your luggage before his walks, then grab the leash and head out. By linking these actions, your dog will start to think, “Yay, the bag’s out so something flipping awesome is about to happen!” Case closed.
Pack your pup's bag
You wouldn't leave home without your latest novel and trusty water bottle, right? So bring along your pup's favorite (non-squeaky-and-annoying) toy, a comfy dog bed (and crate if your dog is used to sleeping in one), a couple of bowls, lots of treats, a long tether in addition to their regular leash, and of course enough food for their meals. If you feed them food that needs to be refrigerated, pack it in a cooler or make sure it's delivered to your destination ahead of time.
De-stress the actual trip
If you are driving a long distance with your pup, make sure they are safely secured in the car with a harness system that attaches to the seat belt, never their collar, or in a crash-tested crate. Stop and go traffic can make a lot of dogs anxious and nauseous, an Adaptil spray or collar may help. If your dog is prone to car sickness, feed them a few hours before driving or not at all if possible. If not, bring water, treats and chews to keep him busy.
Exercise before you leave
Sitting sedentary in a car for hours makes humans feel a bit restless and your furry companion can feel the same way. To prepare, let your pup burn off some energy the day before by taking him to a doggy day camp, a dog park, or with you on a long walk or run. “Before you get into the car, go on a walk and make sure that Fido takes care of business,” she says. “Play a game of fetch before heading out on the trip so your dog has expelled a lot of energy and will be tired so he can relax in the car.” Do some legwork before leaving to find a dog park or pet-friendly trail where you can stop along the way—you’ll both appreciate the active break.
Anticipate more stops than usual
Traveling with a dog can be wonderful, but you do have to give them some extra time to go to the bathroom on the road. The delayed ETA will be worth it when you have them by your side at your final destination.
Dog-proof upon arrival
Once you get there, keep an eye out for bowls of snacks left on the coffee table (especially those containing chocolate), a Christmas tree with low hanging ornaments or a tree stand with exposed water, kids' toys lying about and an open kitchen with pies cooling on the counter—especially if your pup is a jumper! Place full water bowls in a couple out of the way locations and place your pup’s bed and toys somewhere out of the way so he can choose to leave the party whenever he needs a break.
Anticipate the table scraps
Be prepared that someone is going to fall for those puppy eyes and feed your dog a holiday cookie or two. Just make sure that everyone knows what items are safe to eat and which are not. If you are tempted to let your pup lick your plate, consider making some healthy pup-friendly treats to contribute to the feast instead. And if the dinner table conversation is getting to be too much, remember, your dog is a great excuse to remove yourself to get fresh air (not to mention burn off some of those calories.)
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.