The number of people who travel with their dogs is growing, and so too are the options for pets on the road -- from "ruffing it" at campgrounds to enjoying fabulous four-star hotels. There's never been a better time to pack your pet and go.
Still, traveling with a dog is no picnic sometimes. Finding lodgings can be difficult; luxurious inside dining is largely sacrificed in favor of eating takeout in the car or a park; and spending hours tripping through quaint shops becomes a thing of the past when a dog is waiting. Traveling with dogs offers some challenges, but nearly all are surmountable with common sense and creativity.
The travel industry wants to help, that's for sure. Several books cover traveling with dogs, and some travel agents have carved out a niche booking canine-centered vacations. People in the travel industry have learned that many people with dogs are exceptionally grateful for pleasant accommodations, and so return to the places that treat them well year after year. As a result, some entrepreneurs have gone to great lengths to attract dog lovers: You can even find canine camps where people do nothing but share a slice of "dog heaven" with their pet for a week or more at a time.
Is your pup ready to hit the road? As with all other training, ending up with a good car-rider starts with molding correct behavior when your dog is a puppy. No matter how cute or how small, do not allow your pup to ride in your lap, and don't make a fuss over him while you're driving. On short neighborhood trips, ask your pup to sit quietly, and praise him for proper behavior.
Traveling with your dog in a crate is often easier and definitely safer. Depending on the size of your dog and the size and shape of your car, a crate may not be feasible. It should always be considered, though, especially for those dogs who are so active they distract the driver. Collapsible crates are available for easy storage in the trunk when not in use.
Another safety tool is a doggy seat belt, which fits into a standard seat-belt buckle and then attaches to a harness on the dog. Also good for keeping a pet in place -- if you have a station wagon, van or SUV -- are widely available metal barriers that fit between the passenger and cargo areas.
If your dog's only exposure to riding in a car is an occasional trip to the veterinarian's, don't be surprised if he's not the most easy of riders. Try to build up his enthusiasm by increasing his time in the car and praising him for his good behavior. The first short trips should be to pleasant locations, such as parks.
Dramamine prevents car-sickness in dogs as well as people, but other remedies are also available (talk to your veterinarian). A dog-show trick: Your dog should travel on little or no food and should get a jelly bean -- or any other piece of sugar candy, except chocolate -- before hitting the road. The sugar seems to help quell queasiness.
Because most of the problems come from fear, not motion sickness, building up your pet's tolerance for riding in a car is a better long-term cure than anything you could give him.
On the road, remember to stop at regular intervals, about as often as you need to for yourself, for your dog to relieve himself and get a drink of fresh water. And always keep your dog on a leash for his own safety.
With a few short practice trips and some training, you'll be on the road in no time.
Doing some research beforehand can help make traveling with your dog easier and more enjoyable for you both. A good resource is "On the Road With Your Pet," a Mobil '99 travel guide from Fodor's ($15). After some basic tips from a dog trainer, the guide rates more than 4,400 places to stay in the United States and Canada. My favorite guides for traveling with dogs are those in the "Dog Lover's Companion" series from Foghorn Press, with editions for California, Florida, Boston and Atlanta. The Companions are about more than places to stay; they're about places to go, with well-researched listings of parks, beaches and trails your dog will love.
PETS ON THE WEB
Anyone with a pet and an e-mail address has by now heard the false warning that Febreze, a new odor-removing product, is lethal to pets. I get three or four of these "warnings" every day, forwarded by well-meaning animal lovers. Problem is, there's no evidence that the warnings are true. The ASPCA's National Animal Poison Control Center has put out a statement to that effect on its Web site (www.napcc.aspca.org/febreze.htm), and manufacturer Procter & Gamble is likewise trying to spread the word (www.febreze.com, click on "pet safety").
Febreze is safe to use around dogs and cats, although P&G does advise removing birds from any area where the product is used, until it has dried and been aired out. That's the standard advice for any cleaning product, incidentally, because of the hypersensitivity of avian respiratory systems. If you've spread this "warning," then sharing the new information is the right thing to do.
QUESTIONS FROM THE PACK
Q: We left our dog at the kennel while on vacation, and when we came back he was sick with kennel cough. We're furious and don't intend to use that kennel again. We think they should refund our money. Don't you? -- S.H., via the Internet
A: While I'm certainly sorry your dog got sick, he'll likely be over it by the time you read this. And no, you really can't blame the kennel any more than you can blame a day-care center for all the colds kids pick up there.
Boarding kennels do take a lot of heat over kennel cough, an upper-respiratory infection that is indeed as contagious as sniffles in a day-care center. Some kennel operators find the name a little pejorative, insisting that the ailment be called by its proper name, "canine infectious tracheobronchitis," or even "bordetella," after its most common causative agent.
And maybe that's fair. Dogs can pick up kennel cough any place they come into contact with a dog who has it, and that means anywhere: parks, dog shows, the waiting room of your veterinarian's office, or the fund-raising dog walk thrown by your local humane society. These are all possibilities for infection.
Fortunately, the ailment is not usually serious, even though the dry, bellowing cough can sound simply awful. For most dogs, the disease runs its course in a couple of weeks. Others, especially yappy dogs who keep the airways irritated, may develop an infection that requires antibiotics. See your veterinarian for advice. He may recommend nothing more than Robitussin and rest.
While not completely effective against the disease, a vaccine is available against the ailment. The rub: It requires two doses a couple of weeks apart, which means you need to call your veterinarian at least three weeks before a kennel stay or a trip to any dog-dense area.
Q: I am wondering if there are such things as toy cats, like toy dogs. I like cats that are small and stay that way. Is there any cat like this, a kitten and stays that way? Thanks. -- A.C., via the Internet
A: While no breed of cat could really be called a "toy," a few do remain relatively small throughout their lives. The smallest breed of cat is probably the Singapura, a Southeast Asian breed that resembles the Abyssinian but is a couple of pounds lighter.
In general, the "Oriental" breeds are among the smaller and lighter cats you can find, including such cats as the show Siamese, Abby, Burmese and the kinky-coated Rexes, Devon and Cornish. Although these cats might not be as small as you were hoping to find, they're petite in comparison to such bruisers as the Maine Coon and Norwegian Forest cats.
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies" and "Cats for Dummies," and is the editorial director of the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or e-mail to Write2Gina(at)aol.com.
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