Traveling, whether for business or pleasure, can be stressful. In addition to the more common problems that can develop, dog owners face another potential problem that can be devastating. While some trips can be planned to include pets, many people opt to leave their pet at home in familiar surroundings. Whichever choice is made, the risk of a lost pet becomes greater when the owner is not at home. However, there are steps that can be taken to minimize the chances of a pet becoming lost and to increase the chances of a lost pet being recovered.
If you choose to take your dog traveling with you, these basic steps will reduce the chance that your dog will get lost. Before you start on your trip, you should take the time to teach your dog to wait until you give the “okay” before jumping out of your car. It is also a good idea to teach your dog an “emergency” come as well as an “emergency” stop. The stop can be in a sit, down, or stand position. It is safer for your pet to be confined in your vehicle while traveling. This can either be in a crate (wire crates are less likely to block the driver’s rear view) or using a harness that secures to a seat belt. In either case, make it a habit to have a leash attached to your dog’s collar or harness before the dog is allowed to leave the car. It is important that your dog cannot slip out of his collar, which means you may need to tighten the collar up while you are traveling. Finally, use common sense when stopping to exercise the dog. If your dog is noise sensitive, avoid rest stops where large trucks are pulling in and out. If your dog chases rabbits or birds, use a short leash when exercising him to reduce the chances of your dog bolting after them.
If the worse does occur and your dog gets loose, try to keep calm. Chasing after him will most likely result in pushing him farther away from you. If possible, circle around behind your dog and push him back in the direction of your car. Open the door the dog normally enters. Creating an ID tag which has a number where you can be reached can be invaluable. Temporary ID tags are available from FasTags at www.fastags.com, or at your local pet store. It is a good idea to put, “I’m on vacation and I’m lost” on the tag. You can also include your cell phone number or the phone number of the family member or friend you are going to be visiting on the tag. It is more likely that someone will call these numbers if it is clear the tag is current and there is a reason your pet is far from home.
You should also carry some information about your dog with you when you travel. This will help you to create a lost dog poster, if necessary. The information should include breed or mix, sex, whether or not the dog has been altered, height at withers, length and type of coat, markings, type of ears (prick or drop), length and carriage of the tail, and the colors of the eyes and nose. Your written description should also include any tattoos or other identifying marks. If your dog is micro-chipped, have the chip number and the name and phone number of the company where the chip is registered. You should also have a record of the Rabies Tag number, as well as the License Tag number and the issuing city or county. Make a note of the type and color of the dog’s collar or harness. Finally, have at least two good photographs of the dog with you.
If you are leaving your pet at home while you are out of town, prior to leaving, set up a time when the pet’s caretaker can come over and meet your dog with you present. A second visit should be scheduled before you leave where the pet sitter can enter the house with you not present and can, hopefully, discover any potential problems while there is still time to discuss them.
Since most instances of dogs getting lost while pet sitters are taking care of them occur when the dog gets out the front door, it is a good idea to prevent your pets from having access to the front door. Using baby gates on an exercise pen will usually solve that problem. Use common sense when deciding what room to keep the dog in. If he has food guarding issues, for example, don’t put him in the kitchen where the food is kept.
Even if you don’t normally keep a collar (with ID) on your dog, do so while you are out of town. However, even your usual ID tag will not be very useful if you are gone, so again, the temporary tag will be a good idea. Be sure the tag has the name, address, and phone number of the person who will be taking care of your dog. It is also a good idea to leave the pet information packet (description, photos, etc) with the pet sitter so if your dog does get lost while you are away, your sitter can start the search without losing valuable time.
Using a little common sense and taking some easy-to-do precautions will make your travels, with or without your dog, a little less stressful