Alternatives to Flying with Your Small Dog

posted: 05/15/12
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Alternatives to Flying with Your Small Dog
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Summertime and the livin's easy. The weather's getting warmer, school is out and your workload somehow is magically decreasing. Your thoughts are becoming less focused on reports and conference calls and more on where you, your family and your five-pound Maltese will "vacay." You didn't think you were going to leave him at home, did you?

The question is: How will you get your furry family member to the pet-friendly hotel at your vacation destination? Flying the friendly skies is the definitely the fastest way to go, and some airlines allow small pets in the cabin as long as certain restrictions are met (check with your carrier for specific regulations). However, riding on a plane is not the only way to get around, and flying is a stressful and sometimes scary experience for many little pups. Flying with your dog is can also be inconvenient or costly.

So, what else is a small dog lover to do? Fret not. Here are some other ways you and your furry family member can get from point A to point B.

Ride, Sally, Ride.

If you are the adventurous type and relish driving on the open road, pack your bag, pack some homemade dog treats and buckle up! Be prepared to stop to take potty and exercise breaks for your canine passenger and by all means, bring plenty of his food, water, treats and toys.

What else do you need? A pet carrier, a collapsible water dish, his collar and leash, toys, his clothes, and his flea and tick medicine will make the road trip complete. Don't expect your miniature schnauzer to be ready to ride what might seem like endless hours in a car if he's not used to long trips. Let him practice by bringing him along with you on short trips ahead of time to get comfortable with the idea of riding.

Since he is a small dog, you'll also need to get him used to being restrained in a car for his own protection. The Trips with Pets Web site says scores of pets are injured and killed each year because they are allowed to roam around in a moving vehicle. Get educated about pet safety harnesses and pet carriers to keep both of you safe during the trip.

It bears repeating: Potty breaks are your friend. Even if he opts to slumber most of the trip, wake your dog up for frequent bathroom breaks. Stopping every couple of hours also gives your toy dog a chance to stretch his little legs.

Car and Driver.

Sometimes all a little dog needs is a good car and driver. Heck, if being chauffeured is good enough for the president of the United States, it's good enough for your little rat terrier. If you can't drive your small dog, hiring a private pet transport ground service just might be the way to go.  

Pet transport ground services promise to bring your dog to his destination in a matter of days. They drive him during the day and sleep with him in pet-friendly motels at night. According to these companies' Web sites, trained staff members travel with your little canine at all times to get him to you safely and in one piece. Some of these services will even let you ride along with your dog. Some pet owners find pet transport ground services to be cheaper and less stressful than flying.

One thing to remember: Your dog's papers need to be in order before you confirm his reservation. Reputable pet transport ground service companies will require you to get a health certificate from your veterinarian (it's required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and current immunization records before your animal is allowed to board.

It's also imperative to let the company know ahead of time if your furry friend is taking special medications or is on a special diet. Once again, maintaining a sense of normalcy during travel is key to ensuring a stress-free experience.

Ahoy, Mate!

Cruising is another substitute to flying for man's best friend, but it's not easy to book an ocean voyage for your dog. For the most part, cruise ships don't allow pets to board due to strict quarantine requirements and health codes.

To date, the only ship that offers pets the opportunity to travel with their owners is the luxury ocean liner Queen Mary 2. The ship offers a kennel service on trips between New York and Southampton, England. A full-time kennel master ensures your dog is fed, walked and cared for. Although pets are not allowed to roam on the open deck, public areas, or in your stateroom, you may visit your dog in the kennel.

Once again, make sure all of your pet's veterinary papers are in order if you want to bring your pug with you on this $800 million ship. That includes getting a certificate of good health stating that he is healthy enough for travel and is up to date on his shots.

You also will need to familiarize yourself with the UK's Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). Under these rules, you're required to have your canine pal microchipped, vaccinated for rabies and blood tested to make sure that his rabies vaccination has made enough rabies antibodies. This is important if you're a Queen Mary 2 passenger because you'll be crossing international waters. Since this process can take a while, don't wait until the last minute to take care of these requirements -- you don't want to lose the chance to set sail with your canine companion.

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