Here at Las Vegas K9 Training, we travel — a lot. Whether we are flying out to pick up a puppy abroad, attending a training seminar across the country, or filming on location in the woods, travel is part of our lives, and the lives of our dogs. I like to joke that most of my net worth is accrued in Frequent Flyer Miles, but for the working dogs of Las Vegas K9 Training, this constant travel means that our dogs must quickly adjust to difficult schedules in often less-than-ideal conditions. In ideal circumstances, we can acclimate our dogs to the training from puppyhood, but sometimes we are training rescues, seniors and young adults on the fly and have to be able to adjust to a variety of situations on the road. Here are some of the strategies we’ve picked up along the way.
Puppies On The Road
Puppies are easy. We recommend crate training young puppies and having them travel exclusively in their crate while in the car. We typically recommend a plastic crate with a closed (unventilated) bottom half, and a ventilated top-half and front grate. These are quiet and dark and they help puppies to feel secure, which is especially important during their first few trips in the car. With most puppies, we recommend a soft, washable crate mat which will keep the puppy comfortable while he travels, and is easily washable in case of accidents. With some of the hardier cold-weather breeds like Newfoundland’s and Alaskan Malamute’s, we typically advise no mat at all, electing to use a towel or newspaper instead, something the puppy can easily push away if he gets too hot. With some very high-drive puppies, we advise nothing at all.
Not feeding or giving your puppy any water prior to travel will greatly reduce the risk of any accidents on the road. If it is a very long trip, you should feed very small meals frequently until you reach your destination, instead of one very large meal. Similarly, you wont want to let your puppy gulp down too much water at once either, but ration out their water over a long duration.
If you are traveling interstate, it is advisable to pick up a health certificate from your local veterinarian before you go. In years of constant travel, I have only ever been asked for a health certificate between states on rare occasions, and I was obviously very glad that I had them! In lieu of a health certificate, you could instead take copies of your puppies vaccination history, which serves the same purpose.
Puppies In The Air
The strategy for puppies in the air is very similar, except that (assuming your pup is flying with you in the cabin) you’ll be using a soft mesh crate instead of a wire or plastic one. I personally use and recommend the Sherpa Delta Deluxe Pet Carrier to transport our German Shepherd puppies in the cabin. I like its size and the quality of the mesh sides, as well as the fact that it comes with a removable faux lambskin liner (which I typically remove — but it depends on the puppy.) They make a few different styles and sizes, and their larger crates (which still must fit under the airline seat) fit an 8-10 week old German Shepherd puppy very nicely.
For pups that fly, note that it is typically required to have a health certificate and vaccination records on hand. You will be asked for them during the pickup of your tickets, and sometimes at security and boarding as well. Not all airlines accept pets in the cabin, so please do your research. We do not advise flying internationally with very young puppies, but if you must, we’ve written an article on that, too.
Dogs On The Road
Our recommendations for dogs of nearly all ages is identical to puppies. Provide them with a plastic crate for the duration of the trip, and ration their food and water accordingly. Some dogs travel well without being crated, and that’s fine, but remember that the safest place for your dog to be while in a moving vehicle is in his crate.
Dogs In The Air
Most large dogs will unfortunately, be unable to fly in the cabin. For smaller breeds, we recommend the Sherpa Delta Deluxe Pet Carrier that fits right under your seat. For dogs that are being shipped in cargo, we tend to advise sturdy and fully-ventilated plastic crates, which can be zip-tied along the sides and door, if necessary. For bedding, we recommend cut strips of newspaper, and a deep water and food bucket attached to the door, filled about halfway to prevent spills. Some trainers and veterinarians will recommend a sedative for your dog, depending on the duration of the trip. We have mixed reviews.
With some dogs, sedatives can be very helpful as they will help the dog sleep through a very stressful situation, for others, sedatives could be quite dangerous. There is also a small percentage of dogs that when given something like Benadryl to help them sleep, become hyperactive. So use with caution. 🙂