Come! Vacation with the Family Dog

Families often create a summer vacation trip checklist. It might go something like this: toothpaste and toothbrush, shampoo and conditioner, underwear, socks, t-shirts, sneakers and sandals, camera, prescription medications, bathing suit and sunglasses. If they're going to drive, they might add a list for the vehicle, such as a DVD selection, cooler with snacks and drinks, and first aid kit.

And what if the family dog will be traveling too? A list for the dog should include some of the obvious, such as food and bowls, leash, crate and certainly any prescription medications. But there are some extra steps dog owners should take to ensure the safety of their pet when they're on the road.

1. Carry a copy of your dog's vaccination records, especially the rabies inoculation certificate.

2. Jingling from your dog's collar should be his county license and also information about his owners, such as name and phone number. If your dog's tag includes your land line number only, make sure that you're able to check your home messages while you're away. If you're traveling to a place where you'll be staying for a weekend or longer, purchase a temporary tag which includes information about where the family is staying and contact information. If your dog has been micro-chipped you should carry that information with you as well.

3. Carry up-to-date photos of your dog, either actual photographs or a disc with digital images. I'll always remember the day I took old blankets to an animal shelter as a donation, and spotted two purebred Vizsla's in the exercise yard there. I asked about the Vizsla's and the workers looked at me with blank expressions. Weren't those redbone coonhounds? Many purebred dogs may not be readily recognized by the average person.

4. If you're going to take a break at a rest stop or restaurant, attach the dog's leash before anyone opens a car door. In an unfamiliar area, a dog that's been confined in a car for a while may be a little too eager to burst free and explore. Make sure the dog's collar is tight enough that it won't slip over his head.

5. Carry water for your dog. It's very important to keep a dog hydrated, and they won't always willingly drink at a rest stop. Use a squirt bottle to make sure your dog gets enough water.

6. Carry an old towel so that if it's rainy or muddy, you can wipe clean your dog's paws before returning him to the crate or taking him inside a hotel.

7. If the unthinkable happens and the family dog becomes lost, take action immediately. Contact local law enforcement and animal shelters. Canvas the area, spreading the word about the lost dog with key people, and show them your pictures of the dog. I remember helping a friend search for her lost Great Dane mix. We had no leads, until a school bus driver spotted the dog slinking around the dumpsters behind a restaurant. Who routinely covers the area? Mailmen, bus drivers, newspaper deliverers, etc.

The expense of boarding a dog seems to be steadily increasing. But saving money isn't the only reason for taking along the family dog – hey, they want to go wherever we go!