By Dede Crough, NAFA Communications Committee
Having a flyball dog is a lot like having a child on a sports travel team: there are practices to attend, tournaments close to home and farther away, and a whole lotta stuff you need to do (and have!) to be prepared.
I could write a dozen posts and still not exhaust the topic of traveling with your flyball dog(s). With CanAm 2019 quickly approaching, I’ll limit this post to an overview—including helpful links—to help keep your flyball adventures safe and happy.
Did someone say CanAm?
A couple notes before I go any further: if you’re not already a member of the Dog Sport Vehicles Ideas & Set-ups group on Facebook, I highly recommend joining. It is a wealth of tremendously useful info from fellow competitors.
Also, I have no affiliation with any products/retailers I mention or link to. Most of them I use or purchase from myself. The links are just a starting point. Feel free to Google to find your best product or price.
For Your Dog
1. Take their vaccination records. In the event of an emergency, records will be tremendously helpful. Make sure you bring a copy of your dog’s Rabies Certificate (not just the record of the vaccination) with you. I keep copies for my dogs in my purse and have another copy in their travel pouch that goes with them whether they are traveling with me, or going to stay with friends.
2. What is a travel pouch, you ask? I keep zippered pencil cases for each dog with their rabies cert. Because they have grommets for putting in a 3-ring binder, they are easily attached to crates with a carabiner or zip tie. I can put emergency info cards, meds, and other items in there, too.
Another popular way to store all this is in a PVC Emergency Tube. You can make your own or buy them already made.
3. Speaking of emergencies, taking emergency cards or premade “LOST” posters is not overkill. Having info and photos prepped and ready to be shared can save precious time if your pet is loose in a strange place.
An example of an emergency card with space for info and photos printed front and back.
4. Make sure you have your dog’s tags. In addition to having ID on your dog away from home, you may be asked to provide proof of the dog being licensed.
5. Of course you’ll want to take your dogs’ food and any medications with you. I always pack meals for at least one additional day just in case.
6. I pack water for the dogs as well. It’s an extra precaution to help ensure no one gets the runs away from home!
If I’m going to be gone too long to take enough water from home, I buy gallons of purified drinking water (not spring water, not distilled water) from the supermarket. In a pinch, you can usually find single-use bottled water that is purified and not spring water, but I prefer not to use single-use bottles.
7. If you’re traveling out of the country, make sure you check the current requirements for taking dogs across the border, and for bringing them back again. These requirements can change, so it’s best to check well ahead of your trip, and then again shortly before you go. Also check if there are any restrictions on the food or medications you plan to take with you. For US info, click here. Traveling to Canada? Click here.
8. If you travel alone a lot (not including the dogs!) you might consider getting a Road ID or something similar. In the event of an accident, if you were unconscious and your phone went flying, it could provide first responders with critical information. My Road ID has my name and birth year, hometown and state, contact info for my sister and my landlords, contact info for a friend close by who could take charge of the dogs, and a note to PLS CHECK CAR FOR DOGS.
9. Hurray for technology that can tell us when and where to make the next turn! Navigation apps are great. Waze is one that allows you and your teammates to track each other’s progress. When I’m driving somewhere for the first time, I admit I take printed directions as a backup, just in case I run into areas where the GPS cuts out.
10. I always have a good flashlight with me for walking dogs in the dark.
Dark, schmark. Let’s go.
For Your Vehicle
11. The most important point to discuss about traveling with dogs is to keep your dog restrained/contained while traveling, both for the dog’s safety and yours! In most cases, dogs will have a much better chance of surviving an accident if they are not riding loose. Having them secured not only will prevent them from distracting you while you’re driving, it will prevent them from being thrown into you and possibly injuring both of you in case of an accident, being flung into the windshield, or being ejected from the car, which could result in them running into traffic in a panic. It will also make things easier for first responders if they don’t have to worry about your dogs.
My first “dogmobile” was a 2-door Pontiac GrandAm. My two dogs (40 lbs. and 63 lbs.) rode in the backseat in harnesses that were strapped to the seat belts. It wasn’t the best, but it was better than nothing.
The Dog Sport Vehicles Ideas & Set-ups group has hundreds of photos and recommendations of various types of crates and ways to arrange them in a multitude of vehicles, from sedans to RVs. *Make sure to strap down your crates!
The Sleepypod Harness has extensive testing to back up their safety claims.
If you need convincing that your dog should not ride loose, check out this story (with a happy ending) about a dog that was ejected not only from the vehicle after an accident, but off a bridge!
Snacks are actually the most important point to discuss about traveling.
12. I have a jump starter that has saved my bacon more than once. It’s incredibly easy to use and doesn’t require another vehicle. If you’ve ever drained your battery after leaving the lights on, you might want to take one with you.
13. If you’re traveling in warm weather, and especially if you’re working out of your vehicle, there are several things you can do to keep your dog comfortable:
- Battery-powered fans. A lot of flyball people (including me) use Ryobi fans, but they certainly aren’t your only choice. Whatever you choose, make sure you get high-capacity batteries that will last the entire day.
- Reflective/shade cloths. There’s a good explanation of the differences between reflective cloths and shade cloths here. Most of what you see at dog events is likely Aluminet from Clean Run or Solar Canopy from Pet Edge. If you cover your vehicle before the day heats up with either of these, it can make a remarkable difference in the interior temp.
- Ventlocks. This ingenious invention allows you to leave your door(s) open for ventilation, but still have your vehicle securely locked.
14. Road tripping in cold weather? Cover your dogs’ crates with thick blankets (I use old wool blankets) to keep their body heat in and, if they need extra insulation, get them a good dog coat.
If you travel with dogs, chances are you’ve stayed in a hotel with them at least a few times. If you’ve always crashed with friends or taken your RV – lucky you! You can skip this part. 😊
15. Inspect the room before letting your dogs loose in it. There are countless stories of competitors finding unsavory—and sometimes dangerous—items left behind by previous occupants, particularly under beds.
16. Don’t leave your dog(s) loose in a hotel room if you’re not there! This is usually prohibited by hotels anyway, but these days most hotels have lever door handles that are easily opened from inside the room, even if you lock the door when you leave. Click here to read one harrowing story of a dog lost for nearly two months after letting itself out of a room. If you must leave your dog, make sure they are securely crated. And if they are going to bark when you leave/while you’re gone, definitely don’t leave them!
17. Be a considerate guest. Take sheets to cover the beds and other furniture if your dogs will be getting up on them at all, and plenty of “dog” towels from home to dry off wet dogs or clean up after them. In addition to picking up after your dogs, don’t let them pee on buildings, flowers, decorative plantings, trash cans, other guests’ cars . . . you get the idea.
Do you mind? I’m watching my show!
18. Leave a good tip for the housekeeper.
Did I miss your favorite travel tip or product? Feel free to comment below, we’d love to hear about it!