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Traveling with Your Small Dog

fluffy white dog peaking head out of dog carrier

In a survey by one pet-travel website, 78% of vacationing dog owners have booked rooms in pet-friendly hotels. Trends like these have made the hospitality industry take notice, and more travel destinations today welcome dogs.

Before you head out with your dog in tow, take a look at these smart ways to keep your small pooch safe and happy—no matter how you travel.

7 tips for a smoother trip

1. Tag him: If your dog gets lost in an unfamiliar place it can be disastrous. Be sure his collar is secure, and that your address and phone number appear clearly on his tags. Also affix your cell phone number to the tags with strong tape. Carrying a current photo of him is a good idea, too. It is also strongly recommended that you have your vet insert microchip tracking devices under your dog's skin.

2. Pack his papers: Ask your vet for a health certificate that provides proof of updated shots. Some lodging destinations and all boarding locations require it. Vets can also prescribe mild sedatives if your dog gets car sick, or feels nervous on an airplane or boat.

3. Take a long walk before you go: A recently exercised dog will be in a more relaxed state for the trip, and is more likely to sleep.

4. Limit food before takeoff: Don't feed your dog for at least six hours before plane travel. Some people recommend eight or even a full 24 hours. Please consult with your veterinarian for his or her recommended fasting time, as small dogs—especially those under 10 lbs.—can develop low blood sugar if not fed for a long period. Do, however, make sure your dog has access to water.

5. Flying in the main cabin with you: Please note that reservations are needed if your small dog is flying in the cabin with you or not—and not all airlines accept dogs. Reservation guidelines and costs vary among airlines, so check the details. In addition, a health certificate may be required by the airline. These are the general crate requirements for flying with your dog: Ample bedding for absorption and enough room for the dog to stand and turn around comfortably.

6. Carry his comforts: If possible, bring your dog's bedding, bowl, regular food, and favorite toys with you.

7. Take a break: On a long car ride, stop every two or three hours during the day for your dog to take a bathroom break, have a drink of water, exercise, and experience the new environment. Frequent stops are also recommended at night.

Finally, before planning your trip, check out for a comprehensive listing of hotels and campgrounds, restaurants, and theme parks across the country that will treat your small dog like a top dog.

  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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