One of the most important things about traveling with a dog is bringing along everything you might need to take care of the dog while you are away. It turns out to be quite a list. Ripley has her own backpack when we travel. So, what do we bring?
The most obvious things to bring along is dog food. Ripley eats Blue Buffalo’s Freedom grain-free dog food. Since it can be a bit of a specialty item, depending on where we are, it is very important to make sure that we take enough kibble for the entire trip. It isn’t good for dogs to change foods suddenly. We typically pack her kibble in zip-lock bags in measured quantities, along with her measuring cup. Since she gets a specific amount of food at every meal, and she eats three times a day, we know exactly how much to pack. I like to pack a day or so of extra kibble in case something goes wrong. Other food-related items in Ripley’s backpack include treats, bowls, and a jug of water. The jug of water is especially important when you don’t have access to potable water to offer your dog. You just fill it up at your hotel every morning and go. Ripley also enjoys ice cubes, so sometimes I will give her those when it is hot in place of a bowl of water that she might not drink. The ice is a guaranteed hit.
It is my preference that Ripley be safe in the car. I know not everyone uses a seat belt for their dog, but I am a firm believer in travel safety. I use her seat belt whether we are driving to the dog park or driving to Canada. In addition, I like to use a car hammock to protect the seats and to give Ripley a little more room to move around. When I pack her things into the car, I put a spare blanket and several of her towels underneath the hammock where she is going to lay. For one, it makes the seating a little softer for her, and for another, these items are an obvious necessity when you consider inclement weather or a wet and sandy puppy.
Ripley has so many harnesses and leashes that we have a closet that we call the puppy tack room. We take all of her harnesses when we go on trips in case she needs a different style. Ripley is a puller. We’ve tried many training methods to break her of it, and the honest truth is that none of them work very well or for very long. The best thing that we have found are the no-pull harnesses you can get a pet stores. We have three total no-pull harnesses in various shapes. We use each one depending on the situation. We also have two face harnesses, which are not her favorite thing. I try not to use them unless I have to. They only really see in any action in very exciting circumstances, like in close quarters when I really need total control of her.
I also keep one of her old harness and leash sets (the pink set in the featured image) as a beater. It’s just a regular body harness. That’s the one she wears on the beach, or in the mud, or when I tie her to a tree while we eat lunch. I figure if I have to mess one up, I may as well have one meant for just that. I do carry a tie out as well. It is fifteen feet long, and it gets used mostly at family events when someone doesn’t have a backyard. We’ve also used it for picnics and camping. It gives her some freedom of movement without her running around like a chicken with her head cut off, as she is occasionally wont to do.
The largest item we pack is Ripley’s bed. Ripley is crate trained. It was rough going to first few weeks we had her, as she was miserable sleeping in her crate all alone. I’m glad we did it, though, because now she couldn’t be happier to sleep in the thing. We always take it with us. When we get to our final destination, we unfold her crate and open the door first thing. As soon as she is tired, she hops inside. She sleeps on folded blankets instead of a pad, as that is sort of her thing. She’s a huge fan of micro fleeces from Ikea. In any event, she feels safe and comfortable in her crate, even when we are in strange places. I would recommend that anyone with a young dog do crate training.
Just like everyone else in the family, Ripley needs her toiletries. Since most of our trips are at least two weeks long, Ripley sometimes needs her heartworm preventative. We use Trifexis, which she takes once a month (on the 15th) in a glob of peanut butter. I also like to pack ear cleaner and eye rinse. The ear cleaner I use after every bath and when she gets her ears wet. The eye rinse is basically for eye allergies or irritation. Her other toiletry items include her toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and nail clippers. I like to take several rolls of the pet waste disposal bags along on every trip and stash them in different places. There’s one on her leash, one in the glove compartment, and one in her bag at all times. I really hope that I never use that many, but that’s a really easy thing to lose. Her final toiletry item is a pair of stout tweezers. I like to keep them around in case she picks up a tick. Anytime we’ve been in a wooded area, I check her carefully for the nasty little buggers. To date, she’s only had one. It didn’t live for long.
Ripley’s backpack usually has quite a few toys. She’s a really active dog, so she runs almost every day with me. In addition, she loves to chew. When I pack toys for her, I try to pack options without packing everything, because she has so many toys that I could probably fill the backpack. I try to pack one toy for throwing, a bone for chewing, and something that falls between the two. In the featured image, you can see a “tire biter bone,” which is basically a really hard rubber bone with a rope in the middle. Ropes are great for her teeth. I honestly see more cleaning on her teeth from rope toys than I do from brushing.
Ripley has a few other things in her bag that aren’t exactly needed for all dogs, but I will mention them here anyway. Ripley is shaved, so her hair is quite short. That being the case, she gets pretty cold in winter and sometimes her harness will rub where she doesn’t have a lot of hair to protect her (while she pulls on the leash). To solve these, I carry a sweater and a T-shirt for her. The T-shirt is typically for running, because she pulls very hard on the leash when we run. With the T-shirt on under her harness, her skin and hair are saved from any damage. She gets a little hotter in it, so I have it cropped off to fit just under the harness itself. I only carry the sweater when we are heading into colder weather. The last non-standard item is paw butter. At home, Ripley runs on the treadmill. On trips, Ripley typically runs on concrete with Mark and me. The concrete is a lot harder on her pads than the treadmill is, so we use paw butter to protect her feet. Boots are also an option, but we haven’t tried that yet. Considering how much she hates having things stuck to her feet, I can’t imagine she would like them very much.
The last item I’m going to mention here doesn’t exactly go in her backpack, but I do carry it for her. Especially when leaving the country, it is very important to carry vaccination paperwork and a certificate of health for a dog. You never know what you will encounter when you travel, and you wouldn’t want something terrible to happen without being prepared. A dog’s regular vet can print up the vaccination history on the spot. I always make sure Ripley’s vaccinations are current when she travels. In addition, you can obtain a certificate of health. This requires an actual visit with the veterinarian. They only last for 30 days, so it is very important to get it right before you travel. I only get these when we leave the country. They provide proof that the dog is completely well prior to entering a place (say Canada) that may have different health requirements for pets. They are also great if you need to kennel your dog.
Sounds like a pretty full backpack, right? Well, I can say with certainty that we’ve needed all of this stuff at one point or another on our trips. These are Ripley’s necessary items, and I’ve figured them all out over a couple of years and many vacations. I like to think that she is the most prepared of all of us, because I’ve put so much thought into her gear. She is just lucky that she doesn’t have to carry her own stuff.
- water jug
- seat belt
- face harnesses
- tie-out line
- heartworm medicine
- ear cleaner
- eye rinse
- nail clippers
- waste bags
- running T-shirt
- paw butter
- vaccination paperwork