Traveling With Your Collie
So you're going on vacation! You've been packed for a week, the trip maps are highlighted and sitting on the dashboard, you have enough snacks and soda to last a trip twice as long and the post office has already started holding your mail. You're all ready to go!
But how about your collie?
What? You forgot all about your best buddy?
Just kidding. I know you would never actually forgot about your collie baby. But traveling with your collie isn't always as simple as just opening the car door and letting them jump in and away you go. There are things your collie needs to have packed too so his vacation with you is just as nice as your vacation with him. It may seem like just extra work but with a little planning and forethought you can help to limit or altogether stop potential traveling problems from happening.
Lets begin with the planning stage.
So you know where you would like to go. That's good. Don't limit your vacation aspirations simply because you have a rough or smooth collie. We are very adaptable. But now is the time to be aware of what special needs your collie may have depending on where you are going. If you are going someplace during the summer and it tends to be rather warm, you'll need to remember your rough collie may not be able to do as much outside as you can. You'll need to make sure he has someplace he can cool off in if the heat becomes to much for him or her. If you're going someplace extra cool, your smooth collie may find it a little more comfortable to have a warm sweater if he doesn't care much for cold weather. Knowing this, the next step is to make a list of things you will need to do and things for your collie.
Weather you plan to stop in specific towns or just pull over when you get tired, it would be very helpful to have a list of pet friendly hotels/motels that you can stop and stay in rather than risk pulling into a hotel that refuses pets and have to leave him in the car all night. Believe me, most collies would HATE that. There are a couple of good sites out there that will give you a list of pet friendly places to stay. One of my very favorites is http://www.petswelcome.com/. It can give a listing of pet friendly hotels state by state, town by town, and even get a listing of pet friendly places within a certain distance of your travel route (through Map Quest). They even have several hotel databases that can give listings of hotels that allow very large size dogs and other search criteria. Pet owning visitors often give their feedback as to the service they and their pets received at individual places and help rate each place. The address, telephone number, rate info, reservation help and general hotel information is available for most places as well as any additional pet charges. It is reasonably clear and easy to navigate. There's really to much here to list! (If you plan to stay at particular places on your trip and make reservations, don't forget to make the reservation receptionist aware of your pet. Part of being a responsible pet owner is to help keep unpleasant surprises from occurring. Besides, the hotel may have certain rooms set aside for people with pets!)
Once you have that settled you'll need to decide now if your collie will need anything specific for sleeping. If it is a young or nervous, collie using their crate at night in the hotel may help them feel more secure. If you can't bare the fact that you never know how your precious baby (or any one else) will react, a crate for your collie can help you feel more secure. If your collie has traveled and stayed in strange places comfortably before, you may only need his doggie bed or blanket. (I personally have never needed that type of "security blanket". As long as I am with my mom I have always been content to just relax and sleep where ever we stop.)
Some other things you will definitely need:
You should always carry at least two copies of your collie's vaccination papers. Keep one set in the car and where ever you go with your collie and the other in a safe place in your luggage or at the motel you are staying at. Two sets are better than one just in case one set gets lost.
Two copies of your collie's health records and special needs separated as above. If you must take your collie to the vet for an emergency it can be helpful for the attending vet to know anything major about your collie's normal health. This will allow him or her to better and more safely treat your collie and prevent the possibility of prescribing the wrong drug if one is necessary.
A full supply (plus several days extra) of any medications your collie may need. You should not stop giving him his normal medications when you are on vacation.
A list (and map) of vets in the area you will be staying in. If there is a serious injury you don't want to waste precious time searching around for a vet. My mom likes to scope out the places we are visiting on the very first day so she knows exactly which way to go if she needs to take me to a vet.
A snug fitting collar with current identification. A lost collie without tags may never be seen by its owner again. If you are visiting a friend or relative, it can also be helpful to add a tag with their name and phone number so there is a contact person closer to the area where the dog was lost. Also, if your collie has a special health/medical or handling need it can be helpful to have a tag that states this to better ensure your collie's health and everyone's safety. Some examples can include - "I am deaf", "Not good with children", I have epileptic seizures", "Not good with other animals"
At least one good, secure lease. This is one time where I will say that retractable leashes can be great. If there is some distance to it you can use it for exercising or walking your collie during pit stops. A regular long line can be used for this instead but they can get tangled a bit more easily. (My mom only uses a 50 foot retractable leash when we make rest stops during really long trips and uses my regular walking leash for all other times.) Even if your collie is extremely well trained to come when called I DO NOT recommend letting them roam off leash during stops unless they are in a completely secure area (fenced is best). No matter how good a dog normally is, anything can happen. It is a wiser course of action to take all precautions to protect yourself and your collie than risk even a single second of something unexpected happening and losing your best friend forever.
A full supply (plus several days extra) of your collie's regular food. This includes any supplements you may add to his daily diet. This is especially important if your collie is on any special, unusual or "store brand" diets. There is always the possibility that there will be no stores around your vacation area that carry that particular brand. If you have to feed your collie something he doesn't normally get he could end up with diarrhea or worse, a food related behavioral problem. Neither are fun things to deal with when on vacation. Don't forget a can opener if you feed your collie canned food!!!
Several gallon jugs of water from home. Switching water supplies suddenly on any dog is just asking for a messy result. The water from home is from a source that he is used to so it can be used for his drinks and once you are at your vacation destination it can be used to slowly acclimate him to the new water. While more expensive, it is an option of many owners to accustom their collies to bottled water that can be found in virtually any store. My mom uses it as a back up when my home supply starts to run low.
Food and water bowls. Whether its your collie's bowls from home, a travel or collapsable set, your collie will obviously need something to hold his dinner and water in. If your collie is nervous or stressed by change easily it may be better to use his or her normal home bowls. If you forget your collie's bowls, be careful using bowls from other dogs and homes. If you aren't certain about the other dog's health or shots it would be wiser to spend a few bucks and get some bowls for your collie rather than risk an illness. Also some collies will only use bowls similar to the ones they have at home. Collies have been known to turn their nose away from food and water in plastic bowls if they are only used to eating and drinking out of metal bowls and vice versa.
Play and chew toys. Play toys from home are another type of "security blanket" for unsure collies. It also gives him something to play with if he should get bored. Chew toys give him something to relieve his stress and boredom on instead of the hotel bed feet or chair legs!
Canine first aid kit. Yes! You have one for you so you should have one for the dog too. You never know when a cut or bee sting will occur. There are some of variable sizes available on the market today. If you want to make one of your own a list items you will want to have can be found on my General First Aid page.
So you have your collie's general supply list ready and maybe even packed. Now lets look at some specific traveling needs along with Do's and Don'ts in regards to car trip type vacations.
When going for rode trips with your collie you need to decide now how you plan on getting your collie to and from your destination safely. When in the car a dog should always be restrained in a manner that is safe not only for him but for the other passengers as well. A loose collie without good riding manners in the car is not safe for anyone. It is too easy for them to stand and block the drivers view of the road at the wrong moment. If the driver has to stop or turn suddenly a restrained collie is less likely to fall forward or over into somebody's lap. In the off chance of an accident a restrained collie will be less likely to injury someone or itself from flying around the vehicle. It also helps prevent a panicked collie from diving out of an opened door and getting lost or hit by a passing car and finally a restrained collie will not as easily prevent emergency personnel from reaching you if he should feel the need to protect you or "his" vehicle. Yes, restrained collies are safe collies. Some people chose to contain their collie in a crate or travel style carrier. Others use a vehicle barrier to keep their collie in the back sections of some vans, trucks or SUVs. Others like my mom prefer to use a seat belt harness to buckle their collie in place and train them to stay in a down position when the vehicle is in motion. While there are seat belt harness' specially made for this purpose some people just use a regular harness and attach a very short 6 inch "big dog" handle only type of leash that the seat belt can fit through.
Unfortunately carsickness grips some collies ruthlessly when they ride in a car. They can either vomit or salivate excessively. If it is true motion sickness a B-complex supplement can help prevent the nausea. You can also encourage your collie to lie down on the floor of the car as a preventive. If motion sickness does occur, give your collie some peppermint tea or peppermint capsules to help settle their stomach (not so well tolerated by cats). Occasionally, it is wise to not feed a susceptible collie the day before departure or on the first day of the trip. For a collie going by public transit in a carrier, a 24-hour fast before the trip will generally prevent it from eliminating during the journey. If it is fear based motion sickness Aconitum napellus 30C is very useful for minimizing fear and upset before traveling. Give one pellet of this homeopathic remedy an hour before leaving home and give another pellet just a few minutes before actually leaving the house. This usually is enough for most animals and most trips. If nervousness returns, give your collie another dose (one pellet) during the trip itself. Rarely will this remedy be needed more than three or four times. In fact, most animals travel well with just the two doses given before leaving home. This medicine is very safe to use and often functions better than a tranquilizer. Of course it is also helpful to train and socialize your collie to car rides so fear isn't a factor to car sickness. There are many other remedies on the market and depending on your collie the effects can vary per dog and remedy. Only in extreme cases should one truly use tranquilizers. Please consult your vet before leaving to get some additional advice and suggestions that may be more appropriate to your collie and its specific needs.
Never let your collie hang his head or upper body out of an open car window especially when the vehicle is in motion. Stinging insects, glass, road debris, and small pieces of junk can fly into your collie's eyes, ears and nose causing serious damage and needless pain. Branches from bushes, trees and passing cars can smack or hit a collie's extended face and besides the danger of an unrestrained collie jumping out of an open vehicle window many small and medium sized dogs have been literally sucked out of a car by the sudden change in air pressure from the passing of large vehicles like tractor trailers. If you do allow your collie to put some of his head out the window and he gets some dirt or other mild irritation in it's eyes, than use a Saline (salt water) solution to clean and soothe the eye. If there is any major eye irritation or damage (a dog will usually keep the affected eye closed) than take him to a vet immediately. Most small scrapes or cuts from road debris can be treated with your first aid kit but if you suspect ear damage where you can't easily view, take the collie to the vet immediately. Don't risk your collie's hearing by poking around the ear canal blindly.
When driving with your collie, never leave him in a locked car on a hot day. Even with the windows rolled down and parked in the shade the inside of a vehicle can well exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in less than five minutes. Collies left in hot vehicles can incur serious and devastating brain damage in under seven minutes and even a "hot whether dog" such as many African breeds can die in under ten minutes! Heat stroke most often occurs when a puppy or dog is left in a locked car. This usually is at its worst during the summertime. Fortunately collies are not so worse off for high heat as many other breeds because their thick coat acts as an insulator. But this does not mean that you can leave your collie in the car on a summer day for even a quick five minutes. Your collie can have serious brain damage done to him with very little exposure to that kind of excessive heat. The only safety rule to follow here is JUST DON'T DO IT! If you have to go anywhere that does not allow dogs than don't take your collie for a ride that day. If the hotel does not allow you to leave a dog alone in a room (or your collie is not quiet enough to leave) then it would be worth your collie's life to consider looking for a doggie daycare in the area. Be warned also, most humane societies consider leaving any animal in a car on a hot summer day cruelty and municipalities across the United States allow many police departments to break the glass of a car window (at the expense of the owner!) to help animals in distress from the heat.
I know I mentioned being careful with rough collies in hot weather but now lets talk about cold weather vacations. If you plan on taking your rough collie to colder climates you obviously don't have to worry about keeping him especially warm. However, if you take him someplace where there is a lot of snow you need to be cautious about how much time he spends outside. Rough collie coats in their natural state are great for general cold and gusty windy weather, but letting us spend to much time in snow means you will have to check for ice balls forming in our coats. When we go through the snow and it sticks to us, our body heat does manage to melt some of it. It usually makes it's way down to the lower furry areas (chest, stomach, hygiene areas and leggings). Once there, there is no more close contact with body heat to keep it melted so the cold turns it into ice right on our fur. It can build up quite a bit over a few hours. If we are lost, left outside in snowy weather too long and aren't checked it can build so thick that it begins to penetrate our thick undercoat. If this happens our body heat is no longer enough to keep us warm and while we may last longer than most other breeds this formation of ice can kill us by freezing us to death. Alaskan and many northern breeds and wolves avoid this by having a coat that is as dense and thick as ours but no where near as long. The few northern breeds that do have excessively long coats (Samoyed) were bred that way by humans that would be able to take care of the fur and much like rough collies didn't spend countless hours rolling around in the snow but were well suited for very cold and windy climates. Our brothers, the smooth collies, have a dense enough under coat to handle cold and or snowy weather decently well for a reasonable amount of time, but to ask them to spend hour upon hour upon hour outside in such weather is just not nice. Some of the smooth collies can't tolerate cold at all and they would do well with a nice thick sweater if you plan to spend some serious outside time in cold weather.
So now that you have your collie's things all packed and ready to go its time to enjoy your trip! And don't forget to plan a few activities your collie will especially enjoy as well!!!