K9 Coach – Be Prepared, How to Journey in Peace


With the summer coming up, we are often hit with wanderlust.  That impulse to travel.  To experience things from the open road and to soak in all the adventures that we can.  So, pack a few things, put a bandana on Sparky and hit the trail, what could be more simple?

Yes, it all sounds great until reality hits.  Taking a road trip takes planning and organizing for the whole family.  Adding Sparky to the mix is a great idea, but keeping him in mind when preparing is a necessity.  Let’s take a look at the big picture.  You will be traveling by car, stopping at hotels or campgrounds, eating along the way and taking in the sights.

Safety first, make sure Sparky is secured properly in the car. A seat belt designed especially for dogs is a great idea and you can pick one up prior to the start of your trip.  A lot of dogs feel safe traveling in their crate and this might be an option depending on the space you have.

Packing for your pooch is like packing for the kids. Make sure you have a supply of water and a non-spill dish. Make sure you bring some dog snacks and toys. There are a variety of stuff-able toys in your local Global Pet Foods store, which can have treats put into them. This will provide some entertainment for your dog, and keep him settled for a while. One reminder, make sure you pack all food, human and canine, in sealed packages.  You don’t want to stop for a bathroom break and notice Sparky sitting on the back seat with his face covered in donut crumbs!

Another important point to keep in mind is that it may be difficult to stop for food.  You might think that going into one of the rest stops on the highway will suffice, but I have found the line-ups to be very long in a lot of cases.  An alternative to this is to use only drive-thru restaurants, or to pack a picnic lunch.

It is also a good idea to pack a expandable leash.  At home your dog might not stray far, but out in nature…well, nature may call.  Your dog might catch a scent he wants to follow or even seek out his own adventure.  Best to leash him in unknown areas, for everyone’s sake.

Once you arrive at your destination it is time to get settled.  If you are planning on staying at hotels along your route, you should have reservations made in advance. Make sure it is a pet friendly establishment.

Even if your dog is the quietest, best-behaved dog that you have ever met, still bring his crate into the room.  If you intend on going out and leaving your dog in the room, he should be crated during that time.  If you know you live with a barker, or a dog that might bark when he hears people outside the door, then please don’t leave him alone.  It is unfair to the other patrons.  Again, his chew toy stuffed with his favorite treats will help to keep his mind off activities going on around him.

A few more things to keep in mind.  These days we carry cell phones so make sure that is the number on your dogs tag. Most of our dogs have microchips, but it is important for your dog to also have immediate contact info right on his collar. If the dog has to go to a shelter or Vet clinic to be scanned for his microchip, it might be a few days before you re-connect with your dog.

Also remember to research where the Veterinarians are along your route and take any paperwork with you that might be important in an emergency.  If your pet has a prescription, take a script in case the medication ends up at the bottom of the lake during a canoe capsize.  Your first aid kit should include enough bandage material to take care of a cut paw and even some canine bug spray that you’ll find at your local Global Pet Foods store.

If you’re heading to the US, make sure you check with the border beforehand, so you have the paperwork you need to cross. A road trip with Sparky can provide hours of fun and memories.  Get prepared, take lots of pictures, and journey in peace.



is the Director of Who’s Walking Who Dog Training Centres in Toronto and Ajax, Ontario.  She has been featured on many radio and television programs and penned  a monthly column in Dogs in Canada Magazine for nine years.  Gillian is also a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto, using dogs to shed light on learning theory to psychology students.  She shares her home with two dogs, and is involved in dog sports and canine performance teams.