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By Kathy Santo

Before you hit the road this summer, heed these safety tips.

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Get the paperwork together. For long trips, you should carry a recent photo of your dog and a copy of his health records, listing all of his recent vaccinations. Also: a collar with his I.D. tags attached. If you’re planning on being away for more than a few days, consider purchasing a second I.D. tag giving the location and phone number of your vacation spot.

Be prepared for an emergency. Find the number of the nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency hospital and program it into your cell phone, along with the office and emergency number for your regular veterinarian (in case the vets need to speak with each other). That way, if there’s a situation where your dog needs medical attention, you’ve got already all the information on hand.

Safety First. If you stop short or are involved in an accident, your dog can become a flying projectile and injure not only himself, but also other passengers in the car. Purchase a dog seatbelt or car seat, teach him to wear or sit in it, and then everyone will be safe and sound on your next car trip whether you’re two miles from home or 2,000.

Plan Bathroom Breaks. Before you leave home, teach your dog to relieve himself on multiple surfaces—not just grass! Having the ability to potty on different terrains (such as concrete, mulch, and gravel) will alleviate his discomfort as well as the possibility of accidents while you’re on the road. Bring a supply of bags to clean up afterward and a leash.

Bring Games and Toys. To make sure your dog doesn’t get bored, provide him with a few new toys—and a couple of old favorites. My favorite is a puzzle-type toy, like a Kong, stuffed with peanut butter and frozen.

Pack Food and Water. Check with your vet about giving your dog only bottled water while away from home to ensure that he doesn’t get an upset stomach. Ask your vet before you leave for remedies or suggestions of what to do if such a problem does occur. Also, bag a few days worth of your dog’s food, even if you’re sure that you’ll be able to purchase more at your destination. And instead of taking his usual bulky bowls, buy collapsible ones and let him get used to using them a week or so before you travel.

Puppy-Proof the Vacation Home (or Room). Before you let your dog have free run of his home away from home, make certain it’s safe for your dog to explore. Be sure that electrical cords are out of reach and that previous occupants didn’t leave anything on the floor or under furniture that could be potentially harmful to your dog.

Remember, It’s a Vacation. Traveling can be stressful, but a calm owner usually has a calm pet. Our animals pick up on our stress, so if you’re nervous and uptight, guess who else is?

Originally published in AKC FAMILY DOG. To read more from FAMILY DOG, click here. Photo credit: istockphoto.com//©Carrie Bottomley

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