Have Dog, Will Travel

The gas tank is full, your bags are packed and your canine companion is looking at you with mournful eyes. "Can I go, too?" he seems to ask. If the answer is yes, planning ahead is key to a safe and enjoyable trip.

Chris and Sarah Manning visited the vet for pet travel advice before they traveled with one-year-old Murphy, a mixed breed, in their SUV from Chicago to Sarasota, Florida. "He really likes car trips," Chris says, "but we were kind of worried because of his high energy level."

The vet suggested crating Murphy in the back of the vehicle where he could still enjoy the scenery. Inside, the Mannings placed a small bowl of water, a soft towel and Murphy's favorite plastic toy. Every two to three hours they exercised at rest stops.

"It was a breeze," Chris says. "I think he had an enjoyable time."

According to Dawn Habgood, co-author of Pets on the Go: The Definitive Pet Accommodation and Vacation Guide (Dawbert Press, $21.95; updated version available June 2004), acclimating your dog to car rides is the most important step to happy travels. Then make sure he's well secured, like Murphy was. Metal barriers, netting and new doggy seat belts can keep him contained. Travel crates should be just big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in, she advises. And bring your vet records in case your pet is injured.

Here are additional tips on pet travel.

The (Pet-) Friendly Skies

Habgood doesn't recommend flying with your pet, but sometimes it can't be avoided. Due to strict regulations, your dog probably will ride in the cargo hold. Because each airline has different rules, Habgood emphasizes, "Always call ahead." Click here for a list of dog-friendly airlines that let pets travel in the passenger cabin.

Most likely, you'll need a certificate from your veterinarian';usually dated no more than 10 days prior to your trip';that confirms your dog is healthy. Temperatures at your departure and arrival cities can also affect whether your pet may travel.

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Home, Sweet Home

If your dog isn't traveling with you, Habgood suggests arranging for professional pet-sitters to come to your home and feed, walk and play with your dog.

Often, these caregivers will even stay overnight. Pet-sitters usually spend about 35 minutes and charge approximately $15 per visit, according to Pet Sitters International. Visit www.petsit.com for details or to locate a pet-sitter in your area.

Of course, you can leave your dog at a trusted kennel or in a neighbor's care. Provide the telephone number where you can be reached as well as numbers for a local contact and your veterinarian.

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Vacancy: Pets Welcome

Though many hotels accept pets, only some embrace them, says Dawn Habgood, co-author of Pets on the Go: The Definitive Pet Accommodation and Vacation Guide. Here are a few of her favorites:

Loews Hotels 1-800-23-LOEWS. Local dog-walking routes, pet pagers, pet room service and more, depending on location.

Kimpton Hotels 1-800-KIMPTON. Doggy treats, tags, beds and more, depending on location.

LaQuinta Inn 1-800-531-5900. Most properties accept pets at no extra charge and have no weight restrictions.

Motel 6 1-800-4-MOTEL6. Most properties accept dogs at no extra charge if they weigh 80 pounds or less.

Howard Johnson 1-800-446-4656. More than 170 pet-friendly locations; additional charges and weight restrictions may apply.

Be sure to call ahead to make reservations and inquire about any special restrictions. For a complete listing of hotels that accept pets as well as a wealth of other pet travel information, visit www.petsonthego.com.

Read more about Dog Grooming.

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