Traveling with a Malamute
Vacationing with one dog, or many can be a lot of fun. They will show you a world you'd never see otherwise. They'll help you appreciate nature and you'll want to find all the scenic stops just so you can hang out together. A little pre-planning can make your trip enjoyable and ensure everyone has a good time.
One summer we decided to take a long awaited trip up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We took several dogs - Mulan and Gracie who were going to be shown, along with Holly and Hoover. Riggs, Jazzy, Pod and Chevy stayed behind and were taken care of by our pet sitter Pam. Another time we took everyone including the two puppies Mocha and Superman, and Colleen babysat Jazzy and Riggs. It took a lot of planning - but went well all except for the trip that Gracie bloated and we had minutes to find her a vet - teaching us a valuable lesson. Hoover also taught us a lot about traveling with a paraplegic dog. While he couldn't "walk" - he did have a great time. We used a support strap to help him get in and out of the van and "walk" around. I brought extra towels and plastic to put on the hotel room floor to protect the carpet from his incontinence. We were lucky to get reservations at a hotel that had a "pet wing" and we were able to park right outside the door - and have space for walking the pack. The room had space for some crates and some of the dogs slept in the van. Hoover came in because he needed more than the usual attention. It worked great. He had a wonderful time hanging out with us under a tent at the dog show where he could see all the sights and smells. He also went with us "house hunting" while we looked at properties, and also to a nearby park for a picnic.
Before a road trip is a good time to take your Malamute for that overdue visit to the veterinarian. Beyond ensuring your pet's health, it's the only way to get a bona fide health certificate. That certificate — and proof of an updated rabies vaccine — is necessary if you board your pet at your destination.
Make sure all vaccinations are up to date, including Bordetella, parvo, and even Lyme disease, depending on where you're headed. Pets traveling to Canada, Mexico, or beyond, require more legal documentation and sometimes a quarantine period. (Check with the consulate of the country you are planning to visit - often you can get that information from a website). Travel to Canada requires a passport for you, and proof of a 3 year rabies for your Malamute. What malamute doesn't like car rides? Most do. However, Superman is one of them that gets carsick easily so he requires a mild anti-nausea medicine (similar to dramamine) for long car rides so he doesn't throw up!
Your dog should always have a sturdy collar with home address and and your cell phone number on a tag. If your cell number isn't currently on the tag, add it with a piece of masking tape and permanent marker. Many pets today also have a microchip implanted as a form of permanent ID. Always carry a current photograph of your dog that can be copied, to make it easier for others to recognize and return him if he gets lost.
Make sure you pack his toys, a brush, regular bedding and dishes. Having his own "stuff" goes a long way toward making your Malamute feel "at home". Even if you don't typically use a crate, get him used to one and bring it. Many hotels will not allow large dogs unless they are crated when you leave the room. Pack a bowl for his water, treats, a first-aid kit, medications (both oral and topical), a copy of his medical records, and some bags for pooper scooping. Most important, though, bring your Malamute's regular food - some dogs end up with diarrhea from changes in water or food.
Always bring a gallon of water from home, and "water your dog" along the route, topping off the gallon from a local water source at each stop. That way, the change is gradual. If you're planning on staying at a hotel with your dog, confirm the details of your reservations in advance. Make sure you ask about size/weight limits when you book your room - you don't want any unexpected surprises.
Just as humans need seatbelts, animals need some form of safety restraint when in the car. Pet barriers— which merely separate your pet from the rear of the seat — don't do much to protect animals. Crates do. They come in different shapes, sizes and materials, but all should be well ventilated and have a secure door and latch. Bungee the crate so it is secure and doesn't slide around. It should be large enough so your Malamute can sit and lie down. You can make the crate more comfortable by lining the bottom with sheepskin or towels. We used a crate for each dog in our van for our travels. Hoover layed on the floor next to the crates in a space that was easy for him to get in and out of without having to turn around.
Ideally you have air conditioning in your vehicle if you will be driving in warm climates. There are cooling pads you can obtain from pet supplies that will help your pet stay cool in warm climates. There are also battery operated fans that attach to the crate door to keep him cool when you stop. Always be aware of the temperature and leave windows open and park where you can see him at restaurant stops. While a Malamute is pretty safe in just about any cold temperature in a vehicle, heat can be deadly. Never leave your Malamute — or any pet or child — alone in the car. In the summer, the car's internal temperature can rise to fatal levels very quickly. Malamutes have a heavy coat making it much worse. If you need to run into a store or stop for a bite to eat, take your pet with you if possible. If no one can watch the pet, and you can't see it from a window, don't go in. It's not worth the risk. Pet napping is real and happens.
While a special restraining harness can connect a dog to safety belts, preventing him from flying forward during sudden braking or impact, most dogs feel more secure in a crate. The crate is also some protection in case of an accident. But if your car doesn't have room for a large dog crate, a restraining harness can be a good second choice. Before you open the car door, even for a second, make sure the leash is on him and that you have a firm grasp of the leash.
More than 100,000 dogs die from falls from pickup trucks each year. Bumps in the road or quick swerving motions can throw the dog out of the truck bed, injuring or killing him and potentially causing more accidents as other drivers swerve to avoid him. Dogs can also jump out — sometimes because the bed becomes too hot for their paws. According to the Humane Society of the United States, though, there is no harness or leash that will keep a dog safe in the back of a pickup truck — in fact, it could strangle or drag him if he's thrown. Instead, place the dog in a carrier in the back of an extended or crew cab. If you must put a dog in the bed, get a crate made especially for that purpose and securely bolt it to the truck bed.
Some people get car sick; so do some dogs. A light meal a few hours before you leave is best, then feed him minimally during the drive. Offer him small amounts of water periodically in the hours before the trip. Ice cubes are easier on your pet than gulping down large amounts of water. The time to get your dog used to trips is not the day before. If you want a good traveler, take him with you often for regular car rides.
Don't let your Malamute stick his head out the window - debris and bugs can get in his eyes or nose causing severe irritation. Restrain your dog in a crate if you have automatic windows - dogs have strangled themselves by accidentally hitting the up button.
A dog's legs need to be stretched just like yours do — more. Your pet also needs water, exercise and potty breaks at regular intervals. Taking time for your pet may also help you to take in some interesting sights along your trip. For young puppies on their way home: NEVER walk them in designated pet walking areas. Until they have had all their shots, it is safer to break the rules. Just make sure you bring some poop pick up bags.
Malamutes will eat anything. But ingesting antifreeze is deadly. Be careful if you have car trouble and end up waiting around the garage for repairs. Don't allow your Malamute to drink from ANY unknown puddles - you don't know what's in them. Malamutes are notorious rummagers. The crate is your best defense keeping your dog safe in the car amid fast food wrappers, toxic foods (chocolate, some nuts), and other things you'd never dream he would eat.
You may want to have the name and contact information of a good veterinarian at your destination. If you have friends in the area, ask them for names. Emergencies happen to dogs too. This happened to us while we were up in Marquette. Gracie bloated and we had literally minutes to find a vet that could save her life - and it was after hours. Know where the 24 hour emergency clinic's are located at your destination and if you have a GPS, program in vets along your route. You never know when you may have minutes to save your dog's life.
Put a towel on floors where the dog enters and leave the car/van will keep the floors cleaner. Dogs aren't apt to wipe their feet so you must do it for him. A towel you can shake out will keep lots of sand and dirt out of your vehicle. You may want to bring plastic or extras to protect hotel carpeting as well.
Malamutes can absolutely refuse to "go potty" at roadside stops. Don't be surprised if she decides to "hold it" for a couple of days, or holds off as long as possible only to have an accident in the car. (at least the crate confines it and those towels absorb it). Always bring clean up supplies just in case (a roll of paper towels and some natures miracle works well). Plan some short car rides before your trip where he can get out and water the scenery - it's good practice. Otherwise some Malamutes will refuse to go in a strange place. Some girls seem to be especially particular. Better yet, work on teaching your dog to go potty "on command".
Never leave your malamute uncrated in the hotel room. They can do a LOT of damage in a short period of time. Dogs that are good at home may freak out that you left them in a strange place and destroy the room. They also may howl and annoy your neighbors. If your malamute is a howler, be considerate and don't leave him alone - the person in the next room may be trying to sleep. Better to take him along and let him wait in the car in some circumstances.
Traveling with your pet can be a lot of fun. It also takes some preplanning and common sense. If you won't have the time to devote to your Malamute's needs he might just be better off staying home with a pet sitter or at a good boarding kennel. Some dogs just get too stressed in strange situations. We had a wonderful time traveling the upper peninsula of Michigan for a week with several dogs. I am so glad we were able to bring Hoover. I have wonderful memories of trying to keep up with him while I held up his rear and he tried to run in the sand dunes of Lake Michigan. He had a blast!!!! I was the one having trouble keeping up! I wouldn't trade that for anything.
Traveling with a handicapped dog is not impossible. Nor is travel with several dogs. It just takes planning, preparation and a willingness to meet their needs as well as your own. Have a fun, safe and wonderful trip with your Malamute(s).