Well, we are quickly nearing the shove off date for our Pacific Northwest road trip so we are eagerly planning and packing for us parents, little PJ, and our pup, Stella. Stella is a veteran traveller, and while it always takes her a few hours to settle in to a road trip she is pretty awesome company once she gets over her initial abnoxious level of excitement.
Traveling with a dog has some challenges, and traveling with a Pit Bull means you get a few extra. Stella will turn seven years old on this trip. That means that I have seven years of experience in dealing with Pit Bull prejudice.
When I adopted Stella I was twenty-four and very naive. I had no idea that her breed would have such profound effect on the life that we would have together. In the last seven years I have had to make major sacrifices in order to keep us together. Stella and I were lucky that I was able to afford renters insurance that covered her breed, and we were even luckier that we found landlords that were open to tenants with Pit Bulls.
Unfortunately, many families are unable to find housing that will allow a Pit Bull or are unable to maintain the level of insurance required to keep their family dog and they are forced to turn their animals over to shelthers. Breed specific legislation is a nasty thing that perpetuates the fear and misunderstanding surrounding these truly awesome dogs. Yes, they are powerful dogs, but they are just dogs. With the proper training and love they are wonderful family animals.
But regardless of my opinion on BSL, it is the law of the land in many places, and as a tourist it is important to understand and follow the laws wherever you are visiting. So, when traveling with Stella there is a little extra homework to do.
Here is my checklist for bringing Fido.
1. Visit your Veterinarian.
Before hitting the road, a visit to the Vet is an absolute must. If you are crossing borders you will be required to prove that your dog is healthy and all vaccines are up to date. It is a good idea to have a certificate of good health signed by your animal’s doctor in addition to their current vaccination record. Even if you are not crossing international borders, it is important to make sure all their vaccines are up to date and your four-legged buddy is current on all flea and heartworm meds.
2. Make sure your paperwork is in order.
All countries will have requirements for animal transport and it is important to research that before you hit the road.
We regularly take Stella to Mexico with us and have never been asked for her paperwork, but technically you are required to have a certificate of good health as well as current vaccination records. If you are traveling to Mexico visit gomexico.com for specific requirements.
On this trip, we are going to be crossing the border into Canada which requires a certificate of vaccination against rabies. This certificate needs to show date of vaccination, brand of vaccine given, length of immunity, dog breed and description, and veterinarian signature. We will be spending our trip in British Columbia in which there are some regions with breed specific laws. If you are traveling to Canada, visit www.inspection.gc.ca for specific requirements about border crossings.
***YOUR DOG’S LICENSE IS NOT PROOF OF VACCINATION.
3. Understand any breed specific laws.
While today this typically refers to Pit Bulls, there are sometimes laws directed to Rottweilers, Dobermanns, or German Shepards – Typically any dog that has a reputation for being a “dangerous or aggressive breed.” BSL laws will vary from in each country, state, city, and county, and its important to be aware of them prior to crossing borders. Typically if there is a current law in place it will require confinement to a kennel, or vehicle and to have the dog leashed and muzzled in public. However, in certain places like Toronto, the law is so strict that your dog can be removed from your custody and euthanized based on a police officer’s visual identification of your dog as a Pit Bull.
4. Plan your route accordingly.
If you are traveling with a Pit Bull throughout the United States, I suggest visiting www.dogsbite.org while planning your route. While the overall message of this website is anti-Pit Bulls, it is a great resource to quickly find any breed specific ordinances by State and County of the United States. I always refer to this website when planning road trips so that we can avoid places where Stella is not welcome, and prepare accordingly if we need to enter an area that require her to be restrained in a specific way.
As much as it hurts me to see my little buddy muzzled, the best way to advocate for this misunderstood breed is to be a responsible owner and that means following the rules. You can’t change everyone’s mind about your dog, but you can protect your dog by being prepared and respectful.
5. Pack any necessary supplies.
Stella has lots of accessories. We are talking Dog backpacks, hiking boots, travel bowls, water bottles, life jackets, toys – if PetSmart sells it she probably has it. But while dog sweaters are funny and cute, the items below are what I always make sure to have when we travel with Stella.
Dog Crate: A nice collapsible option like this one is great. Stella sleeps in a crate like this at home, so it makes her feel like she took her house with her.
Leash: A standard 6 foot nylon leash is best. I am not a fan of the extendable leashes. They allow your dog to walk you, rather than the other way around. We love these Blueberry Pet leashes and collars. Stella has had several of the collars and leashes. They are quite durable and the patterns are super unique. I think a cute leash can help make a dog a little less intimidating.
Harness: We are a fan of the front hook harnesses like this one by Walk Your Dog With Love. The front hook allow you to better control a large dog, and stop annoying pulling behavior.
Muzzle: This is the toughest one for me because they really end up making your dog look scarier, but rules are rules. We choose to avoid the obvious cage models because they just look awful. When necessary Stella wears this simple muzzle.
Remote Trainer: This item is controversial to some people, but for us it is a must. When we get the opportunity to let Stella go off leash this SportDOG Remote Trainer is basically an electronic leash. When used properly it really helps with recall when Stella gets distracted by a squirrel, or gets fixated on another dog’s toy at dog beach. I must stress that these need to be used properly or they can potentially make problems worse for a fearful dog.
6. Practice and prepare.
If your dog has never worn a muzzle or been confined to a crate it is a good idea to practice before you hit the road. When we first tried a muzzle on Stella she pawed at her face incessantly trying to get it off. It took quite a few tries and a lot of treats to get her used to it.
Yes, this is a lot of work and I do sometimes get frustrated because people who own Labradors, Poodles, and Chihuahuas don’t have to do this. But our dog is not a Poodle, she is a Pit Bull, and I wouldn’t wish her to be anything else. When I adopted her I made a commitment to keep her happy, healthy, and safe, and I will continue to do so until she breathes her last smelly dog breath.