The excitement mounted as Fall came to a close and I prepared for my annual holiday get-away.  So did the amount of stuff in the car.  The Subaru was packed tight with every possible management and training tool I could think of as essential for our 5-week stint.  There was barely room for a coffee-cup by the time we got rolling.  I over-packed out of concern that my family would enjoy our vacation despite my 2-year old, exuberant cattle dog/border collie mix tagging along.  In hindsight, I reduced all the clutter down to the six most essential dog travel items we brought.

Jasper had been with me for 7 months, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect from him.  But our upcoming journey would involve 1300 miles in the car, several hotel stays, the space limitations of condo life and limited physical exercise.  And although I know a few things about training and behavior, I’m in no way exempt from the challenges that anyone else faces when traveling with a dog.  As it turned out, Jasper did terrific!  Sure, there were sticky points and plenty of room for improvement, but there were also those glorious celebrations and moments when he far-exceeded my expectations.  We covered a lot of new territory on our journey and although Jasper required the patience of a saint at times, I can’t imagine another trip without him by my side.

At the end of our journey, I did a mental inventory of all the “stuff” we packed and determined what proved to be six of the most essential dog travel items in terms of safety, convenience and practicality:

Free-standing 4-panel gate:  This falls into the category of one of my best purchases ever!  I’m so glad, as it took a fair share of space.  But it prevented door darting.  And the property where we stay is surrounded by barbed wire on the outskirts so failure was not an option. 

Collapsible crate:  Get one that folds into a portfolio so you can carry it in and out of hotels.  I also packed an expandable gate and blanket in the crate carry bag.

Expandable gate:  Nothing fancy, just a foldable gate that you can use in hotel rooms (and other thresholds) to prevent your dog from rushing the door when he hears unfamiliar noises.

Double-clip leash:  An invaluable tool to assure your dog remains safe in the event of equipment failure.  Single clip attachments of leash to collar or harness are not reliable and could prove disastrous at rest stops and in hotel parking lots.  Weight-tested carabineers provide an added level of safety to all clasp mechanisms.

Food dispensing toys:  Meal time was never boring.  Jasper got many meals from stuffed Kongs™ and his Omega Paw Treat Ball™ to make up for less physical activity.  Two Kongs™ were ideal – one was in use while the other was in the freezer.   

Food caddy:  A soft-sided food caddy was perfect for accessing only small amounts of dog kibble without having to haul the large store-bought bags in and out the hotels.  We even used it where we stayed and replenished it as needed, allowing the large bag to be stowed away.