For many people, heading out for the weekend is no fun without the family -- and that includes the family dog.
The trick to traveling in a car with dogs is to make every place you go seem as much like home as possible, in the simplest way possible. Be prepared for the worst -- hot dogs, smelly dogs and even lost dogs -- before you back out of your driveway.
Here are a few tips:
* Food and water. Depending on the length of the trip, it may be easier to measure out the food in advance, packing it in plastic bags a single serving at a time.
Feed in the dog's usual dish as close to normal feeding times as possible, preferably in a quiet place. In motel rooms, that usually means the bathroom (put newspapers down first); in campgrounds, I've had the best luck with the car.
Don't be overly concerned if your dog's appetite is off; let him eat as much as he wants, but don't offer any more until the next regular feeding time.
As for water, it's not enough to pack a water dish -- pack some water, too. I start out every trip by buying a couple jugs of drinking water; on the road I top them off at every possible location. Water is for more than drinking; wrapping a dog in wet towels is a quick way to cool down an overheated pet.
* Proper attire. For safety and comfort, I recommend a well-fitted harness. If your dog is too unruly without a training collar, put one on, but put the ID tags on the harness, and leave the harness on the dog.
* Canine courtesies. Don't allow your dog to foul a hotel parking lot. When I check in, I look for a nearby vacant lot or back alley, and make sure that no matter how filthy the area I take my dogs to, I don't leave it in any worse shape. I always keep plastic bags in my pocket and make sure that what my dogs leave, leaves with us.
Don't leave your dogs alone in a motel room, and keep them quiet at all times. Accidents do happen, however, and if one happens to you, don't skip out -- go to the manager and offer to pay for repairs.
* Play it safe. Common sense and a sturdy leash are your dog's best friends on any trip.
Remember that even on a mild day a car can turn into a death trap for your pet, so do your fine dining after dark. My traveling companions have always been amused at my insisting on eating at places that have shady parking lots observable from inside the restaurant.
Ms. Spadafori is a licensed pet trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.