So on Friday, October 30th, I set out with the 2 Kishu Ken for Gardena, CA from Portland, OR to attend the Japanese Akita Club of America's annual Nihon Ken Invitational. I'll talk about the show in my next post, but today, I want to talk about my experiences road tripping with my dogs.
I made the move from Providence, RI (where I reared my first Kishu litter) to Portland, OR for a change of scenery and to pursue my career goals. I took my 3 Japanese dogs with me - 2 Kishu Ken (Nami and Fionna) and my older male Shikoku Ken. I put heavy emphasis on making sure I had all of my dogs' belongings that I could possibly need in my little Jeep Wrangler (a 1994 YJ, if anyone is interested), and mailed some packages to a friend who was already in Oregon to get a lot of my heavier belongings over before me. That way, I only had to bring clothing and resources enough to make the trip and whatever I didn't trust to mail.
So I have a little bit of experience road tripping with dogs - and I want to share, but first, I need to discuss my basics...
I think the first thing to really keep in mind to be successful is to expect anything that can go wrong - because there's a chance that it will. Always know what the worst case scenario (like losing your credit card in the middle of desertland-nowhere because you put it on the back of your Jeep for a second and forgot about it promptly thereafter) is so you can be prepared for it, but don't obsess over it.
The second is to watch your time. I'm horrible with this. If you expect you'll reach your destination in 9 hours, add 2 hours for stops - the dogs need out, you'll need to get out, and you'll see things along the way you might want to stop for! This last trip to California really pushed my time limits - especially coming back. I spent WAY more time coming back than I thought I would... all because I made one decision - and I don't regret it, I only wish I would have given myself more time.
Which brings me to my third point-- enjoy your road trip! It's really easy to end up miserable on the road. Do what you have to in order to avoid that. The last thing you want to do is be frustrated when managing your dogs or dealing with your own needs.
Now onto the "dog" part--
The Kishu were actually extremely well behaved for this road trip, as they were for the first trip. I think they know we stop and have adventures frequently on the trip, so they get a lot of time out that they don't actually normally get when we're at home (where they get one adventure a day).
The biggest things for the dogs is making sure you schedule times to stop to get them some TLC. I do this with my gas-ups since my Jeep only gets about 200-250 miles per tank, so it works out to about every 3-4 hours, which is a good interval when just travelling from one place to another. The Jeep is easy to use as a tie-down so as long as the weather is decent, I will get everyone out of the Jeep, do their potty walks around the gas station we've stopped at, and tie them to the Jeep to get them their food and water while we're outside.
On scenic trips like the way back from Gardena, I got the dogs out more frequently, but it was easy to forget how much time it took to get the dogs all out, do our thing, and get everyone back in. Expect to spend about half an hour on the shuffle if you're travelling with 2 dogs.
Another thing to keep an eye on is food consumption-- Nami tends to lose weight easily on road trips. She gets excited and won't eat when she's excited, so I have to make sure I bring "goodies" for her to give to her along the way or mix in with her food. Even Fionna started to become a little flakey on her food consumption toward the end, but would eat reliably if I offered her food around midday.
Know your dogs and keep an eye on them. Know where the vets are along the way - keep note of important places because you're not always going to have your GPS or phone service. Keep a physical map on you. Know the areas you're travelling through at least a little.