A family trip isn’t much fun if the whole family isn’t there. For many, that includes the dog. However, traveling can be stressful for him. If your trip requires a long distance or you will be away for a long time, some advanced planning is required to make it as pleasant as possible.

Before you even leave home, be sure your dog is in good health. Take him to the vet to check on his overall health and to be sure that he is current on all of his vaccinations. You will need a health certificate and proof of an updated rabies vaccination. Dogs traveling to Canada and Mexico will require more documentation. Your vet can help with this.

If your dog is on any medication, take more than you expect to use on the trip. Take a copy of his medical records and vet contact information with you and keep it easily accessible in case you need to get veterinary care while you are away.

Your dog should wear a sturdy collar with your home address and telephone number on a tag. While you are traveling, tape a local contact number and your cell phone number on the tag or get a second tag with that information on it.

If you haven’t already done so, consider getting him microchipped. Take a photo of him to make it easier for others to recognize him and get him back to you if he gets lost.

Make sure your dog, even if he is small, rides in the back seat. That keeps him out of the driver’s lap, off the gear shift, off the brake and off the window if you have to stop suddenly. If he is used to always riding in the front seat, start putting a long-lasting treat on the back seat to help him develop a new habit.

There are plastic mesh-type barriers that go between the front and back seats. Try one out before you buy it and see how it affects your vision. If your dog is extremely determined to get in the front seat, the mesh barriers probably won’t stop him for long. There are also harnesses available that connect a dog to a safety belt.

Take enough of your dog’s food for the whole trip, especially if he is a picky eater or on a special diet. The food he needs or wants might not be available at your destination or along the way. Bring a gallon jug of water which can be replenished when you need to plus a heavy water bowl.

Be sure to stop regularly for water, exercise and bathroom breaks. Keep him on his leash and clean up after him. Keep a pooper-scooper and some plastic bags in the car. Some places have ordinances requiring this. Plus, it’s the polite thing to do.

Don’t let your dog ride with his head out of the window no matter how much he enjoys it. He can be injured by flying debris. He should never be left alone in the car even briefly. Temperatures inside a car can reach dangerous levels on a hot day even if the windows are open slightly.

To keep him happy, bring along his favorite blanket and a few of his toys. The more he enjoys his trip, the more you will enjoy yours.

To adopt a dog visit the Pittsburg County Animal Shelter at 1206 N. West St. in McAlester. The phone number is 918-423-7803. The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday. The adoption fee for a dog is $20. All have been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped before they leave the shelter.