Tips for Traveling With Your Dog to Taos, New Mexico

By Nina Anthony, Friday, August 22, 2014

Tips for traveling with your dog to Taos, New Mexico

If you’re a dog lover like me, traveling without your pet is akin to leaving a beloved family member behind. Watching your dog experience the pure joy of exploring new surroundings and running freely in the great outdoors is among the simple pleasures of dog ownership.

Apparently, a lot of people share my opinion because a recent survey showed that 79% of dog owners consider their pet a part of the family. Another recent study by AAA and Best Western International showed that more than half of pet owners in the U.S. take their dogs with them when they travel.

With plenty of pet-friendly lodging, a new dog park in Kit Carson Park where Fido can run free, and a seemingly endless array of trails in the Carson National Forest and on BLM lands to explore, Taos is a fantastic place to bring your four-legged companion.

Late Summer is a Great Time to Visit Taos with Fido

A few weeks prior to this writing, USA Today named Taos as the #1 place to vacation in August in their 10 Best August Destinations list, noting that “Warm temperatures and plentiful sunshine make August an ideal month for hiking in the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains or touring the picturesque Taos Pueblo.

Come September, crowds start to thin out as families start preparing the kids for the new school year. But there’s no shortage of late summer events going on in and around the Taos area, and, as USA Today mentioned, the weather is still great for outdoor recreation in the Sangre de Cristos.

A bit of advance planning will help make your trip to Taos safer and more enjoyable for you and your dog. So, check out these checklists before you embark on your adventure.

Pre-Trip Checklist for Traveling with Fido to Taos

  • Try to take Fido to your veterinarian for a check-up before hitting the road. This is especially important if your pet hasn’t traveled before or if you have any health concerns. Make sure you pack any meds and his health record. You’ll need the latter if you’re going to board your pet at all during your vacation and it will be helpful for a vet in case of an unexpected medical emergency during your trip.
  • Make sure your dog’s ID tags are up to date in the event you and Fido get separated. To be extra safe, consider attaching a second tag to your pet’s collar that includes the address and phone number of where you’ll be staying during your trip. I can’t tell you how many signs I’ve seen posted throughout the Taos community reporting a lost dog that got separated from a vacationing family. It breaks my heart thinking about how frightening this would be for a dog and its owner.
  • If you plan on doing off-leash hiking with your dog, do some refresher behavior training to make sure your dog comes when called. If he won’t come to you consistently, don’t let him/her off a leash. You don’t want to end like one of the dog owners I just mentioned.
  • Pack your dog’s favorite toys and a familiar blanket or bedding to help your pet feel more comfortable away from home.
  • If you’re planning on taking your dog hiking or camping, pack plenty of towels for cleaning mud and/or water off Fido’s paws. There are plenty of rivers, streams and lakes for your Fido to frolic in if he’s a water lover and August is monsoon season in Taos, so, be prepared for afternoon showers and some muddy spots on trails.
  • Pack portable anti-spill water bowls and plenty of water for the road trip. The ASPCA recommends keeping a gallon of cold water on hand to ensure your pet stays sufficiently hydrated.

Ready, Set, Woof!

Now that you’re ready to hit the road with Fido, here are some more tips to keep Fido safe and happy in the car.

 Tips for traveling safely with Fido by car to TaosCrate him or buckle him. We all love to see a happy dog with his head hanging out a car window — ears and jowls flapping in the wind. But according to the ASPCA, this can actually hurt Fido, making him susceptible to ear damage and eye and lung infections. They recommend putting Fido in a well-ventilated crate or dog carrier that gives him just enough room to stand up and turn around. Besides limiting a pet’s movements, crates and carriers also provide protection in the event of a crash. Crates may not be an option for larger dogs, especially if your car is cramped for space. Try to at least restrain your dog with a harness that attaches to the car’s seat belts. If you insist on letting Fido roam freely riding with his head out the window, at the very least, get him a pair of protective goggles for his eyes.

Plan for pit stops. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends stopping every 2-3 hours for Fido to use the bathroom and get some exercise.

Never leave Fido in a parked car alone. On a typical 85-degree day, the interior temperature of a car with the windows cracked can reach a sizzling 102 degrees in just 10 minutes. Even on a comfortable 70-degree day, the inside of a parked car can quickly reach 90 degrees. That’s just too hot for furry Fido and those kinds of temps put Fido at risk of hypothermia and even death. Try to couple a human pit stop at a rest area with a pit stop or leg stretch for Fido, too. If you need to stop for meals, consider a drive-thru or get carry-out at restaurants and take Fido for a walk to stretch his legs while you’re waiting for your food.

Pet Friendly Lodging in Taos and Beyond

Virginia may be for lovers, but Taos is for dog lovers. In fact, Taos dubs itself the “most pet-friendly destination in the Southwest.” For a complete list of pet-friendly lodging, restaurants and bars in the Taos area, visit the official Town of Taos tourism website. You can also find dog-friendly lodging in Taos and nearby communities by searching on

Ruffing it with Fido in the Great Outdoors

Hiking with a dog to Williams Lake in Taos Ski Valley - Image by Nina AnthonyThere are 1.5 million acres in the Carson National Forest to explore and having your furry companion with you on your outdoor adventures makes everything a bit more fun. Read these tips before going hiking or camping with Fido in Taos.

Do your trail research. Before you take a dog hiking or camping, make sure you know all of the rules for where you’re heading. The Carson National Forest allows you to walk your dog off-leash but it does require that your dog be in your control at all times and that you carry a leash with you. If you see people approaching on the trail walking toward you, or you’re approaching a group of people from behind, leash your dog. Hard as it may be for us dog lovers to realize, not everyone loves dogs. Some people will find it extremely annoying (and frightening) to have an unfamiliar dog come leaping toward them to say hello. The key words here are “under control.” With that in mind, it’s illegal for dogs to chase wildlife, so, if you know your dog will ignore your commands to heel when he sees a rabbit or a deer, keep him leashed. Unlike the more dog-friendly Carson National Forest policy, BLM and Wilderness lands in Taos County do require you to keep Fido leashed when hiking.

Pack a first-aid kit.
It’s no fun being in the middle of nowhere after your dog ends up with a faceful of porcupine quills, gets sprayed by a skunk, or cuts his pads on a sharp rock. But all of those things can happen. Here are some things to include in a first-aid kit:

  • Tweezers (in case you need to pull out a cactus thorn from his paws or quills from his face)
  • Benadryl, probiotic and fiber supplements for diarrhea
  • Topical calendula and arnica for wounds and bites
  • Tea bags to reduce swelling
  • Antibiotic ointment or pills
  • A blanket to use as a stretcher

Camping with your dog in Taos, New Mexico

Consider outfitting Fido with a pair of dog boots. Even dogs you’d never expect to get sore, can end up limping in pain after tromping around for several hours over rocky mountain terrain.

Test for parasites when you get back home. Dogs love drinking out of alpine streams and lakes that can infect your dog with parasites like Giardia. Get Fido tested within a week of your return so he can be treated asap if he tests positive. I have a dog that got Giardia from drinking from a mountain stream and believe me, it’s painful for your dog.

If you’d like some ideas on where to go hiking and/or camping with Fido while you’re in Taos, a good place to start is the hiking section of the Carson National Forest website.

Other Helpful Resources for Pet Owners Coming to Taos

Dog Boarding in Taos. If for some reason you need to board your pet while you’re in Taos, consider taking him to the spa of boarding facilities for our four-legged friends: 10,000 Wags Pet Resort. They have a great little retail store, too, where you can pick up things like dog food, bedding and toys that you may have left at home.

Information on Airline Pet Policies. Many airlines allow pets aboard their flights, and some are more pet friendly than others. If you’re traveling to Taos by air with Fido, familiarize yourself with airline policies, requirements, and charges so you can make the best choice for flying with Fido.

Pet-friendly Dog Park. Read about the new dog-friendly area in Kit Carson Park in the center of Taos where you can let Fido run free.

See you on the trail!

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