It occurs to me that some of you are going to be traveling with your four-legged family members. Yes, I have a chapter in my book for that.
BUT IT IS NOT A CHAPTER ON CORRECTING BAD PET—or human—behavior. There are animal and human behavioral experts for that. And, besides, we all know your pet is perfect just the way he is. So is mine. Visiting with pets can be either a fun, rewarding experience for all concerned . . . or it can be a disaster. Following these simple commands will mean less stress for you and your pet.
“No Begging!” Be Sure You’re Welcome
ALTHOUGH THIS SEEMS LOGICAL, MAKE SURE YOU ASK YOUR host if you can bring your pet, as far in advance of the trip as possible.
Don’t just assume that everyone loves Teddy, your Saint Bernard, or that Zelda will be “no problem.” Your host may have allergies or just not want an animal in the house. Always respect your host’s wishes and don’t “forget to ask” or assume that because Aunt Julie had a cat twenty years ago she would not mind you showing up with yours now. Besides, she forgot to tell you she has canaries…
“Speak!” Communicate with Your Host
TELL YOUR HOST IF THERE IS ANYTHING SPECIAL OR DIFFERENT about your pet that they should know before they agree and you happily dance with your little companion into their home. When you talk about cuddling “Rex” in your arms, they may be picturing a loveable little dog or cat, not your pet boa constrictor. Further, if you don’t know, ask if your host has any pets, or if other guests will be bringing pets. Rex might not get along so well with your nephew’s pet mice.
If your pet sleeps in your room at home, let your host know. It may or may not be okay during your visit. Your advance email to your host could go something like this: “George, Fluffy sleeps in my room at night. I am bringing her bed so she won’t be on your guest bed. Is that okay?” If it is not, and you know there will be howls or yowls through the night, you have two options: don’t bring her, or, prior to the trip, get her used to sleeping in another room without you.
“Ready!” Preparing Your Friend for Travel
OUR FURRY FRIENDS ARE SOMETIMES AN AFTERTHOUGHT when it comes to travel prep. We forget to give them a bath or trim their nails or brush their teeth or make sure their shots are up to date.
Bathe, brush, comb, and clip!
No matter how cute, no one wants a smelly or dirty critter in their home, so clip your pet’s claws for the sake of your host’s furniture and hardwood floors—not to mention their skin. Ouch!
Visit the vet to make sure your pet is current on all shots. Should some disaster strike, like a bite or an accident, or if you have to board while you are visiting, you will have that covered.
If lost or stolen. Make sure your pet has either a collar with identification tags with your home and cell phone number, or an identification microchip that a vet has put under the skin.
Do your research on where you are going. If your dog is used to playing with other dogs there may be a dog playgroup in the area. And please, know the local environment! I was truly horrified when people visiting another family let their dog swim in the lake behind our home. It had two resident alligators! The dog could have been pulled under quickly. I ran to the woman and told her, but even so it took some time to get the dog out.
Beware of bitches in heat.
No, I’m not talking about your sister going through menopause. You don’t want to be surprised a few months later because you let your little sweetie out to play with your friend’s unneutered male.
“Behave!” Mind Your (Pet’s) Manners
IS YOUR DOG A “COUNTER SURFER” OR WILL HE STEAL FOOD from the grill? Make sure your host knows and helps keep food safe! Does your cat love to lick the butter after the morning breakfast? Get it into the refrigerator pronto! If you know your dog gets overly excited or is shy with strangers,meet your hosts outside first. That way if there’s an“accident” it’s easily handled. If your pet has been out in the rain or playing in the mud, remember to wipe his paws before coming back inside. Ask your host for some old towels and a basket to store them in during use.
Are there some rooms that your host would prefer your pet not enter? Be respectful of their territory. If you know this in advance bring a child or pet gate if applicable for your pet. They may not have one and it will mean much less stress on you. Be especially mindful of the children. Little kids are curious and don’t understand the potential dangers any animal may pose. A friend told me that his dog is terrified by small children and will get aggressive out of fear. Definitely don’t take a dog to a home with children unless you are absolutely sure the dog is not only good with them, but can tolerate ears and tails being pulled and the occasional paw stepped upon.
“Wanna Go for a Ride?” On the Road
TRAVELING WITH YOUR PET BY AUTO CAN BE EITHER A JOY ride . . . or hell on wheels. It all depends on the right preparation by you (and a little cooperation from your passenger).
Although we think we can text, talk, and drive at the same time,we can’t. Don’t let this be about you:
The police report began,
“She was last seen with what a witness says looked like a stuffed animal in the crook of her arm, administering blush with one hand, holding a cell phone in the other and steering with her knee, cigarette dangling from mouth.”
I used to hold my small dog in my lap as I drove. I shamefully admit it. I finally bought a wire cage with one side that opens, large enough for her to be comfortable in (turn around, lay down, stretch out) and fit in the back seat. I put a pillow in the bottom, a blanket in the winter, and she traveled for hours. Better for her, much safer for the driver!
All pets, including cats, should be kept in cages, crates, or carriers, never let to wander free in the car. It is recommended that the carrier be in the back seat and strapped in by a safety belt. This way the carrier will stay secure around sharp corners or if an accident should occur. A cage may be impractical if you have a very big dog. In that case, use a seat belt specifically made for dogs and have him in the back seat.
I know you think Fido loves to travel with his head out the car window but it’s really not a good idea. Flying debris can get into eyes and mouth causing serious injury and some dogs can actually topple out the window, either accidentally or when going after some irresistible thing outside.
That’s a long enough post. I try not to get too carried away (pun intended.) Hope you found these tips helpful for your holiday travel. If you want to get the book or give it as a gift, please go here. At $12 it makes the most awesome gift for any visitor, two or four-legged! I would also love for you to share your comments or questions, as always.