As a co-host of the new Animal Cafe chat/podcast team, I will be posting our weekly podcasts here on Tuesday, the better to prepare you to take part in the chats on Wednesday. As a result, Travel Tuesday has become Travel Thursday — because no other day of the week offered alliteration.

Welcome to Pet Travel Thursday.

I’ve been focusing recently on pet-friendly — or pet-clueless — lodgings, but according to the U.S. Travel Association, most people who  travel with pets stay with friends or family.

Which makes sense. It’s far less expensive than staying at a hotel. And isn’t the definition of family “where they have to take you in”?

But if you want to be invited — or permitted — back to a friend or family member’s home, you’ll need to observe some basic rules of pet etiquette. Although most of these rules can be applied to visiting households that already have pets, I’m gearing them primarily towards visits to single-species (i.e., exclusively human) homes by people who are traveling with two or fewer dogs. I’ll address the topics of introducing your pups to the resident critters — or traveling with more than two — in another post.

1. Bring your own pet food

It’s important to keep your pets on their accustomed diet when they’re traveling. The trip alone is stressful; changing food can further upset the system.  Puking pets do not make good houseguests.

If it’s not feasible to bring food with you, tell your hosts what you need, making it clear that you’ll reimburse them. If it will be difficult to find your brand easily, consider buying food online and having it sent to your destination. If your hosts are prone to guilt, send a lot. This way, they’ll feel obligated to invite you back (or donate the food to a shelter).

Otherwise, plan to go shopping first thing upon arrival.

2. Bring a crate

If your dog is crate trained, that is.  Some types of pet carriers double as crates or at least provide a temporary “time out” for rowdy pets. Alternatively, make sure there’s a safe area or room where you can put your dog if necessary, one without breakables.

3. Bring toys, beds & other familiar items

If you’re not traveling by car, this can be difficult, but a few favorite toys go a long way towards making your pet feels at home — and less likely to decide to turn your hosts’ possessions into toys.

4. Clean up after your pets early and often

Don’t wait until your hosts can accidentally step in dog poo in the yard or encounter something mushy in the corner of the couch. Bring along cloths, old towels, possibly even dog shoes so your pup won’t track dirt into the house.

Pre-cleaning — in the form of advance grooming and/or FURminating — is a good idea if you have a heavily shedding pup.

5. Make sure your dog minds his manners

Your dog should be trained not to hump, kiss, slobber or generally interact with people who might not enjoy such interactions. Their fear of your wonderful, well-meaning, would-never-bite-anyone pooch may be irrational. Honor that irrationality — or get a hotel room.

6. Make sure your hosts mind their manners

This is especially true if you’re visiting a home with small children who do not have much experience with dogs, or if your dog is fearful. Explain to your hosts in advance how to approach your charges.  In general, it’s best to ignore dogs upon arrival to give them a chance to scope out the surroundings on their own terms.

And get everyone to nix the head pats.

7. Bring or buy house gifts for your hosts

Alcohol and/or chocolate are almost always appropriate. Just don’t let your dogs get to them first.


I’d love to get your feedback on this. I’ve only traveled with Frankie by car and we usually stay at hotels; Frankie rarely turns down free rooms in nice places and prefers the privacy of  his own digs. My concerns in the limited number of households we’ve visited are geared towards protecting Frankie from the resident critters (ok, I hear my BFF Clare saying, or keeping Frankie from “protecting” me from her friendly pup, Archie, or eating his food).  So please share tips on situations I might not have encountered, given my somewhat limited experience.


25 thoughts on “Pet Travel Thursday: 7 Tips on Homestay Petiquette”

  1. I have never been brave enough to take my dog to a friend’s house. Not even for a few hours. I just worry she would do something awful, like counter-surf, and we would never be invited back. So I think this is pretty great advice and I am interested in seeing what others think. Alcohol goes a long way to smooth any ruffles, I would imagine.

    1. You should try short stints if possible — maybe 15 minutes — to see how it feels; maybe Shiva will be perfectly well behaved. Then try for longer and longer periods. Shiva is constantly surprising you; she may be the perfect house guest!

    2. I think you need to find the right friend–someone who is interested in giving you a chance to try Shiva out as a houseguest. Not everyone goes crazy if a guest dog counter surfs. Some of us just go “ennnh” and move our food farther from the edge.

      1. Again, in my pre-dog days I always thought counter-surfing was funny. I know laughing doesn’t convey the right message to the dog that this was a no no, but hey, that dog was going home. Not my problem.

        Who knows what dog karma I incurred. Maybe that’s why I got a small dog…

  2. Rufus and Jordan have been guests at a rellie’s house, for quite a long time too. More than a month [we were doing up our house]. ALL your points are good. Scooping poop QUICK and not chewing your host’s furniture/garden gnomes would have to be #1 and #2 on my list.

    Before R & G, going back 20 years here, we once stayed at the same rellie’s house with another 2 dogs and, I’m afraid to say, the family cat met with a sad [accidental] end one night. The [now grown up] children have asked me over the years if it’s true Mona ran away [which was the story their parents wanted us to tell them]. Sigh. Very bad petiquette.

    1. I would have to say that not causing death to the resident cat would rank even higher than #1 and #2 on my list. That relative must be very nice — or you must have something very bad on her — to get permitted back. Of course you had different dogs…

  3. These are all great tips! The only other thing I do is to bring chews and treats… that kind of falls under your first two tips. I guess the only other thing is to Obey the Rules of the House (part of No.5 I suppose) Not everyone wants pets on their sofa, though I really can’t imagine why not!
    Diane and Cosmo

    1. You are so nice to suggest your ideas fit into already existing categories, making it seem as though I was very comprehensive. I like that in a commenter! Thanks, Diane.

  4. Great list!! We visit a lot of friends and family, bless them all, with Chloe, and I think you’re on the money. Under the “make sure your dog minds his manners” category, I’d add the suggestion that you take your dog on two really long walks, or two really vigorous Chuck-It sessions a day, once in the AM and the other just before dinner — that way, she’ll sleep through most of the day and not be in a position to make trouble. Some of our relatives (with the nicer houses and more finicky habits) have only seen Chloe asleep.
    And even if you don’t do it at home, I’d wash your dog’s feet off after she comes in from a run — either your hosts will be relieved, or they’ll be totally impressed by your thoughtfulness.
    One last thought — keep your antenna up for the little twitches your hosts make when they want to say something, but don’t want to offend you. We just stayed with friends who really appreciated the washed paws, but didn’t want Chloe’s wet (though clean) paws on their carpets — they didn’t want to make a fuss, but happily I heard the yelp they muffled and leashed her to a chair on the kitchen tile until she’d dried off. Listen for the muffled yelps!

    1. Exercise — excellent idea! Keep ’em tired and well behaved. And having the antennae tuned for signs of host distress is great advice too. Of course, my friends tend to be less than subtle about their likes and dislikes, many of them being from New York and all…

  5. And then, you could always buy a motor home so “dog” would not be inconvenienced at all! 🙂

    I think your points are excellent to remind people that, like their dogs, they should be on their best behaviour and practice good manners.

  6. Great timing, Edie. We’re leaving this weekend for a short visit to an old friend who asked us to bring Honey for his girls to visit. We’re working on the alcohol part now. 🙂

    I usually stay in a hotel so that our dogs have a restful place to go if things don’t work out very well. It’s nice to have a back up location.

    Great idea to set up a room or crate for your dog to stay in. It’s a bit more challenging with a larger dog, though. Honey’s crate is the size of a loveseat. And I suspect she’d bark her head off if we put her in a different room in a strange house. Instead, I’ll sometimes leash my dog in the house to keep her on her bed despite distractions. A frozen kong helps too but they can be messy and some folks seem to like having a clean house. I don’t know what that’s all about.

    My bigger issue is my own nervousness about my dog. I suffer a bit from Kristine’s syndrome and assume my dog is going to irritate my dog-free friends. I don’t feel uncomfortable visiting dog people, however. They know what they’re getting into.

    1. One of the things I thought of — but my list was getting complicated and long so I edited it out — was a baby gate, so your dog can still see you but she can’t do damage. If you’re going by car and have room for a LOT of stuff, that could work.

      A lot of people travel with large dogs in crates — as opposed to securing them with seat belts car seats — so that makes sense for them.

      You’d be surprised about some dog free friends. I was one of them for many years — until I got Frankie. I was always happy to have surrogate dogs.

  7. There are only a select few friend’s places that I will bring Tahsis to. I have irrational guilt and anxiety built into my personality it seems, so she only comes with me to friend’s houses who insist that I bring her and assure me 800 times over that she’s really not a bother.

    Perhaps I need to mellow out a bit 😛

    1. The alcohol — or the endorphin creating chocolate — can be equally useful in the case of the nervous guest.

  8. Riley, unfortunately, is VERY picky about what dogs she gets along with. She is a GREAT traveler in the car and loves car rides, but most of the people I know that I would even remotely, possibly visit with Riley have dogs…and I won’t know how she’ll interact with them until we get there, hundreds of miles away from home and no money for a hotel room if the dogs don’t get along. I’m just not that much of a risk taker…! Plus, Riley is so rambunctious at home that I’m sure she would be wired at someone else’s house too. Maybe when she gets a little older… I would love to be able to take her on a trip with me though. Sigh…perhaps one of these days. 🙂 I love the tips though, they make total sense!

  9. I like to bring fragrance free baby wipes with aloe with me. They work for several reasons
    1. as a compromise to washing feet (some people are shocked at the idea a dog has been in their kitchen sink or bathtub and not everyone has a mudroom wash basin),
    2. as a fastidious quick clean of the back end to assure hosts the dog is clean sitting on their floors, and
    3. even without fragrance when you use them on your dog’s coat, it still has a clean kind of scent that removes any wet dog smell if it’s that kind of weather. *That* is appreciated by non-dog owners!

    1. Great idea, Mary — especially the butt wipe part of it. You ARE a thoughtful guest. I’m sure you and Tashi are welcome everywhere.

  10. We brought Kelly to our daughter’s house and it didn’t go well at all. First, Kelly didn’t get along with our daughter’s cat. Then, although Kelly was used to the crate, she howled and barked when we left to go out to dinner. The landlord called and said they got complaints.

  11. Jersey has gone to a lot of my friend’s houses with very little incident. However, we did have a teddy bear snatching incident when I forgot to bring a toy with me. My friend was pretty cool with it and the baby didn’t mind a little dog slobber.

    I think that the most important rule is picking up the poo, especially if there are little kids around. Nobody wants their toddler to pick up a handfull of doggie doody :O

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