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.