When you take your pet visiting, there are some rules to follow for a safe and happy trip. Although your pet may be as important to you as any other family member, not everyone feels that way, and making sure that your host is comfortable with the arrangements by following a few simple guidelines is the best way to ensure that your visit doesn't turn out to be a disaster.
Even though your family and friends may have pets of their own, that's no guarantee that your best furry or feathered friend will be a welcome addition to the guest list. Getting a firm invitation for you as well as your pet is important, especially since adjustments to a new environment can cause behavioral changes in your pet, like whining and aggression, which even you don't expect. Good will and a tolerant perspective on the part of your host is the foundation that will help you keep everything running reasonably smoothly.
Preparation is important. Just as you wouldn't take off for a week without a change of clothing and a toothbrush, you shouldn't plan a trip without considering your pet's need for food, water and a safe and secure enclosure. Beyond that, some planning for the unexpected will come in handy, too. Even though you might not need a pet first aid kit, a current photo of your pet or the number for your vet back home, having these items just in case could mean the difference between a temporary delay in your holiday festivities and a potentially life-threatening situation.
In the next few pages, we'll look at houseguest etiquette when traveling with pet companions and explain some fundamental dos and don'ts that will help to ensure a pleasant visit for all involved. First up, getting the green light from your host.
10. Get the Green Light
Before you plan a trip, check with your host to make sure your pet is welcome. Prior trips shouldn't be a guarantee that Sparky or Chester will be welcome this time, too. The addition of a new baby or pet to the household you're visiting, a recent remodel or the possibility of other guests with pet aversions can change the dynamics of a visit and impact whether or not the welcome mat is out for your pet.
It's also a good idea to ask if your host has checked with all members of the family just to be sure. Don't spoil a nice holiday or day trip by causing strife because one host thinks your bringing your pet is OK while the other doesn't. Ask a few friendly questions about any pets your host may have, and be honest about your pet's inclinations toward other animals. If your cat will stop at nothing to get at a caged bird, visiting a sister who keeps lovebirds could be dicey if you aren't honest about the potential problems in advance. The solution might be as easy as placing your pet in another part of the house. In extreme cases, there are many hotels and motels these days that allow pets, and keeping peace in the family or ensuring a continued friendship is worth a lot more than a night's lodging.
Let's move to the next page, where we'll put together a trip plan with pets in mind.
9. Plan Ahead
Being a successful houseguest means planning, and this is doubly true when pets are involved. You wouldn't think of asking your host to pay to have your favorite cereal or chocolate on hand, so don't rely on him or her to stock pet food, litter or any of the other items your pet may need. Being prepared for any eventuality you can think of will help ensure a less stressful visit. Many pets are anxious when in unfamiliar surroundings. Make things easier for everyone by taking care of the necessities and bringing along some of the extra comforts your pet is accustomed to.
The list below will give you some ideas about the types of things you should bring with you:
- Proof of vaccinations
- A recent photograph of your pet (in case it gets lost)
- Your vet's phone number
- Your pet's medication
- Food (Bring the brands of food it normally eats.)
- Can Opener
- Grooming Items (like brushes, nail trimmers and shampoo)
- Latex Gloves
- Handheld vacuum
- Carpet deodorizer
- Paper towels
- Litter, sand or shavings
- Trash bags
- First aid kit (hydrogen peroxide, petroleum jelly, scissors, tweezers, gauze, bandages, adhesive tape, pet first aid booklet)
You know your pet better than anyone else, so use that knowledge to your advantage. If your pet is a seasoned traveler, you'll know better how it will behave and can try to plan for it. If not, don't assume that your even-tempered cat or dog will react to a new experience, like visiting a strange place, the way he responds to familiar surroundings. An upset stomach, increased shedding, constipation, moodiness, anxiety, whining, barking and increased aggression are ways an animal can react to the unknown.
Make sure your pet is wearing identification, like a collar with a tag that has your address and phone number on it in case it gets lost or runs away. Until you know what to expect from both your pet and your host's hospitality, be prepared.
In the next section, we'll talk about household rules and wishes regarding pet visitors.
8. Know the House Rules
At home, you may keep your Chihuahua with you on the loveseat, but don't expect your host to share your enthusiasm for welcoming your dog or cat on the furniture. Rules vary from household to household, and that's fine, as long as everyone knows what the rules are. To keep things cordial, don't wait until you break a taboo to understand what's expected; ask.
Even folks who have pets themselves may have very different ideas of how they share their homes with them. From using separate can openers for people food and dog food and only allowing animals in certain areas of a home to allowing the dog in the hot tub with you, the list of restrictions may be long or short, but whatever they are, you're in someone else's home, so respect them.
To be safe, ask questions before you assume anything:
- Will there be restricted areas of the home?
- Where will your pet be eating?
- Is it allowed on the furniture?
- Is it allowed in the yard?
- Is it safe for your pet to interact with other household pets and children?
- Where will it be sleeping?
The clearer the rules are from the beginning, the happier everyone will be.
For your own part, be candid about the potential problems, like your pet whining if it's separated from you overnight. Using this new information, it may be consigned to the garage, or even given the run of the guest bedroom to stay with you and keep the noise level down. Whatever the outcome, you'll be saving your host a sleepless night if you're honest. The same goes for potential accidents on the carpet, chewing, or territoriality near food. Armed with the facts, you can work together to come up with a strategy that suits everyone.
On the next page, we'll talk about introducing a pet into a new and potentially scary environment.
7. Make the Introductions
Be careful when introducing a pet into a new environment. Make sure to provide a safe area, like a carrier, and place it in a location that's quiet and out of the way. Let your pet get used to the new sounds and smells gradually. After it's begun to relax a little, try introducing it to your hosts, their children and their pets. Try spreading this out over the course of a few hours, and always provide a safe haven, a spot where your pet can feel secure when it starts getting overwhelmed.
Many animals are territorial, and your pet will probably be feeling at a disadvantage. The calmer the environment stays, and the more soothing and reassuring you can be with your pet, the faster it will acclimate. Your pet's safety and the safety of others is the most important consideration, so never just let your pet out of its carrier and hope things will sort themselves out. Introduce it to a controlled environment, and then bring people in one at a time. Introduce other pets only after they've been restrained. Get your hosts to help you during the settling-in period. They understand their pets better than you do. Remove breakables from the room until you're sure that your pet is adapting well.
One of the best ways you can help your pet adapt to new people and animals is by socializing it while it's still young. Exposing your pet to new people and situations gradually over the course of its formative years by taking it on walks and in the car teaches it that new experiences don't have to be frightening, that sometimes they're fun and interesting. Learning this lesson makes your pet a better traveler and a better companion.
Follow along to the next page where we'll talk about ways to make sure your pet stays safe.
6. Keep Your Pet Secure
Before you ever get to your destination, there are some things to look out for. Are there any quarantines on pets where you're going? If you'll be using public transportation, know the requirements and restrictions. There may also be increased health risks where you're going, like exposure to Lyme disease, heartworms, or predators like large birds, coyotes or alligators. Your best approach to any of these potential problems is being informed so you can take precautions [source: AAA Pet Book].
Good communication with your host can help keep your pet secure, too. Keeping doors, windows and gates to the outside closed will help keep your pet from running away. If your host family is unfamiliar with keeping pets, some of the habits you've adopted to keep your pet safe, like closing the door behind you immediately when you walk into the house, may not be habits for them. Talking with them about your concerns for your pet's safety can help them understand some of these issues better.
In case your pet does get out unsupervised, make sure it's wearing identification tags and that you have a good current photograph of it. Taking these measures will help in finding it quickly.
You should also evaluate immediate dangers posed by pest traps, poisonous plants and other hazards where you'll be staying. Don't expect your host to think of these things for you. Your pet's safety is your responsibility.
How is your pet at playtime? In the next section, we'll take a look at ways you can make sure your pet plays well with others.
5. Make Sure Your Pet Plays Well With Others
If your pet is well socialized, it'll have a better time visiting a multi-pet household, but even this isn't a guarantee that your pet will get along with the new housemates. When visiting, approach all animal interactions with caution, especially when animals are mismatched in size. Monitor all encounters between your pet and others until you're sure that your pet is assimilating into the new household. Be particularly careful when there are young children present. Animals that are unfamiliar with young children can misinterpret curiosity for aggression and react violently. Instruct young children to be respectful of your pet, and keep playtime under close supervision.
Don't assume that your pet will love all animals because it's always gotten along with animals before. New surroundings and situations can cause your pet to react in unexpected ways. Sometimes this can mean cowering under the furniture, and other times, it can mean growling and nipping. The introduction of new animals or people, loud noises and competition for food can all be triggers for changes in pet behavior. Until you feel confident that your pet won't be a threat to children, other animals or property, watch it closely or keep it segregated in a carrier or separate room.
4. Organize Road Trips and Play Dates
When you travel, you may want to see the sights and include your pet in your plans. When visiting parks or just going for a walk around a new neighborhood, use caution and respect the rights of others.
Always keep your pet on a leash, and ask about any potential hazards, like road construction, problems with unsupervised dogs in the neighborhood and any park regulations that may be in effect. Carry your pet's vaccination information and a photograph with you in case you're stopped by a park official or become separated. Never leave your pet unattended.
If you're traveling by public transportation, check for any pet restrictions before you head out the door, and if you plan on taking the car, use caution when driving. Pets who are unaccustomed to car travel can become agitated. Never leave your pet in a car unattended. Temperatures may be higher or lower than you're accustomed to, and a pet trapped in a vehicle can suffer extremes of heat and cold in a relatively short period of time.
Be cautious when interacting with unfamiliar animals or people. Your laidback dog may feel that the walk to a park filled with strange smells and sounds on top of an overnight stay in a new house is too much stimulation and become distressed or aggressive. Watch your pet closely, and supervise any petting or playtime activities.
3. Clean Up
Whatever the variety of pet you bring with you, there's bound to be added mess. Pet hair, flying feathers, dribbled kitty litter, cedar or pine shavings, and dropped pet food should be cleaned up regularly. Carry a handheld vacuum cleaner with you if you can, and keep it handy.
Pet waste should be cleaned up as quickly as possible. It's more sanitary than waiting and reduces problems with odor. People who are unaccustomed to keeping pets can be sensitive to odors that pet lovers easily ignore. When you're visiting, don't risk offending anyone. If you expect to be invited back, make regular cleanup a habit. This goes for waste in the yard as well. Your pet may think the lawn is its private domain, but your host will probably disagree. The quicker you remove feces and saturate urine spots on the lawn with water, the less damage your pet's activities will do to the landscape. Your hosts will thank you [source: Pet Education].
Be considerate and clean up after your pet in public, too. Public parks that welcome pets may have cleaning stations stocked with bags for cleanup, but don't expect this nicety wherever you go. Be prepared by carrying plastic bags with you. It's good manners, and in some areas, you can be fined for neglecting this chore. Nobody likes it, but it's a necessary part of pet ownership.
Once you've cleaned up after your pet, prepare it for nighttime by planning the sleeping arrangements. Learn how in the next section.
2. Strategize Sleeping Arrangements
Although there may be a number of things -- like staining the lawn and bringing pet dander into the home -- that make your pet a challenging guest, there are few problem areas that can cause frustration and short tempers more than your pet's nighttime whining and barking. If you think your pet may be noisy at night, be candid with your host before you travel. In preparation for your trip, you can also try training your pet in gradual steps to spend the night away from you. If the behavior is a surprise to you, too, there are a couple of other things you can do to address the problem.
If your pet is accustomed to sleeping with or near you, it's a big adjustment for it to sleep alone, especially in a new place. If it's being kept in the garage, you may not want to sleep there with it, but you may be able to come up with a compromise with your hosts and bring your own sheets and blankets so your pet can stay in the guestroom with you. If this isn't possible, try making sure your pet gets lots of exercise and stimulation during the day and eats early in the evening. This strategy tires him out and gets it ready for sleep. Bring its blankets and toys on the trip with you, and include something that smells like you to place in its bedding. Don't punish your dog for whining or barking. This is the way it's communicating to you that it is lonely and possibly frightened.
If you respond immediately to the whining and crying, this will encourage your pet to keep it up. Place the pet in its sleeping area before everyone retires and see what happens. If it starts to whine, don't go to it immediately. Wait a few minutes, visit it briefly and then leave again. Increase the length of time between visits and see if this encourages the whining to stop.
In the next section, we'll talk about the habit that distinguishes an experienced on the road pet owner -- being prepared for the unexpected.
1. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
Being prepared is part of the process of expecting the unexpected when traveling with your pet. The rest involves being observant. You know your pet better than anyone, and although its behavior in a new environment can be startling, you're in the best position to deal with it successfully.
Watch your pet for signs of frustration and aggression, like growling and lip curling. Be aware of its needs by remembering the last time it used the litter or went outside. Know where your pet is at all times. Supervise playtime with young children and other pets. Schedule and prepare for your pet's bedtime by making sure its sleeping area is ready and comfortable.
Watch your pet for signs of discomfort or distress and keep a first aid kit for small injuries. Make a special effort to spend time with your pet through the day so it doesn't feel neglected or abandoned. Keep your pet's safety in mind. This includes keeping your host's property secure, making sure that your pet is safe in the car or on public transportation, and watching for other animals or pets that could be a danger to it.
Always have health information and a photo of your pet available, and make sure that your pet is wearing identification that will help reunite it with you if it gets lost.
Some of these steps may seem unnecessary for a brief trip, but remember, it only takes a momentary lapse to cause an injury or lose your pet. Your host is relying on you to make your visit a safe one, and it's your job to protect your pet and everyone it comes in contact with.
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More Great Links
- Socializing Your Dog With Field Trips
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- Preparing Your Pet's Travel Supplies
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