Can I Take My Dog on Holiday?
Betty Horner, a grandmother of seven in Middleburg, Va., has been bringing pets on family road trips since before some of her kids could walk. “It used to be that the dogs could only come if we were camping out or going to the beach house,” says Horner. “Now, if we want to, we can take our dogs to the Four Seasons.”
For many families, a vacation is no longer a vacation without their dog present. But bringing a dog along requires serious consideration, from deciding on your mode of transportation to determining where to stay and what to do.
Nine Things You Need to Do Before You Bring Your Dog on Your Next Trip
Choose Your Lodging Carefully
When choosing a hotel, take time to find out what the pet policies are. Many hotels have weight limits; some have breed restrictions and most require advance reservations. Most hotels post pet policies on their Website, but it’s a good idea to review the rules when you make your reservation so there are no surprises later.
Also, be sure you know the rules once you arrive. Len Kain, vice president of marketing at DogFriendly, says, “Don’t assume you can sit in the lobby and have a drink with your dog or play chess with your dog.” Most hotels provide pet owners with a list of rules upon check in. If you don’t receive a list, when in doubt, ask about the hotel’s policies.
Many hotels now cater to dog owners like you. Now you can stay at hotels ranging from luxury chains, where you can expect royal rover treatment, to reasonably priced hotels, which place more emphasis on functionality rather than style.
Puttin’ On the Rover Ritz
With few exceptions, nearly the entire Ritz Carlton chain allows dogs. Just be sure to check the pet policy at your particular destination, as rules can differ among various hotels, even if they are under associated ownership. Call ahead to ask if your dog is welcome at that specific hotel, and also keep in mind that each hotel within a chain may offer different pet perks.
At the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans, for example, you can arrange for a dog bed, tags, chew toys, bowls, designer collars and leashes. The hotel even provides door hangers saying “woof,” and the staff will show you the grass, a block away, where your dog can do its business.
“We’ve had several movie crews enjoy long-term stays here with their pets,” said Char Schroeder, a Ritz spokesperson. “Queen Latifah was here for three months with her Weimaraner, Isis. We provide dog walkers and sitters.” Schroeder adds, “To get the most out of your visit, I recommend calling ahead to discuss your pet’s size, age and needs, and we’ll explain what amenities are available.” Although the hotel’s policy applies to dogs 40 pounds or less, it accepts larger dogs on a case-by-case basis. Discuss the matter with your agent when making reservations.
Loews Loves Pets, Too
The Loews hotel chain offers a “Loews Loves Pets” program that begins with a personal note from the hotel’s general manager. It lists all the pet services available at the hotel, plus dog walking routes, veterinary contacts, nearby pet shops and groomers, pet sitters and restaurants where dogs are welcome. Dogs receive complimentary pet treats and a toy. Pets get their own place mats with food and water bowls. Specialized pet bedding is available.
Loews’ “Did You Forget Closet” includes dog beds, leashes, collars and pet videos. Even room service caters to pets by offering grilled lamb or chicken for dogs. Loews will help to arrange for special services and, after you leave, the staff initiates a thorough “pet-cleaning process” that includes filtered vacuums to remove pet allergens so that all future guests can enjoy their stay, too.
Read Up and Hit the Red Roof
If you often travel, consider purchasing a guide such as DogFriendly.com‘s Lodging Guide for Travelers with Dogs (DogFriendly.com Inc. 2008). According to the online resource DogFriendly, many of the larger, widespread chains accept pets. These include Best Western, Candlewood-Staybridge, Choice Hotels, Holiday Inn, La Quinta Inns/Suites, Loews, Motel 6, Novotel Innworks, Red Roof Inn, Sheraton-Westin and Studio 6. Expect a one-time pet fee per stay at most chain hotels. The fee usually ranges from $25 to $150.
The Red Roof Inn’s 350 hotels all accept dogs. The chain attracts dog show attendees, as well as families and individuals traveling with their dogs. “Some people drive twenty or thirty miles out of their way to stay with us, because they know how pet-friendly we are,” said Randy Fox of Red Roof Inn. “If you call ahead, we’ll arrange for a convenient first floor room for you.”
Technically, the hotels only allow one pet per room, but their staff understands the needs of dog show people with multiple canines, and they will try to work out a suitable arrangement. In general, however, it helps to travel with just one dog, since it’s hard enough to keep track of one, much less two or more, when on the road.
Red Roof Inn asks that you mention your dog when checking in so housekeeping knows your pet is there. They require that pets not be left unattended, although someone inevitably breaks the rules. “We’ve had cases where surprised housekeeping staff has run after a dog, but we haven’t lost one yet,” says Fox. “We had a big manhunt once where the whole staff got in cars and drove around and found the runaway dog.” Fox adds, “We try to have as few rules as possible to make it easy for folks with pets to stay with us; all we ask is that our guests use common courtesy.”
Ways to Get the Most from Your Stay
- Call Ahead to ensure dogs are welcome, because in some chains, the pet policy is up to the franchise owner.
- Ask what the pet policy is, since all hotels have one. Discuss your situation before you arrive, not when you’re checking in.
- Inform hotel staff of your pet’s size and age Don’t consider sneaking a Great Dane into a hotel that has a 40-pound limit for dogs. Ask about your big dog because decisions are often made on a case-by-case basis, and let’s face it, you can’t sneak around a hotel’s interior corridors with a Great Dane or other large pooch anyway
- Ask what amenities are available, such as bowls, beds, leashes, pet sitting and dog walking.
- Don’t leave your dog unattended if that’s the policy. Barking could disturb other guests, and the housekeeper could accidentally let your dog out of your room, which can be a nightmare for both owners and hotel staff.
- Respect the hotel’s policy about where dogs are allowed on the premises.
- Consider your needs and develop a detailed itinerary before deciding where to stay.
- Ask the front desk about nearby safe dog-walking routes
Assure a Warm Welcome in the Future
It takes just a few bad apples to spoil the barrel. Some chains have only recently allowed dogs. Inconsiderate behavior could reverse that trend. Be sure to mind both your and your dog’s manners. For example, it’s critical to prevent excess barking, and you must pick up your dog’s feces immediately. The bottom line is that in order for a dream vacation with your dog to stay dreamy, you have to be considerate of others. If you and your dog behave yourselves, you’ll both be welcome back soon.
Getting There – Plane, Train, Automobile or Bus?
If you plan to travel with your dog in tow, you can cross Amtrak and Greyhound off of your list of transportation options, since the only canines permitted are service dogs.
Driving is certainly the most conducive to bringing a dog because you are in control and you are still in your own environment. When it comes to pit stops, however, you need more than just a clean bathroom. Plan your stops in areas where you can safely walk your leashed dog.
Can I Take My Dog on a Plane? – Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Air
Air travel is complicated enough and when you add a dog to the mix, it can get downright crazy. With a little advance planning, though, it is doable. Horner, who only flies with her small dogs, which can fit under the seat, says, “There are a lot of factors to consider when you bring your dog on the plane. I only fly direct and I dread delays even more so than usual.”
Whether your dog is small enough to travel in the cabin or is relegated to the cargo section, the airlines have strict guidelines for flying with a pet, especially when it comes to kenneling, as well as feeding and watering your dog prior to departure. It is imperative that you follow all instructions to help ensure a safe journey for your pet and fellow passengers. You can find pet policies on most airline Websites or by calling the airline’s customer service number.
Did you know Pugs are at an increased risk when flying, compared with other dogs? Veterinarians have long been concerned about this fact, and now there’s more evidence thanks to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). During a five year collection period, DOT recorded all pet deaths during air travel. There were 122 dog deaths in that time period, and approximately half of them were “short-faced” breeds, like Pugs and Bulldogs.
Breed-Specific Flying Problems
Brachycephalic is the word used for these kinds of dogs, which also include Boxers, Bullmastiffs, Pekingese and others. The defining characteristic is a skull that’s broad and short. “These brachycephalic dogs tend to have abnormalities that cause them to have a constellation of respiratory issues,” says Dr. Trisha Joyce, an emergency veterinarian at New York City Veterinary Specialists. “Many of them also tend to be excited, nervous dogs. So, anxiety-producing situations would cause them to pant more and become more anxious. This can drive temperatures up and cause them to hyperventilate.”
Joyce thinks the real trouble is due to being away from their owners in the cargo hold. She advises against air travel if you have a Pug or Bulldog that would need to travel in the cargo hold. Many airlines will also no longer fly Bulldogs under any circumstances.
Safe Air Travel for Dogs
While 122 deaths may seem like a lot, the DOT calls it an “extremely small percentage” of the total number of dogs that traveled by air in that five-year span, but the DOT does not record the number of dogs that fly successfully. In fact, there are many brachycephalic dogs that did not make the list at all, such as Chow Chows, Shih Tzus and Boston Terriers.
“This number is hard to assemble because the airlines are not required to report it,” says Susan Smith, president of PetTravel.com. “We have heard that it is somewhere around 2 to 3 million.” Pet Travel is a repository of mostly free information that helps people travel with their pets. You can get lists of dog-friendly hotels, animal policies for different airlines, and even pet immigration information. “We started in the late 1990s with less than 2,000 pet-friendly hotels nationwide,” says Smith. “Now we have over 36,000 pet-friendly hotels and services in our database.”
Other companies, like PetAirways.com and FlyPets.com, are animal-only airlines. All animals fly in the cabin, and there are trained flight attendants on board. Prices might be a little steeper and only select major cities are serviced.
Tips for Flying With Your Dog
Very small dogs will be allowed to fly in the cabin with you, and Joyce recommends going that route if you can. Otherwise, she and Smith offer some tips to assure your dog has a safe flight:
Get a Veterinarian’s Clearance
If you are flying, you are required to present a health certificate signed by your veterinarian when you check in. This document certifies that your dog is current on all vaccinations and is fit to travel. Be sure to keep this piece of paper in a safe place with your other travel documents. While you are at your veterinarian’s office, also stock up on any medications your dog will require while you are both away from home.
Don’t Skimp on the Crate
Get a crate that’s big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in. It should also have adequate ventilation and spring-locked doors.
Practice Having Your Dog in the Crate
If your dog is not accustomed to being in a crate, take your dog on car trips while inside the crate, preferably to a place your dog likes.
Choose a Direct Flight
It’s stressful enough for dogs to fly, but being transferred to a different plane’s cargo hold can just add to it. If you must, make it a transfer where you can be with your dog in between. Hydrate your dog when you do.
Ask questions and make sure the airline staff knows your dog is onboard. Ask to receive confirmation that your dog was safely loaded, and make sure the captain is informed since he or she monitors the cargo hold’s temperature and pressure.
The vast majority of dogs who fly do so with no problems, so don’t let the fear of a rare event ruin your plans.
Get Your Dog Prepared to Travel
According to Kain, “You should orient your dog to traveling prior to your trip. If the only place you take your dog in the car is to the veterinarian’s office, your dog is not going to like the car. Start taking your dog places that are fun for your dog.” Additionally, if you are planning an active vacation, make sure your dog is in top condition. After getting a clear bill of health from your veterinarian, try going on long walks, runs or hikes with your dog to prep your pet. If you know you are going to encounter crowds on your trip, make sure your dog is comfortable around people by taking it with you to parks and other dog-friendly places where you can test your pup’s people skills.
Take Your Dog’s Usual Food and Water
While you may be ready to sample the local cuisine, your dog is used to eating the same food every day and will be dealing with enough excitement without a sudden change in diet.
To prevent diarrhea, it is a good idea to bring water from home or try buying filtered water at your destination. “We’ve been taking our dogs to the beach for almost thirty years,” Horner says. “It took a couple of years before I realized that bringing water from home prevented an awful lot of stomach problems and messes.”
Make Sure Your Dog Has a Collar With a Current ID Tag
If you and your dog should become separated, you want to do everything possible to ensure a quick reunion. The best way to do this is to securely attach a current contact number to your dog’s collar. You may also want to talk to your veterinarian about implanting a microchip in your dog, since collars and ID tags can fall off.
Bring Your Dog’s Leash
Your dog may be perfectly trained off leash, but according to Kain, using a leash is a good idea when “your dog is in an environment not his own and is exposed to new scents.” In addition to protecting your dog, a leash provides a sense of security to people around you who may be fearful of dogs. Also note that some places, mainly in the United States, have leash laws requiring you to keep your puppy on its leash at all times while in public.
Bring Your Dog’s Bed or Crate and a Favorite Toy
If you have children, you appreciate the importance of packing your child’s security blanket. The same goes for dogs that will be much more relaxed if they have their own bed with all its familiar lumps and scents. Also, be sure to pack enough toys to keep your dog entertained.
If your pooch is crate trained, seriously consider bringing its crate. Many hotels require that dogs be crated when left alone in the room.
Know When to Leave Your Dog at Home
When all is said and done, if your dog is going to spend the entire vacation cooped up in a hotel room alone, or if your dog is antisocial, aggressive, or anxious in new situations, then your dog may be better off at home with a pet sitter. With a little forethought, a solid plan and some common sense, however, there is no reason your dog can’t take part in your next adventure.