You’re about to load the luggage into the car boot. You check your handbag one last time to make sure you have all your important documents with you, and it’s time to go. But wait – sitting in front of your door is the cutest creature with big doe eyes, whining and pleading with you not to deprive it of its favourite person in the whole wide world. But as much as you want to hug it and kiss it and assure it that you’ll never leave it alone, the truth is, we know it’s hard – to some, near impossible – to bring your furry friend on a trip. Transportation, accommodation, pet welfare – so many things to consider and worry about for the sake of a furry loved one.
In fact, travelling constraints are often reasons for our reluctance to keep pets. “Who’s going to feed the dog when I’m gone?”, “Who’s going to give it showers and take it out for walks?” – These are just a few of the concerns potential pet-owners may have when deciding whether to add a furry member to the extended family tree or not. Of course, these questions plague pet-owners as well, and it’s always an indescribable agony to leave your pets at home while you go for a short trip (that might not even be too enjoyable when your pet appears in your dreams, pining for your return). But that shouldn’t deter us from keeping pets or going on trips – here are some tips on how you can bring your furry friend on your next trip and psst, you could look glam like Victoria Beckham while you are at it.
1. Travel “friendly”
Before excitedly booking tickets for a dream vacation with your furry friend, it pays to do some research on which airlines are pet-friendly and which are not. Two pet-friendly airlines may not have the same regulations as well, which can range from health certificate requirements, crating requirements and even breed restrictions for certain pets, so it’s best to read up on the different regulations before choosing a suitable airline. Pettravel.com (http://www.pettravel.com/site-map-pet-friendly-airline-rules-regulations.cfm) has a neatly compiled list of pet policies from different airlines to make your travels a bit smoother.
If you’re a fan of The Dog Whisperer (or an adoring fan like me), you’ll be pleased to know that the Cesar Milan offered some travel tips for plane or car travel (primarily for dogs). Though some pet-owners may feel upset about having to crate their pets for travel, Cesar actually recommends it, but he advises against big, teary, emotional farewells that may cause dogs to assume that something is wrong. To avoid pets from becoming restless during the travel, he recommends engaging them in activity to expend their pent-up energy, as well as cutting down on feeding or drinking (but providing just enough water to hydrate the dog) so that dogs do not need a “potty break” too soon into the travel.
2. Live “friendly”
Finding an accommodation that is both comfortable for you and your pet may be tricky, especially when there are other hotel guests present (who may be allergic to pet fur). A pet-friendly hotel smack in the middle of a busy, urbanized area may not be the best consideration as well, especially if your pet is very energetic, or is sensitive to loud noises. Websites such as BringFido.com (http://www.bringfido.com/), DogFriendly.com (http://www.dogfriendly.com/) and Wotif.com (http://www.wotif.com/hotels/australia-pet-friendly-hotels.html) offer great choices of accommodation for pets. Some hotels even offer pet-owner bonding courses, such as surfing with your dog!
Pets may need some “conditioning” to get used to new environments. New sights, smells and sounds can throw some pets off their usual behaviour, especially dogs. Cesar Millan recommends leading the dog into the new environment e.g. the hotel room and making sure your scent is around the room before introducing any activity with the dog. Make sure you bring your pet’s favourite toy along too, as familiar objects may provide comfort your pet in a new environment.
3. Explore “friendly”
If you’re planning to bring your pet along for a holiday, bonding activities are a must. But unlike one’s neighbourhood, some cities do not encourage or allow pets to roam around certain parts of the city. Hiking spots are usually a good place to start with. Gardens or parks may be a bit risky; BringFido.com offers a list of pet-friendly attractions and restaurants to complete your travel experience. Cat cafes are also a great place for your cats to have some bonding with their fellow feline mates (but do inquire beforehand if the cafes allow customers to bring their own cats).
Again, exploring new places will be a very foreign experience for pets, especially those which was not accustomed to regular travelling. Some smaller pets such as hedgehogs may need special travelling bags to keep them secure while you’re on the go, so it would be wise to make some small investments to keep your pet comfortable and your trip hitch-free. Keeping a close eye on your pets helps to alert you if your pets need any extra reassurances that they are not in a dangerous area (and that you will do your absolute best to protect them regardless).
4. Activity, activity, activity
Going on a trip with your pet is essentially meaningless if you don’t spend time with your pet outside the comforts of your hotel room. It’s alright to leave your pets in your hotel room for a short time while you conduct some solo exploring, but ultimately the whole point of bringing your pet along for a trip is to have a truly touristy experience with it. Activity should be high on your list when planning the agenda for your pet-present holiday.
Activity is especially important for dogs as well, because they need to expend their pent-up energy. They might choose to expend their energy verbally – disturbing other hotel guests in the process – if not given the proper activity to sooth their excitement. Even hedgehogs need to roam around, as do more exotic pets. Off-leash dog parks are a great way for your furry friend to run to its heart’s delight, and what makes your pet happy (aside from wrecking the house) should make you happy too.
Finally, and most importantly……
5. Train your basics well
A well-trained pet will most likely be easier to train once you get to a new environment. (Not to mention it saves you unnecessary embarrassment for being the “owner-with-that-super-hyperactive-pet”) Perhaps this is more relevant to dogs compared to any other conventional pet. Some websites recommend training the dog along the trip, as house training may not follow a dog to unfamiliar settings. Keep your rewards pouch close to you when you go out to explore; it may mean the difference between violating regulations and enjoying a fun holiday.
Last but not least, pack well for yourself and your pet so that neither feels out-of-place at a new destination. These simple tips – plus a little consultation with “experienced” pet owners – will make it a less terrifying experience for your pet, and a less stressful affair for yourself. After 4 days of exploration, both owner and pet will return home with a smile plastered on the face and perhaps some excited wagging of the tail.
Feature photo – www.communitytable.com/
Dog in carrier bag – www.sheknows.com/
Cat cafe – www.vox.com/
Training a dog – www.tdcolive.net/