Travels with my Dogs: Catering to Canines

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We all love our dogs. They are the friendly companions who put up with our every mood; the true blue friends who don’t desert us in our darkest hour; the warmth at the bottom of the bed that keeps our toes warm.

So why do we so often leave them home when we travel?

Einstein McCullough Buschle
Einstein McCullough Buschle (He's a Chizer - half Chihuahua and half Schnauzer)

More and more places are allowing pets, especially dogs, to join their human companions on vacation. Of course, don’t expect Marmaduke to be allowed on a cruise ship or given his own seat on a plane, but with a bit of planning you can bring him along on your next road trip.

The AKC recommends bringing your pup in for a check up before you leave town. This is probably a good idea whenever you vacation, even is Fido must stay with friends or relatives while you lie on a beach. I like to bring my Einstein into our local groomers as well. A good bath and brushing can help cut down on extra shedding (and no one wants to be stuck with a smelly dog on an extended road trip).

We have two dogs, my little Einstein and the kids’ big dog Duke. In the car Duke gets his own seat and Einstein finds a lap to lay in. If you have a larger car or minivan, you might want to consider a crate for car travel (it’s required for all air travel). As long as your dog has enough room to stand up, turn around, and lie down again he’ll be fine. Some hotel chains even require your dog be crated while in the room. It goes without saying that you should never, ever put the crate on the top of your car. If you need more room, but a luggage rack – suitcases have a remarkable history of not getting scared.

Duke the Boxador Ridgehound
Duke the Boxador Ridgehound (aka lovable mutt)

Of course, dog traveling is different than human traveling; you’ll need to plan on more stops just for leg stretching and sniffing. Cars can get dry, so make sure there is water for both you and your dog. There are several good travel dishes on the market; some are collapsible and some are designed as “no-spill”. The AKC recommends not feeding your dog until you reach your destination as a way to avoid any unpleasant stomach sickness. If your dog is prone to car-sickness, he may not want to eat anyway.

Most importantly, you want your beloved companion to return home with you. Keep cats in their crates at all time when traveling, and make sure your dog is leashed. Dr David Frantz, owner/director of Fanwood Animal Hospital in New Jersey, suggests getting your pet microchipped. When you make your own rest stops, don’t force your pet wait for you in an airless hot car. Take turns with your human companions; this even gives your pet more time to rest as well!

A few of the cheaper motel chains have started allowing dogs as a matter of course. Others have restrictions, but most are easily met. Hotel 6, La Quinta and Red Roof Inn are some of the cheaper hotels that will always allow pups. Marriot Residence Inn offers 1-2 bedroom Pet Friendly Suites. The many motels of the Choice chain allows dogs and some even cats. Their website also offers advice on which cities are most pet-friendly, where you might find a local dog park, and general travel advice for both dogs and cats.

Einstein in the Window
Be careful letting your dog put his head out the window when traveling - It might cause eye injuries.

Don’t limit yourself to motels, either. Not only do many in-city hotels allow pets, they spoil them! The Kimpton Boutique Hotel chain allows “Any number of pets … regardless of size, weight, kind, or breed”. They offer Pet Packages and even have a Director of Pet Relations. Starwood W Hotels have the P.A.W. (Pets Are Welcome) program for both dogs and cats. Loews Hotels loves pets, even partnering with Banfield Pet Hospital® to offer their veterinary services should your pet become ill or injured while traveling. Or think out of the box – try a bed and breakfast or guest inn. Even some vacation rental properties will allow canines.

Be prepared, though, to pay a bit more. Although not all hotels charge an additional fee, the average is from $10 to $25 more per pet (after all, you’d pay for an additional human). Beware of huge overages; some places require a down payment, usually around $100, to defray any extra cleaning costs, some just charge it as an extra fee. And speaking of cleaning, housekeeping won’t enter when anyone is in the room, and that anyone includes pets. Let the front desk know when you plan on taking your dog out if you want maid service.

Here are some great websites that will help you plan your trip and find a place to stay:
Official Pet Hotels
Trips with Pets
Bring Fido
Go Pet Friendly 

Einstein and Duke
Home again, home again

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