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Should they stay or should they go?
Holiday travel and your dog

My Pet Magazine 2008
By Michele Kraft

Those winter holidays are right around the corner, bringing comfort and joy as well as no small amount of stress. Many of us will be traveling over several days and face the issue of how to best care for our dogs when we travel. Many of us bend over backwards to take our dogs with us, it is wise to think about that experience from the perspective of your pooch.

For example, is spending six to twelve hours in the luggage handling areas of airports and the freezing baggage compartment of an airplane anything short of terrifying? They are happy to see you after the ordeal is over, but that doesn’t tell you anything about what they just went through.  Each airline has its own restrictions for in-cabin transport and for pets checked as baggage. Everything from your pet’s weight to the temperature on the ground are the subject of conditions, so be certain to closely examine the airline’s regulations before booking your flight.

Traveling by car has its downside too, though mandatory water and walk breaks every few hours are as good for you as they are for your traveling companion. You must also take into consideration that your host may not be thrilled with the idea of your dearest doggie upsetting the order of the household, as much as you may want your furry friend around to help lighten the mood. With so much to consider, My Dog offers some tips to help you organize your pet’s holiday experience.

Taking Fido with you

If your destination is not accustomed to having a pet around, this visit can be a culture shock for your host. Do your best to anticipate what might cause friction and head it off at the pass. You'll find your holidays much more joyful and fun. 

  • Get Permission
    When bringing your pet with you, always get permission from the supervising humans at your destination. Checking in with your adolescent nephew is not enough; though it may help you rally initial support. From hotels to dear Aunt Mary, this is one situation where you will not want to gamble on getting forgiveness in the end rather than permission first. Anticipate emotional reactions, both good and bad, and do not take them personally!
  • Be Up-to-Date
    Bring records of your pet’s vaccinations and medical history. Bring more than enough food and any medications your pet needs. Yes, you really could be snowed in for a week on the day you are supposed to leave. And with all of the excitement of travel and meeting new people, your pet’s tummy does not need to have the extra burden of adjusting to a new food. Prepare for the worst to enjoy the most.
  • Be Courteous
    Make sure your happy bundle of fur is sparkling clean and tidy. No long nails and greasy ears allowed. Follow house rules regarding mealtime etiquette- this is often a sore spot for others if it isn’t for you. Take fastidious care of your pet’s toileting. Unless you are out in the wilds and off footpaths, is not OK to leave Fi Fi’s morning offering anywhere but in a bag in the trash can.
  • Be realistic
    How is your pet going to interact with everything in the Holiday Environment? Do a mental inventory of those who will be present, the fixtures and furniture involved. Is this going to be a pleasure for everyone involved or a forced situation that causes anxiety? The holidays are stressful for many of us for a variety of reasons, so don’t put your pet in the scapegoat seat. You’re the one who’s going to take the rap in the end if things go awry.


Parting is such sweet sorrow

Yes, it’s heart breaking, but the kennel or in-home care may be the best option for you and your pet. Or perhaps it’s not so heart breaking and you’re really looking forward to skipping three walks a day. Either way, there are a few key points to consider when you board your dog.


  • Visit first
    Most kennels these days won’t let you reserve a run until they’ve met your dog and have your vaccination records in hand. You should be just as demanding of them. A facility that is willing to meet you the day you drop off your dog raises questions about what kind of treatment your pup is likely to get, and what you’ll be exposing her to. Visiting facilities well in advance of your departure also gives you the advantage of being able to take your business elsewhere. If you think you may be kenneling your pet this holiday season, start the interview and reservation process immediately. It is not too early.
  • Facilities
    Are the grounds clean and well maintained? Are there strong odors? Insect infestations? Are doors and kennels secure? What about climate control? If your pet is accustomed to sleeping on a nice warm sofa all day, she may not have the coat for an unheated run. Is bedding provided? Is it enough? Do you have the option of bringing your own?  
  • Attitude
    What impression do you get from the staff? Are they interested in your pet or do they seem to feel they are doing you a favor? A callous attitude is an indicator of how your pet is going to be treated. Though you probably won’t meet everyone who’ll come into contact with your pet, you will see a general atmosphere of the staff. Make note of it.
  • Get a list
    Have the kennel provide you with a complete list of what you need to bring with you the day you drop off your pet. Find out if you can leave favorite toys and bedding. Provide a local contact if possible, along with multiple phone numbers at your destination. List medications and describe how to administer them. Most states require that boarding facilities have your pet’s vaccination record on file, and have a specific list of the vaccinations required. This is another excellent reason to plan well in advance- hauling Rex to the vet for a kennel cough vaccination on December 23rd may put a damper on your holiday mood.
  • Food
    Maintaining your pet’s normal diet is critical. Many kennels require you to bring your pet’s food, along with a measuring cup. If they don’t, insist that you bring it. Besides avoiding gastronomic distress, it is actually comforting to your pet to have her familiar food.
  • Extras
    Many upscale kennels offer a wide range of luxuries, from televisions to massages. Some even offer swimming pools for their esteemed guests. While you might feel better about leaving your pet in such an environment, think carefully about what you are selecting. Extra walks and special playtime attention may be more enjoyable than a movie.
  • Relax
    Your pet is in good hands. Unless the kennel opened up yesterday, they have worked with thousands of dogs over many years. You did your research and found a place you are comfortable with. Don’t feel guilty- take a deep breath and enjoy the holidays!

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Text and images unless otherwise noted are
Copyright Michele Kraft, 2017

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Michele Kraft and Darling Dreamweaver