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Shanan Kelley
By Shanan Kelley

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To travel with pets or without, that is the question. The answer is, it depends.  With canine separation anxiety at an all-time high following home quarantine and Covid related travel restrictions presenting new pet travel challenges, deciding whether or not to take your furry friend on your next vacation requires thoughtful consideration. Read on for recommendations for how to travel well with – and without – your best 4-legged buddy.

Traveling with Pets

Traveling with pets is great; it stimulates them, offers them opportunities for socializing, and designing travel plans around furry friends means we will spend lots of time outdoors. However, not all pets are cut out for life on the road. Liz Uhlman, a pet-sitter and dog walker in Central Oregon recommends carefully observing your pet while traveling. Watch for signs of anxiety by reading their body language. Uhlman says it is a common misconception that we can take our dogs anywhere. Dog owners should proceed slowly and with caution.

Stay curious and open to what is best for your animal and train them while they are young. Most dogs want a “job,” and giving them a toy or puzzle while on the road to keep them occupied can make all the difference. Most dogs and cats prefer to have some alone time which means crate training is in most cases a great idea. Crates provide a comforting and familiar environment when in new and unfamiliar locations. For animals with crate anxiety, providing them with a toy or something to chew on can help.

In cases where the pet’s anxiety is extreme and they are at risk for injuring themselves, Uhlman recommends consulting a pet behavior specialist or professional trainer prior to making travel plans. Ulman’s big takeaway? “Normalize learning about your dog [or cat].” Getting to know your pet’s personality and special needs ensures your ability to create a successful and stress-free travel experience.

As a reminder, always do your research! Pet-friendly hotels and vacation rentals exist, but this is something you will want to confirm ahead of time. Some properties are more suited to hosting pets than others; if you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to call ahead of time to ensure your pet’s unique needs will be met. A little bit of preparation goes a long way towards making your pet as comfortable as possible when away from home.

Leaving Pets at Home

The key to feeling good about leaving your beloved 4-leggeds at home while traveling is finding a caretaker or boarding facility you trust. Uhlman recommends seeking out caretaker referrals from friends or your veterinary’s office. Finding a care provider that will send photos and updates on how your pet is doing in your absence can alleviate the anxiety you may be having. Elderly or anxious dogs and cats will likely prefer to remain at home where the setting is familiar. Pet owners feeling nervous about leaving their pets at home should start with shorter trips while building trust with care providers.

If budget is a concern, ask if a negotiated overnight rate or payment plan is an option. Many dog sitters are willing to be flexible on the rates they charge, but ultimately it’s the pet owner’s responsibility to budget the appropriate funds needed to secure the best possible care. This expense should always be included in travel plans.

Boarding facilities can be a great option, provided your pet is up for staying in an unfamiliar – and social - environment. Petcare sites like rover.com can be helpful as they clearly list user reviews, additional skills the board provider has, and specific information about what kind of care you can expect for your pet. It is also a good idea to have 2-3 reliable options for pet care so you have a backup option in the event schedules don’t align.

Last but certainly not least, pet owners should keep all emergency and medical information documented and placed in an easy to spot location. Being prepared for the unexpected is not only the responsible thing to do, it will put anxious pet parent minds at ease.

 

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