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Pet Etiquette When Staying with Family or Friends Over the Holidays

By Dr. Patty Khuly

Holiday Travel with Pets

If swelling pet populations at airports are any guide, more of us will be traveling with our pets this holiday season than ever before. During the holidays, that means that more of us will be testing the boundaries of our familial ties as we add new variables to that already-packed list of holiday unknowns.

As we’re all aware, staying with family already has its challenges. Adding our pets to the mix only makes those challenges more interesting.

But “challenging” and “interesting” don’t have to mean “problematic” or “divisive.” Being a good guest when we have pets in tow may take some extra effort, but it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. In fact, working just a bit harder than we might naturally be inclined to may just make our holiday experiences exponentially more rewarding. As may our angels’ very presence, soothing as most pets naturally are.

But to make things happen means we have to pay attention to others and go the extra mile. Which is how proper etiquette works, of course. It’s not about slavish adherence to rules. Rather, it’s more to do with finding ways to treat others the way we’d like to be treated. And during the holidays, that’s way more important than just about anything else we might elect to do.

When it comes to being a good guest, it’s all about making it easy on our hosts. After all, these people are typically bending over backwards to make our holidays happen. Here are some simple ways to do that:

#1 Make the Decision Wisely

Be considerate to your pets as well as your hosts. If you know your pet doesn’t travel well you should leave her in the care of someone who can keep her safe and comfortable (and keep her from being a nuisance to your hosts). If this seems onerously expensive or you really don’t want to part with her, you should probably consider whether you’re traveling with her for your sake or hers.

#2 Exercise Common Sense

Pet guests must be well-behaved and neat. That means no extreme barking or vocalizing, no urinating or defecating inappropriately, eliminating out-of-doors in designated areas only (ask your host!), managing aromas by whatever means necessary, refraining from displaying aggression, reigning in any destructive tendencies, and generally behaving like the adorable fur-ball you know and love.

#3 Don’t Trifle With Allergies and Fears

Sure, we all know people who lay claim to fictional allergies. Many of us may also have little patience with children who behave as if our meekest pets are contemplating violence. Nevertheless, as guests it is not okay to test our host’s boundaries on these points. Other guests’ needs must also be kept in mind (for your hosts’ sake if nothing else).

Holiday with Pets

#4 Make Alternate Arrangements

What if things don’t go according to plan? You can’t exactly fly back when you’re visiting family way across the country or overseas. Having a contingency plan is crucial. A nearby hotel, a boarding facility you trust, a nearby friend, a sympathetic relative - call ahead to be sure you can make last minute arrangements if the need arises.

#5 Don’t Add to Family Strife

Ideally, your beloved animals should add to the holiday merriment, not detract from it. Your pets should, at the very least, not be cause for extra stress on your familial bonds. If we’re honest with ourselves, much though we may love them, many of our pets are not the best house guests.

#6 Work On It

Oy, so maybe this isn’t the best time of year to take your pets out for a test spin. If you’ve never traveled with your pets before and you ever hope to, you should plan accordingly. Make plans for short trips this year to train them, test their limits, and determine whether this is a lifestyle choice that’s good for all involved.

Happy holidays!

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