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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.

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

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.

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 Always Ask Your Host First

Our pets are our babies. And we love them. It can be difficult to fathom, but the sentiment isn’t always shared by others. Don’t assume your pet is automatically welcome to holiday gatherings. Always ask your host if your pet can attend. Even if they’ve been welcomed before, adding a pet into the already-hectic mix of holiday gatherings might add extra stress on your host. Other guests’ needs must also be kept in mind (for your hosts’ sake if nothing else). Consider allergies, small children, fears and other things that might make the other guests uncomfortable around animals.

#2 Make the Decision Wisely

Be considerate to your pets as well as your hosts. You know your pet best. 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). Research your local pet boarding and daycare facilities to find a right fit for your pet or even look into finding a pet sitter who will come straight to your home.

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.

#3 Pack for Your Pet Too

Make sure to pack anything your pet may need to make her stay more comfortable – and as easy on your host as possible. Besides the essentials, like food, leashes, and medications, consider bringing your own bowls, beds, poop bags or litter boxes. It’s also a good idea to bring your pet’s favorite toys that you know will occupy her.

#4 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. Also ask about any specific household rules. (Couch snuggles with fur babies are the best, but don’t assume your pet is allowed on your host’s furniture.)

#5 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 pet-friendly 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.

#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.

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.

Happy holidays!

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