Just as vacations with children are different from adults-only trips, vacationing with your dog works out better if you plan the journey with an eye to finding places where your pets are truly welcome and traveling when fewer people will be around.
Finding these places can be a challenge, but not as much as it used to be. The travel industry used to grudgingly accept the fact that many people traveled with pets. Now, many hotels, motels and resorts actively court pet lovers, and a few are marketed almost exclusively to this once-neglected group of vacationers. Well-mannered pets and well-heeled pet lovers are appealing to an industry that isn't booking as many vacation travelers as it would like to. And that's good news for people looking for the perfect pet-friendly vacation.
The best way to plan your trip? Check out Web sites dedicated to traveling with pets, and look for vacation ads in pet-related magazines and newsletters.
As for books, you'll find plenty that provide simple listings of places where pets are allowed, such as the AAA travel guides. But there's one series that really gets the inside information on where pets are genuinely welcome -- the Dog Lover's Companion books (www.dogloverscompanion.com). The series has books on California and Florida, on all of New England, and on Seattle, Boston, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. I have used these books for years and can't recommend them enough.
Even though more people than ever are traveling with their dogs, there are plenty of people who don't like sharing space with the four-legged tourists. There are also plenty of resort properties that are one pet mess away from changing to a no-dog policy. That means you and your dog must be above reproach, to keep a great place open for future pet travel.
Here are a few things to do on the road:
-- Keep 'em clean. Your dog should be well-groomed and clean-smelling. Always dry off wet dogs and wipe off muddy feet -- using your towels, not the motel's -- before allowing your dog inside. Cover furniture, carpets and bedspreads with your old sheets and towels, and if you need to bathe your dog, be sure, again, to use your towels and clean up afterward.
-- Keep 'em under control. Your dog should be obedient, friendly but not annoying, and never aggressive -- not to people, not to pets and not to wildlife. Do not allow your dog to bark uncontrollably. Use your best judgment when to let a dog off the leash in areas where doing so is allowed, and be sure that your dog isn't annoying other people or pets.
-- Pick up after 'em. Take your dog to out-of-the-way places on resort property to do his business -- the corner of the far parking lot, not the grassy inner courtyard. No leg-lifting allowed near rooms and eating areas. Make it so the pickiest dog hater on Earth wouldn't notice your dog has been around.
And finally, don't forget to show your appreciation. Those of us who travel with our pets realize it's a privilege, not a right, to have a nice place to stay. So along with keeping your pet from being a nuisance, don't forget to say thank-you to resort staff, and tip generously when appropriate. Pets mean extra work for the people who work at these places, so let's try to keep them on our side.
A few simple precautions will keep your pets safe on Halloween -- and keep trick-or-treaters safe from your pets, as well. The safest course of action is to keep all pets inside for the night -- roaming cats, in particular, can be a target for random cruelty. And keep dogs away from the front door when you're giving out treats. The latter is important because some pets may not understand that the strangely dressed visitors mean no harm, and may become aggressive or scared.
As for those treats -- be careful. While cats are generally not interested in sugar-packed goodies, many dogs will wolf down all the candy they can, bags and all. Do not give candy to your pets no matter how much they beg. Chocolate, in particular, presents a risk, especially in large quantities for small dogs. And do your best to keep your dog from helping himself to treats, by keeping bowls and bags out of reach.
PETS ON THE WEB
If you'll be traveling without your pets over the upcoming holiday season, you'd better start scrambling now if you're planning to pay someone to care for your pets. That's because pet sitters and boarding facilities get booked far in advance during popular travel periods. If you don't already have a favorite sitter or boarding facility, ask friends, family or co-workers for recommendations. Your veterinarian or groomer might also have some ideas (or maybe facilities for boarding in-house). You can also check the Web sites of the American Boarding Kennel Association
(www.abka.com) or Pet Sitters International (www.petsit.com). Both trade groups offer lists of member businesses, along with helpful advice on how to choose a reputable outfit to look after your pet.
QUESTIONS FROM THE PACK
Q: Would you share more thoughts on moving with pets? I moved a year ago from a large home on one acre to a small home on a city lot. I did the following to make the transition easier on my two cats, ages 13 and 6:
The movers were to come at 8 a.m. The afternoon before, I took both cats to the veterinarian's for the night. After I moved into the new place, I made up the bed with the sheets and blankets I took off that morning, purposely not washing them so that "our scent" would remain. The house had been repainted and recarpeted, so all smells were new, and I wanted to give the cats some point of reference.
I took the cats to the new home from the vet's that afternoon, and let them out of the carriers on top of the bed. They were both glad to be out of the vet's and on their bed again. They checked out their house and were fine. The next day, I let them out into a fenced patio area and they were still OK.
I also want to note that before I moved in, I had cat fencing installed. It was worth the price. I had net fencing installed on top of the 6-foot fence and around the trees. Neither cat can get out of the yard. The younger cat tried climbing the trees, but soon encountered the netting and gave up. -- A.B., Sonoma, Calif.
A: You've hit upon the key to a successful move: good planning and good knowledge of what makes cats tick. Making up the bed in the new house with unwashed linen, with its comforting scents, is absolutely brilliant, and I'm not at all surprised that your cats have made the transition smoothly.
Kudos, too, for your use of cat fencing. Cat fencing also keep cats in the yard, safe from many – but not all – of the hazards found outside. (A determined predator such as a coyote won't be slowed down by cat fencing.)
For those who haven't heard of cat fencing, it's netting or wire cages that are attached to regular fencing at an inward angle to keeps cats from climbing out of a yard. You can order cat-fencing systems from Cat Fence-In (1-888-738-9099; www.catfencein.com) or Affordable Cat Fence (1-888-840-CATS; www.catfence.com). You can also build your own fence from components found in any home-supply outlet; check out the "Do-It-Yourself Cat Fence" Web page (www.feralcat.com/fence.html) for directions.
Q: My dog sometimes has a warm, dry nose. He hasn't seemed at all sick, so I haven't taken him to the vet. Should I be worried that he's running a fever? –- K.M., via e-mail
A: An occasional dry nose is nothing to worry about, and is not necessarily a sign of fever, despite what folks have said for years.
The only way to determine if your pet is running a fever is to take his temperature. You can find pet thermometers in almost any pet-supply outlet, either the inexpensive in-the-fanny kind or the pricier ones that slip into the ear canal. (Whichever you choose, I recommend marking the item to be certain everyone in the family knows it's for use on pets only.)
Normal temperature for dogs is around 101 degrees, although a degree in either direction is nothing to worry about.
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," "Cats for Dummies" and "Birds for Dummies." She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or send e-mail to writetogina(at)spadafori.com. You can also read her frequently updated Web log or view her column archives at www.spadafori.com.
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600