Universal Press Syndicate
Just as vacations with children are different from adults-only trips, vacationing with your pet works out better if you plan the journey with an eye to finding places where your animal companions are truly welcome.
Finding these places can be a challenge, but not as much as it once was. 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 as well as reviews of the amenities. The most basic guide is "Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA Petbook," the most recent edition of which is always under the seat of my minivan.
Even though more people than ever are traveling with their pets, you'll still find plenty of people who don't like sharing space with four-legged tourists. And plenty of resort properties are one pet mess away from changing to a no-pet policy. That means you and your pet must be above reproach to keep a great place open for future pet guests.
Here are a few things to do on the road:
-- Keep 'em clean. Your pet should be well-groomed and clean-smelling, and be sure to pack some extra towels and old sheets before you leave. Always dry off wet dogs and wipe off muddy feet -- using your towels, not the motel's -- before allowing your pet inside. Cover furniture, carpets and bedspreads with your old sheets and towels, and if you need to bathe your pet, 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 would not notice your dog has been around. For traveling cats, bag up used litter tightly and dispose of it properly.
-- 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.
Tails from the road
Send us your pictures, tips and stories of your travels with your pets. We'll use the best in an upcoming column, and put others up on our new Web site, DogCars.com. And it's not just about dogs: We'd love to get some stories about cats who travel. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't forget to check out DogCars.com. We're loading up reviews of new vehicles, pet-travel supplies and more. We also offer a bulletin board for readers to talk about traveling by car with pets, offering their own opinions of vehicles, supplies and even pet-friendly destinations. -- G.S.
Grandma worries about the dog
Q: My daughter is expecting her first child in a few months. Well, first, if you don't count the dog, and I sure don't. But she and her husband love that animal like crazy.
Their dog scares me. He runs the household and is snappy when crossed. I'm so worried he will hurt the baby. What can I do? -- P.H., via e-mail
A: You need to talk to your daughter and son-in-law. Have them answer these questions and be brutally honest:
-- Has their dog ever "stared them down"? If a dog gives a hard, fixed stare, it needs to be recognized for the challenge it is.
-- Does the dog adopt a dominant posture with people? A dog who's trying to be boss will be up on his toes, with his legs stiff, ears forward and hackles raised. His tail will be held up or out, and may even be wagging a little. Don't confuse the latter for friendliness. There's a big difference between the wide, relaxed wag of a friendly dog and the stiff, tight one of an aggressive animal.
-- Do they avoid doing certain things around the dog because they elicit growling or a show of teeth? Some people live their lives in fear of their dog, avoiding the animal when he's eating, sleeping, playing with a toy ... the list can be endless.
-- Do they consider the dog safe, except in certain situations, such as around food, toys or children?
-- Has the dog ever bitten anyone? Whatever the reason, no matter the excuse, a dog who has bitten once is more likely to bite again than the dog who has never bitten at all.
A "yes" to any of these questions means there is a serious problem, and they need to find help. Encourage them to talk to a veterinarian about a referral to a trainer or behaviorist with experience in canine aggression.
While some dogs with aggression problems cannot be reformed, others can, with a combination of medication and retraining, and a big dose of dog-savvy on the part of the owner.
If their dog cannot be trusted, even after professional help, please encourage them further not to try to pass the problem along to someone else just because it's too hard to do what needs to be done. They may be sparing their child a bite, but putting someone else's in a danger.
A dangerous dog who cannot be retrained or safely managed needs to be euthanized. It's a very hard decision, but the only right one to make. -- Gina Spadafori
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.)
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.
PETS BY THE BOOK
Witty work with appeal that's wide
A cardinal rule in marketing is the ability to communicate to the potential buyer that "we had you in mind when we created this product." So why then is "Woof! A Gay Man's Guide to Dogs" by Andrew DePrisco a good book for everyone? For three simple reasons. One, it's original. Two, it's authoritative. And three, you'll laugh while you learn, not just about the basics but also about canine things you've never even thought of.
DePrisco's "gaydar" locks onto irresistible and seldom visited subjects like hosting a puppy shower, picking a proper gay name for your puppy and choosing the right bling around the collar, but he also does an exhaustive job of exploring critical functions for every pet owner such as matchmaking, finding a trainer, groomer and exercise.
If you're curious, buy this book. I guarantee you'll have something rare these days: a book wickedly funny and highly informative. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Gorgeous goods for pet necks
If you've been searching for beautiful, durable and handcrafted dog and cat collars, Mrs. Bones and Co. has a collection of hundreds of collars made from high-quality upholstery products and trims.
Collars come in tartans, velvets, embroidery, tapestries, silks, satins and other lush fabrics bonded to strong nylon webbing. The Museum Collection, which features heavy watermarked satins and ornate gilt trim, is worth a special look, even if you're just window-shopping. The company also offers a special collection of holiday-themed tapestry fabrics.
Suitable for cats and all sizes and types of dogs, the collars come in both "sighthound" and conventional buckle and snap styles, and a variety of widths. ("Sighthound" collars have a self-limiting tightening function built into the design.)
Custom tags and leashes are also available. For more information visit www.mrsbones.com or call 877-767-1308 -- Christie Keith
Remove your cat's high-rise risk
Ever curious and quick to pounce, cats are the perfect small predators. They're even equipped with the amazing ability to right themselves in midair if they fall while hunting, rotating their bodies from the head back like a coil to align themselves for a perfect four-paw landing.
But what works for a supple small animal falling from a tree branch doesn't cut it in the modern world, where a cat's more likely to fall from a window than a tree. And despite their abilities, cats can be injured or even killed in falls.
Many cat lovers assume their pets would be smart enough to be careful when up high enough for injuries, but it's just not in an animal's ability to make that kind of judgment call. Cats are comfortable in high places, and they cannot understand the difference in risk between a one-story fall and a six-story fall.
It's possible to give a cat fresh air safely, no matter what kind of housing you have. If you're in multifamily housing, you can't alter a fire escape because of safety issues, but you may be allowed to screen in a balcony to give your cat access to fresh air and a good view. If you're in a detached home, you can put in a more permanent structure, such as a screened-in multilevel cat playground.
If none of that's possible, you don't even have to pop for built-in screens. Most home centers have low-cost adjustable screens that fit into windows and can expand to fill in the gap.
While screens aren't completely safe and can pop out under pressure from a determined cat, they will keep most cats out of trouble most of the time. -- Gina Spadafori
PETS BY THE NUMBERS
Needed: A home for a dog
Many dogs lose their homes when their owners move, because dog-friendly housing can be hard to come by. The top reasons for dog abandonment are:
2. Landlord issues
3. Cost of pet maintenance
4. No time for pet
5. Inadequate facilities
6. Too many pets in home
7. Pet illness
8. Personal problems
10. No homes for littermates
Source: National Council on Pet Overpopulation Study and Policy
ON GOOD BEHAVIOR
Kitten tricks fun for all
Kittens don't need to learn "house rules" to play poker, but they do need to learn how to get your attention and approval. Instead of dishing out negative attention when your kitten pounces on you, teach your kitten words that earn her positive attention. The more ways you find to communicate with your kitten, the stronger your relationship can be.
It's not difficult to teach your kitten to come when you call or to sit for a treat. Start with a hungry kitten, and use a favorite treat to lure your cat into positions you want to teach. Reward your kitten when she gets in the right position.
Keep training sessions short and fun for both of you!
(Animal behavior experts Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp are the authors of "On Good Behavior." For more information, visit their Web site at AnimalBehavior.net.)
Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting PetConnection.com.
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600