TV's "Dog Whisperer," Cesar Millan, offers suggestions to ensure winter safety for your playful pooches, as well as rules for kids who encounter them.
If your beloved dog has ever lifted a leg on a hotel staircase, escaped out of the backseat of your car or kept everyone in your vacation rental awake with mournful howls, you are due for a lesson from the "Dog Whisperer."
Cesar Millan takes his dogs — Junior the pitbull and Coco the chihuahua — on so many journeys that the two pooches practically carry their own platinum-level frequent flier cards.
Dog whisperer Cesar Millan, pictured with his dog, Junior, shared some ideas to make traveling with pets easier and less stressful.
To prepare your dog for the unfamiliar and unnatural experience of being in an airplane, Millan recommends rehearsing ahead of the trip.
“Put [your pet] in the crate for a few hours, put him in the car, and help him associate a calm feeling with the crate and travel,” Millan said. If pets — or people — get nervous on the actual travel day, try rubbing lavender oil on the paws or hands, Millan suggests. It is found to have a calming effect on humans and animals alike.
Many owners of big dogs struggle with the issue of whether to sedate their pet before it goes into the cargo space. Millan says it’s OK to skip the knockout drugs.
“The best and most natural sedation is to take them for a long, even longer, the longest walk that day, so the dog is so tired it’s almost in hibernation,” he said.
While flying might be the most challenging travel element for a pet, owners and fellow travelers often get put to the test on the ground. When animals are forced into completely new and unexpected environments, they can react in a variety of ways: growling, hiding in the bathtub, trying to escape, and of course, having an "accident."
“It is not the dog's fault," Millan said. "Most of the time it means that the owner has gone too soon indoors without walking the dog, or it can mean that the dog is nervous and this is a fear reaction.”
Don’t be embarrassed, pet owners — just clean up the mess.
“Every pet-friendly hotel knows the consequences of welcoming dog guests,” Millan said.
For hoteliers, one consequence is more pet-toting customers.
Dede Gotthelf, owner of the Southampton Inn, initially designated 10 percent of her rooms as pet-friendly, but has increased to 15 percent in order to meet strong customer demand.
“We have had large dogs, small dogs, cats, occasional birds in cages, and a bearded dragon that visits every Columbus Day weekend,” Gotthelf said. Her affluent, primarily East Coast customer base considers their pets “part of the family” — and are willing to pay a nominal nightly pet fee on top of the room rate, which averages around $500 during the summer high season (about half that in off-season).
The Southampton Inn, like nearly all pet-friendly accommodations, has “house rules” that require owners to obey leash laws, be respectful of other guests’ space, and clean up messes to the best of their ability.
One rule guests may be most tempted to break involves leaving pets alone in a room. While most hoteliers will overlook a bit of late-night yapping or a minor mess, hotels can ask you to leave if your dog is found unattended in your room. In other words, if you head out for dinner, the pooch goes with you.
When renting a car, be aware that rental companies are not required to give pets the same rights as people. If they extend a pet-friendly policy, be a responsible customer. Safety on the road should be your priority — and when you’re ready to return, cleanliness is crucial.
“Take caution to ensure pets are kept in one area of the car. Thoroughly clean hair and any pet messes from its cars prior to rental return,” advised Paula Rivera, manager of public affairs for Hertz. Not only is it thoughtful to the next customer, but it’ll also avoid cleaning fees.
One pet-mess scenario — the car-sick dog — is fairly common. It can’t be completely avoided, but humans can control some factors.
“Motion sickness for dogs is very different than for humans,” said Millan. “It does not mix well with a full stomach.” Thus, while you might want to stick with a normal feeding routine while traveling, it’s actually better not to feed a pet much before or during a long drive day.
“If it has been a long trip, you can give little pieces of chicken or mini snacks, but space them out,” Millan said.
As for bathroom breaks, Millan suggests keeping an eye on the new environment. In crowded rest stops, if you don’t trust your dog or the other dogs in the space, Millan recommends keeping your dog on a six-foot leash.
“Travel means adventure,” he said. “There are obstacles and challenges, but if you can weather these safely with your pets, you will see how your bond grows.”
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