July 25, 2014

Nomadic Pets: Welcome to the Hound Dog Hotel

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Flickr Photo Credit: KangoTraveler

Now that we are actually in our first hotel with the dogs, we’re finding several strategies helpful. Want the scoop?

This particular hotel stay is about two weeks long. So we’ve had time to test drive such things as new bathroom procedures, timed feedings, using treats to shape necessary new travel behaviors, and getting the dogs used to more leash and less yard time, as well as structured play and exercise activities.

Having this much time has also made us more aware of what we’ll need from a hotel as we head across the country. David has found Pets Welcome to be a helpful web site for locating pet friendly establishments ahead of time. From this resource he’s been able to find pet-friendly hotels by specific location, check ahead of time for which ones have additional pet fees and which ones don’t, special rules a particular establishment may have, and what each hotel web site listed for pet amenities. 

I took a quick peek at the site myself and noticed they have a section for pet sitting registration, travel tips and information exchange.

Another tool we’re finding helpful? The “do not disturb” sign. The dogs see the hotel room they’re sharing with you as their new domain. Whether or not you’re required to crate your pets while you’re not in the room, unexpected pop-ins from hotel staff can cause stress for both parties if you’re not there to buffer. The do not disturb signs are there for you to signal the staff whether or not you would currently find it convenient for them to enter. This should include if you are out running errands or getting fresh treats for your four-legged friends. We’ve used this sign extensively to provide as much structure as possible for our pets.

Third? Your own supply of extra plastic grocery bags. Save them up ahead of time, or purchase eco-friendly ones especially for this purpose. While pet-friendly hotels usually provide these for doggie-doo pick up, you’ll need something for bathroom stops on the highway. Putting a bag over your hand, grabbing the goods and using your other hand to turn the bag inside out keeps things neat, efficient and tidy. Even if you carry your own scooper, it’s still helpful to have a clean bag to enclose the bottom in before storing it back in your car.

Next, a blanket or upholstery cover. To keep pet hair under control, we keep a light blanket spread across the back area where we have the seats pulled down in the S.U.V. This is less scratchy for the dos and is easily washed every so often on the road, as many hotels now offer complimentary self-laundering facilities. If your furry friends want a snack or to chew on their favorite toy, your vehicle’s upholstery doesn’t have to bear the brunt of biscuit crumbs and pet drool. A simple trick, but it’s working wonders for us.

A ready supply of treats will prove helpful for a variety of things. Encouraging timely potty breaks, refocusing your dog’s attention during heavy traffic flow (If they’re curiously checking out other cars from the window or over the driver’s shoulder, it can be difficult to see everything you need to while shifting lanes. Having some treats such as peanut butter – filled kongs (I usually do this before a trip to the vet), and wrap each kong in a fold-over sandwich bag. This keeps them mess-free, yet available when the dogs need to be immediately side-tracked with something time consuming. The Walmart Ol’ Roy dinner rounds in a container does the trick for quick snacking and behavorial redirection as well.  The “dinner rounds” solution came to me from the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. These round treats come in 8 and 20 pound bags and are actually sold as their higher-end dog food selection. However, the look, feel and taste just like a popular sausage-type snack that sells for major bucks. We still buy the girls their regular bargain dog food, but get a bag of these dinner rounds on the side. One piece satisfies the need for extra treats during travel / transition times, but doesn’t provide dangerous extra calories which can cause health issues with your pets’ weight and joints. A side bonus? They’re dirt cheap!

Another tip? Duct tape. It became brutally apparent after 48 hours of transporting our beloved pets back and forth to the exercise track (We’re staying at a hotel on base while David finishes his retirement process and they have a family / pet exercise track.)  that the paint job on the back of the S.U.V. was going to take a beating. Whether from the ramp, or the dogs themselves jumping in and out of the vehicle, the scratches were getting out of control in a major hurry. David put several strips of duct tape over the part of the vehicle taking the abuse. We’re in hopes that an appropriate “goo remover” will come to the rescue when we are ready to remove it. Anybody have another solution? We’re all ears.

We’re sure other pet tips will come to mind as we head across the country with our four-legged children, and will post them as we are able. We’re also hoping to post some information about international pet travel, as the job that David is hoping for could place us in Frankfurt, Bahrain or Bangkok, to name a few of the locations. More later, folks!

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