Howliday Travel Tips!

Howliday Travel Tips!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and for many that means travelling! Whether you and yours are heading home for the holidays or planning an escape to get away from it all, considering bringing your pet along is a big decision. Pets are family, and it can be tough to be apart from them, but if you plan on including your dog or cat in your travels, you will want to do some training to get them ready. Any kind of travel and new or busy environment can be stressful for pets, but practice and positivity go a long way.

Grandma Lucy’s proudly supports Little Angels Service Dogs, a 501c3 non-profit organization providing service dogs to individuals in need. Little Angels’ service dogs go through extensive training and have to prepared for every situation that may come their way, including travel! Josh Drew, Executive Director of Little Angels, is well-versed in travelling with their service dogs and dogs in training and had some wonderful tips to help your pet get ready for any holiday travels you plan on including them in, or so you can be prepared for any future trip you hope to bring your pets along for. Keep these tips in mind to help your pet put their best paw forward on any journey, big or small.

Josh Drew, executive director of Little Angels

Q: What are some of the most important things for pet owners to consider when traveling with pets during the holidays? 

A: “The most important is, ‘where are you going and is it pet friendly?’ The worst thing to do is trying to force your pet into a situation that is not safe, or not friendly to them. The next thing to consider is ‘how does your pet travel?’ Does traveling really stress them out? If you have to fly, ‘have they flown before and how [do] they do with it?’ You want to make sure your pet's mental state is going to be okay with whichever environment you expose them to.”

Q: What are the most surprising things you discovered after the first time traveling with your dog?

A: “I have traveled many different times with service dogs! [However], I've never traveled with my personal pets because they are too big to fly on the plane as a pet, and I know they would not do great getting shipped in cargo. So, for them, I always find someone to pet sit that they love and trust. With service dogs, there have been a lot of interesting things I've discovered. For starters, the dogs are usually calmer and less stressed in their airports than I am, but I suppose that's what they're trained for! Second, people have no shame about touching and talking to a service dog, no matter how many times it says ‘do not pet’ on the vest. [T]hirdly, there will always be some staff that give you a hard time, but the majority of airport and airline staff I have encountered have been absolutely wonderful in helping me while traveling with a dog.” 

Q: What are the traveling options for someone who doesn’t have a service dog? How can they travel "the right way"?

A: “Road trip! If you can avoid flying, the best way to travel with your pet is to road trip it. That allows you to ensure they're super comfy in the car, they're secure and safe, you can stop and take a break if they need to stretch their legs or go to the bathroom, and they're probably already used to the car! Unless a dog has flown many times in the past, an airplane and airport is generally going to be stressful, no matter how you go about it. If you are needing to go the airport route, then there are two options if your pet is not a service dog. If you have a smaller pet, you very often can bring them in the cabin with you as long as they are secured in a soft-sided pet carrier. If they are larger, then you would need to transport your pet in the cargo portion of the airplane using an airliner-approved plastic crate. The standards and care for shipping dogs has drastically improved over the years, including having temperature and pressure-controlled cargo holds. However, that doesn't change the fact that it is still likely going to be stressful if your pet isn't used to it.” 

Q: What snacks do you normally bring with you to keep your dog happy on long trips?

A: “I usually bring a few high-value treats for my pets! For example, my girls love the [Organic Oven-Baked Blueberry treats] from Grandma Lucy's. Our dogs in training really love the Pollock Singles, but I try to save the other passengers from having to smell freeze-dried pollock in a recycled air cabin! I also always bring a few of my dog's favorite toys. The high value treats are a great way to work through any situations that might be stressful, and the toys are perfect for rewarding them after they've gotten through it!” 

Josh Drew executive director of Little Angels training a dog

Q: Do you have any pointers for socializing dog with new environments, especially when traveling and meeting family members or other animals?

A: “When introducing a dog to a new environment, the most important thing is to keep it as positive as possible! If your dog seems nervous, don't just leave. That will make them always nervous. Try to work through it with them! Sit down on the ground, pet them, feed them treats, and show them there's nothing to be afraid of! When meeting new people, the same applies! Have people sit down and meet the pet calmly. Don't have a group of people swarm your pet at once, and always give them treats to give your pet at the first meeting! For new animals, we always go on a pack walk. Dogs are naturally territorial. So, we like to introduce them by going for a leashed walk on neutral grounds. This allows them to get used to each other's presence in a neutral area before coming into each other's ‘territory.’” 

Q: Lastly, do you have any tips for pets that get anxious or stressed out when traveling?

A: “Try to do mini travels first! Pets are really good about inferring things based on previous experience. Their stress could actually be starting as soon as they see you packing your suitcase because they remember what happened last time you packed that bag. So do it for short periods of time leading up to the real travel and always make it positive! Pretend to pack your bag and load it in the car. Pop your pet in the car and then just give them dinner and take them back out. Do it another time and maybe go for a drive around the block while you give them an [enrichment toy] with peanut butter. Lots of short, positive experiences will help mold their minds into looking forward to travel!”

Grandma Lucy’s would like to extend our thanks to Josh Drew and Little Angels Service Dogs for taking the time to answer our questions and these great training tips. We care about your pet’s safety beyond the bowl, at every step of the way. Wherever your travels take you this holiday season, you are always home if your pet is by your side.