If you’re like me, and I assume you are or you wouldn’t be reading this blog, then you’re one of the estimated 51% of people who frequently travel with their pets. That puts you in a unique position to be an ambassador for the trend and your behavior can either help or hurt our cause.
As a professional trainer and traveler I have a lot of opportunity to witness the actions of pet parents. Inattention is the number one problem but lack of preparation is right behind it. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a short and certainly incomplete list of dos and don’ts that I think will help you and your dog (and the rest of us with our dogs) be welcomed guests at any dog-friendly establishment.
DON’T use flexi-leashes on outings.
Flexi-leashes are the bane of my dog training existence and with little exception I hate them. Your dog doesn’t need to be 25 feet away from you on the walking trail or licking the zucchini two booths over while you pay for your tomatoes at the farmer’s market. A flexi might be good for potty duties, but for most other situations it’s a safety hazard that affords you little, if any, control, teaches your dog nothing, and can actually hurt people. Stop using them!
DON’T allow your dog to go up to strangers in restaurants or bars.
If you’re fortunate enough to be in a place that allows your dog, be considerate of others. Not everyone thinks he’s adorable. Keep him close to you and pay attention to the reactions of other patrons. If somebody’s eyes are bugging out of their head maybe it’s because a dog looking just like yours once attacked them. Instead of condemning their irrational fear, send them a drink. If someone wants to pet your pooch, let them come to you instead of allowing your pup to wander over to them. Even if they’re ok with it, it’s better to be in the habit of sticking tight.
DO pick-up after your dog.
This is the number one complaint of non-dog owners and is frequently the first reason given as an excuse for banning dogs from an area (Big Dam Bridge walkers in Little Rock, AR., I’m talking to you). One would think this could go without saying, but since every time I go to the park, I see poop that hasn’t been picked-up, I know it can’t. That key ring in your purse? I don’t know anyone who actually uses it. Hang your bag dispenser there. You only carry a wallet? If it can hold a condom, it can fit a poop bag. Sure, sometimes you get caught without one- condoms and poop bags- but maybe you should keep them in the same drawer. Being responsible is sexy!
DO abide by posted policies.
No Dogs Allowed. All Dogs Must Be On A Leash. Please Pick Up After Your Dog. You might feel as if there are a million tiny impositions on your fun with Fido but if you know the policy, please try to abide by it. Admittedly, some things are more of a guideline than a rule but make sure you know the difference before you go running down the beach off-leash. Bending and breaking rules for your own convenience doesn’t help us in the on-going campaign to make more places dog-friendly. If a place doesn’t welcome your dog, protest with your dollars by going elsewhere instead of sneaking or lying about your ‘service dog’ to gain access. Which brings me to…
DON’T pretend your dog is a service dog.
This is another one of those that really chaps me, maybe more than flexi-leashes. Yeah, it’s easy to do if your dog is well-behaved. Yeah, you can go online and order a vest and a certificate that identifies your dog as a working animal. Yeah, I know flights are cheaper and room deposits are often waived, but did YOU know it’s ILLEGAL?! Yes.
In many states, it is an actual criminal offense to portray your dog as a service animal if he isn’t.
Service dogs are a life-saver for people with disabilities and pretending you have one when you don’t will make it more difficult for someone with a real need, if your dog happens to take a dump in the middle of the mall (I’ve seen it happen) or snatch a chicken strip off the neighboring table. That Border Collie trembling in the hotel elevator as if death is surely upon him isn’t fooling anyone with his fake credentials.
Billions of dollars are spent by pet owners every year and accommodating travelers and their pets is becoming big business. The only way to continue opening doors for our pets is to be model citizens when we are on the go. If we want to not only enjoy the benefits of a dog-friendly world, but encourage establishments to open their doors and expand their policies to include our furry friends, we have to BEHAVE.
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