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How to Minimize Separation Anxiety When You Must Leave Your Pet

We love spending time with our dogs and if we could have it our way, they would accompany us on all adventures – vacations and business trips included! Unfortunately, not every occasion is suited to bringing our furry friends along (so you’re telling me my dog can’t be my plus one at your wedding?!) and in those instances, we turn to our next best option – pet-sitters!

While we as owners know a pet-sitting stay is a temporary arrangement, this isn’t exactly something we can communicate with our dogs. Thus, they may experience some degree of separation anxiety when they are away from us. While this stress can seem inevitable, there are a few steps you and your pet-sitter can take to minimize any anxiety. We’ve partnered with DogVacay, an online service that connects pet owners with loving pet-sitters, to share their best practices for minimizing separation anxiety.

Before You Leave:

Find the Perfect Pet-Sitter
The most important prevention tip for separation anxiety is to choose a pet-sitter based on your dog’s needs. If you have an active dog or a puppy that is happiest after they’ve spent the day running around, consider looking for someone who has a yard, can offer long walks or has other dogs that yours can play with. If your pet has experienced separation anxiety during a previous boarding or pet-sitting stay, you may want to consider a pet-sitter who offers 24/7 care or has experience dealing with this type of behavior.

Share Your Pet’s History
Has your dog stayed with a pet-sitter before, or is this their first time away from home? How long can they be left alone for? Knowing these things beforehand can help your pet-sitter anticipate the level of attention your dog will need. The more the pet-sitter knows about your dog, the better!

Share a Schedule
It’s always a good idea to share your dog’s normal schedule with your pet-sitter. Keeping your dog on a similar routine to what they experience at home can help their bodies and minds and adjust quickly to their new environment. Sharing information like what time they usually eat, when they take their walks, how many walks they take, where they sleep etc., will all be helpful information for the pet-sitter so they can make your dog as comfortable as possible.

Pack Items from Home
Bringing your dog’s bed, toys or some comfort items from home can help them establish a safe and familiar space in their pet-sitter’s home. If they are crate-trained, consider bringing their crate along with any bedding that usually goes with it. The more comfortable they are in the pet-sitter’s home, the better off they’ll be!

While You’re Away
Sometimes your dog can still experience separation anxiety despite your best efforts to prevent it. In these cases, distraction is key!

Tire the Pup Out
Some serious play time is often the best remedy. Tiring your dog out will help them expend some of their nervous energy and distract from the fact that they are away from you. If possible before you leave, take a long walk, go for a run, or spend some time playing with your dog. Encourage your pet-sitter to do the same during the stay!

Stimulate the Nose and the Mind
Have a toy or treat that your dog can focus their energy on. A Kong toy filled with something delicious is a great distraction tool – try wedging a high value treat (such as peanut butter or lunch meat) in the center of the toy so that your dog must think and work to get to it.

Play Calming Music
Sounds crazy, but it can work! Ambient sounds or relaxing instrumental music can calm an anxious dog. Share this information with your pet-sitter and have them play some mellow tunes if your dog is showing signs of anxiety when it’s time to relax for the night. There are some great “Dog Music” playlists available on YouTube, Spotify and Pandora. The radio tuned to a classical music station also works!

Remember, the key is to communicate with your pet-sitter beforehand and then ensure your dog is getting the physical and mental exercise they need while you are away. Over time, they’ll learn that your absences are only temporary and leaving will always mean that you’ll return!


Fido, the Petsetter: Air Travel Safety

Flying your dog on an airplane can seem worrisome, but rest assured that hundreds of thousands of pets fly every year, and the number of pet-related incidents is extremely low relative to the large amount of pets traveling in the great blue sky. Whether flying in-cabin as carry-on or flying in cargo (both safe and comfortable options), we’ve outlined the key steps you can take for safely and responsibly flying your dog. Follow these tips and feel good about bringing your pup on that next vacation.

Get Your Pup Accustomed To The Crate
Every pup that goes on an airplane (whether as carry-on or cargo) is required to be contained within an appropriately-sized kennel. For this reason, it’s important to acclimate your dog to the crate well in advance of her trip. To ease the stress associated with being confined to a small space for a period of time, purchase the kennel as far in advance of your trip as possible and follow the rules of crate training such as leaving the door open and encouraging entry with a chew toy or treat in order to get your pup as used to the crate as possible. Also, be sure to pay attention to your airline’s specific rules for kennels (each varies slightly). For example, United has a page dedicated to kennel guidelines. You don’t want any surprises at check-in!

Do Not Sedate Your Pup Under Any Circumstance
Even the pet owner with the best intentions may think giving their pup something to “take the edge off” is a good idea. Please stand corrected. Under no circumstance is it advised to sedate or tranquilize your pup for air travel. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that sedating pets for air travel can be fatal. Sedation is the most frequent cause of animal incidents during transport as many animals react negatively/abnormally to sedation and not much is known about the side effects of sedatives combined with high altitude and/or higher stress levels.

Make Sure Your Dog is Healthy Enough To Fly
A dog with known health issues or of senior age is more likely to respond negatively to the stress induced by flying and is at greater risk for injury. In fact, many airlines such as Delta require a health certificate within 10 days of departure before agreeing to ship a pet as cargo and have age limitations on flying pets. Not only is it often required, but it’s wise as a responsible pet owner to get your dog checked out by a licensed veterinarian and current on all vaccinations prior to travel. That’s why at PuppySpot, before any puppy ships home, we require our breeders to have a vet perform a comprehensive, nose-to-tail health exam.

Feed and Exercise Appropriately Prior To Travel
Experts advise to feed your dog approximately 4-6 hours prior to flight time, so he has enough time to digest properly and is full enough for the duration of the flight. Feeding too much and too close to the flight could cause an upset stomach while in-flight. That said, you should continue to keep your dog well-hydrated and provide water right up to the time of travel. Just be sure to empty the dish before checking the dog. A full water bowl will spill or cause unnecessary messes and excessive urination during flight. Before heading to the airport, be sure to exercise your dog with a long walk and allow her plenty of pees and poops before takeoff. Plenty of exercise will afford your dog the opportunity to burn off excess energy and therefore, rest easier during the flight.

Stay Calm and Give Your Pup The Comforts of Home
Remember, your dog feeds off of your energy. So, if you’re positive and carefree about the experience, those feelings will rub off on him and put him more at ease. To give him some extra comfort during the flight, as long as rules allow, include a familiar toy or blanket with the smells from home inside his carrier. Before he knows it, he’ll have arrived safely at his destination and be reunited with (or meet) his loving owner.

Avoid Travel in Summer and Winter Seasons
All major airlines have strict weather restrictions when it comes to flying pets, as animals can be extra sensitive to extreme heat or cold. So, to avoid any surprises, use your best judgement when booking and do not arrange travel in the dead of summer or winter to or from places that experience extreme weather conditions, as your dog will be unable to fly in very high or very low temperatures.

Be Aware of Breed Restrictions
If you own a snub-nosed breed such as a Pug, Bulldog or Boxer, you may not be able to fly your pooch on certain airlines. Due to the respiratory difficulties that some of these breeds experience due to the anatomy of their noses, some airlines such as Delta do not allow these breeds on their planes. Do your research ahead of time and make sure your chosen airline is the right fit for your dog.

The Early Pooch Gets The Worm
You know the old standard of arriving at the airport two hours ahead of your flight to leave enough time for security, checking baggage, etc.? Well the same, if not more of a conservative estimate applies to doggie travel. You don’t want to add to what can already be an anxiety-inducing experience by being late. Give you and your pup plenty of time to get situated and address any issues with TSA well ahead of departure.

With these guidelines, we hope you feel comfortable and confident in flying your pet. Plus, all major airlines offer additional measures to give you that extra peace of mind. For example, United’s PetSafe Program provides the ability to track your pets from origin to destination. And Delta‘s Variation Live Program offers temperature-controlled vans and holding areas as well as specially trained ground handlers for personalized care on the go.

And if you need someone to walk you through the pet travel process, PuppySpot prides itself on its best-in-class travel team, who will assist you with any questions or concerns you may have about your puppy flying home safe and sound.

Traveling With Your Pup: Where to Stay

Once you’ve experienced the unmatched, incredible human-pooch bond, it can become hard – both logistically and emotionally to leave your dog at home while the rest of the family goes on vacation. Fortunately, if you’re up for it, there are many pup-friendly vacation options that make bringing Fido along a convenient and fun experience.

Depending on the size of your family and your needs, renting a house that allows dogs through a service like Airbnb or VRBO can be a great option that offers a yard for your dog to play, a full kitchen to store food and treats, and/or ample space for a crate, dog bed, and toys.

traveling-thumbnailAlternatively, if you prefer to lounge in the lap of luxury, many hotels and resorts not only accommodate dogs, but offer services customized for man’s best friend. Any of these major hotel chains are worth looking into – can’t you already imagine your pup enjoying room service and a nice, scenic walk by the beach?

The Fairmont
Depending on the property, Fairmont hotels offer a variety of pet-friendly accoutrements such as a welcome basket filled with dog treats, water bowl and toys, ample grounds for long walks, and pet sitting services. Be sure to call ahead for the specific property’s pet policy, additional room and housekeeping fees, weight limits and restricted areas.

Kimpton Hotels
Kimpton is one of the first hotel chains to offer pet-friendly services and accommodations. In fact, bringing your furry friend to stay at a Kimpton is free and without charge, and the hotel welcomes dogs of all different sizes and breeds. Management provides basic amenities such as beds, treats, mats and bowls as well as a concierge list of nearby pet-friendly restaurants, parks and stores upon arrival.

W Hotels
Most W Hotels have a “P.A.W” policy, meaning Pets Are Welcome, but enforce a one-dog only limit and require that the dog be less than 40 pounds. If your dog meets this criteria, with an additional fee and non-refundable cleaning charge, he will be welcomed with treats and a variety of living amenities for his stay. The concierge will also gladly arrange dog sitting, dog walking, birthday cake or locations of nearest dog parks and dog-friendly places at your request.

Trump Hotel Collection
Check each Trump property for its specific pet policy including fees and restrictions, but all hotels are pet-friendly and welcome your four-legged friend. Amenities in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Toronto, Waikiki and Doral, Miami, the Trump Pets program offers gourmet treats, in-room dog-specific dining menu, plush dog beds, dog walking services and more.

Loews Hotels
The Loews Loves Pets program offers services such as welcome gifts with name tag, bowl and special treats as well as a “pet in room” sign that helps you relax and alerts the housekeeping staff there is a furry friend in your room. To lighten your travel load, the hotel offers pet beds and accessories. And for mealtime, your pet can enjoy gourmet room service pet menus developed by in-house chefs in conjunction with a licensed veterinarian. Restrictions include two pets per room.

Now that you have a few suggestions, here is a list of questions you should ask the hotel staff before booking your stay.

• What are the extra fees associated with accommodating a dog? Room fee, service fee, housekeeping fee?
• How large are the hotel grounds? Is there ample enough space to take my dog for a walk?
• What are the sleeping options for dogs? Do you offer in-room pet beds or is there a hotel kennel?
• Are there any restricted areas where my dog cannot go, e.g., the pool, lobby, etc.?
• Do you offer dog-food options?
• Do you offer any bonus amenities such as pet-friendly activities?

Now that you’re fully equipped with information to travel with your pet, get ready to enjoy a relaxing, memorable vacation!