Ten of My Favorite Pet Hacks
Many of us will be on the road this holiday season, which means needing strategies for including pets in the holiday events without stressing them or ourselves out. Here are ten of my favorite pet hacks for taking the dogs on the road.
- Kongs. These things rock! They are great for behavioral redirection, and keeping pets focused on an activity while other holiday chaos is going on around them. Here’s a link to a doctor recommended set of kong stuffing recipes, with a detailed diagram if you want to go the full distance and combine different types of treats at different levels within the kong. My personal favorite for making them both easy and time consuming for the dogs? Fill them with peanut butter and stick them in the freezer until it’s time to enjoy them. Great for if you have to wait in line at the vet’s office, or are having a ton of company over which might rock their new training schedule. Also, if you are traveling with the pups, having to just grab peanut butter at the stores really keeps the kongs helpful rather than making them a headache to include.
- Pets Welcome Web Site. This site was hugely helpful in our cross country trip with the pups. We also picked up a few tips along the way, which are chronicled here. Like more info? Andrea Dickson also did a road trip with rover post a while back. Check it out.
- Dinner Rounds. These are basically the higher end dog food that Walmart carries, but are very “sausage like” as far as the dogs are concerned. Since one of our dogs is on major medication several times a day and HATES to take it, we “bribe” her with these. She loves them, and we feel better knowing we are not adding to her arthritis situation by packing her full of fattening treats that promote weight gain. They are particularly helpful on a doggie road trip, because they are small and you can fit a bunch of them in a small resealable plastic container. The Family Dollar chain of bargain stores also carries treats that are quite affordable. If we are on the road with them and run out of the dinner rounds, it beats heading into the gas station for Slim Jims. Not that their father doesn’t indulge them on that occasionally, as well as with a long road trip tradition of at least one set of drive through bargain cheeseburgers as a reward for good highway behavior.
- Diaper Bag for the Dogs. We used a crafter’s backpack from Jo Ann’s because we happened to have one, and because of all the compartments which suited our specific situation with the dogs. However, people without the extra medical and long distance travel requirements could easily do this with an extra left over backpack the kids have outgrown, or one from the thrift store. The basic idea is to have all of the travel items you could possibly need for them in a convenient bag. In our situation, the meds have to be refrigerated, so we grab those and toss them in (along with their med chart and a fresh bottle of water) when we hit the road. Periodically, we also make sure it is restocked with a fresh container of dinner rounds and some emergency food. We live quite a distance from most things we need to drive to, and with the weather being as unpredictable as it is, and with the doggie medical situation in our house, we have them with us, for the most part, whenever we are on the road. If you like to spontaneously take your furry barking loved one for a day at the beach or park, this system might just be for you too.
- Spread Sheets. When you have two dogs on multiple medications with med passes every six hours, spread sheets are not overkill. They’re a necessity. You can shade out different sections if a pet or time slot don’t apply, and leave open if they do. And if you can squeeze all the info into a small enough table, you can have several copies of it on one page, allowing you to only print one sheet per month, and check off as you go. Also, if you have more than one person in the house passing meds, everyone can use their initial(s) instead of a check mark. Communication and organization are key in this situation, at least in my opinion and experience.
- Collapsible Hiking Bowls. We got ours at Target when we were still in Arizona, but I’m sure they’re available at other places. They have miniature clips attached so you can hang them on the outside of the bag. It really keeps the bulkiness factor under control when you are on the road with them for long stretches. The bowls will eventually leak water though, so if you are staying at someone’s house and need to watch for water damage on floors, place a thick older towel underneath or use a separate bowl from your host. But for stopping at highway rest stops for pee and play breaks, we wouldn’t be without these.
- Interchangeable ID Tags. Our dogs have three sets each. One set is for when we are home or in that general area. It has, in addition to each pet’s name, the numbers for both the house and our main cellular phone. The other set is for when we are traveling other distances. It has our main cell number only. The third set is for when they are with the sitters, which they are when we travel internationally. It has their main house and cell numbers. We swap out whenever we are changing situations. It hasn’t happened for at least six months, but for a while last year, we were changing them out quite frequently.
- The DIY Butt Sling. One of our vet’s assistants turned us on to this frugal alternative to the store bought ones. When our oldest gets to the point where she needs stair help every single time, we may have to upgrade to the perma-wear store bought version. For now, this is getting us by just fine. Here’s how it works: Using a large towel or old travel sarong, roll it up in a long tube. When your arthritic-in-the-back-hips dog needs help up and down stairs, feed the fabric under their body close to the back legs. Twist the ends together not tightly, but snug enough to stay put. When you feel the legs starting to weaken, just lift gently to give extra help. It’s important to let the back legs still touch the ground / steps, because you don’t want them overworking or straining the front legs. They also feel more secure, and maintain a hint of their independence for a longer time. We have the outside steps set up at home so the pet in question can go in and out on her own most of the time. When visiting the grandparents however, things get trickier. This is really working for us and takes up very little room in the doggie diaper bag if you use the sarong.
- The Good Old Washer and Dryer. These come in handy for smelly stuffed chew toys that otherwise still have some life in them. Also great for washing the favorite blanket or the cover for the spoiled rotten dog bed. Not that . . . ahem . . . we spoil the dogs in THIS house. I bring this up as a road trip strategy because sometimes the excitement of the trip can cause accidents and it's way easier to pull off a seat liner or blanket and just wash it at the hotel (most have laundry access these days).
- Controlled Feeding Time. Our vet encouraged us to start implementing this in the near future, as the day may come when there are certain medications that are just plain easier to get the dogs to take in their food, particularly as they get older. It's also way easier when you're on the road to have food the dogs will eat basically on command. This is trickier with dry food, and canned food really disgusts me. After Linsey’s recent inspiring post featuring homemade dog food, I may finally take the plunge.
These are ten of my favorite pet hacks that also happen to work for taking my favorite fur balls on the road. I have other pet hacks in general that I like to use. Hopefully, I can get them covered in a future post.