Thanksgiving and Christmas are busy times of year, with many Americans either traveling to be with loved ones for the holidays or hosting those loved ones right in their own homes.
So where do pets fall into the picture when it comes to the holidays? Will Americans be taking Fido along with them on their travels? And for those playing host this year, are there any concerns about the family dog’s social skills around guests?
The Special Reports Team at CertaPet.com surveyed 1,000 U.S. dog owners to learn more about their Thanksgiving/Christmas travel and hosting plans as it pertains to their pets, and how they deal with any holiday hiccups that may arise.
Holiday Travel Plans
Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to be the busiest travel times of the year, and recent reports suggest the 2023 holiday season in particular will be the busiest travel season ever.
But it’s not just people hitting the roads for the holidays.
In our survey of 1,000 U.S. dog owners, among those planning to travel for the holidays, a staggering 79% plan to bring their dog along with them.
When asked why, 83% responded that they view their dog as a part of the family and therefore wish to include them.
Other common reasons for bringing their canine companion along included concerns about the quality of care the dog would receive at a boarding facility or with a sitter (33%), the dog having separation anxiety and the owner not wishing to leave them on their own (29%), and the dog being a service animal or emotional support animal whose presence is needed at all times (21%).
Men are more likely than women to bring their dog along on their holiday travels (55% vs. 45%), while those aged 35-44 had the highest percentage of Americans planning to embark on their holiday getaways with their dog right beside them (32%). Those aged 25-34 followed closely behind (31%).
As for those planning to leave their pup behind this holiday season, it doesn’t seem to be without difficulty.
Among these respondents, 59% admit they worry about whether or not their dog will feel anxious while they’re gone, while another 49% express concerns about their dog missing them.
Other worries include whether their dog will be fed enough (28%), whether their dog will receive enough outdoor/walking time (26%), and whether their dog’s caretaker will have all the supplies they need to provide their animal companion with adequate care (24%).
For those who may need to leave their dog with a sitter or at a boarding facility for the holidays, experts suggest the following tips to help make the right selection:
- Research and Recommendations: Start by researching local facilities or sitters. Ask for recommendations from friends, family, or your vet. Online reviews can also provide valuable insights.
- Visit in Person: If you’re considering a boarding facility, visit in person to check the cleanliness, safety, and overall environment. Look for spacious, clean kennels, secure fencing, and adequate play areas.
- Meet the Caretakers: Whether choosing a facility or an individual sitter, meet the caretakers. Observe how they interact with your dog and other animals. A good caretaker should be attentive, knowledgeable about dog behavior, and show genuine affection for animals.
- Check Credentials: Verify if the facility or sitter has the necessary licenses and certifications. Ask about their experience with dogs, especially if your dog has special needs or behavioral issues.
- Ask About Routine and Services: Inquire about the daily routine, including walk schedules, playtime, feeding, and sleeping arrangements. Ensure they can accommodate your dog’s specific needs, like medication or a special diet.
- Emergency Protocols: Ask about their procedures in case of an emergency. Ensure they have a plan for veterinary care if needed and that they can be easily contacted.
- Trial Run: If possible, do a trial run by leaving your dog for a short stay or having the sitter care for them for a day. This can help you gauge how well your dog adjusts and how the caretaker manages your pet. Then, pay attention to your dog’s behavior before and after the stay. Signs of stress or discomfort might indicate that the facility or sitter isn’t a good fit. Trust your instincts. If something feels off about a facility or sitter, it’s better to keep looking. Your dog’s well-being should be the top priority.
- Clear Communication: Once you identify the right boarding facility/sitter for your dog, ensure clear communication about your expectations and your dog’s needs. Provide detailed instructions regarding feeding, medication, or any behavioral quirks your dog might have.
Holiday Hosting Plans
Not everyone’s embracing the hustle and bustle of travel this holiday season.
Some people will naturally stay home and play host for their loved ones.
Unfortunately, while they may avoid the stress of travel, it seems there are other challenges to face when it comes to holiday guests and their dog.
Among the 1,000 U.S. dog owners surveyed, 38% say their dog exhibits hyperactivity when there are guests in the home (including jumping on guests, running around the house, and/or urine marking), while 35% say their dog barks or howls excessively when guests ring the doorbell.
Additionally, 1 in 7 dog owners say their dog exhibits anxiety (withdrawal, fearful behavior, etc.) during social gatherings in the home.
When it comes to correcting these behaviors and alleviating their dog’s anxiety, the majority of dog owners (46%) turn to a good ol’ fashioned chew toy/bone to keep their dog occupied. Others keep their dog in another room when there are guests in the house (37%), use calming treats (37%), or exercise their dog before a social gathering to get excess energy out before an event (33%).
If you’re planning on hosting a gathering this holiday season, experts provide the following tips to ensure your dog feels comfortable and safe at home:
- Provide a Safe Space: Designate a comfortable and quiet area for your dog away from the hustle and bustle. This could be a separate room with their bed, toys, and water. Familiar items like a favorite blanket or a piece of clothing with your scent can provide additional comfort.
- Exercise Before the Event: A good way to manage hyperactivity is to ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise before guests arrive. A long walk or play session can help burn off excess energy, making your dog calmer and more inclined to rest.
- Interactive Toys and Puzzles: To keep your dog occupied and mentally stimulated, provide interactive toys or puzzle feeders. These can be especially useful for dogs that need constant activity and can prevent them from seeking attention in disruptive ways.
- Consider Calming Aids: If your dog tends to be extremely anxious, consider using calming aids like calming treats or anxiety vests. In some cases, consultation with a veterinarian for anti-anxiety medication might be necessary.
- Post-Event Downtime: After the event, give your dog some downtime. A quiet evening or a gentle walk can help them settle back into their routine.
*The survey included in this report was administered online via the survey platform Pollfish on November 13, 2023 and included no less than 1,000 respondents.