Inspired by online pet influencers, I decided to take Khal Dogo, my one-year-old Dogo Argentino, to a farm stay in Karjat, Maharashtra. After reading multiple checklists on what to carry when travelling with a pet, I packed everything I could – water, food, bowls, pee pads, bedsheets, towels, leash, collar, toys, medicines and treats.
However, just 15 minutes into the picturesque and secluded property, I realised the one crucial thing I hadn’t done was to ask the important questions pet parents need to before booking a pet-friendly accommodation.
Right from the time we entered the property, Khal was, both anxious and excited. Anxious about the continuous barking of the highly territorial street dogs, and excited about cow dung he could smell all around us in the farms outside. (Back then, Khal had a liking for cow poop; he thought of it as a delicacy.)
He kept pulling the leash, wanting to wander off. I asked the property owners if the place was completely fenced. It was, they said, and I let Khal off leash. After all, we take our dogs on vacations so they can run around freely and explore a new place. Khal started circling the tiny house we had booked, complete with a garden and a swimming pool, sniffing everything. But, after a couple of minutes, he disappeared.
Where could he have gone from a fenced property? It’s then that the caretaker told me that a tiny portion of the fence was broken, and my excited dog had found a way out of it. My heart skipped a beat. What if street dogs attack him? What if he can’t find his way back to me in this pitch dark, unknown village?
But thankfully, he had not gone too far. I saw his eyes glinting in the dark and barefoot, made a run for him. With a packet of treats I lured him back to the property.
All this got me thinking about everything that could've gone really wrong. We could've got hurt in the dark, he could've been lost.
Thereafter, I spoke to a couple of pet parents and compiled a list of 10 things you need to know/ask and keep in mind before booking a ‘petcation’.
Open space and fencing
Is there enough open space in and around your room for your dog to run around freely and will he or she be allowed to do so in the property? If you have to keep your dog cooped up in a room during a vacation, it’s neither fun for him nor you. Having said this, the property should also be completely and securely fenced. You don’t want your city dog lost in the wilderness. “Always book a room in the ground floor, which makes it easier for your dog to run in and outside the room and for you to keep an eye on him,” says Deya Chatopadhyay, 35, parent of four-year-old Golden Retriever, Luna.
Other pets and animals on the property
Always check if there are other pets or street dogs in the property and whether they are friendly to visiting pets. You also need to know whether your dog is friendly with other dogs. If either is a no, find another property. You don’t want to risk your dog attacking other animals or him being attacked by them. Also, check if there are other animals on the property such as hens, cows, ducks, etc. My hunting dog tends to chase them, so I wouldn’t take him to these places.
Pet food and bowls
Even though most dogs eat chicken and rice, some properties refuse to or can’t buy and boil chicken for the animals. If that’s the case, you will have to carry your own food (preferably in an ice box for wet food). Dry food, is, of course easier. “I usually book a property that has a kitchen. It becomes easier to make fresh food for Dobby and feed him,” says Shatabdi Chakrabarty, 35, Dobby, the Indie’s human parent. Also, check if the hotel has feeding bowls of different sizes. I have been to pet-friendly restaurants where my large dog was given a small bowl meant for a Shih Tzu. He ended up spilling water and food all around the bowl. It’s best to carry your bowls.
Bed and pool rules
While some properties allow pets on beds and in the pool, most don’t. I was pretty disappointed when Khal wasn’t allowed to swim in Karjat. One of my aims to take him on a holiday was to get him to swim, which is excellent for their bone health, but the owners didn’t want any fur in their swimming pool. For Chakrabarty, it’s important that Dobby is allowed to sleep on the bed with her and her husband. “Despite me asking for all the pet rules before booking a pet-friendly place, one property owner in Goa assumed that we don’t let our dog in the bed.” Thereafter, Chakrabarty not just informs the property staff in advance about Dobby sharing the bed with them, but also carries plastic sheets and bed sheets to cover the bed with.
Dangerous room plants and other items
There are some home plants such as the Snake plant that are lethal for dogs. Ensure that the property owner is okay with moving these out of your room while you and your dog stay in it. Also, request them to keep all the breakable things in your room out of your dog’s reach.
It’s important that the staff of the property is comfortable with pets. If you have a small dog, you can manage easily even with people who aren't too comfortable, or friendly with pets. But if you have a large-size, intimidating dog like mine, you need to ask if people would at least, be accepting of them. The last thing you want to hear on a vacation is people being mean to your furry baby. At the same time, you need to ensure that your dog doesn’t hurt or harm anyone and is on his or her best behaviour.
Is the pet allowed in a room alone?
There may be times when you would want to or have to leave your pet alone in the room, especially if you are on a longer holiday. It could be for a fitness session or a special lunch or a night out that is way past your dog’s bed time. If the hotel doesn’t allow a pet alone in the room, you will have to be prepared to miss all human-only activities.
Availability of a veterinarian
Weather and plant-related allergies are common in pets. When going to a new place, it’s possible that your dog might get an allergic reaction to, say, pollen and you might have to see a veterinarian urgently. Ensure that there is a pet in or around the property, and, if possible, secure their contact number. Inform them about your visit as soon as you book the place. When I went to Karjat, Khal kept coughing as if he were choked. After some difficulty, I found a local veterinarian's number, only to be told he was off for the day. He however did advise me to roll down my car windows for a bit. That helped. But if it didn’t, I would have regretted the trip forever.
Pet relieving areas
Most trained dogs will only relieve themselves outside. Always ask the property if there is a dedicated relieving space and take your dog there frequently to ensure they don’t dirty the rooms and the rest of the property. Chakrabarty usually takes Dobby out every three hours during the day while on a vacation instead of twice when at home. “It’s a good practice to help avoid any accidents,” she says.
This one’s for you and not so much for your dog. Ensure that you re-confirm all the costs and charges the property might incur for the pet. Many hotels only allow pets in higher category rooms. Food for pets could be quite exorbitant too.
Please do your research thoroughly and know what you and your pup are signing up for. Most importantly, stay safe, have fun and click lots of pictures.
Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based writer, a Kathak student and a first-time pet parent