Many of you don’t know this but in 2015 I ended up homeless for almost 6 months because of an incredibly bad divorce. I lived out of my car, random hotels, a student’s rental house and AirBnb’s for months with my 5 dogs and a cat while the shared home was on the market in Seattle. I spent several months preparing my adult dogs and young puppies for this crazy time of my life spent without a place to call home. Because my dogs were so well behaved, in this article I am going to provide you with the tips and tricks I used to convince the hotel staff that I only had two dogs, despite having 5 dogs and a cat in a small room. Although you probably will never be homeless, using these training tips below can prepare you for surviving a life while living in a hotel either for leisure or for situations like natural disaster evacuations.
How to prepare your dog for life in a hotel:
- Make sure you have as much documentation of your dog’s legitimacy as a service dog as possible.This could include letters from your doctor, graduation certificates from the classes you have taken, proof of passing the Canine Good Citizen test, awards, any media articles featuring you and your dog, proof of vaccination status, letter from your vet with your dog having been given a clean bill of health, any type of paperwork (even if you have to get the scammer paperwork/id cards) saying your dog is a service dog, training logs and anything from your city or county that says your dog is a service dog.
- Start training your dog to be OK with random loud noises while inside your home environment and not react to them. Turn the inside of your home into a noise factory. Knock on the front door and reward your dog for not barking. Randomly bang on doors, drawers, walls, ceilings, windows, desks, bed posts (loud hotel sex is a thing), sinks, tile, wood, glass, pots and pans, porcelain, silverware, dishes and randomly drop and bang your suitcases from various heights. Slam closed cupboards, entry, exit doors and closets. Drag your suitcases across all the surfaces of your home. Lock your dog in a random room with a stuffed kong and while he is in there vacuum all areas of your house, randomly banging the vacuum into walls, doors and objects in your home to simulate housekeeping. Randomly take objects and drag them across all the surfaces in your home like a 4 year old would innocently do in the hallway of your hotel. Teach your dog that any and all sounds coming from your home are not something to react to but something to be enjoyed because they make treats fall from the sky.
- Download some random city scape sounds, recordings of kids and teens playing, dogs of various breeds barking, normal and heated conversations and even construction sounds onto your phone. Also include random alarms, including car alarms, telephones ringing and random beeps, bops and boops that might occur is someone was using their phone to alarm them to wake up in the morning. Once you have accumulated a random sound database, take your bluetooth speaker and place it outside of every door and window of you home and let your dog hear the normal sounds it might experience in the hallway and outer windows of a hotel room. Again, teach your dog that these random sounds that come from any door or window are nothing to react to. They are just noises that produce food.
- Get your dog used to being alone in a room without you. You will eventually have to go get ice, food from the hotel restaurant or something you accidentally forgot in the car and you don’t want your dog freaking out for that minute and a half it takes to get ice.
- Make sure you pack carpet cleaner/odor eliminator. Your dog is like a big child, eventually they will get into the something that will cause tummy upset and you want to be prepared to clean up accidents. We recommend Pure Ayre.
- Schedule friends and family to randomly walk by an open window. You do not want to open the curtains on your hotel room only to find your dog charging anyone who passes by the window because he has never experienced this phenomenon.
- Teach your dog to go potty on command on lots of different surfaces. Sometimes you may not have access to grass at a hotel that is directly on airport property.
Once you get to the hotel
- Ask the desk clerk for a random white noise generator or a high powered fan. Keep this device on constantly to drown out the background noise of the hotel. I once had a teen soccer team stay two doors down from me. They were loud and obnoxious like most teens, keeping a low level of sound in the room made a big difference in the dogs level of reactivity to their random running up and down the hallways, screaming and giggling.
- Ask the desk clerk for extra flat sheets. Use these to cover couches and duvets to prevent dirty doggy feet and hair from ruining what are always guaranteed to be WHITE bedding. Ask for extra towels incase your dog spills his food bowl on the carpet or grinds his food into the carpet by stepping on it.
- Make sure the room you are staying in is NOT located next to the elevators. It is literally the LOUDEST part of the hotel. My recommendation is to book the room at the far ends of the hotel where you have quick access to the rear exit of the hotel just incase you have potty or vomiting emergencies.
- Check EVERY SINGLE INCH OF THE HOTELS FLOOR, even under the bed. I once had a student whose dog ate a child’s pacifier that was under the bed and had to have emergency surgery to remove it. Additionally, sometimes hotels will place toxic bug killers (roach motels) under the bed or behind furniture. You do not want your dog discovering these things in the middle of the night and poisoning themselves.
- Create as much white noise as possible using the hotels already installed equipment. Keep the fan of the heating/cooling system on at all times as well as the fan in the bathroom. Turn on the TV at a low volume and never turn it off to create another source of white noise. It might mess up your dreams but when you sleep at night but at least your dog wont bark when occupant of the room across the hall comes back to the hotel drunk and slams his door when he gets into his room.
- If you have an intact male, try to make sure you get a room that is not labeled for pets only. Its most likely that some random pet dog has urinated on the floor and you do not want your dog competing for marking locations.
- Take your phone and record the hotels condition upon initially entering the room. You do not want to be blamed for damage you did not cause. Be sure to record the condition of the room when you leave incase they try to charge you for damage when you leave.
- Ask the desk clerk for use of the vacuum every couple of days. Make up some story about you knocked over some dry oatmeal onto the floor or you had a visitor that dropped some glitter on the floor and you would like to try to not bother housekeeping to get it out of the floor. This will allow you to keep the room as clean as possible keeping the place dog hair free for when housekeeping visits your room unannounced when you are gone. The less they think your dogs hair is a nuisance the better for you. Whenever your housekeeping visits your room be sure to leave at least 10-20 bucks as a tip for them. Money buys silence.
- Purchase an elcheapo security camera so you can see exactly what your dogs are doing in the room while you quickly run out of the room to get your dinner or ice.
- Purchase calming products like thundershirts, homeopathic anxiety reducing solution if you cannot get to the vet or in addition to what the vet prescribes. A product like Rescue Remedyis great for a number of anxiety producing stimuli, not just fireworks. Additionally products like Homeopet’s Anxiety Relief can help and as well as CBD products made specifically for dogs. Do not use CBD products that are not specifically deigned for consumption by dogs. Human CBD products can have additives that can kill your dog. In a pinch, Benadryl works to help your dog feel tired. These products make reduce your dogs alerting capacity so always be careful with any type of medication that alters your dogs perception of reality.
- Just incase your dog thinks something in the hotel tastes delicious, purchase an anti-chewing deterrent like bitter apple spray.
- If you order room service, ask the room service to call you before they head up to your room so you can be out in the hall waiting for them. This prevents them from knocking on the door when they arrive and causing your dogs to inadvertently start barking.
- If you have diabetes or some other medical condition that requires your medications to be refrigerated, ask for a fridge and a microwave (to provide you with plenty of food options in the middle of night if you have a low). You cannot be asked to pay for this type of accommodation and the fridge frequently provides another level of white noise while its running.
- If someone comes knocking on the door unexpectantly, always have kibble ready to scatter on the floor. Your dog cannot bark at the random visitor and search for food at same time. Hang your bag of high value kibble or treats from the upper door latch so its quickly accessible once you hear that first knock.
I hope these tips help you have an uneventful, enjoyable stay in a hotel, post pandemic.