Man's best friend has a lot of company these days. From pocket-sized pooches to majestic mastiffs, Americans love their dogs.
The American Pet Association says more than 43 million Americans own more than 60 million dogs. Most of our canine pals are like members of the family -- we like to do things together, and for many, that includes travel. Given the numbers, it's no surprise that a growing number of hotels, attractions and parks are dog-friendly.
Several attractions in Missouri accommodate dogs to varying degrees. Six Flags St. Louis and Worlds of Fun in Kansas City offer free kennel facilities for visitors.
In Missouri state parks, pets are permitted but must be kept on leashes at all times. Pets, other than service dogs used by persons with disabilities, are not allowed inside buildings in state parks or inside historic site buildings.
At Fantastic Caverns, just northwest of Springfield, Mo., well-behaved dogs can go right in with the rest of the family.
Because accommodations for dogs vary from place to place, it pays to do some research before setting out on a family trip with a four-legged friend. The Internet offers a wealth of information on lodging and attractions, as well as general information and tips on traveling with pets. Some of the best sites include petswelcome.com, dogfriendly.com, petfriendly.com, petfriendlytravel.com, PetTravel.com and travelpets.com.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Pethealth Inc., a leading provider of pet insurance and pet related data management services, will celebrate October as Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, with the theme "Every Dog Counts" to encourage Americans to visit animal shelters in lieu of pet stores and breeders when adopting a dog.
As part of the celebration month, for those urban dwellers who have made a four-legged friend part of their family, the ASPCA is offering a few rules of etiquette to make walks safer and more enjoyable.
Leashes -- When leashed, a dog is safe from traffic and unable to follow his instincts to chase children, investigate garbage cans or dig up landscaping. Whether a dog is friendly or cautious, a leash keeps him in check and allows the public to pass undisturbed. Keep leashes to six feet or less on public sidewalks. Retractable leashes should not be used in areas frequented by joggers, skaters or cyclists; the thin line blends into the background and, all too often, athlete and leashes collide.
Licenses -- Licensing a dog enables an animal control agency to return a lost pet to his rightful owner. In addition, licensing fees often support local animal control efforts and the number of licenses issued gives government officials an idea of how many dogs are in the community, statistics that are very helpful when planning dog runs, shelter expansions and the like.
Training -- The well-trained city dog needs to respond to a minimum of four basic commands: "Sit-Stay," "Heel," "Leave it" and "Come." When you're waiting at a traffic light, a dog in a sit-stay is out of harm's way. While walking nicely on a loose leash is enough for most forays, there are times when your dog will need to be at heel position, which keeps her under control at your side. The command "Leave it" is employed when it is necessary for the dog to avert his gaze. Should your dog slip his collar or break his leash, a recall command ("Come") could save his life.
Errands -- Before leaving home to run errands with your dog by your side, take a moment to consider which places permit dogs and which do not. For your pet's safety, leave him at home when he is not allowed to go into an establishment with you. A dog left tied to a post or parking meter is an easy target for teasing or theft.
Socializing -- Many dogs enjoy the company of other canines, but always ask before allowing your animal to approach another dog. The same is true regarding children before allowing physical contact. The greeting should not include jumping, bouncing off or grabbing at the child, even if it is done in the spirit of friendliness. If your dog is rambunctious, consider using a head halter for better control.
Scoop on Poop -- Canine diseases and parasites are often shed in feces, which puts other dogs and people at risk. Pick up feces using a plastic bag, and knot the top to control odor and flies before disposing it. Train your dog to urinate in gutters or on nonliving vertical surfaces, such as lampposts or hydrants. Avoid trees and flowerbeds.
-- From staff reports