Pet Parenting: How to take the dog on your Disney trip

Guest post by Denise Holmes, dog-trainer and blogger at

Recently, I wrote a post for Travel Tails recounting a trip to Orlando with my dog, Henri. In the retelling of that adventure I mentioned that next time, I needed a visit to the Happy Place.

disneyworld1As in, Disney World.

Yes, I’m one of those.

That got me thinking. EPCOT Food and Wine Festival is September 19th – November 10th, and Christmas, my all-time favorite time to visit Disney EVER, is coming. I was in need a of a return visit, and I wanted to take Henri with me. But taking a dog on a Disney trip? How does that work?

The parks are obviously kid and family friendly, but what if your family includes your dog? (I’m 43 and single; Henri is the sole benefactor of my maternal instincts. I don’t expect him to be able to go to the parks with me, but I don’t want to board him for a week either.)

Fort Wilderness, for RVs and camping, is the only on-property Disney resort (‘on property’ means ‘on Disney property’) that allows dogs. We don’t have an RV, and camping in November, even in Orlando, isn’t really what I had in mind.

Well, as a former cast member, I was sure I could solve this little problem with some research. I knew Disney had a dog boarding, grooming, and daycare facility. Daycare isn’t really Henri’s favorite thing in the world, but it did solve the problem of what he’d be doing all day while I was traipsing through the parks.

Best-Friends-Pet-CareBest Friends Pet Care is a large chain pet care facility with 42 locations in 18 states, including one at Disney World. This is good news for guests, because the old kennels were just that. Kennels. The new facility is located on property, and much improved. It definitely meets what I envision Disney standard to be.

You can choose from a wide range of services (grooming, special treats) and activities (play group, a movie) for your dog. There is even a private dog park where you can play with your dog, or take a walk around the grounds. They open one-hour before the parks, and close one-hour later. Perfect for drop-off and pick-up, because I don’t envision leaving Henri there overnight.

(We’re co-dependent.)

Now, all I needed to find was a nearby dog-friendly hotel. I figured the easiest way to do that was ask. I wouldn’t recommend calling to ask because, when I called one of the Disney Reservation Agents, I got stuck talking to one of those electronic voices that ask 50 personal questions.

If you have questions concerning anything Disney, go online to, click ‘contact us,’ then, ‘chat.’ It took about 10 minutes to disney-good-neighbor-hotel-largeget a cast member to answer my questions. In my brief chat with the online cast member, I discovered Good Neighbor Hotels and Resorts. These are properties not owned by Disney but located on or near Disney property. THAT’S what I needed! There was even a website:

Once you’re on the site, click the link ‘Explore Hotels Now.’  It will take you to a page that allows you to select your hotel location, category, and features preferences. For location, you want Lake Buena Vista. (That’s where Disney World is located. Kissimmee and I-Drive would likely provide less expensive options, but they are, in my opinion, too far away.)

The only other feature I selected was ‘Pet Friendly.’ I found three choices: Clarion Inn, Holiday Inn, and the Sheraton.

Clarion has what they call VIP service (Very Important Pet), but it doesn’t offer any extra amenities like some hotels do. It’s just a fancy way of saying they allow pets. They accept dogs under 50 lbs., and require a $50 non-refundable deposit, along with an extra $15/day. Dogs must be crated if left in the room unattended. That’s a NO for us. Henri doesn’t crate.

The Sheraton allows dogs 80 lbs. or less, which is awesome for the folks traveling with big dogs. If your dog is over 50 lbs., it can be difficult to find a place. They require no deposit or extra room fee; however, they do not allow your dog to be left unattended. That could be a little inconvenient, even for someone who rarely leaves her dog.

dogs welcomeThe Holiday Inn seems the best choice for us. We meet their weight limit, 65 lbs. or less, and there were no other stated rules about crates or attendance. They charge a $50/ 5 days fee with a $10/ day after that. Not too bad.

All three of the hotels have shuttle transportation to and from the parks. But none of the shuttles allow dogs. I needed to get Henri to and from daycare, but I didn’t want to drive. It didn’t make any sense to drive him to daycare, then drive back to the hotel and take a shuttle to the park. I also didn’t want to drive to the park, walk, lose my car, walk some more, and then hope to eventually find my car in that ginormous parking lot.

Lucky for me, one of the hotels I called couldn’t answer my question concerning dogs on the shuttles and referred me directly to the company that operates them. To confirm: no dogs on the shuttles. Solution? Fleetwood Transportation will arrange to have a taxi pick up you and your dog. They will take you wherever you want to go. Personal service. Even better.DickeyStephens

So, if you are headed to Orlando for a Disney vacation and you want to take the family dog, you can do it! Book your room at one of the previously mentioned hotels; make reservations for your dog at Best Friends Pet Care; then call Fleetwood Transportation to schedule your ride. Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Now, don’t you think Henri and I should get to ride in the Grand Marshal car for the three o’clock parade?

Follow Denise’s adventures on her blog,, as she travels the world with her beloved Henri. 


Pet Parenting: My dog is itching like crazy

petparent6-no-sponsorDear Denise,

My dog is itching like crazy, but he doesn’t have fleas and I’m not seeing any obvious problems on his skin. All that scratching is making him — and us! — a little crazy. Any idea what could be wrong?

Dear Mama:

I generally don’t like to answer questions that appear to be about health, as I am not a vet, and your personal vet is an excellent resource for addressing the health of your animal. However, it seems I get this question pretty frequently, especially in the winter.

itchy dogYour problem could stem from a variety of things. It could be allergies (food, environment, fleas- even one bite is enough to set off a reaction in an allergic dog), dry skin, or maybe you didn’t rinse all the shampoo out of the coat last time your dog had a bath.

If it’s allergies, you’ll probably need your vet to help you solve that one. If it’s a bad rinse, then a more thorough rinsing followed by a second rinse with vinegar and water may help remove any soap residue.

If it’s dry skin, there are a number of things you can try. A coat conditioner, either after a bath or between, some sort of coat enhancing supplement available at pet stores or through your vet, or you can try adding a little bit of oil (olive, sunflower, safflower, coconut) to your pet’s food each day to up the intake of essential fatty acids.

My dog, Henri, gets a little bit of coconut oil most days just because I love him. You could also try a raw or poached egg twice a week, as eggs are a great source of amino acids, which are also good for the skin. If you go the oil or egg route, you should see some relief in a few weeks. If you don’t, you probably need to investigate allergies as a likely culprit and make an appointment with you vet.

Happy Holidays!

Denise HolmesDenise Holmes loves animals and considers it her life’s work to help pets and their people live together in harmony. She trains pets through her business, Ain’t Misbehavin’ Pet Behavior Counseling. Denise also developed a product just for brand-new moms that’s available at some retail outlets around NWA. It’s a CD called My New Best Friend and features actual newborn baby sounds and is designed to help introduce the family pet to a new baby.

Pet Parenting: Finding a great dog for your kids at the local animal shelter


It’s time for another installment of Pet Parenting! Local pet behavior counselor, Denise Holmes, who owns a local private counseling business Ain’t Misbehavin’, answers your most perturbing pet problems here.

The latest question:

Q: “We’ve decided to adopt a dog from the animal shelter. What’s the best way to introduce my 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son to our new family pet?”

A: I’d encourage you to involve your children in the adoption process. First, visit the shelter alone (kids tend to want every dog they see). Be sure to ask which animals are child friendly and only consider those.

weenie-tootsiedscn2762Select two or three dogs that you like, visit with them privately (out of their kennels). Check for things such as pain tolerance (pull the tail, poke his nose — gently, please), food/toy aggression, and restraint tolerance (give him a hug). Once the candidates get past these, it’s time to introduce the kids.

Let the kids meet each of the dogs you think might be appropriate and see who warms up to them. Hopefully, one of them will stand out and that’s YOUR dog.

Once home, be sure your pet has a secure place of his own and explain to the kids that this is “Rover’s Room” and they have to respect his space. I’d also involve the kids in his training and feeding so that the dog learns to respect them as part of the pack, and I’d start training as soon as possible.

Find a trainer who will work with you AND your children. Even the youngest is old enough to give simple commands such as sit, or play a game like fetch. These are important bonding exercises that will help everyone understand how to get along with one another.

Denise HolmesDenise Holmes loves animals and considers it her life’s work to help pets and their people live together in harmony. She trains pets through her business, Ain’t Misbehavin’ Pet Behavior Counseling. Denise also developed a product just for brand-new moms that’s available at some retail outlets around NWA. It’s a CD called My New Best Friend and features actual newborn baby sounds and is designed to help introduce the family pet to a new baby.

*Special thanks to Fayetteville mom, Carolyn, for the picture of her adorable dachshunds, Weenie and Tootsie.


Pet Parenting: How do I keep my neighbor’s dog out of my yard?


Dear Denise,

My neighbor’s dog is constantly coming into my yard and causing my dog to bark like crazy from inside the house. It drives me nuts. I like my neighbor and his dog, but not the situation. Is there anything I can do to discourage the dog from coming into my yard? Besides asking my neighbor not to let his dog out, of course! :)

Dear Mama:

If you live within the city limits, there is very likely a leash law stipulating that dogs must be confined in a fenced area or on leash. Filing an anonymous complaint is probably your best bet.

There are spray deterrents, but those are usually recommended for gardens and small areas, not the perimeter of entire yards. So, I don’t think it would work for your situation. I also suspect that your dog will bark anytime the neighbor’s dog is within sight, even if it’s not in ‘your’ yard. My dog, Henri, thinks he owns the sidewalk, too! Unfortunately, this isn’t a training issue; this is more a good neighbor issue.

I would suggest that you try to talk with your neighbor. If he does not have a fenced yard, perhaps suggest some sort of tethering system. A trot line between two trees and attached to a harness would be a safe and inexpensive alternative.

Another, less expensive alternative, would be an electronic system. It doesn’t have to be one of those high-dollar underground kind. There is a system that mailboxconsists of a box kept indoors, that establishes a 360 perimeter from the box. The owner sets the distance.

If you aren’t comfortable confronting your neighbor, then we are back to square one…reporting it. You could always stick one of my cards in the mailbox as a friendly suggestion. He might take the hint ;-)

I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help on this one. Good luck.


Denise HolmesLove. Trust. Teach. CDP, Inc
“You are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Pet Parenting: My cat won’t stay off the counter!

Dear Denise,

My cat won’t stay off the kitchen counter and it’s driving me crazy. I’ve tried using a spray bottle filled with water, but it does not seem to faze her. She gets down at the time, but gets right back up when I turn my back. Any other ideas for keeping her on the floor?

Thank you!

Dear Mama:

double sided tapeAs you’ve already discovered, punishment doesn’t work too well in this situation, and that is because the punishment is coming from you. If you aren’t there, nothing bad happens.

The solution to your problem is two-fold. First, you need to make you counters less attractive. In fact, make them super-no-fun at all. I’d suggest double stick tape. I know it’s a little inconvenient for you, but it should work.

When kitty jumps on the counter and her feet stick to it, she won’t like it. Just run a few strips across the counter when you leave the house. You can remove them when you get home, and you should only need to do it for a couple of weeks to instill the notion that the counter is sticky.

cat treeNext, you’ll need to make sure she has an alternative.

Do you have a high place that she IS allowed to be? If not, create one. You can do this in a number of ways, but the easiest might be to get a cat tree of some sort, and if possible, put it in the kitchen (at least for a little while), maybe by a window.

Then treat the tree with some Feliway pheromone spray, or rub it down with catnip if she likes that. That should attract her, and combined with the new yuckiness of the counter, she should prefer the new spot to the old one.

Good luck!


Denise HolmesLove. Trust. Teach. CDP, Inc
“You are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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