Pet stores are excellent resources for purchasing required materials for your upcoming flight. However, pet parents should fully utilize pet stores before a trip. Sure, customers can buy crates and kennels, or perhaps stock up on treats and toys. However, pet owners should treat pet stores as general knowledge and specialty service resources—not just as places to buy a new pet carrier. Below, we have detailed four creative ways to make the most of your local pet store.


Training and Behavior Resources

Most pet stores will have written training resources in the form of books, pamphlets, and brochures. However, some stores—primarily large chain businesses and specialty stores—provide training and behavioral clinics for free or at a low cost. Ask your sales associate if the store offers any type of training programs for customers. If they don’t, ask if they have any connections to or promotions for nearby training facilities or clinics.

Training and behavior resources cam be especially useful for pet parents looking to travel with their animals; though it is unlikely that a store will have a travel-oriented workshop, most will offer anything from stress-relief clinics to command training. Additionally, specialty stores may in fact have travel-related workshops. If you have a small, independently-owned pet store nearby, ask about possible travel workshops. Small businesses thrive because of their ability to support a hyper-local market. If you point out the need for a resource like this, a business owner may consider hosting a clinic or workshop.


Minimal and Last-Minute Vet Visits

Some large pet stores have in-house veterinarians or veterinarian technicians. These professionals take care of any animals living in the store, but they also provide services to customers. In general, this should not be a substitute for a regular veterinarian; these facilities often lack the technology necessary for invasive procedures and testing. However, pet store vet visits are a great way to prepare for your flight. We previously detailed Alaska Airlines’ partnership with Banfield Pet Hospitals, which are located within PetSmart stores. The airline provides free pet health examinations and discounted health certificates to their passengers’ furry friends. Even if you’re not flying with Alaska Airlines, visiting one of these veterinary venues is a great way to quickly and efficiently get your travel paperwork together.


Pet Nutrition Advice

This creative pet store use does not deal directly with pet travel and transportation. It is, however, vitally important. Unless your pet has a specific health or dietary need, such as a urinary health or weight loss regime, a veterinarian may not have the market knowledge to recommend moderately-priced and comprehensive pet foods. A pet store, however, is consistently updating its inventory to provide a range of food options to best fit animals’ changing needs. If you’re unsure which pet food to use, a pet store sales associate will be able to provide direction. To that end, if you have a picky pet, bring him into the store; in some cases, suppliers will provide samples, allowing you to choose the food your pet likes most.


General Knowledge

Pet stores are excellent resources for anything and everything related to pet health, pet care, and pet recreation. People who choose to work at pet stores—particularly small and independently-owned stores—do so because they have a love for animals. Many pet store associates have pet care experience, and many have prior practice as veterinary assistants or technicians. Whether your pet is behaving strangely or doesn’t seem to like the new toy you purchased, a pet store sales associate should have enough knowledge to steer you in the right direction. Of course, if you believe your pet may be sick or injured, a trip to the veterinarian is non-negotiable. If, however, you have basic questions about behavior, training, food, and recreation, a pet store can help.

In addition to having knowledgeable staff, pet stores will often devote a small section to general knowledge resources. This could be training books and manuals, free behavior brochures, or a place for local animal professionals to advertise various services. Ask the sales clerk if the store has a section like this—you could find the resource you’ve been looking for to get your pet ready for a big trip.