Most of us love to travel, and no family vacation is complete without our furry companions. If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time researching dog-friendly hotels, trails, outdoor activities, patios, bars, and pretty much anything else you can think of before making travel arrangements. But let’s be honest, there are times when you want your dog to enjoy an awesome hike, but you also want to spend a day exploring museums, local shops, or awesome eats. And these places are usually not so dog appropriate. So, what to do when traveling with your non-human family members?
I always start by getting honest about how I’m going to spend my time on vacation. If there’s one cool hike for my boy, and the rest of the activities are pretty much a no-go on dogs, I leave him behind. It sucks. And I miss him every single day. But you have to make the decision that’s fair to both of you. Sometimes that means finding an awesome pet sitter or boarding your pooch locally.
If you think it through, and most of your activities will be dog-friendly, but you still want some human-only downtime, there are some options to consider.
Of course, you’re staying somewhere dog-friendly. (You made sure, right?) But when you read deeper into hotel and vacation rental policies, you may find some not so pleasant news. Everything from breed and weight restrictions, to a “pet cannot be left unattended at any time” clause, can make for some major headaches once you’ve reached your destination. Get all of this clarified before you finalize reservations.
If your pet is allowed to be left unattended in your room, it’s time to get really honest again. How long do you plan on being away? Can you trust your dog to roam free during this time, or will they need to be crated? Will they whine and bark while you’re gone? Remember, any behaviors you see at home will be amplified in a strange environment. Getting the boot because of destructive behaviors or noise complaints is not a fun way to spend your vacay.
If you plan on being gone for more than a couple of hours a day, it may be a good idea to look into doggy daycare in the area you will be staying. I suggest this only for dogs who are already used to daycare. Otherwise, the stress of travel on top of the excitement of a daycare environment, will be sensory overload. If your trip is far enough out, you may be able to test your dog at a local daycare beforehand.
There is also some leg work that goes into choosing a daycare when you can’t meet the workers or see the facility for yourself. Check reviews and dog forums in the area for recommendations. Then get on the phone and start gathering information. You can tell a lot about a daycare by the way they handle their phone calls, so I suggest this rather than an email exchange.
After you’ve picked a company, know what vaccines and veterinary records you will need. Bring hard copies with you. Computer systems go down and emails get lost. You don’t want to spend your free time desperately tracking down vaccination dates and test results by phone.
Typical vaccine requirements include Rabies, DHLPP, CIV, and Bordetella, as well as an up to date fecal exam. Some may require more or less, and this varies by state regulations as well as facility. If your dog is still intact, check if they require spay/neuter for participation in group.
Most places also require a temperament test or evaluation. This is when you bring your dog in for a short stay to see how they interact with handlers and other dogs. You should be able to schedule this all ahead of time.
Even if your dog is a daycare veteran, there is still a slight chance they won’t pass the evaluation. Ask how they handle this. Most larger facilities can accommodate dogs they deem selectively social or non-social. They may just be kenneled and get walks or individual playtime during their stay. While it may be a bit disappointing, remember it’s still more socialization than they would get being crated at the hotel.
Once your dog gets the green light, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Go take that museum tour, eat at that fancy restaurant, and let your travel doggo rub elbows (er…paws) with their new friends.
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