How to Take a Family Vacation With Your Dog

You may be familiar with the inner turmoil and conflict of leaving your pup at a dog kennel. For many, “family” doesn’t feel like “family” without their dog, and so a family vacation wouldn’t be complete without your four-legged family member joining the trip! Here are some helpful points to consider when planning a family vacation with your dog.

Make Sure They Have Tags

You travel to new places to explore what is unfamiliar to you or enjoy something different than what you would find at home. This means the destination is as new and exciting (or maybe even confusing) to your dog. It can be easy for your pet to wander and get lost as it explores these unknown areas… for this reason, dog tags are essential. Your dog’s tags signal to strangers that first, your dog does have a family, and second, that if the dog does appear lost from their family, it probably is. Without these tags, there is no way to reconnect your dog with you, and it may end up in a shelter or adopted by someone new. Make sure that you have these tags, and that they have exactly the information necessary to link them to you.  

Bring the Right Kind of Dog

Not all dogs are created equal when it comes to travelability. Small, anxious dogs like Chihuahuas or Yorkshire Terriers struggle to remain calm on long trips, especially by airplane. Bulldog breeds have short snouts that make breathing difficult at high elevations, which can cause major problems for them on planes or even at certain destinations. Dogs like Golden Retrievers are great with kids and make great travel companions. They are often trained as service dogs because of their ability to remain calm and relaxed on long trips. Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Collies are renowned for their smarts and their gentility with people. These dogs (especially when well trained) make perfect travel companions.

Make Sure Your Kids Take Responsibility

This is a team effort! This can be an opportunity to practice patience and to serve your family members, as you take turns making sure the dog is fed, watered, cleaned up, walked, and taken out to do its business. Everyone should be aware of where the dog is and who is in charge of holding the leash, and be ready to jump in and help whenever necessary.

Bring a Pet Carrier

The carrier is a safe option for spaces where your dog may feel overwhelmed and need a private place to keep to itself, or for spaces where maybe the people present would not appreciate your dog (though heaven knows why.) Pet carriers should be spacious enough for the dog to move around inside, and comfortable enough for the dog to remain there and remain content for an extended period of time. Many airlines will require carriers for dogs on flights, and carriers can be a good space for your dog in the car as well.

Be Prepared with Supplies

Always be prepared for potential accidents! If possible, bring travel-sized cleaners and clean-up materials (like bags, towels and wipes). Collapsible water and food bowls are a great way to save space and are easily transportable. Make sure you have enough food for the entire duration of the trip! Vacations are not a great place to start a new food, as it takes time for the dog’s digestive systems to adjust to new foods and that can cause unpleasant stomach problems. Travel may also be something that makes your dog a little bit nervous, so don’t forget to bring treats as a reward every once in a while for their good behavior!

Research Where You’re Staying…

Not all hotels, motels and inns will allow for animals of any kind to stay inside. Their accessibility may depend on the size or breed of dog, or they may have very specific rules and restrictions for your pet. Often there will be an additional fee for having a pet in the room, so be aware and be prepared for those extra charges. This is another place where carriers may not only be helpful but required. Keep this in mind for all of your overnight stays, if they will be changing multiple times. Don’t get blindsided by a place that won’t allow your pet to stay with you at night!

…and Where You’re Visiting

If your vacation is mostly outdoors, your pet will likely be allowed to join without a problem. Still, some hiking trails, parks, or tourist attractions may not be labeled “pet friendly” and might restrict—or deny altogether—your dog’s presence. Before you bring your dog to enjoy these places with you, confirm that they will be allowed to enjoy those places at all. Just like with your overnight stays, don’t let yourself be caught off guard by rejection from a location that you believed your dog would be welcome. It is not safe to leave your dog in the car for long periods of time, so stick to places where they can be with you at all times.

Be Aware of Your Dog

You know your dog’s patterns and mannerisms better than anyone! Pay attention to how your dog is reacting to the drive, to certain stimulants like smells or changes in climate. This drastic change in scene and schedule can be difficult for a routine-loving dog to adapt to quickly. Any kind of normal, scheduled events in the day will be helpful for keeping your pup happy, healthy and calm. Because your surroundings will be much more variable than they are at home, pay attention to your dog and what it will have access to!

Bringing your dog on vacation can be intimidating—there is a lot to keep track of and a lot to pay attention to. However, your dog can also be a fun and energetic addition to your average travel, and will allow for your “whole” family to be together to enjoy the trip. Following these guidelines can relieve some of the stress of traveling with your dog, and will help you feel prepared and confident in everyone’s safety.

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