For those of us who consider dogs full fledged members of the family, it seems only logical they would accompany us on vacation. It’s an adventure! A change of scene! A slower pace! All the things we crazy humans love about “getting away” can potentially be frightening for our pets…but with a little pre-planning and a lot of patience, an enjoyable time can be had by all.
Pre-planning needs to be so much more than packing a favorite toy and buying extra yummy treats. Crates can be vacation-savers, and I encourage almost all of my clients to use them when they travel. Even free roaming dogs will appreciate a quiet, familiar area they can escape to if the human fun gets to be too much. The key to utilizing a crate is making sure your pooch is comfortable in it long before the vacation. An unfamiliar hotel room is not the place to introduce a foreign pen! The process should start months before. (Here is where that pre-planning comes in!) In fact, there should be NOTHING new introduced while you are away from home. This means no new crates, new treats, or even something as simple as a new collar or leash. For pups: familiarity breeds calm…and isn’t calm what your vacation is all about?
Patience is another key to getting to that calm, happy place faster. (And when I say patience – I mean YOUR patience!) There are hundreds books written about dog behavior and what goes on in the canine brain. All you need to know while you’re on holiday: you don’t know what your dog is really thinking. Take a breath…and try to put yourself in their shoes. Stay calm and allow your dog an extra moment to get comfortable. This might mean waiting for your dog jump out of the car before you resort to pulling him out for a quick potty break…or might mean letting your dog bark at unfamiliar things without immediately becoming frustrated and yelling for him to stop. Just give him a moment to adjust.
But maybe the most important tip I have for those dog-lovin’ world travelers is this: NEVER force your dog to do something they don’t want too. This can apply to forcing a dog onto a boat because you know “they will love it if they just tried it!”….but more likely will pertain to interaction with well-intentioned people. The general public assumes it is OK to enter your dog’s personal space and talk crazy baby talk to them. While some dogs genuinely love this and will eat up the extra attention, many dog will not appreciate a stranger in their face after a 6 hour car ride. (Honestly, I wouldn’t either!) Whether it be the chirpy front desk clerk at your hotel or your sweet Aunt Mabel – dogs should never be forced to be on the receiving end of unwanted affection. Have a response at the ready – “Oh my gosh! Buffy was just in the car for HOURS. Better give her some space!” or “I bet Buffy would like to walk around this place. We are going to go explore. See you later!” Not forcing your dog into potentially sticky situations will guarantee a drama free trip (at least when it comes to your pooch!)
With a little thinking ahead and a lot of deep breaths a vacation with your dog can can strengthen your bond, help your dog learn to adapt to new situations, and…who am I kidding?! Dog-filled vacations are better because everything is better with a dog.