Staying or Going: Should Family Vacation Include the Dog?

It’s Summer!

Do your summer plans include travel? Whether you’re prepping for a few days at the beach or a multi-state tour of Civil War battlefields, think about your dog before you finalize your plans.

People love to travel. We love to see new sites, taste new foods and meet interesting people. We pour over travel sites and pick places we know we’ll enjoy. We pull out our calendars and create an itinerary: leave on Friday, home on Tuesday. For the most part, we know what’s coming and where we’re going. Your dog…not so much. Depending on your dog’s level of socialization, breed and temperament, travel can be very stressful. Car rides are fun for many dogs, but a ten-hour marathon drive may test his mettle. And if you think airplane seats are uncomfortable, try flying in the cargo hold.

Consider your destination. Will your hosts welcome your dog? Yes, they said “bring everybody,” but confirm in advance that this means your dog. Not everyone puts dogs in the same category as kids.

Know your dog. Is she an adventurous type or a homebody? Is she easily distracted by a favorite toy or do new scents and sounds send her into a frenzy? Does she walk companionably on a leash or does she need a little work in that department? If you’ve confirmed the dogfriendliness of your destination and your dog is socialized and ready for a trip, pack carefully to ensure a comfortable journey. Bring as many homey things as you can—beds, crates, toys, bowls and leashes. Pack a list of your dog’s familiar words and routines. Dogs are much happier when surrounded by things they recognize. If your hosts have dogs, introduce them to yours in a neutral location, preferably outdoors to avoid territorial disputes. Let both dogs drag long leashes to allow natural interaction while maintaining your ability to intervene if needed. If your dog stays behind, try not to feel guilty. She will be content with a stable routine and delighted when you get home. Keep in mind that the aggravations of travel that frustrate humans may overwhelm your dog and create a situation that makes you wish you had all stayed home!