Should your pet travel with you? Or is it a bad idea–for either of you? To decide, ask yourself a few simple questions.
Deciding Whether Your Pet Should Travel With You
As a responsible pet owner, there are a few things to consider when choosing whether or not to take your pet with you. Answering these questions will help you determine if the situation will be enjoyable and safe for you and your pet.
1. Are pets allowed?
First, ask whether the place(s) you’re going to visit allows pets. It can be frustrating to have to alter your plans — especially when there doesn’t appear to be a logical reason for a site to ban pets.
You might even feel a temptation to walk in boldly with your polite dog … pretending not to have seen a sign. Or sneak your cat or wee pup into a building in a bag.
But it’s important to obey the rules.
Not only could you get a ticket for taking your pet where they’re not allowed, you’d be setting a bad example. You absolutely don’t want to do anything that might cause business owners ban pets in more places.
Keep in mind that sometimes there are good reasons dogs aren’t allowed — even if they’re not immediately obvious. For example, the state park officials at Cape May Point Lighthouse started banning dogs only after they were found to be harassing nesting birds.
Cape May is located on a major flyway where birds feast on horseshoe crabs and hatch their young. While it’s disappointing that we can’t visit this beautiful beach with our pets, it’s worth finding another place to play with our pups to protect the birds.
And pet policies can change, so call or check a site’s website to be sure pets are still allowed before you go. After all, people had been visiting Cape May Point Beach for years with dogs before they enacted the ban.
2. Is it safe?
Big, outdoor events like festivals and concerts can be fun. But they aren’t always safe for dogs (especially small dogs) and cats. A medium-sized doggo is exactly the right height to take someone out at the knees. In a large crowd where the average person won’t notice her, it might not be safe for your dog.
I’ve seen people walking tiny dogs on-leash in crushing crowds and it was all I could do to restrain myself from scooping them up before someone stepped on them!
I’ve also seen pets waiting alone in cars for their people on days when the temperatures could be dangerous. If it’s too hot or cold outside, and you’d need to leave your pet in the car while you run an errand, it’s probably better to leave him home.
3. Will my pet enjoy it?
Some dogs feel relaxed and comfortable around other dogs and in crowds. They’re perfect companions to go most places with you. But not all pets handle new settings or crowds without anxiety.
Traveling with your pet requires that you acknowledge and respecting her limitations, even when you wish things were different. If going along will cause your dog discomfort, fear, anxiety, or boredom, she might be happier at home.
4. Can my pet behave appropriately?
It’s easy to get complacent about our dogs’ obedience training when we’re at home following the same routine day after day. We overlook the leash pulling, inappropriate greetings, and excited barking.
But things are different when you’re traveling. Vacations are for relaxing, and that’s just not possible when your dog drags you behind him on sidewalks and trails, jumps on strangers, and barks whenever he sees another dog.
So we all agree that traveling with a well-behaved dog is ideal, but how do we make it happen? Start by spending 15-20 minutes a day helping your dog to sharpen the skills she’ll need to be a great travel buddy.
READ MORE ⇒ Training Your Dog To Travel
One of the most challenging situations most dogs face when traveling is behaving well at a restaurant. Once you teach your dog to “go to bed” on cue, eating out together becomes much easier.
While it’s not necessary for pups to lie down the entire time we’re eating, it is the best and safest behavior when a server approaches the table with delicious-smelling food. And when you get up to leave, nothing will make you happier than hearing other diners murmuring, “Oh, there’s a dog. I didn’t even know he was there!”
If your dog gets exceptionally aroused by food smells, perhaps he should wait for you at home. Or consider packing a picnic, where you’re the only one affected if he decides to snatch something off the table.
READ MORE ⇒ Taking Your Dog To Pet Friendly Restaurants
5. Will bringing my pet cause upset to others?
Though it is hard to believe, not everyone likes pets. Some people have allergies. Others are afraid of dogs. And, while it’s not our responsibility to please everyone, it does pay to be considerate when deciding whether to bring your pet along.
That might mean dining at pet friendly restaurants at off hours, making it easier for servers to accommodate you and give other diners some space. It also demands that dogs are on a leash where ever they’re required.
Sometimes you might simply mean you should ask if including your pet in the travel plans is alright. This is important when you’re visiting family or close friends.
If you’re not willing to make these concessions, it might be better to leave your pet home.
6. Can you easily change plans if things don’t go well?
Years ago, I took my dog Honey for her first kayak trip with a group of friends. We formulated a back-up plan before we left, just in case she hated it. Packing a lawn chair, something to read, and a few of Honey’s favorite toys ensured we could entertain ourselves on the beach if needed.
When deciding whether your pet should travel with you, it’s helpful to consider how easily you can shift to Plan B. Then if things don’t go as planned, your pet isn’t stuck in a situation beyond her capabilities.
7. Will I be able to focus on my pet?
Our first responsibility is to our pets. If they are uncomfortable or tired, it’s our responsibility to take care of them. After all, they didn’t ask us to take them on the ghost walk or to that maritime museum.
At the beach, that means shifting the umbrella to give your pet shade. Making sure she has plenty of water. And taking a dip in the water to cool her down. But if the activity you have chosen means you’ll be too busy to take care of her, your pet is probably better off staying home. Or with a pet sitter back in your hotel room.
8. Will my pet be safe if I leave her behind?
If you’re traveling like a nomad in an RV or boat, there is one more question you need to ask yourself when deciding to take your pet with you …
When I was living full time on a boat with my dog Honey, I also had to ask myself whether it was safe to leave her on the boat without us. If you’re full-time travelers in an RV or on an extended voyage, you’ll need to ask yourself the same thing.
Can you leave your pet behind in an air conditioned RV? What happens if the power fails? In the summer heat, you’ll want to be sure you have a way to track your dog’s comfort when you leave them. If not, when temperatures soar, leaving your pet behind is not an option.
When we needed to do grocery shopping or laundry and we couldn’t bring Honey along, we either completed our errands before it got hot, or one of us stayed behind to make sure Honey was okay. If neither of those options worked, Honey used to come along and one of us waited in the shade while the other hustled to get the things we needed.
What To Do When Taking Your Pet Is Not An Option
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to accommodate your pet, you just can’t bring her with you.
In those situations, you might decide that a pet sitter to be the best option. Your pet gets to stay safe in their familiar environment. And there are pet sitters who will come to your boat, RV, or hotel room if you’re headed out to some attraction that doesn’t allow pets.
Traveling with pets is a joy, and it will take you places you would never have discovered on your own. So ask the question: “Should my pet travel with me?” And then work out the answers to the questions above until the conclusion is a definite and happy YES! You’ll have a great time exploring all kinds of wonderful places together!
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