How to Vacation with Your Dog…

And live to tell the tail tale!

Rule #1: Don't have your parents take your family photos. Just don't...

Rule #1: Don’t have your parents take your family photos. Just don’t…

Thank you to our readers for being so patient last week while we were vacationing with family in the Outer Banks! I had hoped to sneak in a few posts throughout our time away, but a lack of consistent internet access made that goal almost impossible. Nevertheless, the blog and our readers were never far from my mind!

We so enjoyed our time away, but more than that, we relished the opportunity to enjoy it with our best boy, Tonka. Having our dog on vacation brought an added level of enjoyment to our trip. However, we also saw lots of owners and pups on the beach that maybe hadn’t taken the time to fully think through their plans. Because of that, we want to share with you our tips for a vacation that is enjoyable for both you, and your pups!

1) Put yourself in their… er, paws.


Is your dog a seasoned traveler, or a vehicle vomiter? Is he or she able to be comfortable in new environments, or do they prefer their home and regular routine? Are they a dog that prefers your companionship to all else, or do you have a regular dog sitter or boarding facility that your pup adores?

Rather than thinking about what is most enjoyable or convenient for you, take time to consider your dog’s preferences. If he or she is not going to fully enjoy the vacation, then you can bet that it will be more stressful for the rest of the family as well.

Tonka is a dog that will never be as content without me as he is when he is in my presence. He loves traveling, but makes it easy on me by sleeping the whole trip. Conversely, Gaige is pretty much the same dog regardless of who is around or where she is, while Georgia feels most comfortable in her home environment. Because of all of that, it was simple for us to decide which dog came along for the ride, and which stayed in the safety of our home.

2) Consider your destination


The OBX beaches are notoriously dog-friendly. Many local stores even welcome dogs into their buildings! It is also a fairly easy drive for us, which made it easier on Tonka, as well. If we had been considering a flight, there is no way we would have put any of our dogs through that stress for a short vacation.

Furthermore, we were sure to do our homework up front. Our beach house rental was dog-friendly, and we researched the local beach and leash-laws as they applied to dogs. We also had the number and location of the local vet on-hand, in case of any emergency. Finally, we were sure to check Tonka’s tags and licenses in order to keep him safe in case of unforeseen circumstances that might separate him from us.

3) How easy is it for you to manage your dog?


If your dog is a hand-full at home, expect for their behavior to be dramatized while in a novel environment. Things will be hectic at times, and there will be lots of new sights and smells. If you have difficulty handling your dog at home, chances are that those issues will only be exacerbated on your vacation. You are going away to decompress and relax… if bringing your dog along will only increase your anxiety, then it isn’t worth it for either of you! In that case, he or she will have a much more enjoyable time at home with a friend or at a boarding facility.

Tonka will stop on a dime at the sound of my voice, and will never venture more than a few feet from my side, even when off-leash or in hot pursuit of a sandpiper! Because of that, I knew it would be stress-free to have him join us. On the other hand, Gaige is notoriously naughty, and I knew that if we brought her along, some sort of comical troubles would ensue!

4) Be prepared to make new friends!


While we were mindful of leash laws and appropriate dog interactions, remember that others, both tourists and locals, may not be so respectful. It is important that your dog be well-socialized in order to justify a trip to the beach, or you may risk an ugly situation. From our experience, the beach during vacation season is probably not the best place for a reactive or defensive dog, only because there are so many elements that are outside of your control. Keeping such a pup in the safety of their own home is probably the best option.

If your dog is friendly with other pups, then he will have a blast at the Outer Banks beaches! Many of them turn in to rowdy dog parks, with dogs frolicking and chasing each other through the sand and waves. Conversely, be sure to respect local leash laws and other dogs (or humans!) who may not feel comfortable in such an environment by maintaining appropriate control of your dog at all times.


5) Embrace the mess


Water + Sand = Mud. Rinse. Repeat. (x100…)

That was essentially the theme of our vacation! We couldn’t get enough of seeing Tonka revert back to his puppy-like antics on the beach. We enjoyed it so much in fact, that we didn’t really mind having to bathe him after every jaunt out to the water. However, it helped that we packed lots of extra towels, casual clothes, and spare collars and leashes.


6) Be Mindful of the Weather and All that it Entails


It was very difficult for me to see owners who drug their dogs out onto the beaches on the hottest days, and didn’t provide them with any shelter or fresh water. You know that sand and black pavement that are too hot for you to step on without shoes? Remember that it is just as painful for your pups. No dog will enjoy the beach during the hottest days, so be sure to have adequate accommodations at your rental to keep him or her safely secured and entertained while you lay out or enjoy the surf. Tonka enjoyed every second of his early morning and evening romps in the water, and snoozed soundly while we were away during the heat of the day. That way, we didn’t have to worry about lugging jugs of water or having burned paw pads.


When all else fails... bury your head in the sand!

When all else fails… bury your head in the sand!

As for vacationing with your pet goat? Sorry, you’re on your own. But maybe this guy can help…