If you’re like me, you want to take your pet with you everywhere. But that isn’t always a good idea — for you or for your furry companion.
So how do you decide when to take your pup or cat along? And when is it better to leave them behind?
To decide, you’ll need to ask a few key questions.
The first question to ask is whether dogs are allowed where you’re going. There’s nothing more irritating than finding out I can’t bring my dog, Honey, somewhere for no logical reason. For example, the outdoor pedestrian mall in our former town of Ithaca, New York does not allow dogs. Ever. Outdoor malls all over the country allow pups, so why Ithaca insists on prohibiting dogs makes no sense!
But it’s the law.
Not only could we get a ticket for taking Honey with us, we’d set a bad example. And we absolutely don’t want to do anything that would make it more likely dogs will get or continue to be banned from a place.
Sometimes there are good reasons dogs aren’t allowed — even if they’re not immediately obvious. The state park officials at Cape May Point Lighthouse only started banning dogs 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’re not allowed to bring Honey to one of our favorite beaches, it’s worth finding another place to play it to protect the birds.
And pet policies can change, so it’s always a good idea to call or check a site’s website be sure pets are still allowed before you go. After all, we had been visiting Cape May Point Beach for years with our dogs before they enacted the ban.
I love attending big, outdoor events like festivals or concerts, but a few I’ve attended were simply not safe for my dog. Honey is exactly the height to take someone out at the knees. If a crowd is so large that the average person won’t notice my dog, it’s not safe for her to be there.
I’ve seen people walking tiny dogs on-leash in crushing crowds and barely restrained myself from scooping them up before someone stepped on them!
Honey is relaxed and comfortable around other dogs and in crowds, so she’s perfectly happy going most places with us. But not all dogs are.
If going along with cause your dog discomfort, fear, anxiety, or boredom, perhaps it’s best to leave him home.
Once we taught Honey to “go to bed” on cue, eating at pet-friendly restaurants became much easier. While it’s not necessary for her 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 we get up to leave, nothing makes me happier than to hear other diners murmuring, “Oh, there’s a dog. I didn’t even know she 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.
When we took 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 need be.
Even though she did great, we we kept her first trip short, and happily amused ourselves while we waited for our friends to return to shore.
With dogs, it’s always helpful to have a Plan B, so if things don’t go as you planned, you can salvage what’s left of your outing.
Though it is hard to believe, not everyone likes pets. Some people have allergies. Others are afraid of dogs. So we try to keep the comfort of others in mind before bringing Honey along.
That means dining at pet-friendly restaurants at off hours, to make it easier for servers to accommodate us and give other diners some space. We also keep Honey on a leash around others, even if she’s allowed off-leash. And sometimes we simply ask if including Honey is aright.
Years ago, we wanted to take a guided boat ride in a natural area with our dog. The captain said it was fine with him, provided she didn’t bark at wildlife and the other guests agreed. So we arrived early at the dock and asked each person before they boarded if they minded us bringing our dog aboard. Since they were able to see she was calm and well-behaved, no one objected and we had a delightful day!
My first responsibility is to Honey. If she’s uncomfortable or tired, it’s my responsibility to take care of her.
At the beach, that means shifting the umbrella to give her shade, making sure she has plenty of water, and taking a dip in the water to cool her down. But if the activity I’ve chosen means I’m too busy to take care of her, Honey is probably better off staying home on the boat.
And speaking of the boat…
When we lived in a house, I only had to consider if taking Honey with me was a good idea. She would certainly be safe and comfortable sleeping on the bed at home if we needed to leave her behind.
Now that we’re full time nomads living on a sailboat, I also have to ask myself whether it’s safe to leave her on the boat without us.
If you’re on vacation or living a nomadic lifestyle like we are, there is one more questions you need to ask yourself before deciding to take your dog with you …
Our boat does not have air conditioning, which means it can get very hot on board in the summer heat. So, when the temperatures soar, leaving Honey behind is not an option.
If we need to do grocery shopping or laundry and we can’t bring Honey along, we either complete our errands before it gets hot, or one of us stays behind to make sure Honey is okay. If neither of those options work, Honey comes along and one of us waits in the shade while the other hustles to get the things we need.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to accommodate your dog, you just can’t bring her with you.
My husband and I worked setting up the Annapolis Boat Show in October, and we often left the boat before sunrise and got home after dark. Bringing Honey with us to work was absolutely not an option. Luckily, we found an excellent pet sitter to spend time with Honey.
For me, a pet sitter is the best option, because Honey gets to stay in her 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.
Travel with pets is a joy, and it will take you places you would never have discovered on your own. So ask the question: “Should I take my pet 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.