Pet Travel. Made Easy.

When Should Your Pet Travel With You?

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.

Honey the golden retriever checks out the storefront mural in Georgetown, South Carolina.

You’ll find dog water bowls in front of many shops in lovely Georgetown, South Carolina. It makes Honey wonder if she’s also invited inside.

What To Ask Before Taking Your Pet Along

1. Are Dogs Allowed?

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.

Honey the golden retriever wonders if she should try her paw at improv.

Comedy clubs are definitely not pet-friendly. No comic in the world could hold a crowd if Honey was in the room.

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.

When Should Your Pet Travel With You? | GoPetFriendly.com2. Is It Safe?

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!

3. Will My Dog Enjoy It?

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.

4. Can My Dog Behave Appropriately?

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!”

Honey the golden retriever at Yellow Dog Eats in New Smyrna Beach.

Eating early meant we even had time to take a few quick pictures.

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.

5. Can We Change Plans If Things Don’t Go Well?

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.

Honey the golden retriever and Pam wait on the beach at Fort Matanzas.

We’re always prepared when plans change. While waiting for husband Mike to run an errand, I had my book and Honey had her stick.

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.

6. Will Bringing Our Dog Cause Upset To Others?

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!

7. Will I Be Able To Focus On My Dog?

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…

What Travelers Need To Ask Before Taking The Dog

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.

Honey the golden retriever stays home on the boat.

When your home is an airy cockpit on a boat in a beautiful anchorage, staying there doesn’t feel so bad. Especially if you have a friend.

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 …

8. Will My Pet Be Safe If I Leave Her Behind?

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.

Honey the golden retriever waits outside the grocery store in Charleston.

A hot shopping day means Honey waits outside with Mike under a tree while Pamela shops as quickly as she can.

What To Do If Bringing Your Dog Is Not An Option

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.

Take Your Pet Along

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.

Honey the golden retriever poses with the cat on the College of Charleston campus.

Taking a walking tour of the beautiful College of Charleston campus was fun for all of us. Honey even made a new feline friend.

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
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  • Hi Colby! Agreed – having a back-up plan is an absolute necessity. More than once Rod and I have had to take our food to go and quickly leave a restaurant when Ty or Buster were having an off day! It’s just part of taking our pets with us.

  • Colby Morita says:

    These are some excellent tips! One that you mention that I always think about is changing plans if things don’t go well. I take the service dog puppies to lots of different events and I have to be ready to leave if they aren’t having a good experience. One of those times was when we attended a friend’s hockey game and our puppy was not too thrilled so we waited outside and worked on obedience until the game ended.

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