How to Have a Stress-Free Vacation with Your Dog

Marvel & Tricky enjoying the morning sun.

Marvel & Tricky enjoying the morning sun.

There’s nothing like vacationing with your dog!

Two years ago, Charlotte, Tricky, and Marvel joined my now husband and me on our vacation to Vermont. All five of us experienced a whole other level of recreation and relaxation. We chose a dog-friendly hotel on North Hero Island called Shore Acres for the first two-thirds of our trip and then stayed at The Hilton in Burlington for the last third of our trip. Because I am a dog trainer, my focus in this blog will be on dog behavior and the things we did to support all of us having a great trip.

My dogs love the hotel experience because they have been raised as travelers and have had many great travel experiences. We stay in hotels several times per year because I compete and train in the dog performance sport, agility. Each hotel is a new adventure for them. The first thing I do before I let the dogs out of the car is to carefully inspect the room for any

Tricky resting in the crate while Charlotte chills out on the couch.

Tricky resting in the crate while Charlotte chills out on the couch.

‘minefields’ (pills, food, socks, etc.)  that previous travelers may have left behind and housekeeping has missed. After pottying my dogs, I let them loose in the room to investigate all of the new smells of the room—truly an adventure for the nose! After a frenzy of sniffing for several minutes, my dogs find comfortable spots in the room to supervise the humans unpacking and settling in.

Dogs that are comfortable in crates are at an advantage when traveling. In fact, most hotels require that when you leave the room, the dogs are crated. My 12 year old girl, Charlotte, no longer has that skill. I made sure to hold on to it for my two terriers, Tricky and Marvel. A familiar crate in a new setting gives the dog a home base. A crate is also the safest way to leave your dogs alone in a hotel or other situation where strangers (such as housekeeping) can enter the room and perhaps leave the door open. When my husband and I were getting ready to leave the room, the terriers immediately ran to their individual crates in anticipation of receiving their stuffed Kongs. My dogs associate me getting ready to go out, especially when wearing a dress and heels, as Kong time in the crate for them! Because we have established this routine at home, it is automatic for them in hotel rooms. Routine and predictability allow dogs to feel more secure, even when in a new space.

Charlotte, me, Marvel, & Tricky

Charlotte, me, Marvel, & Tricky

They also received a TON of exercise. Not only because we were on vacation and that was part of the plan, but because tired dogs meant they were more likely to be ready for a good snooze instead of barking and disturbing the other human guests. We enjoyed hours of fetching in the field, swimming in Lake Champlain, running and chasing, sunbathing, lounging under trees, and watching sunsets with a glass of wine in hand (that was for the humans only!).

And because we were spending so much time together, we also made sure the dogs spent some time alone. Something that can be very challenging for dogs is having their people around 24/7 and then suddenly, when the vacation is over their humans have to go back to work. This could make the dogs anxious about being alone. Charlotte and Tricky can be this way so I keep this in mind when I spend a lot of time with them. The dogs stayed in the room while my husband and I had dinner dates, went kayaking, and explored Burlington. Upon returning home, I had few days before I returned to work so I made sure to step out of the house for a couple hours at a time to recondition them to being separate from me.

And most importantly, we took lots of fun pictures!

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Positively Expert: Bobbie Bhambree

Bobbie Bhambree is a dog trainer, a dog behavior consultant, and an agility competitor with over fifteen years’ experience in dog training and behavior. Bobbie is the Founder & Director of DogCentric Training & Behavior, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants...


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