The Best City for Pet Traveler’s competition over at the Go Pet Friendly blog has been lots of fun. But some of you are reading about pet-friendly cities and saying to yourselves, “Take my dog to a beach with a hundred other dogs? Or expect him to sit quietly under a restaurant table while strangers walk by? Forget it!”
I feel your pain.
Agatha and Christie, My Reactive Inspiration
For many years, I lived with Agatha and Christie who would bark and lunge at every other dog that approached. At that time, I knew far less about working with this problem than I do now. So I did what many who have reactive dogs do. I took up camping.
And not camping in a bright, cheery pet-friendly campsite. No, we’d find the most densely wooded, separated from all others, campsites in state parks we could find. We couldn’t risk ending up near another dog that would set ours off like fuzzy little barking time bombs.
I love camping. And I think the dogs did too.
But it’s good to try new things. And after crying in the car the first time we left the girls behind in the care of our neighbor as we drove off for a week at the beach, I wanted to find a way to travel with my dogs.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks like everyone who manages reactivity. I’ll share my tips using my favorite vacation spot, Cape May, New Jersey, as a case study. Hopefully you’ll add your tips in the comments.
Tips for Vacationing with a Reactive Dog
Yes, you always need to be alert and proactive when managing life with a reactive dog. But a few things can make vacationing with one easier.
A large city or crowded dog beach will overwhelm your dog. And avoid big festivals and events. You need space to spread out and allow your dog enough room to be comfortable. Oh, and you might need an escape route. You don’t want to be boxed in when a loping dog gets up in your dog’s face while her people yell from a distance, “She’s just being friendly. Let your dog play with her.”
A small town or city that is not famous world over for its dog friendliness will be the best place to start.
Cape May, NJ is best known for its precious, Victorian buildings. Although it’s a very dog friendly town, it draws a wide range of visitors and not just people looking to have a good time with their dog.
Enjoy the Shoulder Season
In the North, a beach resort in the off-season might not be much fun. Very little is open. The refreshing breezes of the summer become arctic gusts. So you might not have other dogs and tourists to worry about. But you won’t have places to eat or stay either.
We take advantage of the shoulder season—that time right before or after the mad rush of tourists. Many things are open. But, since children are not out of school, many families are not in a place to take a vacation.
You’ll find more places to enjoy with your dog without the press of people who think the only time to take a vacation is when everyone else does.
In Cape May, the end of May has wonderful weather. But the crowds and the cost of housing reflect that fact that the tourist season has not yet begun. In early September you’ll find the same thing. And the water is still warm enough for swimming.
Rent a House
Yes, a funky little inn or Victorian cottage might be where you’d like to stay. But does your dog agree?
Ice machines in conventional hotels make some dogs nuts. Not to mention the sounds of other people moving around out in the hallway. And a charming, pet-friendly inn where the innkeeper’s dogs visit residents will be the last thing your reactive dog wants.
Renting a pet-friendly house for a week is usually less expensive than staying in a hotel or inn. You can save even more by preparing some of your own meals instead of eating out. Invite a few friends or family to share the cost and you’ve just got yourself a dog sitter if you decide to go out.
Your dog will be more comfortable without the noise of neighbors on the other side of the wall. And will feel more secure if you decide to leave him there while you explore non-pet friendly entertainment.
If your dog would be anxious if left alone, at least you’ll have more room to spread out and often a nice deck or yard to enjoy together.