There are many websites full of helpful information about how to travel with your dog. (I’ve included a list of some of my favorites below). I wish we were traveling with our dog, Dino, but on a month long trip to Southeast Asia that included a 40 hour air travel marathon and ten flights on various airlines, changing hotels every 3 nights for two weeks, followed by a 13 night cruise, and then three months living in Honolulu, it just didn’t seem possible. As a 30 pound cockapoo, Dino isn’t a dog who “fits under the seat in front of you,” so even assuming everything else could be arranged, I couldn’t see putting him crated in an airplane cargo hold for 16 hour trans-Pacific flights or in the holds of planes run by airlines in countries where they eat dogs.
Some of my dog loving friends just won’t make a trip unless they can bring their dog. I consider myself a dog person, so I totally understand how they feel. Missing Dino has resulted in me
fawning over petting other people’s dogs in elevators, on the street and in parks all over the world. I can pantomime “May I pet your dog?” in many languages.
Some might consider me selfish, but I want to have a dog to love and care for and I want to soothe my wanderlust by being a traveling, trailing spouse. My husband‘s work travel, to a large extent, determines where we go. For others who might find themselves in similar circumstances, here is how to travel without your dog:
1) Acquire a dog to love. We adopted Dino from the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) when he was 6 months old, but you might also be adopted by a stray dog, or buy one from a reputable breeder. (Some might argue there is no such thing. I disagree.) Don’t buy one from a pet store or a puppy mill where dogs are bred in terrible conditions.
2) Make sure your dog is socialized with other people and with other dogs. If your dog loves only you or doesn’t like to be left alone, traveling without him/her is going to be a terrible strain on both of you. If your dog is great with people, but not so good with other dogs, this will limit your options, but they still exist.
3) If you have taken care of #2, then you have the following options:
- You take care of our dog. We’ll take care of yours. After we adopted Dino, some neighbors on our street also adopted a dog, Annabelle. Dino and Annabelle had some successful play dates and then we were able to take care of each other’s dogs when we couldn’t take them with us on trips. I have to admit that we got the better end of this deal because we’re empty nesters, but their travel time is dictated and limited by school vacations. We continued this arrangement even after we sold our house, downsized and moved to a Center City Philadelphia apartment. Dino and Annabelle are both mature dogs and seamlessly adjusted to having a 16 floor elevator ride to go outside.
- Have someone stay in your home with your dog while you’re away. On a few occasions, our first choice arrangement for Dino hasn’t been workable. If you know people with dogs (and it’s hard not to if you take your dog for walks in your neighborhood), chances are they can recommend someone they hire to stay at their home and care for their dog when they’re away. This is the optimal (and probably, the most expensive arrangement) if your dog is most happy at home and doesn’t get along with other dogs. There are also websites where you can be matched up with people looking to house sit who are animal lovers also willing to pet sit. Participants on both sides of these arrangements have usually been vetted (pun most definitely intended) and this can be a win-win financially for everyone. Some of these websites are listed below.
- Have your dog stay with someone who boards dogs at their home. When we first had to leave Dino, this was the arrangement we used. From another dog owner who I knew from our walks, I found a dog loving family that took in a few dogs to stay at their house. Dino loved going there. He was treated like a member of the family and they had a big fenced in back yard. This was not an inexpensive option, but I’d rather stay in a less fancy hotel on a trip and spend the money to know our dog was well taken care of and content. (I actually felt a little badly because although Dino would be happy to see me when I picked him up, he would also whine a little as we drove off.)(See, DogVacay site below).
- Board your dog at a kennel or “doggie hotel”. I admit that this wouldn’t be my first choice because boarded dogs aren’t living in a very homey situation — although some higher end boarding facilities have fancy dog beds in little pet apartments which might even include a television. Usually, you pay additional fees for extra walks, play time with other dogs or extra time with a caretaker. If you board your dog at a facility where they will be exposed to other dogs, a bortadella vaccine for “kennel cough” is vital and is probably required. If your dog goes to a doggie day care, they usually also offer boarding services and this is probably the arrangement that would give you the most peace of mind because you know the staff and your dog is familiar with them and the surroundings.
- Totally luck out and have dog loving relatives who also have a dog and who are willing to take care of and love your dog for four months while you’re away!
So, as much as I wish Dino were curled up next to me as I write this, I know he is healthy and happy with his aunts and his dog cousin, Izzy. At this point, my biggest concern is that he won’t want to come home with us and they won’t want him to leave.
Epilogue: We retrieved Dino. We received a very ho hum greeting after our 4 and a half months away. In Dog, it was something like: “Oh, you’re back.” However, Dino immediately settled back into his old routine with us.
Blogs about traveling with your dog: Montecristo Travels (Montecristo is a 3.5 pound long-haired chihuahua who has traveled extensively in Europe and North America with his people. I even visited him!) ** DogJaunt (Chloe’s owner writes about travel with her Cavalier King Charles spaniel). ** The Constant Rambler (Lauren and Kenin Bassart write about trips with their larger dogs).
Housesitting websites: These websites were recommended by Boomer Travel Bloggers who have done housesits that also involved caring for pets: www.housecares.com; www.trustedhousesitters.com; www.mindmyhouse.com
Dog Home Stays: This is a service that can provide contacts for boarding your dog in homes in your area. I have never used them, but I would consider trying them if the need arose. http://dogvacay.com/