For us, the worst thing about traveling is leaving our dogs at home. We just miss them. So, when we began planning to spend February in Florida we knew the dogs would be part of the trip. I thought it might help those of you who are also dog parents if I shared some lessons I learned along the way.
#1 Preparation and Planning are Everything. When finding a rental home, it had to accept pets, but it was also very important to consider all of the surroundings. It had a fenced in yard, this was essential for having a place we could all relax. I also took a google tour of the street (using the picture mode) so I could see how busy it was. Another benefit was that there was a dog park 2 blocks away. We literally went there every day at least once.
#2 Your dogs must be trained, really trained. I hired a trainer six months before we were scheduled to leave and worked with each dog separately and then together. One mistake I made was focusing on the off leash training. I envisioned romping in the surf with the dogs every day. The reality was that dogs were not allowed on the beach most of the time so we did “romp” three times, but most of our time was walking on a leash. Our terrier has lived her entire life in our home which is on 2 acres and is pretty secluded so she was terrorized by loud trucks. Garbage day was a nightmare. I will do the training again and focus on leash training and focus on leash training in areas with heavy traffic.
#3 Extra attention is needed for planning the trip. I researched every possible form of transportation and, short of chartering a plane, the car was our only option. We were not willing to put either dog in cargo and, while the terrier could have fit in an under seat carrier, the big dog would not. Yes, we considered making him a service dog, but decided this would be too stressful for us and the dogs.
Our car trip was approximately 20 hours, so we traveled to Atlanta the first day each way. We were so lucky to find the Renaissance Atlanta where they treated us and the dogs like royalty. There was a park across the street so we could easily walk them. Throughout the trip we stopped to take them for walks. We found it was better to pack our lunches and stop at rest areas instead of fast food joints.
#4 Consult your vet before you go. We took both dogs for a check up and to share our plans with our vet. He prescribed a sedative that we could use if we needed it. I spent WAY too much time worrying about this. We gave them half the dose of sedatives when we first left and quickly found out we should have given them the full dose. They were just nervous and panting. When they had the full dose, they slept most of the way and were easily able to wake and take walks when we stopped for breaks.
#5 The trip is really focused on the dogs. I absolutely loved the trip and would do it again in a second. I think it is important to mention that the trip revolved around the dogs. We did leave them in the house to go to the beach and sometimes to go out, but more often we took them to the restaurants and sat on the patio with them, or to the park.