There are a lot of benefits of traveling with your dog. Some are obvious and some are not so obvious.
The more obvious benefits, which most articles about traveling with your dog mention, include:
- Your dog gets to experience sights and sounds that are different than around home
- You don’t have to miss them
- You know they are well taken care of because no one takes better care of them than you
- You get to spend quality time with your best furry friend
- You’ll get some great pictures to share with your friends and family
There are many benefits that people usually don’t think of though when they take their dog on a road trip or vacation.
These things can strengthen your relationship with your dog, change the way you enjoy your vacations, and life, and change your dog’s personality for good.
While most benefits apply to both you and your dog, they tend to benefit one more than the other.
I’ve broken the list down into things that primarily benefit YOU and those that primarily benefit your dog.
Benefits You Gain by Traveling with Your Dog
A Closer Bond
Whether your travels include hiking, camping, or just exploring a new city, your dog will be out of it’s element and looking to you for direction.
This desire to take queues from you, and the one-on-one attention, usually means your dog will form a closer bond with you that can last for days, weeks, or forever, after your trip is over.
For example, when I did a 3-day backpacking trip with Gretel, I thought she would be excited to see Doggy Daddy and not want to have much to do with me when we got home. Kind of like after you take a big trip with a friend – you have a great time but need a little space in the relationship after.
To my surprise, the opposite happened. When we got home, she chose to stick by me for more attention and loving.
I truly feel like hiking alone in the woods with her for 3 days strengthened our relationship.
Flexibility and Going with the Flow
When you travel with your dog, as with any vacation, there is usually a lot of planning involved.
When we travel alone or with other humans, we often stick to the plans at all costs to make sure we check everything off the list.
Things are different when you bring your pooch along though. When you travel with your dog, you have to accept you’re on their agenda.
For example, you may be planning to hike a certain trail. Although you did a lot of travel research before hand, you show up and there is a no dogs allowed sign at the trailhead.
Suddenly, you have to find a nearby alternative.
While your first inclination might be toward disappointment because things didn’t turn out like you’d hoped, your dog will just be happy to to be out on the trail. Also, the new discovery can turn out to be just as good or better than your original plan.
Seeing your dog’s eyes light up when they get out of the car will remind you that having to change plans and stay flexible is ok. What really matters is the memories you are making together.
It Forces You to Slow Down
When you travel with other humans, you have to accommodate everyone’s desire to see ALL THE THINGS. It’s no doubt a very exciting experience but usually also very exhausting.
Ever feel like you need to go back to work after vacation to get some rest?
Trips with your dog are usually more relaxing and slower paced.
First, dogs are zen kind of creatures. Their goal is never to be super busy all of the time. They like to enjoy each moment for what it is and stop and smell the roses.
As humans who typically pride ourselves in being busy, we often look at our dog on vacation, notice their enjoyment, and start taking queues from them.
The look of our dog living in the moment, like it’s the ONLY thing that matters, often makes us want to take a deep breath and try to see things through their eyes.
You’ll Meet More People
There are three main reasons traveling with your dog can lead to meeting more people.
First, when we travel by ourselves, we are often too absorbed by our own thoughts, and trying to get to the next place on our list, to take the time to connect with people around us. Our “I’m on agenda” demeanor often causes people around us to leave us be to do whatever it is we are so focused on.
Second, the slowing down and going with the flow can take you to places with fewer people, more locals, and with an attitude of reaching to really explore where you are at the moment. All of these things can lead to more connections with the people around you.
Third, most people love dogs so they are good conversation starters.
I often find people trying to connect with me by smiling and saying “cute dog” or asking me a question about my dog’s breed or coloring.
These “icebreakers” can lead to a deeper conversation, and connection, with people as well as increase the frequency of these types of encounters.
You’ll Discover Things Off the Beaten Path
Often times, the typical tourist hotspots are off limits to dogs.
This is especially true in US National Parks (although you can still have quite an enjoyable experience with your dog if you know these important things).
Traveling with your dog requires that you dig a little deeper to find things that allow you to enjoy what makes the area so special with your dog by your side.
Most often, these are things that you might not have put on your to-see list if your dog wasn’t traveling with you.
Doing this can lead to the discovery of some hidden gems that attract less tourists and that will make your vacation more unique.
It’s More Cost Effective
Hotels, and alternative accommodations like Airbnb, almost always charge a pet fee.
While it’s true that some can be expensive – more of a “we really don’t want you to bring your dog but…” cost-prohibitive kind of fee – most are reasonable.
Generally, if you add up the cost of all the pet fees, it’s less than you would spend on boarding your dog or paying a dog sitter.
If you can find a hotel where pets stay free, or choose to camp a couple of nights, the overall cost of bringing your dog on a trip will be even lower.
You’ll Feel a Little Safer
Bringing your dog with you on a trip can help give you a sense of security.
If you have a big dog, you can feel like you have a constant bodyguard at your side.
Even small dogs can add to a sense of safety.
Smaller dogs can be loud and attract attention if something was to go awry. I’ve also known plenty of little dogs that can get really nasty if they feel like their owner is being threatened so don’t discount them for some physical protection either.
No matter what size dog you have, they are keenly aware of their surroundings. They are likely to notice when a situation, or person, doesn’t “feel right” before you do.
Benefits of Travel for Your Dog
While socializing your dog – exposing them to different sights, smells, people, situations, etc. – is most critical at a young age, it’s important to continue providing opportunities throughout a dog’s life.
When you travel with your dog, they will learn to be around strange people, walk on different surfaces than they have around home like metal grates or wood planks, and generally experience a different world than they know.
While you should know your dog’s personality and take measures to make sure they feel safe and comfortable – like avoiding the most crowded places or times if you have an anxious dog – you may be surprised how these new encounters can change them.
For example, I have friends – The Long Haul Trekkers – who biked around Europe and South America with their dog. At first they were nervous how their dog would handle it because she was a bit timid and reactive towards people and other dogs.
They were very cautious with their dog in each new environment but, to their surprise, she started to get more and more comfortable with new dogs and people. By the end of their trip, she was a totally different dog.
Regularly exposing your dog to new situations and places can also help them with environmental changes that happen in their daily life like moving to a new house, adopting a new furry family member, or simply moving their food dish.
Getting Focused Attention
If you’ve ever traveled alone, you’ll know it’s a different experience than traveling with others.
When you travel with a friend, you tend to focus more on spending time with them than taking to random strangers.
In the case where you are traveling alone with your dog, THEY are the friend you are focusing on.
Also, when you are on vacation, the daily to-do list that keeps you half distracted isn’t there. You are able to give more undivided attention to your dog.
Your dog will appreciate this one on one time with you.
When your dog is traveling with you, they tend to get more daily exercise than they would at home.
When at home, most dogs spend all day on the couch when you are at work. Even with the best intentions, not all dogs get a walk every day.
When you are travelling with your dog, you guys are on the move more often.
You’re simply moving and doing more during the day. You’re focused on getting out and exploring new places.
You may have to walk a little further to find a suitable potty place by your hotel (vs. letting them out in the back yard).
As you can see, there are many benefits to traveling with your dog.
Have you traveled with your dog? Would you add anything to my list of unexpected benefits?