Vacation! Yippi dippy doo! It’s this time of the year, for you. But is it for your dog? Well, not really. Pet dogs are on vacation 24/7 so they don’t really need a break from anything actually. They do love to know new places, but for a dog that can only mean walking him round a different block or park every day. Their world is their nose and as much as you think they appreciate that picturesque village or that beautiful beach you take them to, they don’t really – at least not the way you think they do.
Dogs are routine animals; in fact, they are routine nerds. If they are used to a specific schedule every day, that what makes them happy and that’s what they expect. My dogs for example – adopted and foster – have the following routine: wake up, be lazy until I’ve had my coffee, walk, come back, be lazy, walk in the afternoon, eat, play, sleep. This is what they expect every single day and this is what makes them happy.
I take my dogs with me on vacation every time – if possible of course, and I always stick to the same schedule when it comes to them, just like when we’re at home. It helps them adjust to the new environment and the new temporary lifestyle since day one. Vacation in Greece can mean many things – the Greek summer offers too many options. So my dogs have been camping, they have stayed in hotels or a friend’s summer house, they have spent entire summers in cottages with huge gardens or tiny apartments near the beach. So, here is what I do – it has worked for me – and for all the dogs that have been under my care – and I hope it works for you.
- I always take their beds with me. If there is no room (there rarely is any room for three of more dogs) I just take a small blanket from each ones bed – something they can lay on that has their smell and feels familiar.
- Once we arrive I pick their place. In Greece we mainly spend vacation outdoors, so I’m careful in choosing a place where their place will be protected by the elements all day (in shadow, preferably in a corner where they feel safe, a place where they can see me when laying there but not that busy, so they can rest if they like without having people passing by in front of them all day.
- I place their blankets there, and a bowl of water nearby – once they see the setting, they know that this is where their place is.
- I stick to their schedule. Always. Even if they have hundreds of acres where to run free, they expect to be walked twice a day, and they are. They expect to be fed after their evening walk, and they are. They expect to rest between walks and after their meal, and they do.
- I rarely take them on tours or to the beach, unless it’s that time of the day where they expect to be walked. Don’t get me wrong, I love having them with me 24/7, but dogs don’t really appreciate laying on the beach all day with you – they get tired and confused. They don’t appreciate accompanying you at bars either – they don’t understand what it’s all about. So I don’t leave them behind so that I can have a good time, I do it for them.
On vacation they all have been at the beach, in beach bars and hiking in the mountains, but it’s always that time of the day where their doggie brain can understand that this is part of their morning or evening walk. It helps them make the most of it. When dogs know what to expect, they are happy. Whether it’s the usual walk around the neighborhood or a fun afternoon at the beach, they can enjoy it knowing that it’s part of the routine they love, and that what comes after is also part of it.
Dogs are not supposed to act different on vacation. If they do, that means that they are confused – and a confused dog is an unhappy dog. I have been known for raising “non barking dogs”. Living in an apartment with three or four dogs means respecting the neighbors, so my dogs have been taught not to bark indoors – they lay off steam at the park or the mountain where I take them twice a day, and they know that home is the place where we relax, rest and be lazy. So even when we spend vacation in the countryside, with tons of noises, smells, and dogs barking in every cottage nearby, mine stay silent. Not because they are oppressed, but because they immediately adjust to the same routine like the one at home – and home is the place where we don’t bark for no reason.
Stick to the schedule, and your dog will be your dog, whether on vacation or at home. And in case your dog does not have a specific routine, please try to change that. You might think that wake up – go to work – come back home – have dinner – sleep is a routine that will kill you, but for a dog, a routine is what will make him/her be happy. Very very happy.