Most people wait months for the sweet relief of vacation: no rise and grind, no cleaning house or paying bills. Even though it seems like pups have it pretty easy in comparison, with no boring responsibilities to speak of (besides some backyard squirrel patrol), ever wonder about whether your pup could use a break from his day-to-day?
“Dogs get stressed and need holidays too,” says Graeme Hall, aka the Dogfather, a dog trainer and behaviorist in the United Kingdom. But a break from their everyday routine isn’t just fun—it can also be a great way to help keep your dog in shape and stay well behaved. “Some of the most common behavior problems can result from boredom or loneliness,” notes Hall.
While technically time off for dogs isn’t crucial, there are definitely perks for having some pup PTO: Vacation can be a great chance to give your pup some time to run around and roam a totally new, exciting environment, get different mental stimulation than he gets in his daily life, and, of course, have some fun with his favorite humans.
And if you have a working dog (like a police or service pup) time away should absolutely be on your agenda. “Vacations are especially necessary for these dogs—they need a respite from the stress of their job just like you,” says Stefanie Schwartz, DVM, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist in California. Either way, here’s how to make the most out of vaca with your pup:
Choose the Right Trip
The ideal getaway for your dog depends on your idea of vacation and what kind of dog you have. Consider your pet’s breed, activity level, and individual temperament and what you think they might enjoy. If your dog loves trail walks, for instance, take him with you to explore a national park. But keep in mind that “not all dogs are going to like camping,” says Schwartz (we’re looking at you, tktktk)
Visit Your Vet
Even if your pup is in good health, it’s always a good idea to to your vet about your planned trip. They can make sure your dog’s up to date on all his vaccinations—keep documentation on hand, just in case a resort you’re visiting or airline requires it—plus give you tips about how he might react to the conditions of a certain region. And if you think your pup will get anxious on the way there, your vet might also prescribe a sedative to take the edge off.
Let Your Pup Explore
One of the biggest perks of a pup-cation: She gets to roam around a whole new landscape. “If satisfies the dog’s daily needs of attention and exercise, and gives them new turf to explore and mark,” says Schwartz. Also important: the opportunity to make new doggo or human friends. Make a point to take your pup to the beach or seek out nearby dog parks before you go.
Find Bonding Time
Another big pro of taking your pup along on your vacation: She gets more time to bond with you and other family members. Dogs can go stir-crazy when they’re cooped up alone, says Hall: “Most dogs are happiest when being active with their families, preferably outdoors—they love to spend time with us, and a holiday is the ideal scenario for that.”