Travel 101: Smooth Transitions

Quite understandably, many (most?) dogs become very stressed in new situations.  Not only did we take our dog on a 4-day road trip across the country, but we also expect him to keep his cool while we hotel hop for a full month.  Poor guy.

Another day, another hotel bed to cover in hair.


Like I’ve already mentioned, Rufus is pretty agreeable as long as I’m around…and food is being served.  However, I also tried to make sure the family morale stayed up and life remained pretty awesome…

Dog-friendly hotels are surprisingly easy to find these days, and we had no issues finding a place to stay in every state we stopped in (Comfort Inns, to my knowledge, are pet-friendly across the country).  When you can help it,  staying on the first floor is ideal when traveling with a dog.  On the first floor, you don’t have to worry about running into as many people or dogs, there’s no need to take an elevator, and taking your dog out to use the bathroom is much more convenient.  Rufus can be weary of strangers, and he has spotty leash reactivity so it was my goal to avoid any embarrassing run-ins.  This went smoothly until we could not get a first floor room at the hotel we stayed at the longest – go figure.

Rufus refusing to go back inside – the poor guy’s glutes were killing him after day 4 on the 5th floor.

So there we were on the fifth floor, having to take the stairs just about every single time we left our room.  Despite the extra exercise, we knew it was important to get Rufus acclimated to a new routine.  He still had his twice-daily (or more) walks, and was fed at the same time every day. His bed came in the hotel room with us, and he seemed comfortable.  Rufus got used to this new schedule quickly, and the rest went fairly well.

The one thing I will say about staying in a hotel with a dog: we ended up taking him with us everywhere  for fear that a cleaning person would come into the room unannounced and Rufus might act out.  While I honestly don’t believe Rufus would ever hurt anyone, I wasn’t willing to take that chance.  Of course you know your dog, so you will know what he/she is comfortable with and how much they may bark when you’re not around. Dog-parental discretion is advised.

On top of keeping him on a schedule, I would say the best thing you can do is to keep things exciting.

Using his camouflage techniques on Antelope Island.

Make exploring your new neighborhood(s) a fun experience!  Praise your dog’s happiness and try your hardest to discourage anxiety when entering a new place.  Go as slowly as possible, and make sure to have treats on you at all times.  Rufus was quite excitable at the larger parks we explored, but it was mostly due to all the new smells.  He never seemed stressed until we took him around large crowds…

The biggest challenge for us has been getting Rufus acclimated to city living.  Rufus is in his element at various parks and new, quiet neighborhoods.  However, taking him into Portland has been challenging.  People are everywhere, and dogs (often unleashed) are around every corner.  I always stock up on treats and we practice “watch me”  and “with me” much more often now, especially when we are without so many distractions so that he understands what I’m asking of him when he’s more overwhelmed.  He seems to be doing better, but I can still tell the bustling city will take some time for him to feel 100% comfortable in.  And that’s totally ok.

Family dining in Portland. Rufus gets 100x more table scraps in the city – it keeps him calm and happy.


We have five more days in our temporary apartment, and then we will finally start the slow process of settling into our new home.  I feel fairly confident that Rufus is over all of this change, and I am so very ready to start nesting – it’s what I do.  In our new place, we face even more challenges – but we will cross that bridge when it comes.

The best tip I can give is to make sure you have a tired and content pooch at the end of the day.  Simply put: if your dog is well exercised and mentally stimulated daily, he is not going to have the energy to care where he’s sleeping or what’s going on around him – he’s just going to zonk the heck out.

This second part was a bit more general, but I just wanted to share my own experience as I am not a professional behaviorist or dog trainer.  

In short:

-Make your dog comfortable by reminding them of home : familiar toys, smells and comforting items work wonders.

-Keep your dog happy by playing familiar games in new situations, treating them for good and happy behavior, and staying positive yourself!  Remember: our dogs feed off of our energy.

-Despite your new and hectic situation, make sure to continue to exercise your dog as if nothing has changed.  Keeping them stimulated will put both of you at ease.  A tired dog is a happy dog.

Note to self: the side tongue means you’re doing everything right.


9 thoughts on “Travel 101: Smooth Transitions

  1. I love the family photo! I can’t wait to travel with our dogs one day, we take them on lots of mini road trips, but haven’t taken them on a vacation yet.

  2. Rufus is such a beautiful boy! I am so glad I found your blog as it’s full of lots love happy dog pictures mixed with some great advice.
    When it comes to changes, I think routine can be so important to keep a dog from freaking out. Even when we go camping, something fun, I try to keep our dog’s routine as familiar as possible. Meaning we walk at the same time and she gets her meals at the same time. I think a dog’s memory is more associative and so if you can keep the associations the same so your dog knows what is happening next, you can help them adapt a lot easier.

    It sounds like things have been pretty exciting for your family recently. I hope you get settled in soon!

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