Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vacationing with the Dawgs

Last week, the Hubster and I celebrated our anniversary with an Anniversi-cation (n. a vacation occurring around/on one's anniversary).  We rented a cabin on the Southern Oregon Coast and spent a few days exploring the beautiful coast line and the Redwoods.  It was a perfect few days away from Portland.  And we brought the dogs.

You may think I'm craisins for taking my rambunctious trio on a vacation including an 8-hour road trip. There were moments when I agreed with you.

But overall, we had a great trip with few issues.  Here are the keys to taking a wild pack o' dogs on vacation:

1.  Plan a stop to tire them out shortly into the roadtrip.  Don't stress it when the dogs are terribly behaved at the first stop.  Even if it elicits this expression from the Hubster.

This photo cracks me up.  And he only half-meant that expression.

Our dogs know that when we all pile into the car, they are about to have the time of their lives.  I'm happy to say that Maggie & Sadie seem to be calming down a bit in terms of their excitability.  Sadie actually sat and paid attention to me before I took her harness off and let her run free on the beach.  Hurley was a jerk an overly rambunctious teenage dog and developed an awesome new habit of barking out of control upon exiting the Jeep just for this road trip.  

In every picture I took, Hurley is at the back of the pack.  You are all welcome to make fun of the slow poke who can't keep up with his middle aged sisters.  He deserves it.

But that's OK - we won't ever see the 30 or so people on the beach who witnessed our dogs completely melting down on the walk to and from the parking lot.  Ever.  That's a good thing.  But our mission was accomplished and they were calmer the rest of the drive.

2.  Bring something to calm your dogs down while in the car.  Hurley does not like long car rides. Actually, I think he would be perfectly OK if he could sit in my lap the entire way but that's not gonna happen.  So I brought along an herbal calming remedy to help with the constant whining and drooling.  I also made him a little bed on top of our suitcase so he could be more at our level and able to rest his head in between our seats.  All in all, he did a fantastic job tolerating the long car ride.  Sadie & Maggie are great in the car and don't need any extra help chilling out.  Though Sadie does has this magical ability to get her seat belt attachment to her harness and a leash entwined about a bazillion times.  It's quite impressive.

3.  Rent an uber dog-friendly place.  If we had been hoteling it, we would never have considered taking all 3 of them.  The potty breaks, the worrying that they would bark and disturb neighbors?  No thank you!  Instead, we rented a dog-friendly cabin with a large fenced yard.  The dogs loved an extra large yard to romp in and had fun exploring the cabin.  We took 2 kennels to keep them in during the day when we took excursions that not all 3 went on.

4.  Give yourself a break and don't try and take the entire pack everywhere.  We decided before we left that our day trips would include only one dog.  Though there was lengthy debate on whether or not Hurley could be trusted not to bust out his kennel and destroy the cabin, ultimately we decided that it was Maggie & Sadie's turn to have some special time with us.  Sadie accompanied us on our trip to tour the Redwoods.

While Sadie enjoyed her day trip with us, I'm pretty sure she missed her sister.  Either that or she was bored with being in the car most the day. 

The next day we took Maggie on a short hike, some fetch at a Secret Beach (actual name of the place) and a tour of the highlights of the Oregon Coast right where we were staying. 

I don't think she missed either Sadie or Hurley - fetch is apparently more fun without all the tackling.

5.  Bring Vacation Bullies, Chews and Bones.  Besides just being a nice treat to make vacation even more enjoyable, these can be instrumental in calming your dogs down when you leave them in the car to take a picture at that gorgeous viewpoint (our dogs are barkers when we leave the car) or to give them right before you leave them in their kennels at a new place.  Hurley is the one most likely to freak out about being left in a new place and the special treats really helped distract him when we left him at the cabin.

6. Vacation is for breaking routines & rules.  Since we don't allow dogs on the couches at home, I immediately allowed them this luxury at the cabin.  It is vacation after all and that means some special rule breaking.

Hurley loved the new rule until he realized that it meant being our foot rest. 

7.  Take at least one picture of the 3 of them sitting nicely.  It surprisingly took us one try to get this picture.  And Hurley popped up the second the shutter snapped.  But they did it!  All three of them stopped romping for one second and humored the Mama. 

8.  Appreciate the ways in which vacation challenges you and your dogs.  We definitely learned where we need to pick it up in terms of training.  Hurley & Sadie need more practice exiting the vehicle calmly and all three need a Settle Down type command to remind them to keep calm during exciting adventures.  Our biggest challenge is their behavior as a pack - individually, they are awesome - but when Hurley's egging on the other two to get excited and not pay attention to us, it gets challenging. 

Hurley had to literally be put to bed like a baby by the Hubster on the first night.  We put them in the kennels at night so that they would be accustomed to being in them at the cabin when we had to leave them behind during the day.  This very much disturbed Hurley who cried and cried.  The Hubster had to tuck him in and sit by his kennel until he fell asleep the first night.  Dude is such a baby! 

One of the things I took away from this, our first real vacation with the dogs, is that they do not understand vacation.  The second day, when we took them to a beach close to the cabin, they were all remarkably calm in the car.  We realized they thought we were going home.  When we did get in the car to go home, they were all jacked up, thinking our vacation was just going to get even more awesome.  Vacation is confusing to dogs and though ours had a great time, I was sensitive to the ways in which it was also stressful for them.  We don't take awesome road trips encountering beach after beach and stay in a cool cabin with a pool and deer who run along the fence every day.  Maybe we should.


  1. Very great vacation tips. I agree with #8 entirely. Vacation is a great time to figure out what training goals to work on next.

    Honey does fine while on vacation. But this year she was a little blue when we got home. I wonder if she had gotten used to us all being together every day?

    I hope this is the first of many family vacations for you. Or that you at least take some awesome road trips and bring more vacation into your every day life.

    BTW, Happy Anniversary!

    1. Thank you! We definitely are going to practice more with all 3 dogs on mini road trips and fun things around Portland. Practice makes perfect, right?

      I think we all get a little blue when we get back to our regular grind after vacation. Honey's not on her own, there!

  2. Sounds like a great trip and some great tips too! I absolutely LOVE that first picture of your hubby . .I've seen that face on my hubby :) Happy Anniversary!!

  3. It sounds like a total blast. I need to find something close by with those features (fenced yard, beaches etc) that we can go to. I like vacations where the pups can be with me.

    I also like that you figured out which areas of training you need to focus on. Sometimes it takes things like vacations to bring that to our attention. :-)

    and Happy Anniversary (belated I'm assuming.)