Family vacations are not always taken into consideration when searching for a family pet. All that's on your mind is the playing, feeding, watering, walking, and grooming that come with the newest member of your family. Eventually, though, you'll find yourself planning a vacation and it will hit you: what do we do with the dog? Apply these suggestions to your pet of choice, but I will continue referring to dogs for simplicity and as a general reflection of my loyalty to dogs as the most wonderful animals of all.

Camping trip

Take your dog with you! Camping is a combination of most dogs' favorite activities - being with his people and being in the great outdoors. Remember to bring the dog leash and a solid stake to screw into the ground. Most campgrounds don't allow pets to roam free, so ensure the other campers are happy by keeping your dog on your site. If possible, it might be a good idea to bring the pet inside your tent or trailer with you overnight. You never know what wild animals are lurking nearby. One morning while camping, we woke up to find a skunk eating out of our dog's food dish. We were glad we had avoided a nasty (and smelly) run-in by keeping our dog inside the tent trailer. (We also realized it wasn't a good idea to leave dog food out over night!)

On the road

You've seen how most dogs like to travel: sitting shot gun, head out the window, slobbery tongue flapping in the wind. On family vacations, this seating arrangement probably won't work. Bring your dog's bed or a pile of old blankets. Train your dog ahead of time that wherever the bed is, he can be. Try to feed him only at rest stops, but keep the watering dish and a bottle of water close at hand in case your dog is ever thirsty between stops. Most dogs can "hold it" longer than most children (or Moms) can, so your dog shouldn't dictate how often you need to stop. That being said, whenever there is an opportunity, take your dog to a tree and see if he'll lift a leg. It will give you peace of mind if nothing else.

Theme parks

Most parks offer pet-sitting services where you can drop off your dog on the way into the park, then pick him up on your way back to the car. Research this ahead of time so you know what to expect. Some parks may offer only small kennels, while others offer large play areas and grooming services. Read reviews online if you can. You don't want to ruin your theme park experience by worrying all day about how your dog is being treated. Be sure to account for the costs of pet care when planning your vacation.

You might have to leave him home

For some family vacations, you simply can't pull off bringing a pet with you. Consider the option of leaving your sweet pooch home. You can always ask a friend or hire someone you trust to feed and walk your dog while you are away. Make sure your dog becomes familiar with this person several days before you leave. While on vacation, remember to check in with your sitter frequently. It can be hard leaving your precious pup at home, and he certainly won't like the idea. But true to the good nature of dogs, he will quickly forgive you - especially if you present him with a souvenir (treat) once you return.

Caring for a pet shouldn't stop you from planning memorable family vacations. Likewise, going on family vacations shouldn't stop you from caring for your pet. Valuable family time is often made sweeter by the presence of your friendly animal. So whenever possible, bring him along!

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