Posts Tagged ‘travel with dogs’

Fantasies of Summer Vacation (With Dogs, Of Course!)

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Here in New York, we’re looking at the coldest day we’ve seen in in several years — it’s so cold, in fact, the dogs haven’t even asked for walk (which is unheard of around here). We’re comforting ourselves with hot chocolate (me), bully sticks (the dogs), a cozy heating blanket (all of us — and who knew a single heating blanket could fit one human, two dogs, two cats and a giant stuffed hedgehog?) and fantasies of summer vacation.

Of course it will be a dog vacation, because what fun is going on vacation without the dogs? Well, okay, on days like today, I wouldn’t mind a week on some tropical island, relaxing on a lounge chair with oversized sunglasses and a drink with an umbrella in it. But since I haven’t won Lotto yet, I can’t buy my own island with a private dog-friendly beach…nor do I have a private dog-friendly plane to fly there. And anyway, the dogs would just hog the lounge chair.

dog camp, enjoying the pool!

You're not the only one who fantasizes about enjoying vacation poolside in a comfy lounge chair!

Thankfully, I have Canine Camp Getaway, which satisfies my dogs’ need for fun in the sun (and in the shade, and in the pool, bar and pretty much everywhere else), as well as my own need to kick back a bit and relax, without having to worry about work deadlines, what to make for dinner or whether my dogs are safe and happy. Dog camp may not be everyone’s dream vacation, but spending a week with dogs and dog lovers actually suits me quite well — and let’s face it, is there anything better at the end of the day than Yappy Hour with friends (both two-legged and four-legged)?

With Canine Camp Getaway’s June vacation nearly sold out, and September filling up fast, you’d think other hotels would be taking the hint: dog-friendly properties = more customers. Yet not everyone seems to be getting the message.

In a random sampling of “dog friendly” hotels, I found that more than half charge a (sometimes hefty) dog deposit or “cleaning fee” (It costs you a hundred bucks to clean the room after Buffy the miniature poodle stays over for two nights? Really?). Many still regulate the size, weight or breed of dogs they will accept (and my 97-pound dog points out that it’s not only not “friendly” but downright rude to have strangers questioning her about her weight!).

Atlantic City has finally gotten some dog-friendly hotels (presumably someone finally saw that “Dogs Playing Poker” painting and realized there was an opportunity there), though there’s still not a lot to do with your dog once you get there.

Disney, I’m told, has added a doggie daycare center for those who want to bring their pup along for vacation…a step in the right direction, to be sure…but the hotels on site are still not dog-friendly.

California does a better job with dog-friendly hotels, beaches and restaurants…but if you live on the East Coast, you’ve either got a really long drive to contend with, or you have to worry about bringing your dog on a less-than-dog-friendly airplane.

So, what do you do if you’re a dog owner who hates to leave your dog behind, or a dog who’s too big to sneak into Mom or Dad’s suitcase? First off, do your research: when planning your vacation, call several area hotels and ask about pet policies, any hidden charges, available dog amenities and local activities for dog owners. Some hotels will not allow dogs to be left alone in the room — even in a crate — so be sure you know the hotel’s policy on this, and if your dog must be with you at all times, be prepared with a list of dog-friendly restaurant options, or a local doggie daycare center. Don’t count on leaving your dog in the car — even if the temperatures are moderate, an unexpectedly hot day can put your dog’s life in danger.

If sharing time with your pet is an important part of your vacation plans, contact pet stores in your destination cities and ask about dog-friendly events, restaurants of hot spots — sometimes there are “unofficial” hangout spots where dogs and dog lovers gather that only the locals know about. Local dog meetup grounds can also be a great resource for this — contact the group organizer if you’re looking for suggestions for the best hiking spots, dog-friendly parks or other fun events.

Even if you’re spending much of your vacation sight seeing, be sure your dog gets enough exercise and entertainment to minimize stress — a long hike and some playtime each day will leave your dog feeling relaxed and happy. And you’ll not only feel better about heading out with friends if your dog is happily tired out first, but you’ll be glad you got some extra exercise when you’re eating out and enjoying that extra glass of wine, or that rich slice of double chocolate cake.

Of course, if your dream vacation involves seeing your dog have a great time, check out Canine Camp Getaway of NY — designed by dogs, for dogs…and their people, of course!

It may be too cold to do much more than “armchair traveling” right now, but it’s a great time to curl up somewhere warm, relax and dream about your (and your dog’s) next vacation. Happy travels!

Janice Costa is owner and founder of Canine Camp Getaway of NY, the Lake George, NY-based vacation for dogs and dog lovers. When she’s not working, playing or traveling with dogs, she works in the home design field as an author and magazine editor.

Surviving the Dog Days of Summer

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

This week, Canine Camp Getaway hiking instructor Bob Dealy is guest blogging for us with some tips for surviving the ‘Dog Days of Summer.’

Coming back from a terrific vacation at Canine Camp Getaway of NY and dealing with the heat wave that has gripped most of the nation over the past few weeks has given me paws/pause for thought. We are now in the Dog Days of Summer. We want to put on minimal clothing, get out and enjoy the warm temperatures. In other words, it’s go time, people!

Our dogs, on the other hand, want to take a refrain from the Eagles hit of the seventies and “Take it Easy.”

It doesn’t matter if you live in Winslow, Arizona or Bangor, Maine: It’s warm outside. Our furry friends need extra consideration. This rings especially true when you decide to pick up and go with your best friend.

I was reminded of this as Shadow and I were traveling back from Lake George, NY. I had a travel harness on her and she was being her usual awesome travel companion self. But something wasn’t quite right. She was a bit fidgety and didn’t seem entirely comfortable.

Even though the AC was blasting and it was quite cool, almost cold, in the vehicle, it took me a while to figure out that the sun was coming through the window right on her. So she was hot. Black dogs absorb heat more readily than light-colored dogs, making them especially sensitive to the beating sun.

At the first rest stop, we got out of the car. As we got back in the car, she decided the best place for her to curl up was on the floor with her blanket. I wanted her buckled in for safety. She told me the safest place for her was out of the sun. I’m thinking driving safety; Shadow’s thinking self-preservation.

Fortunately, I listened to what my dog was telling me. We shared a roast beef sandwich that she gave rave reviews to as road food, and the rest of the trip went well. She even got back on to the seat and gladly accepted being buckled in as the sun dipped a little lower in the sky.

The moral to the story is to enjoy the warm weather for all it’s worth but pay attention to what your dog is telling you. Try not to put your dog into a hot car. Run the AC to cool things down before putting your dog in. If your car seats get hot, use a towel or a blanket to cover the seat. If you use a harness, be sure the hot metal seatbelt buckle isn’t pressed against your dog, as this can cause painful burns. And never, EVER leave your dog alone in a parked car when it’s hot out – even with the windows open, even for five minutes.

Listen to your dog. (Of course if your dog decides he wants the bag of Cheez Doodles you brought along for a snack, then you have my dog, and you don’t have to listen to that!)

One last thought: while it goes without saying, I’ll mention it anyway: Try to exercise your dog early or late in the day. If he or she seems lethargic or starts panting heavily, you might want to cut the walk or exercise short. I’m told humans take a week to 10 days’ adjustment period for their bodies to acclimate to suddenly hot or cold temperatures. During this period of adjustment, it’s recommended to scale back the intensity when working out. The same can be said for our dogs.

Time to fire up the BBQ for a July 4th feast. Shadow says have a hot dog for her!

Enjoy your summer!

Fall Road Trips

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Ever since I launched my first dog vacation business, my dogs have played the dual role of companions on the home front and doggie road warriors, up for any adventure, any time, anywhere.

And while their annual Canine Camp Getaway vacation may be their favorite trip, that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy all the little side trips we take throughout the year — to dog fairs like  Hounds on the Sound, dog charity fundraiser events like the Canine Companions for Independence DogFest and friends’ homes where they not only welcome my dogs, but would be disappointed if I showed up without them (in at least one friend’s case, I think she’d actually be less disappointed if the dogs showed up without me than the other way around!).

Last weekend we spent at Fido’s Festival in Woodstown, NJ, which is some of the most fun you can have if you’re a dog (according to Lexie), and not a bad time for humans either (despite the absence of the kettle corn guy, which I had to admit was a tiny bit of a disappointment).

For the dogs, they had dock diving, lure racing (an obstacle course that dogs run while chasing after a squeaky toy or “lure” that runs on a pully system on the ground — often referred to as “crack cocaine for dogs”), agility, games, treats, vendors and a costume parade. For the humans, there were educational sessions in the open air pavilion, hayrides, shopping galore, rescue booths with adoptable dogs, games, free samples, a food court filled with every type of food you can imagine (except for the aforementioned kettle corn…yes, I know I’m harping on it, but I’m STILL disappointed about that) and lots of fun dog people and dogs to hang out with.

It was, my dog and I agreed, a nearly perfect weekend (and could have edged into perfect territory if only there’d been less traffic on the way home. And a kettle corn booth).

Hounds on the Sound

Hounds on the Sound is another of our favorite dog festivals.

Still, it was one of those weekends that makes you love fall, even though it means summer is over and won’t be back for what seems like ages.

This weekend, we were hoping to make it out to Barktober Fest at Camp Bow Wow in Cherry Hill, NJ (another really cool event), but bad weather and a temperamental car but the kibosh on those plans. So instead, I’m sitting on my couch, wrapped in a blanket with a cat on my head and a dog on my feet, trying to keep warm while the temperatures drop as if Mother Nature got confused about which month it is (Note to Mother Nature: October is the month where you dress up and get candy. December is the one with the snow. They’re totally different months, even though they both end with “ber.” Or, in this case,”brrr!”).

It’s not that I mind a day curled up on the couch all cozy and warm, wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by pets and whatever sweatshirt/shoe/toy Lexie has decided to carry into the den in hopes of enticing me into a game of keep away. But it’s also not as much fun as a road trip on a sunny fall day, walking around with the dogs, enjoying the fresh air, seeing new places and meeting new friends.

Sadly, by next month, the outdoor dog events will peter out in the Northeast as winter begins to take hold. That means fewer road trips.

Oh, there’s Winter Woofstock in Toronto, which I’m told totally rocks, but I’m not convinced I can do 22 hours of driving in one weekend (especially since my car now knows I’m looking for a new car, which has made it testier and more temperamental than usual).

And of course there are always the various Pet Expos, but you can’t bring your dog, and my dogs have an issue with me attending dog events without them.

Do any of you road trip in the cold weather with your dog? Any great dog-friendly, cold-weather destinations you would recommend? Feel free to share!

Does Your Dog Get Car Sick? Try Home Baked Ginger Dog Biscuits!

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

I am fortunate enough to have two dogs who not only love to travel, but who view car travel much the way I might view a trip to any Club Med: If someone offers the opportunity, jump on it, and worry about where you’re going, exactly, later. I mean, there aren’t any bad Club Meds, right?

Some dogs love car travel. But if doggie motion sickness is ruining the trip for both of you, try baking up a batch of ginger dog biscuits to settle your pup's stomach.

Of course Club Med costs thousands of dollars, while a drive around town costs you a few bucks in gas. Fortunately my dogs don’t seem to get the difference. Even a short car trip to run errands is cause for celebration with them, and they are equally happy going to Hess (bonus points if they can scare the gas station guy with a good loud bark!), driving through Dairy Barn or just taking a run to my parents’ house. It’s about the journey, and a car journey is a wonderful thing in their world.

But not all dogs feel that way. Motion sickness seems to be an increasingly common ailment among dogs, and in recent weeks, I’ve spoken with three different friends whose dogs get car sick.

I feel for them, as it’s no fun traveling with a dog who throws up in the backseat.

But I probably have greater sympathy for the dogs, as I was one of those people who suffered from motion sickness for most of my childhood, and I know how awful it is.

Fortunately, motion sickness in dogs is generally easily treatable, just as it is in humans. In fact, many of the medications used for human motion sickness can also be prescribed for dogs. (I actually found this out when Lexie jumped six feet off the ground to snag a bottle of medicine from my top shelf, resulting in frantic calls to the vet. While she didn’t actually consume anything but the bottle, I learned from that particular call that my motion sickness medicine isn’t harmful to dogs, and may, in fact, be prescribed to treat dogs with similar problems).

However, before you go the drug route, you may be able to stave off motion sickness with something easily found in your spice rack: ginger.

Ginger is a great way to settle the stomach, and this is equally true for humans and canines. For years, I carried candied ginger in my purse for long drives, or trips on the LIRR where accidentally I ended up in one of the seats facing backwards.

While not all dogs will eat candied ginger, you can easily include this is a delicious home baked dog treat which may help settle your pup’s stomach for car trips. So if your car is making your dog sick, try baking up a batch of these and giving your pup a couple for the ride!

Delicious Ginger Dog Biscuits

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried ginger powder

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Mix oil and water in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, mil and ginger. Add the water mixture slowly to the mixed ingredients. Knead and roll out the dough on a flat surface. Cut with cookie cutters (you can find fun bone or dog-shaped cookie cutters in most craft stores or on Amazon). Bake for 30-35 minutes. Set out on cooking rack to cool, or leave them in the oven until they are dry for extra crunchiness. Enjoy!

In Search of a Dog-Friendly Vehicle

Monday, October 10th, 2011

There comes a time in every girl’s life when she has to accept certain inevitable truths. For me, this week’s inevitable truth was that my beloved Sebring convertible isn’t going to make it another year.

Now, I’ve never understood the suburban fascination with SUVs, being neither a soccer Mom nor a person who drives on rough terrain (unless you count the potholes on the Long Island Expressway). In my world, “the outback” is a steakhouse, not a place you drive; and while “all weather driving” is a lovely concept, I’m more of a “nice weather driver” who would more likely be home drinking hot chocolate during the kind of weather these “all-weather” vehicles are purportedly built for.

Also, I LIKE small cars and hate those gas-guzzling monstrosities that sit 10 feet above everyone else in traffic so you can’t see past them or even read your exit sign until it’s too late.

So why am I suddenly looking at SUVs?

The same reason I gave up my luxurious rain shower for the convenient but not nearly as luxurious handshower. The dogs, of course!

While I’ve tried to make due, the truth is, two large dogs don’t really fit in a convertible. And certainly two large dogs with dog accessories do not fit in a convertible. As that my dogs have a LOT of accessories — and neither one is particularly amenable to being left home when a trip is being planned — I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to upsize. Running Canine Camp Getaway of NY, my dog vacation business, means the dogs and I spend a lot of time on the road. So here I am, doing what I never thought I’d do — looking at SUVs and soccer-Mom-mobiles.

Now I know some people love car shopping. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people. I’ve been riding in a friend’s car for the past five years and still can’t tell you what he drives, except that it’s white, and big enough to stuff two dogs in the back seat. So wading through car reviews, auto comparison Web sites, Consumer Reports and crash test ratings is about as appealing as watching the Guatemala news network. In Guatemalan.

I tried googling “dog-friendly cars” but I keep coming up with the Nissan cube, which is quite possibly the second ugliest car ever made, right after the PT Cruiser, and the Range Rover Supercharged, which has a base price that’s only slightly less than that of my house. Unless the dogs are planning their own reality series on a major network in which they can win a million dollars by beating out all the other reality-dog-star-wannabes, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

I did find an interesting site that focuses on dog-friendly cars. DogCars.com

The Nissan Cube is supposed to be a great vehicle for dogs -- but it's also one of the ugliest cars I've ever seen. I suspect even my less-than-fashion-conscious dogs would be embarrassed to be seen in this! (Photo courtesy of GAYOT.com)

looks at a variety of vehicles from the dog-friendliness perspective. They seemed hot on the Honda Element and the Toyota Venza. Unfortunately, the former could be confused with a hearse and the latter is pricey.

Expanding my search to friends who have dogs, I’ve gotten recommendations for the Ford Edge (cool looking, but lousy gas mileage), the Subaru Forester (which used to be a nice crossover SUV/Wagon/Drives More Like a Car Than a Monster Truck, but which has since been redesigned to be larger, which means I’d probably never ever be able to park it) and the Kia Rondo (which they don’t make anymore, replaced by another square, boxy looking SUV or a model which appears to only be available in a color called “alien.” While I’m not married to the idea of buying American, I certainly would like to keep my options to the known planet!).

I thought maybe I should consider a nice used car, but people keep warning me about getting stuck with “flood cars” which apparently are flooding the market, disguised so you don’t know you’ve bought a disaster until 30 seconds the warranty runs out.

Then there’s the whole insurance thing, which I didn’t even think about until a friend told me I’m better off with something classified as a “wagon” if I don’t want my car insurance to go up by $500 a year or so. And of course with gas at $3.79 a gallon, I have to worry about what kind of mileage per gallon I’ll be getting.

Honestly, I’ve barely started my search and I’m sick of car shopping already. I don’t want to keep looking at cars online, which does nothing but confuse me. I certainly don’t want to walk into a dealership, where they’ll smell my uncertainty like sharks sniffing out blood and move in for the kill.

I just want a nice, affordable vehicle that drives like a car, doesn’t guzzle gas and fits one girl, two dogs and luggage for three. Is that too much to ask for?

If you have any suggestions for dog-friendly vehicles, please feel free to share them!

And for more info about dog-friendly vehicles, check out this great article:

Reality TV Has Gone to the Dogs

Monday, September 26th, 2011

When you run a dog vacation business, you get to go to a lot of dog events. I particularly love the fall events, because they combine four of my favorite things: dogs, the great outdoors, kettle corn, and shopping. I mean, really, what more could you ask for?

But the people who run these events must think we dog owners aren’t that easily satisfied, as they always seem to be raising the ante with everything from Search & Rescue Dog Demonstrations to celebrity Doggie Moms.

Yes, you heard me right. We’re talking about actual dog moms, just like you and me, except that they have their own TV show…

I’d heard of the show before, of course. Like “Housewives of Whatever County,” it vaguely rings a bell; my brain is filled with the names of reality shows I never watch (largely because I’d rather flip channels continuously, so I can catch glimpses of Mets baseball without the full-blown pain of watching it straight up). But suddenly, it hit me: Someone is getting PAID to sit home being a dog Mom. And it’s not ME.

Now this is just wrong. 

My whole life is dogs. I plan group dog hikes, dog birthday parties, dog holiday events. I run a dog meetup group (social group for dogs and their owners) with nearly 150 members. I teach prep classes and certify dogs for the AKC Canine Good Citizen program and the Therapy Dog program. I “Bark for Life” (a dog walk to raise money for cancer research) and run Pet Food Drives at work to support local animal shelters. I spend so much time at the dog park, my dogs could probably drive there by themselves (the little one loves to walk around the house with the car keys in her mouth, and the older one likes to sit in the driver’s seat, so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch!). 

In fact, I founded Canine Camp Getaway of NY solely to provide my dogs with a fun summer vacation where they could swim in the pool (Lexie’s favorite thing) and lure course (Jessie’s favorite thing).

So, as far as I can tell, it’s simply not possible that there are five people out there who are more qualified than I am to be on a “Doggie Moms” TV show. 

How did I not know about this when they were holding auditions? And if there are dogs with full-time, stay-at-home Moms, are my dogs being deprived, being “latchkey dogs?” 

Anyone who’s ever owned a dog knows about dog guilt: the sad eyed stare you get when you BBQ dinner and no hot dog accidentally falls off the grill; the pathetic whine when they think they’re going on a great car ride, only to end up at the vet’s office; the heartbreaking looks they give you when you pull out a suitcase for a trip that doesn’t involve them. And that “It can’t possibly be Monday already — are you leaving me AGAIN?” look they give you when the weekend is over and it’s back to work.

Now I have the added guilt of knowing that my dogs could have had a stay-at-home dog Mom — if only I hadn’t missed my opportunity to be a “Doggie Moms” reality star.

Maybe I need to watch more reality TV after all. At the very least, perhaps I could make friends with one of the Mob Wives of New Jersey, who could knock off a Doggie Mom so I could get the job. 

Traveling Tails

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

For the first 21 years of my life, I never traveled out of the tri-state area. So it still sort of amazes me that the second half of my life, I racked up more frequent flier miles than your average basketball team (but not nearly as many miles as my luggage racked up!) and I now run a dog vacation business.

Equally amazing, I somehow ended up with two dogs who not only love to travel, but who seem to feel it’s their mission in life to encourage dogs and dog lovers to join them on their Canine Camp Getaway of NY vacations.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. Most dogs are wanderers at heart, and while my dogs are more of the velcro-dog variety, both share an adventurous spirit and a willingness to chase tennis balls across fields, valleys, state or even country lines. They also love other dogs, so while travel is fun, travel to someplace with lots of dogs is MORE fun.

They even have their own luggage — matching travel bags with paw prints on the outside and separate compartments for treats, bowls, tennis balls and extra leashes. Which is funny, since I spent my college years heading back and forth with my clothing stuffed in a duffel bag that vaguely resembled a large pillow case.

If you’d told me 20 years ago that I’d be planning vacations for dogs and their people, I probably would’ve thought you were crazy. Of course now some people think I AM crazy…but these are generally people without dogs.

If you have a dog, you understand that going on vacation isn’t nearly as much fun when you have to leave your furry four-legged friend behind. And dog guilt is a really powerful thing.

But my two dogs took it one step beyond dog guilt. First, they started dumping their bones, balls and toys in my suitcase when I started packing for a trip. When that didn’t work, they began lying in the suitcase (like, I might somehow miss a 100 pound dog sprawled in the middle of my clothing, zip it up and take her with me by accident!).

Finally, they decided to forget subtlety entirely and plan their own vacation. Canine Camp Getaway of NY is their idea, and it’s all about them. Dogs in the pool. Dogs running lure coursing, or chasing frisbees, or doing agility. Dogs in the dining room, or in the bar at night. Dogs and their people romping, playing, relaxing together, and remembering what makes the bond between canine and human so very special.

I’m just along for the ride.

But as rides go, it’s a good one. Dogs teach us so much about life, and traveling with your dog turns a vacation into a Grand Adventure. When I’m with my dog, the grass is greener, the air is fresher, the stars are brighter. And my soul is lighter.

In these high-stress times, there’s something to be said for that. So next time you plan a vacation, think about bringing your best friend along. You’ll both be glad you did!