A little research shows that one of the most common dangers for traveling pets is getting separated from their people and becoming lost. Over the past eight years, Buster and Ty have traveled more than 100,000 miles with us, and we’ve had a couple close calls when one of the boys could have gone missing. In those moments, time seems to stand still and it feels like your heart stops beating. Luckily, our dogs have never gotten far, but the helplessness we felt while they were on the lam inspired us to cover all the bases to make sure if they ever were lost we’d get them back quickly.
We know you feel the same way about your furry travel companions, and despite your best efforts, unforeseen circumstances could cause your pet to run off. So we’re sharing our tips to help you be prepared and ensure that if you and your pet are separated, they’re returned to you as swiftly and safely as possible.
Having an ID tag that attaches to your pet’s collar and has your telephone number on it is a good start. Having your pet micro-chipped adds another layer of protection. But, both of these options depend on you being reachable by phone.
What if you’re boondocking in a cellular dead zone when your pet gets lost? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Good Samaritan who finds your pet could bring him home to you? There’s an easy way to make that happen!
Make a “Lost Pet” Webpage
Step 1: Set up the page
For travelers with their own website: Most travelers have some kind of web page – it’s a great way to share your journey with friends and family, and a convenient way to store and retrieve memories of your trips. If you already have a site, simply add a page through your admin panel and you’re off and running.
For travelers without their own website: If you don’t have a website, it’s easy to set one up … and it’s free! Here are two of the most popular options and the steps you’ll need to take to set up your own lost pet web page:
Google Sites (You must use the Chrome or Firefox browsers to set up a Google website.)
- Sign into your preferred Google account. If you don’t already have a Google account (this includes Gmail), you can open one here. After you’ve signed in, visit Google Drive.
- Click the “New” button on the left side of the page. When it opens, choose “more” at the bottom of the page for additional options.
- Click “Google Sites.”
- Use the tool bar to create your page. You can add links, pictures, formatting, etc. Google saves your work as you go.
- When you’ve finished creating your site, choose your sharing options. You’ll find them under an icon that looks like a person with a plus sign. Choose “make file readable by anyone with the link” to make the page available only to those who type in the URL.
- Visit wix.com and click “get started.”
- On the next page, choose “sign up.” You will be asked for your email address and a password.
- Once you’ve created your account, you will be asked what kind of website you want to create. Choose one to be taken to the next page.
- You will be asked if you want to let Wix create a website for you or if you’d like to choose a template and create your own. If you choose “let Wix create,” you will be asked a series of questions before Wix creates your site. Or create a site yourself by choosing a theme and using the tools provided.
- Whichever method you use, when you like the look of your site, click “Publish” in the upper right corner.
This page can be published privately, so only the person who finds your pet and types in the exact URL will be able to see it. And, if you’re reluctant to post specific personal information online, you can just use the page to inform the person who finds your pet to contact park rangers, the campground office, or local law enforcement, who will get in touch with you.
This is the page I created in case Ty ever gets lost (note the description of his personality and medical needs, as well as our location):
Step 2: Shorten the link
Once your lost pet webpage is up and running, you’ll need to get a new ID tag for your pets that includes the website address. Most web addresses are far too long to fit on a tag, so first you’ll need to use a URL shortener to assign a unique short URL that will direct whoever has it to your webpage.
Most website shorteners are free to use, so choose one, copy your page’s URL, and paste it into the website shortener. Then write down the new shortened URL somewhere safe.
Step 3: Order a new ID tag
ID tags can be purchased and engraved at your local pet supply store, or ordered online for more selection. No matter where you get your pet’s new tag, be sure you’re able to include capital and lower case letters, because the shortened URLs are case sensitive and must match exactly. I used DogTagArt.com to customize Ty and Buster’s new tags with their “Lost Dog” URLs on the back.
This is how Ty’s turned out:
Step 4: Keep your page up to date
Once your webpage is set up and your pet is wearing his new ID tag, it’s important to update your location every time you relocate. If you know you’re going to be without internet coverage at your new campsite, provide as detailed a description of your whereabouts as possible before you drop out of range.
Anyone who finds your pet will check her tags for your contact information, and if you’re in a cell phone dead zone (or even if your phone is out of battery juice), your pet’s rescuer will still be able to find you based on the information you provide on your web page.
For more helpful tips on traveling with your pets follow the GoPetFriendly.com blog!
When you have traveling dogs who are used to exploring new places on a regular basis, and then you suddenly hit the brakes and park your rig for a few months in the sunshiny warmth of Southern California, those dogs can get bored. Of course you take them on daytrips, and make sure they get plenty of exercise, but it’s not the same when their daily walks are past the same trees, bushes, and rocks that they’ve been sniffing week after week.
At least, that’s what we tell ourselves. And to atone for this perceived injustice, we like to leave the motorhome behind and plan a weekend getaway – you know – for the dogs’ benefit.
We’re spending the winter near Palm Springs, so the options for a fun jaunt are superb. San Diego, Santa Barbara, and all the beaches in between are within striking distance, as are Vegas and Phoenix. But we were looking for a dynamic change in scenery as well as weather, so we chose to drive up to Big Bear.
Perched at an elevation of nearly 6,800 feet, Big Bear is the local ski resort of choice in Southern California and a playground for summer activities like boating and hiking. With a plethora of hotel and vacation rental options, restaurants and coffee shops to suit every taste, and events scheduled throughout the year, there’s never a bad time to visit!
While there are several RV parks and campgrounds in the area, our goal for this trip was a complete shift in surroundings, so leaving the motorhome behind was an integral part of the plan. I had my heart set on a cozy little cabin with a wood-burning fireplace and comfy sofa where we could curl up and watch the snow fall through the massive pines – and that’s exactly what we found!
Locating pet-friendly rental properties online has become much easier in recent years – we’ve even started including them on GoPetFriendly.com – and finding this little gem didn’t take much searching. Even the timing worked out perfectly – we arrived on Thursday afternoon to clear skies and that weather held through the day on Friday, which was ideal for exploring downtown and taking a drive around the lake.
On Friday night, the temps dropped and the snow moved in. So Saturday gave us the taste of winter we were hoping for, and Buster was tickled to find a frosty wonderland. (This is all about the dogs, after all!) He’s always been a fan of the snow and it did our hearts good to see him bounding around and playing like a puppy.
Flurries continued on and off on Saturday morning, so we kept the fire stoked while Ty enjoyed his favorite wintertime activity … napping beside the hearth. Ty’s never been a fan of being wet or cold, and at 13-years-old, he’s earned every bit of cushiness we can give him.
By Sunday morning, the roads had dried and we were all ready to head back to the valley for a return to summer. This little getaway was just what we needed to satisfy our wanderlust for a while longer, and remind us how lucky we are to be able to change our surroundings at the drop of a hat.
If you’d like to follow more of Ty and Buster’s adventures, see what they’re up to now at GoPetFriendly.com!
There are more things to love about living in our RV than I can begin to list. But one thing that I hate is dealing with wet dogs. It’s not just the smell – it’s that we don’t have a mudroom to dry off the dogs, contain the mess, and let our wet things hang. But rain or shine, the dogs must be walked, so we’ve developed some strategies to make our soggy outings a little less uncomfortable.
First, we’re in an Itasca Meridian. That’s a diesel pusher which, roughly translated, means we’re dealing with about four square feet of space at the front door between the passenger chair and the dash. Ty thought he’d be helpful and demonstrate that it’s tight quarters, even for a dog with fancy footwork like him.
Guarding Against Muddy Paws
All good plans require a solid foundation, and we’ve tried them all. We started with a piece of carpet that we trimmed to fit the space. That worked for a while, until … the smell! You know what I mean – that odor that seeps out and will not be deterred by any shampoo or deodorizer known to man. I can’t explain the science behind it, but the only way to get rid of that stench is to burn it in a bonfire. (Just kidding, old carpet should be recycled … but I can’t guarantee the smell won’t survive.)
Throw rugs or towels on the floor are okay, and at least they can be washed in laundry. Unfortunately, they don’t stay put very well, and slipping while you’re trying to wrangle wet dogs is not going to improve anyone’s day.
Our Best Wet Dog Solution
We eventually bit the bullet and invested in a Chilewich floor mat. You can find them on Amazon or the company’s website, and they’re made from vinyl yarns woven into gorgeous plastic fabrics. They’re not cheap – the 46″ x 72″ one we chose runs about $300. But it will last a lifetime and can’t be penetrated by wet dog smell.
An added benefit is that Chilewich mats have a rubber backing, so I trimmed ours to fit the contours of our RV entrance exactly. Proceed at your own risk: the Chilewich website discourages cutting their mats. I took that under advisement as I was reaching for the scissors. It turned out beautifully, with the raw edges against the dash, so I’m not sitting up at night worrying it will unravel. And wet and muddy paw prints now can wipe up in a matter of seconds!
Other Important Wet Dog Accessories
Once your foundation is in place, you need to dress the part. We keep our raincoats handy by hanging them on the knobs on the cabinets over the driver’s seat. They’re out of the way to drip dry between outings, but easy to grab as your heading out the door for the next go-round.
The final requirement is a quick-drying, super absorbent towel designed for campers and backpackers. These towels make a huge difference when you’re wiping dogs and soaking up messes several times a day. We keep ours hanging right beside the door so it’s always easy to reach.
So the next time you see clouds in the forecast, don’t let a few rain drops ruin your day! It only takes a few simple steps to minimize the mess of dealing with wet dogs in your RV.
There’s no reason to learn things the hard way … we’ve done it for you! Get all kinds of tips and advice for traveling with your pets at GoPetFriendly.com!
Surrounded on three sides by Tampa Bay, naturally everyone who visits St. Petersburg, Florida is looking to spend some time at the beach. Fortunately, two of St. Pete’s most beautiful beaches are dog friendly!
Fort De Soto Park and Dog Beach is GoPetFriendly.com’s pick for the #1 pet-friendly attraction in Florida. With 1,100 acres to explore, miles of trails, camping, a fenced, off-leash dog park, and a beach designated especially for dogs, what’s not to love? Dogs under voice control are welcome to leave their leashes behind while they romp on the dog beach, and can rinse off at the doggy showers before hopping back in the car.
Another fantastic dog-friendly beach is located at Honeymoon Island State Park. This natural barrier island boasts four miles of gorgeous sand, a nice selection of nature trails, and crystal-clear waters. The dog beach is located at the southernmost tip of Honeymoon Island, which gives you and your dog plenty of room to roam. Keep in mind that dogs must remain on a leash no longer than six feet while exploring Honeymoon Island with you.
Other St. Petersburg Activities
Once you’ve shaken the sand out of your fur, will you and your pet find more fun things to do in St. Petersburg? You betcha!
Farmer’s Market: Stop in at the Saturday Morning Farmer’s Market (101 1st Street SE) where pets are welcome (as long as they don’t get up close and personal with the baker’s display). Live music, lots of seating, and over fifteen types of international food represented, make it a great lunch spot.
Pinellas Trail: The market can be crowded, so when you’re ready to stretch your legs, take a walk on the Pinellas Trail (1st Ave. SE and Bayshore Dr. SE). Running along a former railway bed, the paved trail traverses over 40 miles, from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs.
The Pinellas trail includes rest stops along the way where you can get water and other drinks. You’ll also find short nature trails that lead off the main route for more exploring.
Shell Key Shuttle: If your pup enjoys the opportunity to feel the wind in his fur, time your visit for when the Shell Key Shuttle (801 Pass-A-Grille Way) is offering their Pet-Friendly Sunset Cruises. The 90-minute sunset cruise starts at St. Pete Beach and travels through residential waterways and the pristine barrier islands south of Pass-A-Grille. Pups ride for free (1 per paying adult), and reservations are recommended.
Shopping & Restaurants
Before hitting the town, your pet might appreciate some stylish attire. One Lucky Dog (5320 4th Street N) has bandanas, tank tops, harnesses, and other accessories. For pooches that prefer food to fashion, they sell a wide range of healthy treats.
Once everyone is pretty, it’s time to grab a bite. Why not stop at The Chattaway (358 22nd Avenue South)? The large, shady outdoor patio welcomes pets. In the evening, you’ll be able to hear live music several nights a week.
Or try the tapas bar, Ceviche (10 Beach Dr NE), Three Birds Tavern (1492 4th Street N), or Bella Brava (204 Beach Drive NE) — whose servers sometimes bring treats. All feature pet-friendly outdoor dining.
Nikko Mussolini Dog Boutique and Spirits (9524 Blind Pass Road) at nearby St. Pete’s Beach is the perfect place to stop for a nightcap. Named for the owner’s pup and house dictator (also known as the Dog Father), Nikko Mussolini is “A place you can pet your dog and have a drink!”
St. Petersburg is a short drive from Tampa, Clearwater, and dozens of small Florida towns with their own pet-friendly places and happenings. With our GoPetFriendly.com road trip planner, you don’t have to miss any of them!
When the leaves start to fall and the air gets frosty, most RVers think about heading for warmer climates, and we’re no different! Like everyone else, we’re looking for lots of sunshine and comfortable temperatures, but we also want to make sure our dogs are happy. That means finding places where it’s easy to walk them, and there are nearby activities where they’re welcome.
With seven winters under our belts in the Meridian, we’ve had the opportunity to experience a few places, and these are five of our favorites:
Port St. Joe, Florida
Port St. Joe is perfect for visitors looking to avoid the hustle and bustle, and still enjoy some amenities. Known for it’s white beaches, gentle surf, and strikingly clear water, the city looks out on St. Joseph Bay, where Cape San Blas, a 17-mile long barrier peninsula extends out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Dog-friendly beaches stretch for miles, and kayak, canoe, paddle board, or bike rentals allow you to easily explore the breathtaking scenery. The paved Loggerhead Bike Trail runs the length of the Cape and is great for walking, jogging, or biking. There are several private RV parks to choose from in Port St. Joe and along Florida’s forgotten coast, and St. Joseph Peninsula State Park also has RV spaces with water and electric hook ups.
Winter weather in Austin can be iffy compared to some of our other favorite destinations, but the pet friendliness of this city completely makes up for any cold snaps or clouds you might encounter! Dogs are welcome almost everywhere in Austin, from outdoor seating areas at restaurants, to the botanical garden, and 350-acre Zilker Park!
If you love to walk or bike, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail is a gravel-covered, 10-mile loop around Ladybird Lake, and connects Zilker Park to the Rainey Street Historic District. Plan ahead to score a spot at Pecan Grove RV Park, where you’ll be walking distance to all the downtown attractions, or choose from several private parks within a few miles. For a more natural setting, consider McKinney Falls State Park’s RV sites with water and electric hook ups.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
At almost a million and a half pet-friendly acres, you could spend an entire winter at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and barely have time to scratch the surface! If you and your dog love hiking, enjoy the great outdoors, and find the desert beautiful – this could be the perfect spot for you!
The park features a fantastic selection of developed hiking trails. There is a 31-mile, paved River Mountains Loop Trail for bikers and walkers, or you can make your own route by selecting a wash and seeing where it leads. For a bit of civilization, the historic town of Boulder City is close at hand, and the Las Vegas Strip is a 40 minute drive. RV facilities here range the gamut, from boondocking, to campgrounds run by the park service, to a private RV park – there’s something to meet everyone’s needs.
Can dogs really be delighted with a winter stay in Phoenix? You bet they can … if you stay in one of the regional parks outside the city! Maricopa County operates 11 parks around Phoenix, eight of which have developed, semi-developed, or primitive camping available. Rather than staying in one of the many “snowbird parks” with little to explore, our dogs enjoy the perfect combination of scenery, hiking, and wide-open spaces. Even better, you have easy access to shopping, restaurants, and all Phoenix and its suburbs have to offer.
We’ve enjoyed McDowell Mountain, which covers nearly 22,000 acres, and is best known for it’s mountain biking and 65 miles of trails, and White Tank, which spreads over nearly 30,000 acres, and has 28 miles of trails to explore. From dry camping to water and electric hook ups, the facilities vary by park, and it’s best to make reservations well in advance of your stay.
Palm Springs, California
It’s hard to beat the weather in southern California, and Ty and Buster have found plenty to do around Palm Springs! Joshua Tree National Park is just over the hill and, while dogs aren’t allowed on the trails, they are welcome to walk the many dirt roads. There are some great hiking trails around the city as well, and an entertaining “walk of fame.” But for the more refined pup, the weekly Thursday evening street market provides an ideal shopping opportunity.
The variety of day trip excursions from Palm Springs will keep everyone entertained, from the massive outlet mall, to the eclectic sculpture garden in Borrego Springs, and the wintery mountaintop resort of Idyllwild. And locating an RV park to suit your taste is no problem – many in the area even have hot spring pools to relax in after a busy day keeping up with your pooch!
Wondering where we are now? Follow our adventures at GoPetFriendly.com!
Rod and I are both accountants, and whatever stereotype that conjures for you is probably not far from the truth. We’re pretty straight-laced, make logical decisions after carefully weighing the pros and cons, and don’t tend to surprise people with wild alterations to our life’s plan. For ten years we ran a business together from our home in Philadelphia, had a vacation cabin a prudent 90 miles from the city, and chased the American dream the same way we saw our friends and family doing it.
We were happy enough, resigned to “make hay while the sun was shining,” all the while banking on the hope that someday we’d have the time and money to check all the boxes on our ever-growing bucket lists. But then we found a stray dog who turned our lives upside down.
Rod will admit (though not in front of him) that adopting Buster was not a mutual decision. We already had Ty, our Shar-pei, and were not even considering a second dog when Buster showed up on our doorstep. And, to be fair, Buster was not an easy dog. As a year-old German Shepherd pup, he had far too much energy and absolutely no manners! Rod would have been happy to help find him a good home … but I had a deep sense that home needed to be ours. Something inside me said this dog had come to us for a reason, and I wasn’t willing to forfeit whatever future might be had with him as part of the family.
My insistence and Rod’s generosity and desire to see me happy were enough to tip the scale … Buster stayed, and the wheels of change were set in motion. It wasn’t long before we discovered that having an 80-pound dog throws a major wrench in vacation planning! Finding hotels that didn’t charge ridiculous pet fees, and where the dogs weren’t breaking the weight restrictions was a nightmare.
With the frustration mounting, we resolved to build a website to make it easy for everyone to plan trips with their pets. Over the next six months, the database of pet-friendly hotels, campgrounds, beaches, wineries, dog parks, attractions, and service providers grew, and just over a year after we found Buster, we launched GoPetFriendly.com.
Launching the website was a big deal, but still our lives were pretty much the same. The real changes came when Rod suggested that it would be a fraud to tell people how easy it was to travel with their pets if we weren’t doing it ourselves. From there it was only a small hop to the idea of living in an RV, but a gut-wrenching deliberation to actually get there.
We lost a lot of sleep, equally excited and terrified at the prospect of leaving behind what we knew to pursue a different way of life. We had all the same fears and doubts – maybe more – that anyone considering a monumental life change goes through, but something occurred around that time that inspired us to jump.
Tragically, a good friend’s wife passed away of lung cancer in her 50s. She’d never smoked, took good care of herself, and by all rights should have lived for another 30 or 40 years. Instead, she got 26 months from the date of her diagnosis. She and our friend made the absolute most of it – between treatments they traveled a lot, spent time with family and friends, and found joy in the simple things – and we learned two crucial lessons from their experience.
First, we had our health and an amazing opportunity to grab life by the horns. In a moment of brutal honestly, we acknowledged that fear was the only thing holding us in place. Then we had to decide if we wanted our lives dictated by fear. Were we going to let this chance pass and wait for our diagnosis to come before we started really living?
The second shift that occurred was that money suddenly had less power over us. We were working our tails off to squirrel away savings and build retirement accounts … but after watching our friends, we knew that if one of us were seriously ill, we’d trade it all just to be well again. If we’d give it all away for our health – something we already had – how much did the money and possessions we were accumulating really mean to us?
The last realization we needed to grasp is that things rarely turn out as bad as we imagine. When trying to come to a decision, we were picturing worse-case scenarios that weren’t even realistic! If running our businesses from the RV didn’t work out, we imagined ourselves destitute – but we still had our skills and could get jobs! We had to force ourselves to begin to imagine the best-case scenarios as well, and realize that reality would likely be somewhere in between. That future was good enough for us, so we took the plunge – selling our homes and our stuff and moving into our Winnebago.
We’ve been full-timing for more than seven years now, and it’s funny how perception changes. We’re on our second motorhome, and looking back, it’s hard to believe the anguish we put ourselves through in coming to this decision. Our opinions have reversed so much that now we can’t imagine going back to living in a house. But one thing we’ve definitely learned through this process is to never say never.
Still building your confidence to jump in? Feel free to travel vicariously with us at GoPetFriendly.com!
‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and finding the perfect gift for your traveling dog requires a little digging! You want your special pups to love what you choose, but with packing space at a premium, utility is also important for pets on the go. To make the most of your purchase, you’ll want something that’s useful while also being beautiful and durable.
Years of full-time travel with Ty and Buster have allowed us to road test a lot of pet travel gear, and there are a handful of products that we refuse to travel without. Perhaps one of these will also please your pooch!
1. A Good Walking Harness
Every dog on the go wants to look his best, so why not get your pal a spiffy new walking harness? We love the Freedom No-Pull harness from 2 Hounds Design. At $30, this harness is a gift for you both! The patented control loop on the back of the harness tightens gently around your dog’s chest to discourage pulling, making walks more enjoyable, and the chest strap is lined with Swiss Velvet, so it’s very comfortable for your dog to wear.
There’s also an option to connect the leash at the chest ring for big dogs who sometimes forget their size. Having the leash connected at the chest gives you much more control than you have with a standard harness or collar.
These harnesses also come in a rainbow of colors, so you’ll find the perfect shade to match your pet’s personality.
2. An Adjustable Leash
When you’re on the trail, at the beach, or exploring a new city, you may want leashes of different lengths – but what if one leash could adjust to meet all your needs?
The Weekender Adventure Leash from Alcott easily extends from four feet to seven feet, has a super-duty swiveling clip, and a neoprene-padded handle with integrated buckle, so you can safely connect your pup to your chair at the coffee shop, bench at the park, or stool at “yappy hour.”
At $20 it will be the only leash you need, and it comes in five fashionable colors with reflective accents, increasing your pet’s visibility in the dark and helping to keep you both safe.
3. A Convenient Food and Water Travel Bowl
Dinner is one thing no dog wants to miss while he’s traveling, and for $30 the Yummy Bowl from Sleepypod will make it easy to organize your pet’s food and water for your next day trip.
Rather than packing your dog’s water and food in separate containers, the Yummy Bowl conveniently combines the two. The spill-resistant water bowl serves as the base, the second layer holds your dog’s food, and the lid seals everything up nice and tight, and also doubles as a serving dish. Made from food-grade, BPA-free silicone it’s also freezer, microwave, and dishwasher safe for easy clean up.
4. A Treat Bag With Lots of Treats
Training is a wonderful way to build your dog’s confidence and strengthen your relationship, and traveling dogs are especially lucky, because they have so many opportunities to learn new things!
To move the training along more quickly and keep your dog interested, it helps to keep some rewards handy, and we use treat bags with waist straps that buckle on like a belt and can be packed with your dog’s favorite goodies. The price of treat bags range from $15 to $50 dollars, and come in a plethora of styles and colors.
Look for added features in the bag you choose, like a waste bag dispenser, a pocket to hold your phone or your pup’s ball, and a good draw-string closure to keep your pet from helping himself when you’re not watching.
5. Shampoo and Conditioner to Feel Great
Not all pets love baths, but they do like to feel their best, and a high-quality shampoo and conditioner will leave your pup feeling like a million bucks! Choosing products that are free from parabens, sulfates, and harsh chemicals helps protect the dog’s skin and coat, and those with calming scents are especially nice for traveling dogs.
We love Lucy Pet Products’ Purple Rain Shampoo and Leave-in Conditioner, which is made with lavender oil. To make this gift even sweeter, all of Lucy’s products are 100% cruelty-free, and the net profits from their sales goes to support low-cost spay and neuter programs through the Lucy Pet Foundation.
We hope these suggestions help narrow things down for you. And don’t forget … no matter what gift you choose, what your pet loves most of all is spending time with you!
Off-leash areas are increasingly popular amenities at RV parks and campgrounds – in fact, they’re almost necessary for any park claiming to be “pet-friendly.” After a long day of back-seat driving, many pups look forward to a romp in the dog park to burn off some energy, and providing a safe place for them to play is a convenience pet owners truly appreciate.
Any time pets and people are coming together, it’s wise to observe a few rules of etiquette, and we have some tips that will make your dog park experience more fun for everyone.
Ask Before You Enter: While we generally think of dog parks as a place for canine socialization, the off-leash areas in campgrounds and RV parks are a little different. When these spaces are not being utilized by others, owners whose dogs don’t necessarily enjoy the company of other pets might take the opportunity to let their dogs explore off-leash. Before entering the dog park at a campground or RV park, always ask if the pets already there are friendly. If they’re not, move away from the gate so the other person can bring their dog out without a confrontation.
Drop the Leash: Part of the fun of going to the dog park is ditching the leash! But if you’re concerned that your dog won’t come when called and would be difficult to catch, let him drag his leash around the enclosure instead. Holding the leash while he’s inside the dog park could make your dog feel threatened when interacting with other dogs and may lead to a fight.
Mind the Size Differences: Pups of all shapes and sizes are traveling with their families, but mixing large and small dogs in the dog park could lead to problems. Large dogs play rougher, and could see small dogs or puppies as prey. Unless you know all the dogs well, it’s a good rule of thumb to choose doggy playmates that are no more than twice the size of your pup.
Always Pick Up: There is nothing worse than stepping in some other dog’s mess while you’re trying to enjoy time with your dog! And abandoned waste can transmit illnesses to other dogs. Picking up your pet’s waste and disposing of it properly is always the right thing to do.
Take Care With Toys: Some dogs are possessive of their toys and may instigate a fight if another dog tries to join in the play. If your dog is prone to this behavior, leave his toys in the RV, or only take them when there are no other dogs using the park.
Leave the Food and Treats Outside: Some dogs have trouble controlling their impulses around food and treats, so the dog park is not the place to bring these items. Dogs are there to have fun – temping them with tasty snacks and hoping they won’t jump up or try to get them is expecting too much.
Pay Attention: In our constantly connected world, it’s easy to be distracted by your phone while you’re at the dog park with your pup. When other dogs are there, this behavior is not only irresponsible, it could be dangerous. Watching the interactions between dogs is your responsibility as a pet parent. Your top priority at the dog park should be ensuring that play doesn’t escalate into a fight, and that dogs aren’t being harassed by other dogs.
Having off-leash dog parks for our furry travel companions to play is a nice treat when we’re on the road, and we want to be sure everyone has the chance to enjoy them! Do you have any additional suggestions on how to make these spaces safer and more fun for your dog?
If your dog loves dog parks, use our pet-friendly road trip planner to locate them along your route anywhere in the United States!
An eighteenth-century town with large, open spaces and no cars – it sounds perfect for visiting with your pet, right? It is!
Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum, where you and your pet can explore the town’s beautiful setting and learn about life in Virginia’s colonial capital.
Your pup will enjoy seeing horses prance by, visiting the cows in the pasture, and exploring acres of grounds with her favorite person.
Here are a few tips to help you plan your trip to Colonial Williamsburg, so your whole family gets the most from your visit:
1. Arrange pet-friendly accommodations
Within the park, the Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Lodge, and Williamsburg Woodlands offer a limited number of pet-friendly rooms and are close to attractions. However, there are size restrictions and daily cleaning fees.
Outside the historic area, the town of Williamsburg has several pet-friendly hotels and motels – but the most pet-friendliest accommodations can be found at the nearby campgrounds!
Williamsburg has three private campgrounds: American Heritage RV Park (146 Maxton Lane), Anvil Campground (5243 Morretown Road), and KOA – Williamsburg (4000 Newman Road). All are a short drive to the historic downtown and convenient to nearby attractions.
Williamsburg also has campsites with full hook-ups at Chickahominy Riverfront Park (1350 John Tyler Highway). With miles of trails, this may be the most pet-friendly place to stay of all.
2. Buy tickets in advance
You can enjoy the grounds at Colonial Williamsburg without paying for admission, but tours, access to some buildings, and use of the free shuttle requires you to have a ticket. Pets are not permitted inside buildings or on the shuttle, so it works best if you have a friend and take turns enjoying the building while the other waits with the pets.
You can order tickets online or buy them at the visitor’s center when you arrive, but you’re more likely to ensure your spot in popular events if you make your reservations in advance.
3. Check the weather
Colonial Williamsburg is lovely during Christmas, but shivering on a park bench with your pooch while you’re admiring decorations is only fun for a short time. Picnicking on the village green, strolling down Duke of Gloucester (known as DoG) Street, and lounging on the lawn in front of the Governor’s Palace are all activities best enjoyed on a spring or fall day.
4. Line up your dining options
Just outside the historic area are several restaurants with pet-friendly outside seating areas. Check out the Cheese Shop (410 Duke of Gloucester Street), Seasons Café (110 S Henry Street), Aromas Café (431 Prince George Street), or Pierce’s Bar-B-Que (447 Rochambeau Drive).
If you’d rather have a picnic or are only looking for snacks, stop in at the DuBois Grocer, or McKenzie Apothecary. Even the Visitor Center Cafe has sandwiches and hot food, so you and your pet will have plenty of options.
5. Get out of town
When you’ve thoroughly explored the historic area, Williamsburg has some lovely parks to visit. You can rent a canoe at Waller Mill Park (901 Airport Road), or walk the trails at Chickahominy Riverfront Park.
The second oldest college in the country, William and Mary (116 Jamestown Road) welcomes pets to stroll the grounds.
And of course, you’re only a short trip to Hampton Roads attractions and Virginia Beach, making Williamsburg a great base for exploring the coastal areas of southern Virginia.
6. Find a pet sitter or boarding kennel
When your pup gets pooped, he may enjoy a spa day. St Francis Pet Resort (102 Tewning Road) is a luxury boarding facility that offers dog play groups and spa treatments. And the Pet Resort at Greensprings (2878 Monticello Avenue) offers indoor and outdoor play at its dog day camp.
Some dogs enjoy an afternoon of playtime and pampering. And you can take the opportunity to enjoy the Williamsburg restaurants and activities that are not pet-friendly.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation website has all the information you need to plan your visit. You’ll find links to attractions, information about the town, and can purchase your tickets in advance.
If you’re looking for a vacation destination that combines a love of history and time with your dog, start planning your trip to Colonial Williamsburg today!
When you have the opportunity to combine two things you love – like pets and trains – it’s a special treat! Fortunately, there are train and railroad museums across the country that are happy to have your pet join you for a tour. Be sure to mark these down and plan to stop by on your next road trip!
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site
Address: 2600 Old Route 22, Gallitzin, Pennsylvania 16641
The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the first railroad constructed over the Allegheny Mountains. This inclined plane railroad operated between 1834-1854 and was considered a technological wonder in its day. The park covers 1,249 acres, celebrating the critical role this track played in opening the interior of the United States to trade and settlement.
Leashed pets are permitted in the park, but are not allowed in the buildings or on the beach. Leashes must be no longer than six feet.
Arkansas Railroad Museum
Address: 1700 Port Road, Pine Bluff, Arkansas 71601
See a variety of railroad equipment, locomotives and memorabilia at this museum dedicated to railroads that have operated in Arkansas and East Texas. Well-behaved, leashed pets are allowed on the grounds, but not in the buildings.
Boothbay Railway Village
Address: 586 Wiscasset Road, Boothbay, Maine 04537
Boothbay Railway Village offers many demonstrations and hands-on activities in a reconstructed village setting. With authentic period structures and technologies utilized in Maine from the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s, a highlight is the railroad and steam shop, equipped to fabricate and repair historic steam boilers.
Short train rides are also offered daily to enhance their educational programs. Pets are welcome to join you on the grounds, in the exhibits, and on the train in the open coaches or caboose.
California State Railroad Museum
Address: Corner of Second and I Streets, Sacramento, California 95814
Dogs are not allowed inside the museum buildings, but there are several locomotives outside you’re welcome to explore with your pets.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Address: 242 Main Street, Cass, West Virginia 24927
Pets are welcome on the grounds of this unique state park, where an 11-mile long heritage railroad and authentic company town are some of the most popular tourist attractions. This is also one of America’s only authentic operating museums of lumber railroading. Pets are not allowed to ride the trains, but there are six cottages where dogs or cats can stay.
Crossroads Village & Huckleberry Railroad
Address: 6140 Bray Road, Flint, Michigan 48505
Enjoy this living history village where period-clothed docents allow you to experience what life was like in a small village in Michigan in the late 1800s. There are 35 historic buildings, a narrow-gauge railroad offering train rides, and a paddle-wheeler taking river cruises. Well-behaved, leashed pets are welcome to accompany you to the village, but are not allowed in the buildings, on the train, or on the boat tours. Leashes must be no longer than six feet.
Illinois Railway Museum
Address: 7000 Olson Road, Union, Illinois 60180
Visit America’s largest railway museum! Leashed pets are allowed throughout the grounds and in the barn buildings, but not in the diner or aboard the trains.
Little River Railroad and Lumber Company
Address: 7747 E. Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend, Tennessee 37882
Preserving the history of the Little River Railroad and Little River Lumber Companies, this site includes a museum with several outdoor exhibits. Well-behaved, leashed pets are welcome on the grounds, and small pets may be carried through the museum.
Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum
Address: 58 Fore Street, Portland, Maine 04101
The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum is dedicated to the preservation and operation of Maine’s two-foot gauge railway equipment. Here you can purchase a train ticket, which includes both a self-guided tour of the museum and a scenic waterfront train ride. Advanced reservations are not required for the leisurely, 35-minute ride along the Eastern Promenade of Casco Bay. The small museum features exhibits, several historic rail cars, activities for children, and a unique gift shop.
Leashed pets are welcome to join you as you tour the grounds and ride the train, but are not allowed inside the buildings.
Monticello Railway Museum
Address: 992 Iron Horse Place, Monticello, IL 61856
Walk through the museum cars and view many pieces of rolling stock at this museum. Visit the gift shop, and on weekends from May through October, train rides are available on Saturdays and Sundays. Pets are welcome and can ride the train as long as they are well-mannered and leashed.
National New York Central Railroad Museum
Address: 721 S. Main Street, Elkhart, Indiana 46516
Providing a chronicle of the history of the New York Central Railroad, view the museum’s impressive collection of rolling stock. Leashed pets are invited to explore the grounds with you, but are not allowed in the buildings.
Railway and Forestry Museum
Address: 850 River Road, Prince George, British Columbia V2L 5S8 Canada
This museum boasts one of the largest vintage rail collections in British Columbia with artifacts dating back to 1899. Leashed, friendly pets are welcome to explore the grounds, but are not permitted inside the buildings.
Sioux City Railroad Museum
Address: 3400 Sioux River Road, Sioux City, Iowa 51109
This complex was originally built in 1917 to service the locomotives and freight cars of the Milwaukee Railroad. The site now consists of 31.5 acres and six buildings, including a six-stall roundhouse and working turntable. Leashed pets are welcome to explore the grounds with you.
Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington Railway Museum
Address: Sheepscot Station, Alna, Maine 04535
Learn about the railway systems and equipment that operated in the Sheepscot Valley. Interpretive displays, an impressive collection of artifacts, and exhibits are educational and entertaining. Leashed pets are welcome on the grounds, but are not permitted to ride the train.
If you find riding old trains more exciting than looking at them, check out our recent blog post on pet-friendly scenic train rides.
Dogs and road trips go together like peanut butter and jelly. There’s nothing quite like feeling the wind in your fur, sniffing all the new scents, and sharing some fantastic new memories along the way.
Now, imagine you’re planning a tour of America, but can only visit one pet-friendly attraction in each state. How would you choose a single destination that welcomes pets and speaks to the unique attributes that state has to offer?
That was our challenge this year and, at the half-way point of this 15,000-mile pet-friendly tour of the country, we’re having even more fun than we expected! It all started back in February in Carmel, CA, when we took Buster and Ty to the spectacular dog beach for a romp in the surf and some sweet California sunshine.
From there, our route took us across the southern United States, to some of the most memorable and magnificent places this country has to offer. We hiked along the south rim at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, watched the sunset at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, and took the boys on their first canoeing adventure on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas!
We played at one of the biggest off-leash dog parks in the country in Tennessee, cruised down the Natchez Trace in Mississippi, and hit another fantastic dog beach in Florida before starting up the east coast.
You can’t help but be immersed in history when visiting places like Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Not only are these stewards preserving our country’s heritage, they’re doing it in the most beautiful ways and making them accessible – even to those of us traveling with pets!
Between the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Central Park in Manhattan, and Boston’s Freedom Trail, we did a fair amount of urban hiking, and enjoyed thoroughly exploring these national treasures before continuing on to New England.
And what better way to immerse yourself in the culture of New England than by visiting Mystic Seaport, a 19th-century seafaring village replicated on the banks of the Mystic River in Connecticut? To see how the other half lived, we took a stroll along the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island and admired the “summer cottages” built between 1850 and 1900 by some of the country’s wealthiest families.
But, man holds no candle to Mother Nature when it comes to creating real beauty, and Acadia National Park in Maine is one place where you and your dog can fully appreciate her talents.
Acadia was stop #25 of 49 on our tour, and there’s still so much to look forward to! From Dog Mountain in Vermont, to Mackinac Island in Michigan, to South Dakota’s Black Hills, the spectacular Rocky Mountains in Colorado, and ending in Portland, Oregon … it’s possible that the best is yet to come!
For more information on all the attractions we’ve visited thus far, and those on our upcoming itinerary, please visit our GoPetFriendly.com blog. We hope you’ll travel along with us vicariously, and perhaps be inspired to get out and make some #pawsomememories of your own!
After more than seven years in the motorhome, Ty and Buster have acclimated to nearly every aspect of full-time travel. They love sniffing all the smells in each new campground, have a ball exploring the town and trails where we walk, and know that when we buckle them into their safety harnesses that we’re off again on a new adventure.
The one thing that we haven’t been able to help them overcome is their fear of other dogs. Ty was attacked at a dog park when he was 6 months old, and has not trusted other dogs since then. Buster found us as a stray when he was about a year old, and has been uncomfortable around other dogs right from the beginning. My hunch is that he spent the first year of his life in someone’s backyard and didn’t learn dog body language in those formative weeks of his puppyhood.
Training has helped the boys learn to tolerate other dogs from a distance, and that distance has declined (slowly) over the years. But this fear is not something that’s easy to overcome, and it can make traveling with our dogs a bit more challenging.
One of our biggest irritations is when an off-leash dog runs up to Ty and Buster, because whether the other dog is friendly or not, he’s terrifying to our dogs. So, in an effort to get the other dog to move away, Ty and Buster will bark and lunge – not because they’re spoiling for a fight, because they don’t want to be forced to interact.
Now, lest you think this is turning into an article bashing off-leash dogs … it’s not. My life’s purpose is to identify and tell others about pet-friendly places, and if those places allow dogs to play off-leash – even better! Dog parks and leash-free beaches are great for pups who love to socialize with their own kind. And, if you’re lucky enough to have one of those dogs who can take advantage of off-leash trails for hiking, I’m truly envious.
Even finding off-leash dogs in places where leashes are required doesn’t get my hackles up, as long as those dogs are well-trained and respond to their owner’s command the first time it is given. The problem arises when dogs – even the friendly ones – are off leash and not under the voice control of their owners.
Seeing a dog charging toward you with the owner running behind calling, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” is not a comfortable feeling for a human being or dog! And for dogs who are trying hard to trust their people to keep them safe from unwanted canine advances, it’s devastating.
What’s worse is that we’ve been told that we shouldn’t have our “aggressive” dogs out in public if they can’t tolerate being approached by other dogs. These people seem to think their dogs are “just being dogs,” and are not concerned how their rude behavior impacts anyone else.
So, what can you do if your dog is fearful like ours? We have a few suggestions:
1. Avoid places where pets are known to gather off-leash, like dog parks and off-leash beaches.
2. Work at desensitizing your dog to the presence of other dogs through training.
3. Carry treats to help distract your dog when other dogs are closer than they’d prefer.
4. You are your dog’s best advocate. Don’t be afraid to ask people to leash their dog while you pass, or decline a request to have another dog meet yours.
5. Remember that your dog’s behavior shouldn’t embarrass you. Reactivity is an especially difficult behavioral challenge to overcome. Some dogs may never be comfortable in the company of other dogs, so celebrate small improvements, and don’t beat yourself up if your dog’s progress is slow.
And, to those people blessed with dogs without these challenges, I know my dog’s behavior is not your problem, but with a little compassion, you could be part of the solution!
Here are some ways we could really use your help:
1. Only let your dog off-leash when in public in designated “leash-free” areas, or if they are under voice control. (This means they are never out of your sight and respond immediately when given a command such as “leave it” or “come.”)
2. If you meet a leashed dog when yours is not leashed, ask your dog to come to you and wait quietly while the other dog passes.
3. Understand that reactive dogs are not aggressive – they just want their space.
4. Keep in mind that the challenges some dogs and their owners face are beyond your imagination. They’re working to overcome those circumstances, and a smile or word of encouragement goes a long way.
If you’d like more information about our pet friendly travels with Ty and Buster, visit us at GoPetFriendly.com.