Should I Take My Dog On Our Roadtrip?

It’s my birthday this week and I’ve always been a firm believer that I should take the whole week and tell everyone about it–why would I do anything different with this blog?


Between our jobs, our kids, our pup, and everything in between, my husband and I have been filled to the brim with lots of *tasks*. We knew it was time to take a vacation, so we thought that my birthday was the perfect excuse for a trip! Tony and I are great at relaxing, but pretty bad at the whole beach thing. Besides, we’ve got 2 boys under 4 and sitting on a beach with them seems way more stressful than rejuvenating. We wanted action, we wanted beauty, we wanted hiking for Opie, we wanted kids things, we wanted to take the new minivan for a real test drive… the answer seemed obvious– a roadtrip from Chicago to the home of a living legend whose haunting melody of Jolene was a lullaby to the boys.


🦋Dollywood 🦋


It’s finally time to see what Dolly sang about in her Tennessee Mountain Home. (For those of you, like me, who haven’t been there, Dollywood is a theme park in the Great Smoky Mountains partially owned by the iconic musician Dolly Parton).


And honestly, our primary reason for taking a road trip was the excitement of comfortably having the space in our vehicle for 2 car seats and a dog.  We booked a pet-friendly AirBnb, we looked up the best dog-friendly trails, and I started a training plan to increase his time in the car.


And then we got to thinking.


What does this trip look like from Opie’s perspective?  We know he loves to be with us, but does he really want to come with us?


So Tony and I had to ask some honest questions:

  • What would he be doing on the trip? Day 1: driving; Day 2: Chilling alone; Day 3: Hiking; Day 4: Chilling alone; Day 5: Driving
  • Which of those things does he enjoy? Hiking
  • Which of those things does he not mind? Chilling alone
  • Which of those things would we need to train first? Long drives, proof his walking skills at local parks, ummmmm what would he do if he saw a bear?????
  • What would that training entail? Getting in the car on his own, relaxation protocol in the car, desensitization to longer rides in the car, review “close” and “5-4-3-2-1 let’s go!”
  • Do I have the time to train those things? Yes
  • While on vacation, does the amount of time doing things he loves outweigh the amount of time doing things he’s neutral to/would need training for? No
  • Do we have another option if Opie were to stay at home? Yes
  • Would Opie feel relaxed while we were away? Yes
  • Would we feel more relaxed with Opie with us or back at home? Neutral, but we’d have more flexibility on the days we’re going to the theme park.


More and more we were realizing that we included him in this trip because we thought this would be enjoyable for Opie; however, we have years of evidence (road trips with him and vacations without) that tells us that for this trip, he’d be better off staying at home with his lady friend Sarah.


I think that’s something us pet parents get caught up in often. We give them bones when they would rather shred the rope (or we give them the rope and they snub it for the tennis ball).  We bring them to a friend’s house and they spend the time howling for attention. We take them on walks without knowing if that’s the physical exercise they’re craving. There are so many nuances that are unique to each of our animals, and what works for one may not work for another.  


We have to remember to observe with our senses, not our stories.


This means that we pay attention to anything we can – body language, choices they make, things they keep doing, past experiences, etc. – to make a decision about what they really need from us. I had the story in my head that Opie wants to take a vacation with us because he loves us and loves being with us (which is ABSOLUTELY true), but in this scenario, with his current skills, learning history, and our travel length, taking him on this trip wouldn’t actually be in his best interests.


That’s not to say that we won’t take Opie on a future road trip! Maybe if we were only doing hiking instead of the theme park? Maybe if he is distressed while we’re away? Maybe if we didn’t have an awesome dog sitter? There are so many factors to consider when assessing what the “right” thing to do is. And for this trip, the combination of factors we considered tell us that he’s better off hanging at home.


Now What? 

  • Take a second to think about things from your pet’s perspective. Often times we’re doing things we *think* they should like/want, but what are they saying they *actually* like/want?
  • If you need a little reminder like me, here’s a sticker you can put on your water bottle : )

Happy Training! 



2 thoughts on “Should I Take My Dog On Our Roadtrip?

  1. It’s like you guys were reading my mind with this blog post!

    I took my dog to Lake Erie last summer to walk on the beach. He enjoyed that and the drive was about 2 1/2 hours. He generally falls asleep in the car. He had a really good time.

    We went to a tiny cabin the previous summer. That trip was definitely more for him than for me. He enjoyed it as well. He constantly wanted to be outside and not in the cabin which was a little difficult. Also there was a sign that said to watch out for bears which was nerve racking. We walked around the campground the entire time and didn’t venture anywhere else.

    Overall, I think half day or full day trips that are geared towards my dog work best for him.

    Occasionally I’ll take myself on a walk in the park or around the neighborhood solo or with friends. Today my friend asked if I wanted to bring Gregory, I remembered this blog and said no. My friend made me feel good saying I knew my dog well. It was too hot for him and he hates kids(she had her son with her).

    I’ve been working on not feeling guilty going for a walk by myself. On the one hand I think how much he’d enjoy “x, y, and z” but then I think about the triggers and decide it’s not worth it. He gets a good long walk around the neighborhood daily and has his favorite spots to visit. He also gets to sniff around the yard a few times a day too.

    I’ve stopped taking him to the park because every single dog is off leash on the hiking trails. I also need some “me time” occasionally 🙂

    1. The guilt is real! My impulse is always the same- take Opie– but it’s been helpful to ask myself if that’s the best choice for everyone. Thanks for sharing Rachel!

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