Daydreaming about travel? Us too. And your dog also needs to get out of the house and sniff out new places, just like the rest of us. Here’s the good news: There are plenty of safe, dog-friendly day trips out there—and they could be just the thing to satisfy your (and your dog’s) desire for adventure.
“Your best travel partner can be your dog,” says Dawn Celapino, founder of Leash Your Fitness, a San Diego-based company that hosts workout classes, day trips and overnight camping outings for people and their adventure-loving dogs. She advocates day hikes, paddle boarding and even yoga with your canine pal—all activities that can be done while social distancing.
So buckle up, and get ready to satisfy your wanderlust (at least a little bit).
Before You Go
The goal of taking a day trip with your dog is to share a stress-free adventure together. Aim for an easy, can-do destination no more than about an hour away, says Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM, of the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, Virginia. And before you and your dog bound out the front door, she adds, do a candid assessment:
- Will your dog walk properly on a leash?
- Will they listen to your cues to sit, stay or come?
- Are they friendly around people and other dogs?
Take those answers into account to determine which of these dog day trips is right for you and your pet. If your dog isn’t great on-leash, for example, you both might have more fun at a drive-in movie theater rather than, say, a long hike.
“You really have to know your dog,” Dr. Nelson says. “Start slowly if you have a stressed-out pet, with short, close-to-home adventures.”
And don’t forget basic safety measures, too. “Ensure your pet is fully vaccinated and is on flea/tick and heartworm prevention, and that you monitor them closely for overheating and dehydration,” says Dr. Nelson. “And properly bathe your dog when you get home.”
And wherever you go, remember to follow the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, including:
- Maintain a 6-foot distance from other people and their pets
- Wear a cloth face covering
- Wash your hands often
- Avoid touching your eyes mouth or nose
Need some dog day trip inspo? Start with these fun activities:
Head to the Beach
Ready for some fun in the sun? Try a trip to the dog beach. Many beaches across the country welcome dogs year-round, and other local beaches permit dogs to romp leash-free in the off-season, during the fall and winter months. If there’s one close to you, pack some towels, sunscreen (for you and your pet), some sand-friendly toys and hit the road. Be sure to check with local municipalities to make sure the beach is open and find out if you need a pet permit in advance.
Before planning your beach activity, factor in the weather, Dr. Nelson advises. When the weather turns chilly, skip the water and stick to long romps on the sand. When the weather is warm, engage your swim-happy dog in fetching tossed tennis balls in the surf. “Dogs can overheat quickly, so choose cooler days or go early in the morning or late in the afternoon,” Dr. Nelson says. Here’s how to tell if your dog is overheating.
Plus, she adds, “don’t let dogs drink the ocean water—it can make them very ill!” The same goes for eating sand, which can cause constipation and anal gland impaction.
In addition to colorful beach towels, you’re going to want a more utilitarian towel to keep your vehicle from becoming a sandy or muddy mess. The Dog Gone Smart Dirty Dog shammy towel is made of absorbent microfiber that soaks up 20 times as much water as the average towel. That means your pup will be 20 times drier on the ride home!
Get a full list of supplies to pack for a trip to the beach with your dog.
Have a Doggy Date at a Drive-In Theater
Who wouldn’t want to catch their favorite flick under the stars? If you’re looking for a relaxing escape with your favorite pup, check out your local drive-in. These nostalgic movie theaters are having a renaissance, now that many traditional movie theaters have closed. Plus, it’s an evening activity that’s perfect for dogs who’d rather cuddle in your lap than sprint along the shoreline.
Depending on your vehicle, you can push the front seats back or you can share the back seat together. Add some extra comfort for your canine pal by packing an orthopedic bed, such as the FurHaven comfy couch or K&H Pet Products’ orthopedic lounger, both designed to be soothing to dogs with arthritis or other joint issues.
For noise-sensitive pups, look for a drive-in that’s showing a comedy or a dog flick, rather than an action film or thriller that can have loud, surprising noises.
One more thing: Your dog might drool watching you eat popcorn, but it’s usually not safe for them to eat. Instead, pack canine snacks, such as Tylee’s human-grade chicken jerky.
Go on a Hike
You can get a great workout by spending the day hiking a dog-friendly trail. Celapino says strong, large breeds can even help you shoulder some of the load of the hiking gear by wearing canine packs, such as the Outward Hound DayPak.
You’ll also want to make sure your dog leash meets the trail rules. At most parks, the longest leashes accepted are 6 feet long.
“For your dog’s safety, do not connect the leash to the collar because you don’t want to risk a neck injury,” Celapino adds. “I recommend attaching the leash to the D ring on a front harness or a body harness.”
To keep your pet’s paw pads from getting cut or torn on rough, rocky terrain, train them to wear doggy boots, such as Kurgo Step and Strobe dog boots.
Before you embark for the mountains, make sure your dog is healthy and athletic enough to make the trek by getting a wellness check by your veterinarian. And always keep your dog on a leash—though most dog-friendly hiking trails are safe, you never know when you’ll run into a venomous snake or a beehive.
Toast to Your Dog at a Dog-Friendly Winery
If you like your adventures paired with a fine vintage, you’ll be thrilled to know there are pet-friendly wineries all across the country. In fact, there are 64 of them in California alone! This is your opportunity to kick back and relax with a glass in your hand and your favorite furry friend at your side.
While you enjoy a sample fleet of reds, whites, roses or sparklings, you can treat your dog to bottled water served up in a collapsible travel bowl, such as Dexas Popware for Pets cup with carabiner. Just be sure to call ahead to make sure the winery is open and to learn about any social distancing measures they require.
And remember: Grapes are toxic to dogs, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on your pet. “If you’re walking around the vines or restaurants, ensure that they don’t have access to grapes or raisins,” Dr. Nelson says.
Set Sail (Or Motor Along)
Does your dog have “sea legs?” There’s just one way to find out: taking your dog out on the water, whether in a motor boat or sailboat. If your pup is new to the water, Celapino recommends maintaining a happy, can-do attitude. Dogs are experts at reading our emotional states, after all.
“If your dog is a little nervous while being on a boat, speak in a calm voice and provide him with small, healthy treats to help him welcome boat rides,” she says.
Also consider asking your vet for some backup, Dr. Nelson suggests. “A vet can prescribe canine anti-nausea meds, just in case your pup gets a little seasick.”
Don’t have a boat of your own? You can rent a boat through local tour companies or services like Boatsetter, which lets you rent a boat from a private owner. (Think of it as the Airbnb of boats.) If you’re lucky, there might even be a dog-friendly brunch cruise near you. In San Diego, for example, Hornblower Cruises’ Bow Wow Brunch Cruise includes a doggy buffet, as well as day-long cruises and sunset sails. And don’t forget to keep the “poop deck” clean by packing plenty of dog waste bags, such as Frisco dog poop bags.
However your dog’s riding the waves, a canine life jacket is a must for added safety. Look for one with reflective tape and easy to grab handles, like the Kong Sport AquaPro dog floatation vest.
You can even try paddleboarding with your dog. Celapino, a certified personal trainer for both people and dogs, often organizes paddleboarding events for people and their pooches—and she welcomes first-timers to this activity.
“First, we practice on land with the dogs on the paddleboards, then we see how they do in shallow waters before moving farther out,” she says. “All of the dogs wear life jackets with handles for easy grabbing for safety. What I like best is that you get to reinforce basic dog obedience commands like sit and stay while the dog is on the paddleboard with you.”
Say "Ahhh" to Doggy Yoga
Who can resist doing a downward dog with their dog? It may be a coincidence that the common yoga pose is named after man’s best friend, but Celapino says yoga and dogs are a perfect pairing.
“Dogs read our energies,” she says. “When you stay calm while holding a yoga pose, your dog stays calm. Yoga helps reinforce doggy commands like sit, stay and down. It is a great way to live in the present moment with your best pal—your dog.”
Doggy yoga sessions are staged all over the country. If you want to go in person, check your local yoga studios to find out whether they have dog yoga and learn about social distancing measures in place. But you can also make a day of it with just you and your pup—just head to a park with your dog, roll out your mat, and stream a dog yoga session on your phone or tablet!