Travel | Travel Travel en-us Fri, 06 Sep 2013 06:00:00 -0700 Fri, 06 Sep 2013 06:00:00 -0700 Orion <![CDATA[Freebie Alert: We're Giving Away 6 Airline-Friendly Sherpa Dog Carriers!]]> When Dolly was a puppy, we flew back and forth between Houston and Phoenix for family visits. She slept most of the way, occasionally poking her head out of the carrier to make sure the feet in front of her still belonged to me. Eventually, Dolly could no longer fit comfortably underneath an airplane seat, plus Spot joined our family, so now the three of us travel by car to Arizona and back.

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Get your dog used to her carrier so she goes into it willingly. Photo by Pamela Mitchell.

I have fond memories of those early trips with Dolly and have recommend her carrier -- a Sherpa Original Deluxe like the ones above -- more than a few times to those flying with their pets. It has a faux-lambskin liner, mesh panels for ventilation and visibility, and a padded shoulder strap, a much-appreciated feature when trekking through an airport. When Sherpa offered to give six of its carriers away to Dogster readers, I jumped at the opportunity.

You have the chance to win one of three Original Deluxe carriers. The small bag is guaranteed for use in the cabin on American Airlines, AirTran, Alaska Airlines, Delta, Southwest, US Airways, and United, with the medium guaranteed for use in the cabin on American, Delta, and United. It also comes in large, and all three sizes are available in black, brown, plum, and gray.

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Spot Thought Bubble: I fit, but I stand united with Dolly on the matter of commercial vs. private flights.

You also have the chance to win one of three Sherpa Element duffle carriers like the one Spot models above. The small duffle is guaranteed for use in the cabin on American Airlines, AirTran, Alaska Airlines, Delta, Southwest, US Airways, and United. It comes in a stylish tan with red trim and also in large.

To enter, tell us about your dog and any upcoming travel plans. Both of these carriers have seatbelt straps for securing your dog on a road trip, whether to the neighborhood vet or out of town, so feel free to enter if you don't fly with your pup. Per usual, photos earn your entry bonus points! And don't forget to tell us which style of carrier you want and the size.

Note: Sherpa recommends its small carriers for pets up to 8 pounds, 13 inches long and 7.5 inches tall; medium for up to 16 pounds, 16 inches long and 10 inches tall; and large for up to 22 pounds, 18 inches long and 11 inches tall. Please only enter if your dog can fit comfortably inside one of these sizes. See the company's website for details about its Guaranteed On Board program and individual airline websites for pet policies. 


Would you like the chance to win a Sherpa pet carrier? If so, please do the following:

  1. Create a Disqus account, if you haven't already, and include a valid email. It takes just a minute and allows you to better participate in Dogster's community of people who are passionate about dogs. If you already have a Disqus account, check it to ensure the account includes a valid email.
  2. Comment below using your Disqus account, following the directions above. Our favorite comment wins! You must be a U.S. resident to win. 
  3. Check your email for a “You've Won!” message from me after noon PST on Wednesday, Sept. 11. I'll give the winner two days to respond before moving on to my next favorite comment.

Good luck!

Fri, 06 Sep 2013 06:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/win-sherpa-dog-pet-carrier-airline-travel
<![CDATA[Three Unexpected Benefits of Traveling with a Dog]]> When I packed my bags, sold my furniture, and took off around the world with my small business and small dog, I knew it would be amazing. I knew that I’d love having Luna with me for hiking adventures in the Swiss Alps and visits to the Eiffel Tower. I knew it would be fantastic to fall asleep every night -- whether in a hotel, a holiday rental, or a friend’s guest room -- with a warm puppy snuggled up beside me. I knew that I would love traveling with a dog.

And I was right.

But I also didn't see the whole picture. Traveling with my dog hasn’t just been wonderful because of snuggles and companionship. It has also been wonderful for a few reasons that I never expected.

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Where shall we go first, Luna?

1. Traveling with a dog makes me feel safe

As a woman traveling alone, having a dog along (even a pint-sized one) makes me feel secure. This is especially true when I rent apartments, which I often do, because on the off chance that someone did try to break in, I know that Luna would alert me. She’s not a day-to-day barker, but when someone new is coming up the stairs, you better believe she makes herself heard.

Even more unexpected, I feel safer having her with me as I’m exploring the sites of a new city. Because it seems much less likely that pickpockets or scam artists would target what appears to be a local out walking her dog, not only because a local probably isn’t carrying her valuables around with her on her walk, but also because a dog might bark or bite.

Which brings me to the second unexpected benefit of traveling with my dog …

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Here's Luna in Switzerland. She might be tiny, but she helps me feel safer.

2. Traveling with a dog makes me look and feel like a local

When I’m out with Luna, I can’t help but make friends. The little old ladies on the Paris Metro pick her up and kiss her face. The other little old ladies waiting for the bus in Belgium ask her name and coo at her. Tourists constantly stop and ask me for directions, which I frequently can’t help with, and then, when they realize I’m not a local, want to know the whole story -- how is it that I have my fuzzy little best friend along for the ride?

Having a dog with me, I’m immediately seen as someone who belongs, a local, a contributor to the city’s culture and economy. I’m seen as friendly and approachable. I’m seen as someone who wants to be part of the city -- not just snap a few shots and be on her way.

Even better, though, I also feel like a local. Whether I’m walking Luna through Paris or Perugia, Italy, I feel grounded. I feel like I belong. I feel like we’re part of the story, part of the landscape -- not just observers. Luna, like magic, makes every landscape feel like home.

Which brings me to my third unexpected benefit.

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Luna in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, where she made me look like a local.

3. Traveling with a dog forces me to keep a routine and eliminate jet lag

When I arrive in Paris or Rome or Edinburgh after a long flight, I’m exhausted. And I find jet lag hard to deal with -- there's no hopping up the next morning ready to take on the world. Oh, no; that’s not me.

But now that I travel with a dog, I’m compelled to get up, to have a routine, and to see the city I’ve traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to see.

How does my dog accomplish all that? By needing daily walks and twice-daily feedings, by waking me up if I try to oversleep, and by forcing me to walk outside and remember that I’m in Tuscany or the Black Forest or the Alps. And as soon as I walk those few blocks to the dog park, I remember how new and interesting and different of a place I’m in, and I'm motivated to explore some more.

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A dog's need for routine helps me deal with jet lag.

In summary: Traveling with my dog has brought me unending joy. Recently, someone asked me who my best travel buddy has been over the years. After all, I’ve been to more than 25 countries on six continents. I’ve traveled with friends, family, strangers, and often by myself. I think they thought I’d go on a rant about what makes a great travel buddy.

Instead, I smiled and answered without hesitation: my dog. Hands down. Absolutely. No question: my dog.

Gigi Griffis is a writer and humorist with a penchant for snuggly puppies, new places, and Italian cooking. In May 2012, she sold her stuff and took to the road with a growing business and a pint-sized pooch. You can read all about her adventures on her travel blog, and she’d love to be friends on Facebook

Have you traveled with your dog? What unexpected joys and benefits have you found? What surprises you most about being a dog owner in a foreign city?

Thu, 24 Jan 2013 10:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/3-unexpected-benefits-traveling-with-a-dog
<![CDATA["The Dogs" Restaurant in Edinburgh Makes Us Want to Get on a Plane]]>
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The rabbit hole that is Pinterest recently led me to The Dogs, a small restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland, that specializes in comforting English and Scottish fare -- as well as tasteful canine decor.

After drooling over menu and ambiance, and impressed with the way the restaurant's staff kept up on social media (seriously, follow them, it's a treat), I felt compelled to reach out and learn more.

Founder David Ramsden got his start in the food business in the late 1970s; his previous endeavors included FitzHenry's and Rogue (both also in Edinburgh). Ramsden wanted to create a place with great value and locally sourced ingredients at a fair price. That he picked a theme celebrating his own love for dogs is just gravy. 

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The Dogs opened in early 2008 and was inspired by Ramsden's own dogs, "who had been unquestioning in their loyalty and friendship when a previous business faltered," he tells us over email.

His pack is composed of Fez, a Sloughi (a sighthound from North Africa), and a pair of Ibizan Hounds named Biz and Bo. Phret, a Pharaoh Hound and past member of the pack, graces The Dogs' bar via an exploded photo shot by a person called Roz.

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Roz is also behind the lovely canine artwork displayed at (A)more Dogs, a now closed spin-off of The Dogs that served Italian fare (pictured above), and Seadogs (pictured below), located on nearby Rose Street, which features seafood and sold earlier in the year.

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Asked whether The Dogs had outdoor seating to accommodate canine customers, Ramsden says: "If well-behaved, then dogs are allowed in and get looked after normally. No outdoor area for them."

Indeed, the restaurant's Facebook page features photos of relaxed pups in patrons' laps indoors. U.S. establishments could take a page out of Scotland's book, no? 

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Fare at The Dogs includes "mussels cooked in a coriander and shallot reduction," "lamb brisket chop with confit garlic and crispy bacon mash," and "mince pie and almond parfait with a toffee cream." 

I sincerly hope that a visit to Scotland's Hanover Street is in my future (and yours).

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Dogster travelers: What are your favorite dog-friendly haunts?

Tue, 18 Dec 2012 03:00:00 -0800 /doggie-style/the-dogs-restaurant-edinburgh-scotland
<![CDATA[Are Car Restraints for Dogs Just One Big Farce?]]> “My dog sits still most of the time and does not need a restraint when traveling.”

“My dog would never allow me to restrain him in the car.”

“I don’t go on long trips, so I don’t need to buckle my dog up when traveling.”

Do any of the above questions apply to you? If so, you are not in the minority. According to the 2011 AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Survey, 84 percent of respondents bring their dogs on car trips but do not use a restraint. I sheepishly bow my head and admit to falling in that 84 percent now and again for the “short trip to the park” treks we make just about daily. This might not be such a bad thing, or so it seems, in light of recent findings released by the Center for Pet Safety.

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Do pet restraints live up to their hype?

In July, the Center for Pet Safety ran a series of videos from its pilot study of the “crash-worthiness” of canine automotive restraints. They report a third-party independent test lab, MGA Research Corporation, tested a variety of pet harnesses to the conditions of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 for child safety restraints.

The results were a complete failure -- for ALL restraints tested. Four harnesses were tested in the control group, and every time there were multipoint failures. At one point, the videos reveal a complete separation from the connection point; another shows an instance of complete decapitation of the test (dummy) dog as a result of the harness moving upward on impact. In its press release, the Center for Pet Safety reported, “no protection would be provided to either the dog or to vehicle occupants in similar crash conditions.”

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With a name like Travelin' Jack, Jill Lane hits the open road with her pooch often.

So what is a dog parent to do in order to protect Fido while traveling? After all, humans are required to buckle up, and in many states, so is Rover.

An unrestrained 80-pound dog in a wreck going 30 miles per hour equates to 2,400 pounds of projectile force, per the AAA/Kurgo study. If traveling through a state such as New Jersey, I could be fined if Fido is sans seatbelt (should present legislation succeed in becoming law). Pets are not allowed on the lap of Hawaiian drivers, and in Arizona, Connecticut, and Maine, laws pertaining to distracted drivers can be enforced where pets are involved. Now what?

A dire need exists for a product that will comfortably restrain a dog yet allow some flexibility in movement while traveling. Sleepypod, a company that designs products for pet safety at home and during travel, took a step in the right direction. They hired a crash-test facility sponsored by the United States’ Department of Transportation and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to test the crash-worthiness of its entire line of pet carriers.

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Sleepypod test dog, Max, gets ready for a test drive.

Each of Sleepypod’s pet carriers passed a 30 mph frontal crash test. The crash tests were performed at this speed because that is the standard for child safety seats in the United States. There is NO legal standard for car restraint systems (or crash worthiness of carriers) for pets. Video footage of Sleepypod’s Pet Passenger Restraint Systems showed that they remained intact, without damage. Personally, I would love to run out and purchase the Sleepypod, but my dog is well over the maximum 15 pounds that the Sleepypod safely allows.

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Putting pedal to the metal, Sleepypod tests their pet restraints and carriers.

Dog parents are faced with a dilemma: To buckle or not to buckle. Alternative options include a crate or kennel, a car seat (such as a booster seat), or a car barrier designed to block off a section of the vehicle. I know of someone who was in an accident with her two medium-sized dogs and credits a floor-to-ceiling metal gate with saving the lives of her dogs when her vehicle was rear-ended.

According to, “Restraints help protect pets in case of a collision and keep pets from running loose and distracting the driver.”

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Some states require Fido to buckle up.

It seems pet parents are left with a frenzy of information to decipher on their own. I write about pet products often and have traveled with dogs for 20 years, and I, too, am dizzied and left wondering, “So now what?” Loose, unrestrained dogs can not only distract the driver but may be killed or injured by airbags. Sudden stops pose projectile dangers, and free-roaming Fido can easily block or move the gear shift, steering wheel, or gas pedals. One of my greatest fears is getting in an accident and having my panicked dog escape, become lost and never recovered.

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Millions of dogs are riding shotgun with us.

I thought researching this piece would provide me with a sense of security, but I feel very uneasy by the massive amount of pet-restraint options and the lack of solid proof that they work. Lindsey Wolko founded the Center for Pet Safety in 2011, after she was in a car accident with her pooch, Maggie. At the time, Maggie was restrained in a harness, but she suffered spinal injuries as a result of the accident. In other words, the harness failed.

The Today show recently aired a segment on the topic. In two of the tests performed on a 55-pound test dog, the harnesses snapped completely and the dog was sent flying through the air, unprotected. However, Walko is not blaming the manufacturers, and says in the segment that she feels the lack of safety standards is the real issue.

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Dexter wears a harness that doubles as a restraint in the car.

For me, I sit Driving Miss Daisy-style most times in the car, as a family member drives with me and my harnessed pooch in the back seat. I still wonder how to best protect him and what to report to the more than 78 million dogs who live in U.S. households. No doubt, millions of them are traveling with their pet parents, restrained and unrestrained. Now, I am not so sure which of the two is the lesser evil.

Do you restrain your dog when traveling? Do the findings of the Center for Pet Safety report alarm you? Let us know in the comments.

Photo Credits: Dog in Car at top via Shutterstock; all others courtesy Carol Bryant

Mon, 12 Nov 2012 03:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/dog-restraints-for-dogs-safety
<![CDATA[Dog Travel Dos and Don'ts for the Holiday Season]]> Are you a road warrior or a road worrier? Twenty years ago when I started traveling with dogs, I admit I fell into the latter category. How could I possibly visit friends across the country and make sure my dog was not left behind? Back then folks used to do a double take when I mentioned traveling with my dog. Today, we know better and we travel more frequently with Fido in tow.

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Millions of people take to the holiday roads with dogs in tow.

In a 2011 survey by, 60 percent of pet owners traveled at least one time with their pet in 2010, and 93 percent of pet owners claimed they would go on at least one trip in 2011 with a pet. That's a lot of dogs on the road, considering there are over 78 million dogs in U.S. households.

So, apprehension be gone! Armed with this combo of time tested, off-the-beaten path dos and don’ts for holiday travel, worriers can become warriors with a few shakes of the tail. (Note: This list primarily applies to road travel, as I am personally opposed to flying dogs as cargo.)

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"Are we there yet?"

DO remember those “oh yeah, wish I took that with me” items

Staples like a first aid kit, identification and vaccination records, and any medications Fido takes regularly are a given, but don't forget these other, less obvious things:

  • Water from home: My last dog would get sick or refuse to drink “other people’s water” -– I kid you not. Pack a few jugs of water from home.
  • Fido’s favorite blanket/pillow/kennel: Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt; in fact, it can breed contentment when surrounded with coochie-cooing family members.
  • Treats: It goes without saying, but what grandma has ready for your darling’s snacking needs might not be the best choice, especially digestive-wise.
  • A spare leash and collar, and an extra identification tag: I’ve lost more leashes in my travels than I can count, so it’s nice to have a spare to keep in the glove box. I also make a temporary ID tag for my dog with the address we are visiting. What good is a tag from home if my dog isn’t there? We recently invested in a GPS collar, too.

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Knowing what to pack make's Rover's road travels much easier.

DON'T force a travel-fearful dog into an upsetting road trip

If your dog doesn’t like car travel, you can try to change this. Assess road readiness with a five-minute trip around the block. Slowly increase the amount of time Rover spends in the car, making the destination worthwhile (i.e., a favorite park). Praise “getting there” with a treat upon arrival. Desensitizing and gradually acclimating a dog takes time and patience. A vet or animal behaviorist can help. My Dexter digs travel, so traveling in a car is second nature for my boy.

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Bouncing on the bed upon arrival: Optional

DO decide on the sleeping arrangements ahead of time

Is your dog easily startled by things that go bump in the night (like someone going to the bathroom in his own house)? Why scare Uncle Ned with barking and put your pooch under any undue stress when dog-friendly accommodations might be nearby? Ask if anyone has allergies to dogs prior to making holiday plans.

DON'T assume your dog will stay put in the car or that an accident can’t happen

Do your homework and find a restraint system that works best for your dog’s needs. For me, Dexter and I generally sit in the back seat, harnessed safely into our seat belts.

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Dogs will be traveling with their families in the millions

DO prepare for the worst but hope for the best

I found out recently that while Dexter is unhappy with thunderstorms at home, he is fine when they occur while traveling. If your dog normally wears something like a Thundershirt or requires the assistance of an anti-anxiety spray, pack those along just in case.

DON'T assume there will be no other pets present on arrival

Nothing can ruin a holiday more than finding out your sister-in-law’s dog doesn’t play well with other dogs. Keep calm and prepare.

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Don't forget to pack toys and games for Fido fun.

DO plan for pee stops

Does your dog need to relieve himself every few hours at home? Implement the same schedule when traveling. At each rest stop, make the experience the greatest thing in the world. As a friend once told me when I was training Dexter to pee outside, “Act like he just won Westminster every time he pees where he should.” If pit stops are positive ones, Fido will want to please. Plus, you can get some fun bonding time in while on the road. 

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"Come here often?"

DON'T leave a dog unattended in a vehicle

Pets are prone to accidents, theft, and even death when left unattended in a car. I recently discovered a product called Too Hot For Spot to monitor the temperature in my car. Additionally, ultraviolet rays are as harmful to pets as they are to humans, no matter the time of year. A veterinarian-recommended sun block and in-car sun shades will keep your dog safeguarded en route and during your stay. 

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Make sure your dog has access to fresh, clean water en route.

Traveling with Fido takes a little planning, but if you travel with these tips in mind, it can be a safe, fun experience. 

What’s your favorite pet travel trip? Bark at us below! 

Top Photo: Dog in car via Shutterstock.

Thu, 08 Nov 2012 03:00:00 -0800 /lifestyle/holiday-travel-dog-pet-tips
<![CDATA[Maddie, a Talented Coonhound, Challenges Gravity and Wins]]> We'd like you to meet Maddie, a very talented Coonhound. Maddie has achieved what most cats are capable of doing without effort and what most dogs try to do with very little success -- defy gravity.

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Maddie perches like a cat.

Maddie the Coonhound accompanied her human, photographer Theron Humphrey, on an ambitious cross-country project called This Wild Idea. In a year Theron traversed the United States, meeting one new person for each day of the year, photographing and recording the story of every subject he met. The project culminated in 91,540 photos taken, 66,565 miles driven, 50 states visited, and 365 strangers who became friends.

Now Maddie is traveling with Theron on another project -- and showing off her mad balancing skills along the way. Apart from being incredibly photogenic, Maddie is patient, and possesses the ability to squeeze into almost any space and balance on any item from any height. Theron captures Maddie's adventures and documents them on his Tumblr Maddie on Things, where you can see Maddie do the seemingly impossible and look good while doing it. 

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Slow and steady wins the race.

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She even plays the piano.

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Go, Maddie, go!

She even has her own published book!

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A published dog!

Just recently, Maddie tried on a series of Halloween costume ideas.

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Final costume idea.

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Gosh, where did Maddie go? All we can see is this hipster.

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Scared ya, didn't she?

Don't worry -- Maddie performs all her stunts under the careful supervision of Theron and his friends, who would probably rather die than see any harm befall Maddie.

Photos by Theron Humphrey via Maddie on Things

Thu, 18 Oct 2012 05:30:00 -0700 /bolz/dog-photos-maddie-on-things-tumblr-coonhound
<![CDATA[10 Dog-Friendly Places to Watch the Autumn Leaves]]> It’s the time of year when autumn's quilt blankets our nation's landscape -- and time to pack a picnic lunch, a favorite pooch, and go leaf-peeping. Not sure whether you’re a leaf-peeper? If you love fall foliage and rich hues turning green leaves to goldens, oranges, and reds, you’re a leaf-peeper.

Here are ten of Dogster's dog-friendly landscapes to put on your fall-foliage getaway list.

1. Acadia National Park, Mount Desert, Maine

In 1947, a fire destroyed many spruce-fir trees in this historic park and left ample space behind for the rich colors of fall to highlight the landscape. Though peak season is generally mid-October, this varies. At 1,532 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the north Atlantic seaboard. Many trails allow dogs.

Your best friend and falling leaves, what could be better?

2. Inn by the Sea, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Maine is one of the most pet-friendly states I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Cape Elizabeth is a quiet town in Cumberland County and home to some gorgeous lighthouses. If you stay at the pet-welcoming accommodations at Inn by the Sea, you’ll have access to Crescent Beach and plenty of picturesque trees. The beach is conveniently located behind the inn. Crescent Beach State Park is closed to dogs completely from April 1 to September 30 due to Piper Plover nesting concerns- - although visitors are welcome to walk on the Park trails, and on the path that parallels the beach, or to go to the trails that go around Great Pond. In October the beach is open to dogs again until April.


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The author and her dog pose amidst the Inn by the Sea pumpkins.

3. Dog Mountain, St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Plan early for Vermont’s busiest time of year: the first two weekends of October. Vermont’s red maples are amongst the first to change. Dogs are welcome with their parents to visit Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury. Housed on this glorious land are 400 acres of nature for hiking, and the famous Dog Chapel. Atop the white steeple, a Labrador Retriever points his wings to the wind as if beckoning to visitors. Get a seven-day fall foliage plan-ahead calendar at the Scenes of Vermont website.

All creatures great and small are welcome at Dog Mountain.

4. Pocono Mountains, northeastern Pennsylvania

I would be remiss writing a leaf-peeping list without mentioning one in my backyard. Often called the “honeymoon capital of the world,” the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania are home to 127 varieties of trees. This is nature-changing season at its finest. Dogs love playing along the Delaware River, and there are many state parks and wineries peppering the landscape.

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The Pocono Mountains are picturesque and puppy perfect.

5. Washington, D.C., and Shenandoah Valley

Having been there, done that, I can attest to the beauty, majesty, and historic splendor of fall in the nation’s capital. Arlington National Cemetery is pet friendly for well-behaved leashed dogs. Located 90 miles west of the Capital Beltway, Shenandoah National Park encompasses more than 500 miles of trails and almost 200,000 acres of land.

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Saluting our capital and the colors of fall.

6. Ozark Mountains, Arkansas

Resplendent with autumnal vistas, the Ozarks offer a two-mile “rim walk” loop that allows for spectacular views around the mountain top. If driving while you leaf peep is up your alley, check out Talimena Scenic Drive, Crowley’s Ridge Parkway, and Great River Road.

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Autumn roads mean leaf peeping adventures.

7. Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

This well-traveled dog writer was thrilled to find some leaf-peeping fun in the south. McKittrick Canyon is heralded as one of the most breathtaking places to visit in the Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas. Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in all of Texas at 8,749 feet, but scenic drives are abundant for those who prefer their “oohs and ahhs” drive-by style.

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"Hay now, I love leaf peeping," Dexter seems to ponder.

8. Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

One of the most pet-friendly towns I’ve ever visited is Provincetown, Massachusetts. End a leaf-peeping excursion there and take to the beaches with Fido. Cape Cod hiking trails are enchanting. The federally protected uplands and bogs of the national seashore encompasses more than 27,000 acres and takes up more than half of Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Both Wellfleet and Truro are near Provincetown, which is more beachy than tree-lined but a perfect spot to end a day of sightseeing with your dog.

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From sea to shining sea, leaf peeping is a popular autumn tradition.

9. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Though dogs are not allowed on trails or in the backcountry, they are permitted in areas accessible by vehicle. I know what John Denver sang of now when I see the spectacle that involves Alberta Falls, Mills Lake, and Sky Pond. Situated northwest of Boulder, over 265,000 acres are located here. The peaks of Colorado are worth the trip alone.

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Pumpkin picking is a fun activity to brighten a fall day with Fido.

10. Catskills, New York

In the Hudson Valley region of New York are the Catskill Mountains, about 100 miles north of the city. Some of the many things to do here with your dog include craft fairs, farmers markets, orchard picking, and harvest festivals. Dubbed by many as "America's First Wilderness," the brilliance of the leaves changing is matched only by the many things to do in the surrounding area. 

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Fall leaves are nature's way of getting a blanket ready for winter.

Do you have any fall traditions with your dog? What’s your favorite fall activity? We love leaf peeping, but certainly so much more. Now, where’s that caramel apple?

Thu, 13 Sep 2012 10:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/autumn-travel-spots-dogs
<![CDATA[Win a Ticket to the Barkworld Conference and Expo in Atlanta!]]> This year, like every year thus far, Dogster is a proud sponsor of the Barkworld Expo, one of the biggest and best social "petworking" conferences out there. Last year, our founder, Ted Rheingold, was a keynote speaker, and while our staffers are unable to make it to Atlanta this October, we'd love YOU to be there. So we're hooking 20 Dogster readers up with free tickets to the three-day event!

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This could be you! Photos via Barkworld.

So, how do you get your paws on a ticket (a $149 value)? Simply leave a comment below telling us why you'd like to attend. PLEASE make sure there's an e-mail address attached to your Disqus account, or we'll be unable to contact you.

We're covering just the conference registration, not the airfare (ha, if only), but we hope our lovely Georgia Dogsters can make it out, as well as readers in the surrounding areas (or, hey, anyone willing to fly in).

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This year's keynote speakers.

Why should you want to go? The keynote lineup includes representatives from Twitter, the ASPCA,, and the director of HBO's Madonna of the Mills. Festivities include a Howl-o-Ween party sponsored by Petco and morning yoga with your dog. The full schedule, posted here, makes us wish we could get to Atlanta this year. Barkworld just keeps getting bigger and better.

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Dogster's own Ted Rheingold was a keynote speaker at last year's conference.

P.S. We've given tickets away every year that the conference has been running, and if you already won tickets in a previous year, we ask that you please refrain from entering to give a chance to others. Thanks, guys!

Wed, 22 Aug 2012 12:00:00 -0700 /the-scoop/barkworld-atlanta-ticket-giveaway
<![CDATA[Sleep Inside a Giant Dog at the Dog Bark Park Inn]]> If you ever find yourself in Cottonwood, Idaho, and you have a thing for dogs and quirky accommodations, then you might want to check out the Dog Bark Park Inn Bed & Breakfast.

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For real, it's a bed and breakfast shaped like a dog!

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Hang out on Sweet Willy's deck and watch the sun set on the prairie.

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Be right back ... making our reservations!

It all started when Idaho chainsaw artists (yup, you heard that right) Dennis and Frances decided they wanted to create one of the most unique bed-and-breakfast hotels ever, in the tradition of retro roadside architecture. Built in 2002 and opened in 2003, Sweet Willy -- as the giant Beagle-shaped domicile has come to be called -- can sleep up to four people at a time and is typically rented to a single party. There is also an adjoining gift shop and artist studio, where visitors can take home some of Dennis' and Frances' incredible and unique art.

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You can take a piece of the Dog Bark Park Inn home!

Sweet Willy's interior is equally dog-themed, with carved dogs adorning the queen bed's headboard, and there's a loft inside Willy's head. While there are no resort-style perks, guests are treated to enthralling prairie views from Willy's deck, and can explore nearby educational attractions during the day. And, of course, breakfast is included!

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Can we order one of these for our own at home?

So if you're planning a cross-country road trip this summer, make sure to book a reservation at Dog Bark Park Inn Bed & Breakfast to "experience the dog."

Have you had the privilege of staying here? We want to see photos!

Photos via the Dog Bark Park Inn Bed & Breakfast Facebook page.

Tue, 24 Jul 2012 05:30:00 -0700 /lifestyle/dog-bark-park-inn
<![CDATA[10 Amazing Dog Parks You Need to See in Your Lifetime]]>
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This post is sponsored by Beneful® brand Dog Food.

What constitutes a good, better, or even best dog park? What criteria should be in place for a dog park to be labeled one of the best? In my nearly 20 years of traveling with dogs, my motto has been “love me, love my dog.” If you welcome my dog and make him or her feel special, I’ll remember these special considerations and will want to return (of course, my dog would be happy sleeping on a pile of my dirty laundry, but that’s another story). It’s all about perspective for me.

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The 26-foot metal sculpture at the main entrance of Pilgrim Bark Park was created by artist Julian Popko.

According to the Travel Industry Association of America, 78 percent of vacationing pets are dogs. So where is Rover roaming, and what do I look for in an area when planning a vacation (with my dog, which is well, always)? Mainly, access to activities, shops, eateries, and things that both involve and engage my dog. Pet peeve: Hotels that say they are “pet friendly,” when the only evidence is the uncarpeted room you stick me in at the end of the hall.

If having a dog park that goes above and beyond when vacationing is of importance to you, like it is for me, here are 10 worth checking out:

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A rope dog sculpture at Pilgrim Bark Park.

1. Pilgrim Bark Park, Provincetown, Massachusetts

Not only is Provincetown extremely friendly to dogs, but each fall the Carrie A. Seaman Animal Shelter holds a fun, day-long event for people and their pooches. Pilgrim Bark Park was opened in 2008 by the Provincetown Dog Park Association, which is a non-profit group. Boasting a section for dogs under 25 pounds and a section for dogs in general, the artsy town’s influence is seen in the structures, sculptures, and benches peppered throughout this acre of land. 

Bonus points: A stroll down nearby famous Commercial Street in the heart of P-Town (where some restaurants allow dogs) makes for a fun after-park activity. 

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More art from the Bark Park. Who wouldn't wanna hang out here?

2. Thornberry Off-Leash Dog Park, Iowa City, Iowa

Featuring 12 acres, a pond for water warriors, a fenced-in area for smaller dogs, a Lucky Pawz Playground, running water, and eco-friendly disposable waste bags with pipes to underground “poop tanks” where the bags biodegrade when in contact with water -- is it any wonder Thornberry made our top 10? Open from dawn to dusk, Iowa City requires a yearly access fee of $35 per resident ($40 for non-residents) with a discount for dogs who are spayed/neutered. 

Bonus Points: With its Halloween parties and dog paddle events, Thornberry works with the city of Iowa and welcomes volunteers.

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A map of Thornberry Dog Park in Iowa.

3. Millie Bush Dog Park, Houston, Texas

"Paradise" is what visitors tend to say after visiting this west Houston wag fest. With 13 acres, the Millie Bush Bark Park takes fun to the next Fido level. It features three ponds for splashy spaniels (two for big dogs, one for guppy puppies), but there's no need to fret about having a stinky pet with the park's many washing stations for after-fun clean-up. With plenty of shady areas, benches, scattered trees, and water fountains, the park is open seven days a week from dusk until dawn. 

Fun Fact: The park was named after Millie, the English Springer Spaniel who was the White House dog during the former President's administration.  

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Photo of Millie Bush Dog Park via

4. Freedom Bark Park, Lowell, Indiana

A former farmland turned into 114 acres of developing park, five acres are devoted for Fido to run free. Four acres are allocated for larger dogs and nearly one acre for dogs weighing 25 pounds and under. From Halloween parades to a “sand bunker digging area,” the park opened in 2008. Featuring a solar well for drinking, butterfly garden for snooping, prairie grass areas for exploring, and shelter for shade, this fenced-in piece of freedom is a “must see” on the list of dog parks for which we swoon.

Doggone Dedication: The park was established thanks to private donations and close to 3,000 hours of volunteer service.

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A sign seen at Dog Wood Park in Jacksonville.

5. Dog Wood Park, Jacksonville, Florida

Dog Wood Park features 42 acres for people and pets to swim and play, with over 25 of them fenced. Self-serve dog bathing, raised warm-water tubs, an agility course, and puppy kindergarten and obedience/agility training -- think Chihuahua squared on this one. Single day visits are $11 per dog, but we’ve already got our charge card geared up.

More Barks: The park includes Barkham Woods (which features 10 acres of nature trails), three lighted acres for use after dark until 10 p.m., special events, and Lake Bow Wow, a two-acre swimming lake with fountain. 

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A shot from the Beneful Dream Dog Park in Alabama.

6. Beneful Dream Dog Park, Alabaster, Alabama

Splash pads, a miniature football field, a walking course, off-leash play areas for a variety of sizes, synthetic turf, all to the tune of $500,000 -- we’re so there. This recently opened dog dream features freedom times infinity. We love the rubberized mulch path, shady areas, and senior dog hill for lounging and chilling.

Play Bow: Resident Jenny Wilson won a contest to have the park built in Alabaster. She found her dog, Honey Belle, a stray, at the now dream park’s location.

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7. Bea Arthur Dog Park in Norfolk, Virginia

Don’t go home! Really. Though just 5.75 acres, we put this on our “must see” list of dog parks because it is open 24/7, with double-gated, water ramp access for dog paddling in the Elizabeth River. The park is located near downtown Norfolk and is free of charge to use. 

Fun Fact: This dog park was named for the famous Golden Girls actress.

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Point Isabel Dog Park has a glorious view of the San Francisco skyline. Photo via Yelp.

8. Point Isabel Regional Shoreline and Dog Park, Richmond, California

It's one of the largest public off-leash dog parks in the United States, and approximately 500,000 dogs visit here per year. What’s the fuss? Twenty-three acres, free of charge, open until 10 p.m., and the waterfront landscape makes for the “paw-fect” park experience. 

Also Sniff Out: Mudpuppy's Tub & Scrub for bathing facilities and Sit & Stay Café nearby for human and dog treats. PIDO (Point Isabel Dog Owners & Friends) sponsors a monthly park clean-up, complete with Mutt Mitts. We raise our sparkling water bowl to you! 

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Mudpuppy's Tub & Scrub at Point Isabel. Photo via Yelp.

9. Jackass Acres K-9 Korral, New River, Arizona

Though a members-only park, we want in! Founded by Anthem Pets, this was the first green dog park in the state. Operating with a solar water pump, solar lighting, all metal artwork from recycled cars, and turf recycled from pro football fields, the park is open from 7 a.m. to dusk. Housed on 2.5 acres, the name tickles our Fido fancy, too. 

Bonus Points: The group features a 24/7 hotline for lost pets.

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The agility course at Fort Woof.

10. Fort Woof, Fort Worth, Texas

They say everything is bigger in the south, and with a Barktoberfest each October, how can we not put Fort Woof (love the name) on our list? Early Bowsers take heart in the 5 a.m. opening time, with closing time at 11:30 p.m. Five acres, extended hours, pooches who party, hydrants galore, and obstacles and agility equipment has us wagging (and woofing) for this Fido fort. 

Remember: Follow park rules, ensure your dog is socialized, and clean up after your furry family member.

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Fort Woof Dog Park in Fort Worth, TX.

What do you consider “above and beyond” at a dog park? Let us know in the comments!  

Fri, 20 Jul 2012 03:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/10-amazing-dog-parks
<![CDATA[In France, Locals Abandon Their Dogs When They Go on Vacation]]> This could be the worst sentence you'll read all day: Before they head off on summer vacations, many French people dump their dogs at shelters before they leave. It's a despicable practice, but before you get outraged, think a moment: How many abandoned dogs do you think there are? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands?

How about more than 100,000? Every summer. Now you can get outraged. 

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An NPR article reports that the practice of abandoning pets before summer vacations is common across Europe, though France is among the worst offenders, with Italy and Spain close by. 

It seems to be part of the culture, despite campaigns by animal rights groups. Every year, the French SPCA runs a program to educate and inform the public through posters and social media. One poster features a dog and the line, "Animals can't cry, they just suffer in silence. Don't leave your pet this year."

It seems that some people in France -- many people in France, actually -- just don't care about dogs. According to Claire Brissard, who runs Society for the Prevention of Cruelty in Chamarande, many people don't even think they are doing anything wrong.

"So we make them come with us to put the dogs in the cages themselves," Brissard told NPR. "And when they see the stress of the animal they're leaving behind, at least they're not proud of what they're doing. And we hope that keeps them from doing it again."

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A lot of stray dogs in a shelter by

Anne-Claire Chauvancy, of the Foundation for the Assistance of Animals, says that the education campaign has been so widespread that it has lost its impact.

"Everyone knows abandoning your dog is cruel, and he'll probably starve or get hit by a car," she told NPR. "This campaign has become almost banal and just seems to mark the beginning of summer."

Clearly, a new campaign is needed. The idea that more 100,000 dogs are handed off to shelters so their owners can relax is nearly impossible to for us to understand, especially because France is perceived as dog-friendly country (at least in the restaurants and cafes). France, with 61 million domestic animals, has the most pet ownership in Europe, and nearly half of all household have a pet, reports NPR.

David Chauvet of Animal Rights, a group that wants sales in retail pet stores halted until the shelters are empty, tries to explain: "The large majority of French are horrified by the thought of abandoning their pet," he told NPR. "But there are people with no scruples, much like child abusers."

More than 100,000 dogs, every year. That's a lot of people with no scruples.

Via NPR.

Wed, 18 Jul 2012 07:30:00 -0700 /the-scoop/abandoned-dogs-france
<![CDATA[An American Expat Writer in France -- Dog Blogging!]]> Isn't it every American writer's secret dream to live the expatriate life in France? The answer to that is oui -- especially if you're a writer with a dog, as les chiens are welcome at so many places they aren't permitted here in the U.S., notably restaurants and cafes. Fetching freelance writer and copy editor Diane, originally from New Jersey, lives this literary Dogster dream in the Loire Valley in France, together with her handsome hubby Tom and beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dagny. And, to the delight of her readers, she pens a charmant blog about her life, Oui in France: Musings on Life in France, My Dog, and Everything Else.

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After getting married in August 2011 -- the couple's wedding was the subject of a four-page feature in the French edition of Marie Claire -- Diane and Tom settled in France at Christmastime. Then, her already sweet life became sweeter still with the arrival of Dagny, who came home on Diane's birthday, December 31. "It was easier to get a dog in France -- no hassle of bringing a puppy on a flight and all the paperwork involved," she explains.

The little dog is named after a larger-than-life literary figure, the protagonist of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. "Dagny also means 'new day' in Old Norse, which I felt was fitting for our situation," Diane explains. "As a newlywed who just moved overseas, I was starting the next chapter of my life, and I'm so happy Dagny is in it."

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So, is a French dog's life as merveilleux as it's cracked up to be? Well, naturellement. "The best part about dog culture in France is that dogs are accepted at a lot of places that they'd never be permitted to go in the U.S. -- this is even more true if the dog is small and well-behaved," Diane says. "For example, while on vacation recently, Dagny came with us to three nice restaurants, all of which were indoors, and much to our surprise, she sat perfectly under the table. She didn't make a peep!

"Also, I walk with her to the pharmacy and the pharmacist knows her name. We just walk into places like it's normal to bring a dog and no one ever says anything. You can't bring your dog to the doctor with you, but within reason, dogs are welcome in stores and small businesses. Of course, this varies depending on where you live, but overall, dogs are very welcome here."

Traveling partout (everywhere) with her people, Dagny has, thus far, visited Bretagne (St. Malo and the surrounding area) and explored parks all over the Loire Valley. The family plans a trip to the South of France this September.

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Dagny runs at the park.

With her pick of eateries in this world capital of gastronomy, sophisticated Dagny surprised Diane with her choice of favorite restaurant. "Strangely enough, Dagny loves the McDonald's drive-thru. She loves sticking her head out the window so the employees make a fuss over her. Even if we're just getting coffee, she loves rummaging through the bag to see what's in there. If there are fries involved, she always has to stick her head in to steal one or two. Really, though, any establishment with food is her favorite."

Dagny is the first Cavalier for Diane, who grew up with an English Springer Spaniel named Toby. "I've always had a love for dogs and told myself that as soon as the time was right -- and I was no longer working outside the home all day -- I'd do everything humanly possible to get a dog. I started researching breeds. I never really cared much for small dogs. I didn't dislike them or anything, but I always had an interest in large breeds. But last year I was working for a dog-sitting company on the side and met Daisy. Because of her, I fell in love with the breed and just had to have one.

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"These dogs steal your heart from the moment you meet. They follow you around and are truly Velcro dogs. They are calm when they need to be calm, but they can also be really active and go on a hike. They're not yappy or annoying, and I'm happy to report that you can sit on them by accident on the couch without fear of breaking something."

Dagny seems to be a parfait ambassadog for her sweet spaniel species. "The Cavalier is elegant and adaptable and will teach you all about unconditional love," Diane enthuses. "There's really no way to properly explain the bond Dagny, Tom, and I share. Dagny just can't help but put a smile on your face. Whether she's dragging a stick two times her size or running around like a crazy girl, people always stop me to pet her and ask what breed she is."

Surprisingly, the Cavalier -- such a British breed! -- is not uncommon in France. "They're very popular, actually," Diane says. "We saw four in Paris last weekend in one afternoon alone, and we weren't really looking! The black/tan color combo is more rare though; you see more Blenheims and Tricolors."

Adjusting to daily life in a Claude Chabrol film was not without its culture-shock moments -- for better and for worse. Most dog owners don't pick up after their dogs, to Diane's consternation. Also, she adds, "Generally speaking, stores aren't open here past 7:30 or 8 p.m. on Sundays. And a lot of people smoke, and I hate breathing that in."

Then there's the matter of the bisous. "The bisous are the French equivalent of a hug greeting, and consist of little air kisses with touching cheeks. French people do not hug, but instead do bisous. It's a little difficult to figure out who to do bisous with and when. As an American, I just can't get used to it, but it's the culture, and I live in France, so I manage." Happily, Dagny -- like most dogs -- is an excellent icebreaker in any potentially awkward situation.

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What's more, Diane says, "Vet care is much cheaper here than in the U.S. From the cost of medicine to spaying to just regular vet visits, it's way cheaper. Yet most dogs are not registered at the health department in France, but only certain breeds. I found this odd since in New Jersey, you get a fine if your pet is not registered with your town. Spaying and neutering is an option here, but not the norm, whereas in the U.S., all my friends' and family's pets are fixed, and Dagny is spayed."

Does blogging about your dog enhance the expat experience? "I've always liked blogging. I write for myself, my friends and family, and those who want a look into life abroad," Diane says.

"I think blogging helps me to feel like I have a purpose here, and it certainly makes my life more enjoyable. My blog is all about Dagny and my life in France, and I love when the two intersect," she says. "I'm creating an indelible mark in cyberspace that I will hopefully be able to look back on in 10 years with fond memories -- while sharing my life with whomever happens to drop by. I think I'm more focused on taking pics and thinking about things to write about when I'm out experiencing life than I would be if I didn't have a blog, but it's all been positive.

Here's a post Diane wrote on why she started the blog.

"Not in a cheesy way, but I feel truly blessed to be here and to have Dagny in my life," Diane says. "I don't take anything for granted about my life."

Follow the doings of Diane and Dagny on her blog Oui in France: Musings on Life in France, My Dog, and Everything Else and on Twitter at @DagsDiTom.

Wed, 11 Jul 2012 11:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/american-writer-oui-in-france-dog-blogger
<![CDATA[7 Tips for Traveling with Your Dog]]> Vacationing with a dog can be a fun and memorable experience for the entire family, especially when hitting the open road. Over the nearly 20 years of vacationing with my dogs, I’ve heard countless numbers of fellow dogless travelers tell me, “I wish we could’ve brought ours along!” 
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Generally, I ask folks why their pooch isn’t along for the ride, and then reply in kind with ways to bring Fido along the next time around. Granted, it isn’t fret-free, and it requires proper planning. But if your heart is set on roving with your Rover -- perhaps even cross-country, as we recently did -- here are seven ways to make the trip, trek, and time worthwhile, well-spent, and waggingly wonderful. 

1. Safety First

Show some restraint in getting there (he’ll never ask “Are we there yet?” but potty breaks are needed). Never allow your dog to hang its head outside the window of a moving vehicle, as road debris might seriously damage the eyes and sudden stops can be deadly. Travel-ready safety products including harnesses, seat belts, pet partitions, and booster seats will keep dogs out of harm’s way and prevent interference with driver focus. NEVER leave a pet unattended in a car.

If the jingle of car keys results in a slinking away of your pooch to a safer haven behind the couch, you can try to change this. Assess road readiness with a five-minute trip around the block. Slowly increase the amount of time Fido spends in the car, making the destination worthwhile (perhaps go to favorite park). Praise “getting there” with a treat upon arrival. Never take a travel-fearful dog on a road trip. Desensitizing and gradually acclimating Fido takes time and patience. A vet or animal behaviorist can help.

2. Arm Your Dog Against the Elements

Aside from the first aid kit and other must-haves for a doggie excursion, I pack a veterinarian-recommended sunblock and in-car sun shade. My dog is safeguarded from harmful UV rays en route and throughout the trip. Pets, like people, can get sunburn, even in an air-conditioned car. 

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A deterrent to fleas, ticks, and (bonus) bedbugs, food-grade diatomaceous earth has become a staple in my household and on trips. A chemical-free alternative to pest prevention, I sprinkle some onto my dog’s skin before traveling. After using it for more than a year, I’ve yet to find one critter on my dog. Using a salt shaker, I travel with it and lightly dust the outside of my suitcase with the powdery substance. These fossilized remains of microscopic shells act as shards of glass to winged critters.

3. Locate an Animal Emergency Clinic 

Locate the nearest animal emergency clinic prior to leaving for vacation, ask the front desk upon checking in, or use an app to find one, but be prepared. I learned this the hard way, when we were in the middle of the country and my Cocker developed a urinary tract infection. Know where to go should an emergency situation develop. Sounds like common sense, but panic set in when it happened to me and I couldn’t find an out-of-town vet that would see an emergency client.

4. Watch Out for Sneaky Fees

Be certain to call ahead and ask whether there are any weight limits, restrictions, fees, policies, or limitations on pets. Lodging facilities may change policies, so a phone call first can save frustration on arrival. Each property’s policies vary, and having been caught by the “we meant $50 per night, not per stay” realization, a quick call can save a lot of frustration. 

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5. Watch Out for Sneaky Pees

My well-trained, housebroken dog would never pee in a hotel room. He’s a Canine Good Citizen, after all. This is true 99 percent of the time. The unthinkable can happen, though: Perhaps a dog stayed in the room prior to your arrival and Spot decides to mark his, well, “spot.” Allow dogs to relieve themselves before entering the room, keep a regular routine of timed potty breaks, and keep an enzymatic odor/stain remover handy for those “just in case” moments. 

6. Teach Spot Good Pee Habits

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One of the greatest challenges fellow dog travelers tell me they encounter on the road is getting their dog to relieve himself or herself where grass is not readily available. By acclimating your dog to urinating on a variety of surfaces, including grass, gravel, rocks, wood chips, and cement, this dilemma can be resolved in advance. From experience, there is no greater road-trip joy than a rainy day, a slab of concrete, and a code word to initiate the process (like “Go pee!”). For dogs who refuse to do the deed unless grass is present, eco-friendly, self-draining toilet systems for dogs have become a popular mobile option.

7. Use Temporary Dog Tags 

Your home address and phone number are of zero assistance to a lost pooch in unfamiliar territory. Temporary ID tags are a great way to ensure your cell and hotel info are on a tag. Change the destination with each trip you and your pooch pal take. How much fun would it be to later scrapbook these tags representing all the places Rover has been roaming with you? I’m far from crafty, but I like to save souvenirs. 

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Rover road warriors unite! Got any favorite off-the-beaten path travel tips? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credits: Frenchie driving car by Shutterstock, all others courtesy Carol Bryant

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 03:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/7-tips-for-traveling-with-your-dog
<![CDATA[8 Ideas for a Dog-Friendly Day Trip]]>
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This post is sponsored by Beneful® brand Dog Food.

Many parks, eateries, and hotels have rolled out the canine welcome mat in dog-friendly attempts to cater to the millions who travel with their pets. With an estimated 72.9 million U.S. homes owning a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association's 2011/2012 National Pet Owners Survey, the face of pet travel has changed.

Fido is welcome at many oft-overlooked attractions. Having traveled for over 18 years with Cocker Spaniels, I've found eight roads less traveled but worth checking out -- as they are, indeed, dog welcoming.  

1. Arlington National Cemetery

Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome to tour these historic resting grounds near Washington, D.C. Dexter donned a doggie backpack, and we hiked the cemetery last year. Situated on 612 acres near the Potomac in Virginia, some of those interred at these hallowed grounds include Chief Justice William Rehnquist; President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; astronauts “Gus” Grissom and John Chaffee; and civil rights activist Medgar Evers. There is no admission fee.

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The author's dog at Arlington.

2. Dog-Friendly Shopping Centers

Bargains have gone to the dogs as retailers are taking note of the $53 billion expected to be spent in the pet industry in 2012. Armed with a canine and a credit card, many open-air malls are welcoming dogs and their parents. One of my favorites is Stony Park Fashion Park in Richmond, Virginia. Of the nearly 100 stores on site, many welcome pets inside. Clean up areas and doggie pit stops peppered throughout the complex make for a fun day of re-tail therapy.

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Woman with puppy by

3. Pet-Friendly Wineries

A bottle of red, a bottle of white, and some sparkling water for your roving Rover: Dog-friendly wineries are popping up across the country. The Wine Institute provides a listing of pet-friendly wineries across the state on their website. California wine country is a popular weekend warrior getaway for families, including those with pets. 

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4. Whale Watching

Float Fido’s boat at the tip of Cape Cod, as this three-to four-hour whale-watching tour by Whale Watch Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown welcomes well-behaved dogs. Since you’ll be on the open ocean, ensure your pooch is accustomed to water travel, equipped with a life vest, and has sunblock, fresh water, and sea-faring snacks. Friends have set sail with their pooch aboard the tour and reported several whale sightings while their German Shepherd and Yorkie dogs rested afoot. Ask staff if waters are rough or choppy before departing, as they are unable to turn back for seasick travelers of the human or canine variety.

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I love sailing by

5. Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Nestled in Farmington Hills, Pennsylvania, is the five-star Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, situated on 2,000 acres. Dogs 30 pounds and under are welcome to stay in certain rooms of the resort, but Nemacolin Wooflands Pet Resort & Spa is minutes from the main property. While visiting Nemacolin, imagine my glee at being able to visit up close with lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!

Dorothy had Toto, and yours truly has Dexter. My boundless ball of energy merrily strolled through habitat after habitat, each species quizzically eyeing one another. Llamas, zebra, and buffalo led to the pièce de résistance: Prince Nemacolin, a white lion born in July 2010. Drive through or take a much-recommended walk. 

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The author's dog enjoying a zebra.

6. Glamorous Camping

If your idea of ruffing it is hearing the familiar chirp of crickets and making s’mores outside with Rover -- but without the hardcore camping aura -- then "glamping" might be up your alley. It's generally eco-friendly -- think less sleeping bag and more glammed-up tents, teepees, tents, or bungalows. Guests are often privy to typical outdoor activities (fishing, hiking) but return to the likes of a personal butler and private master bath. Pet policies vary by glamping sites, so ask ahead. 

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Summer holiday by

7. Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum

Paw-don me, boys is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo? Close. One of my favorite states in the nation for its overall sense of dog welcoming and friendliness is Maine, home to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. After a day of shopping and al fresco dining along Portland, Maine’s waterfront district, you can enjoy spectacular views and gain a history lesson at the museum. Powered by steam and diesel locomotives, the short but worthwhile ride permits well-behaved leashed dogs for no additional fee.

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The author and her dog riding the rails.

8. Drive-in Movie

Flicks, fries, and your furry family member: What could be more fun? According to, there are a believed 468 drive-ins open worldwide, with 365 in the U.S. and 62 in Canada. Born in the '50s, there were an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 nationwide at their peak. Drive-ins are a slice of nostalgia and a welcome wagging break to unplug Fido-style now and then. A night under the stars for under $10 a person -- pack the bug repellent, blanket, and Bowser for this budget-conscious night out. 

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Do you have any interesting pet-friendly ideas? Let us know in the comments!

Thu, 28 Jun 2012 03:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/8-ideas-for-a-dog-friendly-day-trip
<![CDATA[The 10 Best Things About BlogPaws 2012 in Salt Lake City]]> Every year, Dogster (and Catster) HQ represents at BlogPaws, a pet-blogger conference many of our writers and partner sites show up for. It's a chance to listen to some inspiring talks, meet animal welfare heroes, and catch up in person with personalities we see in our e-mail in-boxes most of the year. We just got back from the three-day afair in Salt Lake City, and now we share some highlights for those who couldn't make it out (or those who scoff at the idea of a pet blogger conference to begin with -- hey, it's a thing). 

Here, in no particular order, are my 10 favorite things about this year's event:

1. Cuteness, Cuteness Everywhere

You know BlogPaws is in town when the airport is crawling with cute creatures, and when you enter the hotel lobby and see dogs and cats on leashes. Here are some of the sweet faces we ran into over the course of our time in Utah:

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Roxy the traveling dog!

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A rescued puppy mill breeding pup.

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How sweet are they?!

2. Petfinder Founder Betsy Saul's Keynote Presentation

Petfinder started in 1996 in Betsy Saul's living room -- where she dutifully typed up faxed adoption notices for nearby rescues when she got home from her day job. Fast-forward to 2012 and more than 13,000 rescues and shelters have a presence on the site, and around 2.5 million pets find a home annually thanks to Petfinder's reach.

Saul started her presentation with a joke -- "So, two identical-twin nuns walk into a shelter..." and ended it with a tearjerker of a story, where an unadoptable dog who couldn't be around men or children found the perfect happy ending at the last possible moment in a convent with said nuns. Not an eye in the house was dry.

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Betsy takes the stage.

3. The Pet Blogger Flash Mob That Went Down in the Middle of It

Halfway through Saul's presentation, a mob of pet writers crashed the stage to the tune of Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy" tune. Most of them were holding cut-out copies of their pets. Only at BlogPaws? Yep!

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They're too sexy for this song.

4. Matching Faces to Names of People Met via E-mail

Shout-out to Dog-Milk's Capree Kimball, Catsparella's Stephanie Harwin, and Catster's very own Sarah Donner! It was great to meet everybody in person for the first time. 

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Lori and I met Capree Kimball from Dog-Milk!

5. Playing Hooky and Checking Out Temple Square

BlogPaws has taken us to Denver and Washington, D.C., as well as Salt Lake City, and each time we took a lunch break to check out the scenery. We visited Temple Square in downtown SLC and were amazed as married couples poured out of the temple as though on an assembly line. The architecture was jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

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Weddings, everywhere.

6. Watching Catster's Singing Cat Lady, Sarah Donner, Take the Stage at our Sponsored "Pawty"

This was the first BlogPaws conference where we sponsored an event, and the turnout was pretty awesome. Catster's Sarah Donner sang some of her "Ask a Cat Lady" songs and original tunes from her new album, Fossil of Girl

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Me, outside our evening event.

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The one and only Sarah Donner!

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Sarah's husband, Michael, mans the merch booth.

7. The Awkward, then Awesome, Blogger Bingo that Ensued

The event we sponsored had a surprise networking component -- and what better way to get to know the people next to you than with a blogger BINGO card? Sadly, I never did meet anyone with a married pet (which was one of the boxes to check). But there's always next year.

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I never did find someone with married dogs.

8. Cheating on my Dog, Mr. Moxie, with this Gorgeous Italian Greyhound

Duff, an AKC champ, might be the most social Italian Greyhound I've ever met. I missed my own IG, Mr. Moxie, terribly, and it was nice to sit down and cuddle this beautiful blue boy. One day, I want a house full of these little guys.

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Such a pretty puppy.

9. Endless Swag

PetSmart had an all-you-can-grab pet toy table, and grab we did! 

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Toys from Petsmart.

10. Taking Some of our Hardworking Dogster/Catster Writers out for Dinner.

Salt Lake City is full of cheerful, chatty types, including the hotel shuttle driver who told us we had to try Takashi, SLC's top sushi joint for eight years running. It was less than two blocks from the hotel, and everything was delicious, as evidenced by the photos below. 

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Delicious raw things!

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Yes, those are fried shrimp heads.

11. Coming Home to my Dog

It's fun to go away and cheat on your dog with lots of adorable creatures, but it's even better to come home to him, have him sniff you and give you that knowing look ("A blue Italian Greyhound, three Chi-mixes, a Basset AND a cat?! Oh, mom, you DOG!") and then go bananas with his "mom's home!" dance anyway. Have I told you lately that I love him?

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If he's not a little person, then why does he sleep like one?!

Tue, 26 Jun 2012 12:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/blogpaws
<![CDATA[Pet-Friendly Hotels: 10 Tips for Being the Perfect Patron]]> Good dogs make great hotel guests. They don't steal towels, and they don't get drunk and keep the neighbors up all night. These days the nation is brimming with pet-friendly hotels. You can stay in all kinds of lodgings, from inexpensive motels to lovely bed-and-breakfast inns to posh resorts. But the basic dog etiquette rules are the same everywhere. Follow them and you’ll leave the door open for other canine guests in the future. Don’t follow them and the door could slam shut on the next dog’s snout (so to speak).

1. Don’t leave your dog alone in your room

Leaving a dog alone in a strange place invites serious trouble. Scared, nervous dogs may tear apart drapes, carpeting, and furniture. They may even injure themselves. They might also bark nonstop and scare the daylights out of the housekeeper. 

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2. Bring only a house-trained dog to a pet-friendly hotel

How would you like a houseguest to go to the bathroom in the middle of your bedroom?

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3. Make sure your pooch is flea-free

Otherwise, future guests will be itching to leave.

4. Bring your dog's bed or blanket along for the night

Your dog will feel more at home and won't be tempted to jump on the hotel bed. If your dog sleeps on the bed with you at home (as 47 percent do, according to a recent American Animal Hospital Association survey), bring a sheet and put it on top of the bed so the hotel's bedspread won't get furry or dirty.

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5. Don’t wash your dog in the hotel tub

“It’s very yucky,” I was told by one motel manager who has seen so many furry tubs that she’s thinking about banning dogs. 

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6. Don't use the ice bucket as a water or food bowl

If you want to help pet-friendly hotels stay pet-friendly, bring your own bowls, or stay in a hotel that provides them, as many of the nicer ones do these days.

7. Let your dog be seen, not heard

After a few days –- or hours! -- in a hotel, some dogs come to think of it as home. They get territorial. When another hotel guest walks by, it's "Bark! Bark!" When the housekeeper knocks, it's "Bark! Snarl! Bark! Gnash!" Keep your dog quiet, or both of you will soon be looking for a new home away from home.

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8. Be honest about your dog’s size

For some strange reason, some lodgings prefer small dogs as guests. All I can say is, "Yip! Yap!" It's really ridiculous. Large dogs are often much calmer and quieter than their tiny, high-energy cousins. If you're in a location where you can't find a hotel that will accept you and your big brute, it's time to try a sell job. Let the manager know how good and quiet your dog is (if he actually is). Promise he won't eat the bathtub or run around and shake all over the hotel. Offer a deposit or sign a waiver, even if they're not required for small dogs. It helps if your sweet, soppy-eyed dog is at your side to convince the decision-maker.

9. Do your research about dog fees

There’s nothing like checking in at a hotel and finding out that your dog will cost as much as your room. Some hotels let dogs stay free, and others require a deposit that will be refunded when management sees the room has not been eaten or otherwise destroyed. Many charge a fee for dogs. Sometimes it’s nominal ($5), sometimes it’s over the top ($500 for the length of your stay -- even if your stay is one night), but usually it’s reasonable. I’ve heard from hotel staffers that some guests get downright nasty about the fees when they haven’t done their research. Don’t be one of those. 

10. Don’t even try to sneak your dog into a hotel

In the Dark Ages of dog-friendly lodgings, I sneaked dogs into hotels. But I don't recommend it. The lodging might have a good reason for its rules. Besides, you always feel as if you're going to be caught and thrown out on your hindquarters. You race in and out of your room with your dog as if ducking sniper fire. It's better to avoid feeling like a criminal and move on to a more dog-friendly location. With the numbers of lodgings that welcome dogs these days, you won’t have to go far.

Do you have any tips for staying at pet-friendly hotels? Let us know in the comments. 

Adapted from my book The Dog Lover's Companion to California. The seventh edition of the book is out now. 

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 11:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/pet-friendly-hotels
<![CDATA[Sammy and the City Is New York City's Adorable Tour Guide]]> You've heard of Sex and the City, but what about Sammy and the City?

Sammy is an equally stylish and totally adorable Pomeranian who knows all about New York City and takes photos at famous destinations as a tour guide for visitors. And if you can't quite make it to the Big Apple, you can visit vicariously through the eyes of Sammy.

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Sammy enjoys the sights and the sounds.

In fact, Sammy recently checked out Pilgrim Hill at 72nd and Fifth Avenues to pose with the cherry blossom trees in bloom. The trees have been there since 1912, when they were given to the United States by Japan as a token of friendship. Pilgrim Hill is also home to a famous bronze statue sculpted by John Quincy Adams Ward in 1884 to commemorate the landing of the Pilgrims.

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Sammy poses with the cherry blossoms.

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Go Sammy go!

Check out these photos of Sammy in the park looking totally adorable. We'd love to go on a tour of the city with Sammy! We bet he knows the best dog-friendly places to go and the best parks to play in. And with a smile as sweet as Sammy's, it's no wonder he's in the know!

Planning a trip to New York this summer? Make sure to check out Sammy and the City!

Photos via Sammy and the City

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 13:00:00 -0700 /bolz/sammy-and-the-city-is-new-york-citys-adorable-tour-guide
<![CDATA[Staycation? It Need Not Be a Bummer for You and Your Dog]]> There’s no place like home. It took Dorothy a trip over the rainbow to learn this. (Toto surely knew it all along.) But in this economy, it’s an easy sentiment to grasp. With gas up, jobs down, and credit cards maxed out, many people are passing up traditional vacations and opting for staying home and enjoying what their own backyards have to offer. This makes dogs very happy.

During a staycation, the idea is that you don’t venture very far. Instead, you take advantage of what’s around you. Maybe you drive an hour or two away for a day or two, but nothing too distant. 

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This is fantastic news, as far as your dog is concerned. Your dog doesn’t have to kiss you good-bye as you run off and have fun without him. He doesn’t have to hang in a kennel or stay with a pet sitter. He gets to have his best pal right beside him for days at a time. It’s a dog’s dream vacation, er, staycation. 

Remember, for a dog, it’s not the destination. It’s the journey. And as long as you’re together for the journey, life is very good –- even if that journey is just around the corner.

Below are some ideas for how you and your well-behaved dog can make the most of your staycation. For each category I list, there are many guidebooks about dog-friendly places that can help you identify specific staycation ideas. My favorite book for my area is the 1,000-page tome The Dog Lover’s Companion to California. (Did I mention that I wrote this, and it’s now in its seventh edition?) You can also turn to the Internet. Keep in mind that even if a place is listed as dog-friendly, you should call ahead and ask, as rules can change quickly. 

Now pack that leash, and bon voyage! 

1. Walk

Have you tried all the parks and trails in your local area? What about branching out a bit and taking your dog for a stroll or hike in a new place? Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, and it’s fun to check out new outdoor realms during your time off. Even dogs can get bored of the same old walkies.

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2. Dine

Many restaurants these days allow well-behaved dogs to dine at their outside tables. Some restaurants even offer dogs water and treats. Dogs love the attention they often get from other diners and passersby, and revel in hanging out around so many good food smells. Make sure you dine at a time of day that’s not too crowded or hot.

3. Wine

Wineries are popping up everywhere these days. (I recently had a really tasty wine from Nebraska, of all places.) Many wineries welcome dogs to join you at their beautiful picnic areas, and some will even allow dogs into tasting rooms, although they can’t officially announce that because they could get in trouble with health departments. 

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4. Listen

During the summer months outdoor concerts abound. Many are fine with having dogs in the audience. Turn your staycation into a picnic and enjoy the music. It’s a good idea to stay far from speakers so the music doesn’t bother your dog’s ears.

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5. Shop

The number of dog-friendly businesses is rapidly increasing as shopkeepers realize that most dogs bring good customers with them. Many pet-supply stories welcome dogs, and dogs love shopping when surrounded by delectable treats and fun toys. But there are plenty of other shopping options. In one afternoon, my dog Jake and I recently visited a department store, a gift store, an antique store, and a shoe store. He was warmly greeted at all of them. (Just make sure your boy dog doesn’t do a leg-lift on the merchandise. Doing that kind of business in a store is never good.)

6. Go

If your dog likes to go for rides in the car, there’s no better time than a staycation for taking a day trip to a nearby destination you’ve been hankering to visit. A drive of an hour or two can transport you worlds away.

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7. Stay

Just because you’re sticking around your area doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the fun of staying in a hotel for a night or two. Room service, anyone? Dog-friendly lodgings abound these days. Many hoteliers think dogs make great guests. (After all, dogs don’t steal towels or get drunk and trash the room, and they usually come with people who are very grateful for the privilege of bringing a dog into a hotel.) There’s a lodging for any taste and budget. With a little sniffing around, you’ll find economy motels, luxury hotels, quaint bed-and-breakfast inns, hip boutique hotels, rustic cabins, and everything in between.

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8. Chill

You can have a wonderfully refreshing staycation by taking the most relaxing approach possible: just hanging out and chilling at home (with good walks, of course). Fire up the barbecue and have a feast with your beast and some other pals. Snuggle up with your dog as you get through your reading list. Whatever you do –- even if it’s just taking extralong naps and tending to household projects -- your dog will be over the moon simply because you’re together. 

Have you ever planned a staycation with your dog in mind? Let us know in the comments! 

Tue, 05 Jun 2012 03:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/staycation-with-dogs
<![CDATA[10 Tips for Hiking with Dogs]]> Saturday, June 2, was National Trails Day, which is not only the harbinger for the beginning of summer, but also reminds us dog owners that one of the best experiences we can share with our furry friends is an outdoor trail adventure. 

If you're properly prepared, the benefits of hiking with your dog are immeasurable. Hiking can be great therapy for a dog that is exhibiting boredom-based bad behavior at home such as shoe chewing, lawn digging, or gratuitous barking. Remember, a tired dog is a good dog -- and hiking is a great exercise for humans as well as beasts. 

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Corso, the author's dog, on a hike.

Part of the fun of hiking with your dog is watching her get excited by the new smells and varying terrains. She can introduce you to interesting aspects of nature you were previously unaware of. Humans have been trekking with dogs for thousands of years, and it may be one of the best ways to strengthen the dog-human bond. 

Another advantage is that hiking is relatively inexpensive and requires little or no experience. Nonetheless, here are some tips to keep your dog and yourself as safe as possible.

1. Dog Health 

Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date before you hit the trail. It’s always a good idea to have your veterinarian give your dog a checkup to make sure she’s in good health. If your dog is not used to long treks, build endurance with shorter hikes before attempting longer, more difficult ones. 

2. Find the Right Trail

Make sure your hike is in a park or open space that allows dogs. National and regional parks are typically more dog-friendly than state parks. Do your research and familiarize yourself with any restrictions such as which areas of the parks allow dogs, and whether they have to be leashed at all times.

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3. Manners

A well-mannered dog can be a great trail mate, so it’s best if your dog is well trained on the leash before you bring her on a long hike. Many experienced hikers advise never taking your dog off-leash even if it's allowed, because too many things can go wrong. Even the best-trained dogs can ignore voice commands and bound after a squirrel through bushes or shrubs, which can be dangerous to the dog and damaging to sensitive off-trail habitats.

I live near a large regional park that allows dogs off-leash in its backcountry areas, but I am very careful to make sure the trail is clear before letting him off. If I can’t see a good distance ahead, I always leash my dog in case there are horse riders, cyclists, off-leash dogs, or hikers with children around the corner. 

4. Wildlife

Always be aware what kind of wildlife is present, particularly if your dog is smaller. Coyotes will attempt to lure away small dogs so they can be attacked by the pack. Deer and elk, despite their nonaggressive reputations, can cause serious damage by kicking with their back legs.

Rattlesnakes are present in all of the lower 48 states. Even though they are shy and more afraid of us then we are of them, they can be found almost anywhere, including in lakes and rivers. It’s best to keep your dog away from piles of dead branches, fallen trees, and grassy areas near creeks, streams, or other water sources.

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Man and dog hiking by

The chances of encountering a mountain lion are extremely low, but if one happens to be around, your dog can make a tempting meal if it’s running unleashed through the bush. If bears are in the area, you should absolutely keep your dog on-leash. The last thing you want is your dog to annoy a bear and then run back to you with the angry bear in hot pursuit. Other critters you want to avoid are porcupines and skunks, which may not be so dangerous, but can quickly ruin the day’s outing. 

5. Dog Backpacks

Packs are a great way for dogs to burn extra energy during a hike and give them a sense of purpose. My dog seems to hold his head a little higher when wearing his pack.

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Corso enjoying his backpack. Photo by John Geluardi.

Make sure you get the right size -- if the doggy backpack is too small or too large, it can cause discomfort and even injury. Get your dog used to it by letting him wear the empty pack on short walks in the neighborhood.

Younger and healthier working-type dogs can carry up to 25 percent of their body weight. For most dogs, 10 to 15 percent is plenty, which is usually enough for them to bring along their own water and kibble. Consult your vet before taking your dog on a long hike with a full backpack. 

6. First Aid

Even for short hikes, it’s a good idea to bring basic first aid supplies like gauze pads, bandage tape, topical disinfectant, tweezers (for ticks and porcupine quills). Keep your vet or emergency vet’s phone number on speed dial. 

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Corso at the beach. Photo by John Geluardi.

7. Hydration

Dogs get dehydrated much faster than humans do, so bring plenty of water and a collapsible bowl.

Many hikers let their dogs drink out of creeks and lakes, but they risk ingesting the giardia parasite, which settles in the small intestine and can wreak havoc on your dog’s system. If you allow your dog to drink from a creek, purify the water first. 

8. Elevation

If the trail will take you to higher elevations, ascend at a slow and steady pace and make sure both of you drink plenty of water.

Watch your dog closely for signs of altitude sickness. If she is panting heavily or slowing down, consider heading back down the trail or at least giving her a long rest. Dogs want to please their owners and will try to tough it out, so it’s up to us to make sure they are not overdoing it.

9. Poop Bags

Bring 'em. Use 'em. Pack 'em out. 

10. After the Hike

Thoroughly check your dog for cuts or injuries as well as ticks, which can carry Lyme disease. Dogs burn energy faster than humans, so you keep kibble handy so your happy, trail-weary dog can have a little nosh before you head home. 

Mon, 04 Jun 2012 10:59:00 -0700 /lifestyle/hiking-with-dogs-tips
<![CDATA[Where the Surf Dogs Rule the Waves ]]> Pawabunga! Who's that shooting the curl, hugging the surfboard's nose while a human surfer rides the tail? Why, it's Buddy the Jack Russell terrier -- or any of the other pooches whose true stories pack The Dog's Guide to Surfing: Hanging Ten with Man's Best Friend. A.K. Crump and Kevin Reed collected authentic anecdotes for the book, which has just been rereleased in e-book form for smartphones and iPads. Crump talked to Dogster about wags and waves.

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Dogster: What inspired you to write a book about surfing with dogs?

A.K.: I wanted to do something that talked about surfing, and around the same time I wanted to do something for dog lovers, perhaps a guidebook. Then I saw the movie Blue Crush, set in Hawaii, where there was a four-second shot of this guy with a dog on the end of his surfboard, and the lightbulb went off. 

I ran into three interesting problems: No one believed that dogs could surf, no one had heard of dogs who could surf, and no one knew how to teach dogs to surf. After a year of research, however, I was able to find people from around the world who had taught their dogs to surf, and collected not only the stories, but also their tips, recommendations, and experiences. 

Many dogs love water and beaches. And surf dogs have been part of seaside culture in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Hawaii, and the mainland USA for at least fifty years. What is it about surfing that dogs enjoy? Are some breeds more amenable to this sport?

They say that dogs enjoy sharing the experiences of their humans, and the same is true with surfing. Of course, there are dogs such as Labs that love the water, but some of the best dog surfers aren't water dogs at all. They're just semi-hyper, ultracompanionable dogs who want to run around and be with their friends. Of course, a dog like a Chihuahua, which is fairly cold even on a warm day, is probably not the best breed to have in the water for a long time.

In your book, we meet many pooches, including Buddy the Jack Russell, who loves to ride a vintage boogie board on Hawaiian beaches. Buddy has chewed off about 30 percent of his beloved board, but successfully surfs four-foot waves without wiping out. Is it difficult to train dogs to surf?

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Buddy the Jack Russell. Photo courtesy Bruce Hooker.

The truth is that you can train a lot of dogs to do all sorts of amazing things if they have trust and faith in you. Surfing is a special matter, because you are trying to get them to stand on a moving object, and the result of failure is falling into the water. So they really have to trust that you're not doing something that's bad for their well-being. But once they do learn to surf, the stories are fairly endless. You can imagine how many people stop with their mouths open to watch a dog surf.

Some surf dogs share boards with their people, riding in front of them or side by side. Some dogs get whole boards to themselves. What are some of the skills that surf dogs need to learn?

Standing on the board while it is in the water, and then while it's moving, are the two most important skills. But if you are out in the ocean, just making sure they follow the sound of your voice as well as knowing they should paddle back to the beach are very important. If a dog gets tired and is not having fun, then the skill the trainer should have is patience, and knowing when enough is enough for the day.

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Rottweiler on surfboard from

In your book, champion surfer Brian Keaulana says that once dogs start surfing, "they know they aren't like all the other dogs. They've got a little attitude. They know they're part of something very special." Do they ever get to compete with their four-footed peers?

After I wrote the book I talked with a hotel in San Diego, and told them about a concept I had to organize a dog surfing contest. It would be located at the hotel, we would promote it around the world, proceeds could go to a local animal charity. I even prepared a step-by-step plan how to conduct the event.

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The event was a huge success, and got international press coverage. In fact, it was so successful that each year more and more towns up and down California, and now even in Europe, have been having dog surfing contests. Since these were all based on my original idea and proposals, some people call me "the Godfather of the Sport of Dog Surfing." Whenever I see photos in magazines and on television about local dog-surfing contests, that's definitely how I feel.

Have some people thought, at first glance, that your book was just a joke?

Not really. The cover is very convincing -- and if you like dogs, water sports, surfing, or just going to the beach, it's going to be intriguing for you. 

Do you surf? Do you currently have any dogs and, if so, do they surf?

I'm a big-time surf fan, but not yet a surfer. We don't have any dogs, but a lot of my friends do, and living in San Francisco with all of the companion dogs around, you tend to feel like you have one -- or a hundred -- anyway. People around here talk to new dogs like they're talking to someone's offspring, which is how some people see them. 

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Surfing dog courtesy of Ed Hepp

Sorry, but I can't resist this pun: What's next in the pipeline?

In the meantime, we're currently working on a series of surf-dog competitions for Northern California, as well as an International Grand Championship for Surf Dogs. It would be later this year or 2013. Stay tuned.

Thanks A.K.!

So, Dogster readers, are you going to teach your pooch to hang ten? The Dog's Guide to Surfing includes a list of reasons why surfing is harder for dogs than for people:

• Dogs can't paddle boards out into the sea on their own

• Dogs can't launch boards on their own (very well, at least)

• Dogs have more hair -- which gets wet and heavy -- than you do (usually)

• Dogs don't wear wetsuits to keep warm (usually)

• Dogs' toes don't curl like yours, so they don't have the same ability to grip boards or help themselves balance

• Dogs generally can't see where they're going as well as you can

• Dogs get bored if they're alone on boards for too long

• Frisbees and sand crabs can be very distracting

Thu, 24 May 2012 03:00:00 -0700 /lifestyle/surf-dogs