11 Great Dog-Friendly Vacation Ideas

golden retriever senior
Susan Breslow Sardone.

Where does it say that dogs don't deserve a vacation, same as humans? If you and your significant other can't imagine going on your honeymoon or taking a romantic vacation without dogs around, then don't! Whether you bring your own dogs on vacation or attend special events that feature top-performing canines, you'll have more fun if you make your four-footed friends part of your travel plans. In addition to swimming and hiking together, these are some of the delightful activities you can participate in on vacation with man's best friend (and yours).

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Agility Competitions

Retriever at peak of A-frame

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Agility dogs of nearly every breed jump through hoops, burrow through funnels, leap over fences, walk across see-saws, weave through obstacles, and perform other acts of canine prowess. The American Kennel Club site features info on agility competitions, training resources, clubs, and more info on where you can see these athletic dogs on your vacation. If you like county fairs, you may find that agility is part of the entertainment at your local festival.

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Biking With Dogs

Woman on blue bike with small dog

Stephen Zeigler/Getty Images

Like to bike? From the California coastline to the sandy shores of Nantucket, it's more fun biking on vacation when you can bring your dogs along for the ride. Smaller dogs can fit in a basket in front of the handlebars or even in a trailer behind the back wheel. Do make sure that dogs have an opportunity to rest, relieve themselves, drink water, and avoid excessive sun exposure; they can get sunburned, too.

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Canoeing With Dogs

Girl sitting in a canoe with her dog; Ontario, Canada

Vast Photography/Getty Images

Some dogs take to water like ducks; others consider it tantamount to yet another unwelcome bath. If yours is a water-loving breed who swims, consider bringing her on your next canoeing trip. Just as with humans on a canoeing vacation, dogs should be outfitted with a safety vest.

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Dog Shows

Fluffy show dogs


Got a powerful case of puppy love, but don't yet know what types of dogs would best suit your lifestyle? Why not attend a couple of all-breed dog shows on your vacation, talk to breeders, and see what types of dogs you're drawn to? Once you settle on the breed to add to your brood, consider adopting a rescue animal. Just about every breed club has a rescue group.

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Dog sledge

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This is one sport you’ll need to leave to the canine professionals. A team of trained dogs can be harnessed to pull you through the snowy wilderness. Whether your vacation travels take you to Canada, the Rockies, Alaska, the upper Midwest or New England, you can hook up with an outfit that will teach you the basics and then point you and the dogs in the direction of fun and adventure.

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Frisbee Championships

© Digital Vision.

In just about any public park, you can see dogs catching Frisbees mid-air in impressive shows of canine athleticism -- and it's something you may very well practice with your own dogs as well. To see how the experts kick it up several notches, consider attending a Frisbee Championship on your vacation. The UFO promotes this sport, and on its website, you can find schedules of venues around the world where local and major events are held.

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Geocache With Dogs

Beagle in forest

Johner Images/Getty Images

When someone gets lost in the woods, rescuers send out dogs to find them. So it stands to reason that if you go geocaching (finding hidden treasure with the help of a GPS device) with your dogs, you stand a better chance of tracking the bounty. Some dog breeds are bred to work, and these will be your best companions on wilderness jaunts. To be on the safe side, carry a pet first-aid kit on your geocaching vacation.

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Hiking, Camping, and Swimming

woman diving off dock with her dog

Peter Zander/Getty Images

Dogs love the outdoors, and if your idea of a great vacation involves hiking, camping, and swimming, they're the best companions you can have (next to your partner, of course). Before you head out, though, go through a safety checklist. Everything from protecting your dogs from fleas and ticks to making sure they have temporary ID tags that identify where you're staying to making sure animals have ample water, food, shade, and rest will contribute to a happy vacation with your dogs.

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PhotoBobil/Flickr/CC BY 2.0 

A combination of cross-country skiing and dog-sledding, skijoring has become a popular sport in northern climes in winter. Although some couples participate in competitive skijoring races on vacation, it's just as much fun to fly through the snow together in the company of canines. To prepare for a skijoring vacation with your dogs, contact a local skijoring club to take you through the paces.

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Dog on surfboard
Vicky Kasala/Digital Vision

Only certain types of dogs are willing to get on a surfboard, hold on, and catch a wave. If yours would rather boogie on your bed, leave them at home in the care of a reliable dog sitter and head to California on your vacation. There you can follow the surfing dogs circuit, which includes the Surfin' Paws Dog Jam in the waters off Huntington Beach and Loews Coronado Beach Resort's Surf Dog Competition.

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Staying at a True Pet-Centric Hotel

Best Friends Roadhouse Room

 Best Friends Roadhouse.

Lots of hotels and resorts are pet-friendly, but there's only one (so far) that's pet-centric: Best Friends Roadhouse & Mercantile in Kanab, Utah 200 miles from Las Vegas. It was designed with the four-footed in mind. Bring your own best friend or take in one from the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary five miles down the road.

Each of the 40 rooms and suites is dedicated to a different pet the Sanctuary saved. Spaces feature thoughtful touches that include pet-safe fabrics, no place for a pet to hide or get stuck, and a pet-sized vestibule to prevent your friend from bolting when it's time for a walk. Outside there's a fenced-in splash park, pet-height drinking fountains, a free pet washing station, and no asphalt to scorch tender paws. Cruelty-free products and complimentary vegan breakfasts are provided.

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