What would it be like to take your dog on vacation with you?
It can be amazing!
People always ask me why on earth I would want to take my dog on vacation. For most, vacation is a time to escape life as they know it & relax. For me, (if the situation is right) bringing my dog on vacation is an opportunity for both of us to learn & grow.
The lessons my dogs have learned and experienced in this unfamiliar environment are invaluable. We need to work through new & often unforeseen situations together. This makes us grow as a team and our bond deepens. Yes!
Being out of your element, out of what is familiar to you, forces you to adapt and find new comforts in the unknown world around you. This is true for you and your dog. This can be both challenging and exciting.
For starters, let me emphasize that having the right vacation spot and accommodation is key to a stress-free, enjoyable trip. I have a found my home away from home on the beach at Villas Las Olas in Punta De Mita. David & Lisa are wonderful hosts and have become dear friends over the years. Punta De Mita is a quiet little surf town, with beautiful beaches, great surf, and great people…without all the tourists!!
Villas Las Olas is dog friendly. They have a small pack of their own consisting of numerous Mexican refugees that have found food, a new home, and most importantly… love. I admire and respect them for not only showing compassion but actually bringing all these little dogs into their lives that had no hope of surviving otherwise…giving them a second chance.
Sometimes all we need in life is a second chance; a second round; a new start.
This is my fourth trip coming down to Mexico, with my dog. Granted it is far more convenient to bring a working dog down here, as they fly at our feet at no cost. A much appreciated privilege for Search & Rescue dogs.
What has been interesting for me, is that I am here with new pup, Goose. The last 3 years have been with my last dog, Griffin. This has been a humorous eye opener that we can easily take for granted how an older dog handles itself in new unfamiliar situations…just from years “under their collar” and more life experiences. Working with a young dog requires us to find our patience, and remember that they just don’t know until either they figure it out for themselves or we show them.
I never really thought about all the lessons a dog could learn down here as well as what I could learn from them, until I brought my young, inexperienced pup. I always kind of said that we were “not” doing any training down here, when in fact, we are training daily.
Our biggest challenge, although both understandable & humorous, has been teaching my little rookie to be a good surf dog. This entails waiting on the beach patiently, with all the other dogs, until your handler comes back to shore. I took for granted that Griffin would patiently wait by my pack (perfect, so it doesn’t go missing) until I paddled in. I assumed Goose would do the same. I should have known after doing a year of imprinting search work, where we encourage the dog to come run after us and find us, that he would want to follow me. Our first attempt he swam in after me, despite being pummeled by waves, got caught in my leash, and we both took a good tumble through the waves. Its taken 6 days and being tied to a tree (in the shade of course) for him to realize he is to stay on the beach and await my return. Patience, understanding his inexperience, and adapting, have proven to be most necessary. Haha!
Patience and understanding are always key qualities to bring forth in what takes time for anyone, human or animal, to learn something new.
What has my dog learned here in Mexico?
- To wait on the beach until I return from the surf or a swim, for his own benefit.
- To get that ball quick before the next wave comes and gets him.
- If you lose your ball, find a coconut; they too float.
- To disregard territorial Mexican dogs barking at him and nipping at his heels (and there is a lot) and just keep on moving. A great lesson and quality to have for a young, often overly confident, male shepherd.
- That he is never going to catch a Pelican and so staying engaged with me & our play is far more rewarding.
- To ignore all the free-ranging chickens & roosters. Extremely helpful in managing high prey drive dogs.
- The ocean is not so good for drinking.
- How to manage & fit into a pack structure.
- “Leave It”- If he wasn’t fluent in that command before, he sure is now. Leave everything; garbage, shit, small animals, birds, other dogs, people..everything!
What can you learn by observing your dog in a pack?
Watching, over the course of this past week, how Goose and the dog pack here at Villas Las Olas have interacted has been interesting to say the least. Just as it takes time to get to know, accept, and fit into to any social structure, whether human or animal, Goose had to find his place among this pack. At first he tried to avoid them all at all costs. Now its really neat to see that they have accepted him and even the more playful, younger ones are engaging in play with him. Although he is still at the bottom of the food chain, he is in. That was his own doing, I couldn’t help him on that one. Good job Goose!
What have I learned?
- Patience- teaching a new dog takes time, repetition, consistency, and adaptability- every dog is different.
- Understanding- that every young being is naïve until we give them the opportunity to learn something new.
- Accept & Embrace Change- although this trip is a different experience with a different dog, it has its own uniqueness and awesomeness.
- Laugh- when things go a little sideways (and believe me they have) instead of getting frustrated.
What is the best part of bringing your dog to a new, unfamiliar place?
It deepens your bond & increases your understanding of your dog thus creating a better all-round relationship between the two of you. Who doesn’t love the opportunity to allow any relationship in their life to flourish?
Goose and I have a very strong bond after only one short year together, however, seeing how he handles himself in these new exotic situations paints me a clearer picture of who he is, how he thinks, and how he will handle unfamiliar situations in the future. This will be an asset in both our daily lives together & our working partnership.
Dogs, as well as children are much more adaptable than we tend to give them credit for. If we never take them out of their “box”, their comfort zone, they will never have the opportunity to learn many important life lessons that can benefit both them and you for a happier & funner (yes I using that word despite what my English teacher would say.. I love it) life together.
Maybe taking your dog to an exotic location seems a bit too daunting, but I recommend you try a trip somewhere, anywhere, where both of you will be out of your comfort zone. Then see how it all unfolds.
All you need is patience, an open mind, and your smile.
“Life is not about the destination; it is about the journey”
Why not take your best friend on that journey?