Travel is about breaking out of your comfort zone and trying something new, but sometimes, it is nice to try something new with someone familiar — like your best four-legged friend. If your dog has the right temperament for travel, taking him along with you can lead to a fun and memorable vacation.

Flying or Driving?

If your pup is toy-sized, flying with your dog is a doable option, but otherwise, it can be pretty risky. When you trust an airline with a large breed, your dog is essentially being treated as luggage. They are stored under the plane with the other cargo and are susceptible to escape, being shipped to the wrong place, and being left unattended. All this without the added mental trauma the experience of being shipped in a cage under a loud aircraft will inflict upon your pet. If your dog is not small enough to fit in a carrier that can be brought as a carry-on item, your best option is to drive to your destination.

Of course, driving is not riskless. Many dogs experience motion sickness or anxiety while riding in the car. Help him create a positive association with riding in the car by giving him treats whenever he gets inside the vehicle. To help put your dog at ease for the journey, strap him in with a specialized canine seat belt for safety. You can also put a dog anxiety vest on your pup to help reduce anxiety. Some trainers also encourage having a special “car toy” that he can only play with while you’re out on a drive. You can also talk to his vet about anti-anxiety and anti-nausea medicine options.

Picking Your Vacation Destination

Once you’ve determined how your dog will get there, you’ll have an easier time picking the destination of your vacation. For example, if you live in the southeast United States and know you want to drive to the beach, going to California is not a reasonable option. Instead, look at vacation destinations within a shorter distance.

Once you’ve figured out where you’re going, you need to find a place to stay, and if you are bringing your dog, you’ll need to find pet-friendly lodging. Places that accept pets may have amenities or activities your dog will enjoy. It’s the easiest way to ensure every member of the family will have a fun-filled vacation.

The Other Option: Leaving Your Dog at Home

If your vacation plans don’t have room to bring Fido around, that’s just fine! There are plenty of options to keep him safe and happy while you are off on your adventure. Dog boarding facilities come in all sizes, and provide your dog with plenty of attention and playtime with other pups — a perfect situation if your dog is the social type!

Another option is hiring a dog sitter that will watch your canine and your home while you are away. Many people get friends or family to help out with dog sitting, but you can also browse pet sitting sites, Craigslist, or Nextdoor for people in your area that are up to the task.

If you want to escape the mundane and travel a bit, there’s no law stating you have to leave your dog at home! Flying is an option for smaller breeds, but unless you want your pet to be treated like cargo, driving is a better option for large dogs. If you are bringing your dog with you to your destination, find a place that has pet-friendly accommodations so everyone can enjoy themselves. For some people, bringing their dog with them while they travel is not an option. Boarding your pet or hiring a sitter ensures they are well taken care of while you are on the road.

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Spring is right around the corner, and soon, it’ll be time to start planting gardens, flowers, vines and all manner of foliage. It’ll also be time for your dog to resume running, digging and playing in the yard. It’s your pooch’s time to stretch his legs and romp in the fresh air, working off all that pent-up energy.

Your pet’s curiosity, however, can get him into trouble, especially if you’re not careful about planting, how you fertilize your garden and yard, and what you use to keep the pests away. Dogs and cats are sickened and killed every year by toxic materials when they dig around looking for goodies to chew on. In fact, according to the National Animal Poison Control Center, 200 dogs a year are poisoned with man-made toxins and plants that are lethal to dogs and other animals. You can protect your furry friends this spring by using organic materials as you fertilize and carefully avoiding plants that can threaten your pet’s life.

Pretty, but poisonous

There are many flowers and other flora that look absolutely beautiful in your yard, but that can kill dogs very quickly. Azalea, oleander, rhododendron, hibiscus, Easter lilies and mistletoe inflict a range of health problems for dogs, including renal failure, cardiac arrest and death. If you’re determined to incorporate these plants in your gardening scheme, take steps to keep them out of your dog’s reach. Plant them in boxes that can be placed on tables, or hung from a fence or windowsill.

Many people resort to fertilizers that can make animals very sick, not knowing that there are plenty of safe, organic options available. Your lawn can gain nutrients from grass clippings, meal fertilizers (i.e. cornmeal or cottonseed meal), liquid potash, and organic liquid and granular fertilizers that can be purchased at your local hardware store.

Out of reach, out of trouble

Discerning gardeners and pet owners are careful to segregate plants that can harm their pet. Take the time to check whether a plant you want to include in a garden can be harmful. If it is, you can put up a fence or barrier of some kind to prevent your dog from nosing his way into trouble. Seemingly innocent plants, like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, rhubarb and onions, pose a danger to your dog. Almond and walnut trees produce nuts that contain tannin, which is toxic to dogs. These plants can cause damage to your pet’s heart and red blood cells.

Some fruit trees, including cherry and apricot, have toxic bark and produce pits that can be destructive to an animal’s digestive system. If you have any of these trees or plants, your safest bet is to get rid of them; if not, you’ll need to fence them off or separate your pet from them by some reliable means.

For dogs only

If your dog spends a lot of time outside, you know how much he likes to cruise around the perimeter of your yard along the fence line. You can use this to your advantage if you’re trying to keep him away from your garden. Keep this perimeter area plant-free, or set aside a special digging area in your yard where Fido can do what many dogs do instinctively – dig like crazy. That’ll keep him distracted from any trees, bushes or plants that could cause problems. You can also go for extra walks to work off your dog’s energy, or hire a dog-walking or dog day care service to ensure he gets plenty of exercise and social time in a safe setting.

Keeping your dog safe in the back yard requires attention to detail, and a good knowledge of which plants are safe and which are not. Understanding what you’re planting in the space your dog plays in will guide you in where to put up barriers, and how to segregate your dog and any other outdoor pets from the garden. It’s an important part of being a responsible pet owner.

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For thousands of years, the bond between dogs and humans has grown stronger and stronger. Today, dogs continue to provide joy and happiness to hundreds of millions of people around the globe. This special connection we share with dogs goes deeper than what can be explained, but every day, scientists are finding new evidence that confirms the powerful relationship between dogs and humans.

What Dogs Do to Our Brains

When we see a dog, we pay attention to their unique body language: the expression on their face, the way they wag their tail, or how they curl up next to us on the couch. These small actions can have a powerful impact on our mood, whether we feel sad, angry, upset, or lonely. Dogs seem to know when we need their love, and are always there to give us a boost when we’re feeling down. The personalities of dogs are also contagious. You could come home after the worst day of your life, and your dog will still be cheerful and glad to see you.   

Owning a dog also teaches us many valuable lessons on taking care of other living things. The responsibility we learn from taking care of a dog can translate to many other areas of our lives. Dogs are energetic creatures, and need to get up and move around. As we strive to take better care of our canine friends, we are forced to become more active — like getting up off the couch and taking a walk around the block. This added physical activity gives us a boost in our health, as well as clears and rejuvenates the mind.

Dogs also teach us how to empathize with others. Dogs bring us out of our shells and make us look outward instead of inward. This alone makes owning a dog an ideal solution for many of us suffering from anxiety or depression in order to lift our mental health.

How Dogs Help with Anxiety, Depression, and Other Mental Disorders

It’s actually no secret that dogs can have a positive effect on people who suffer from anxiety or major depressive disorder. That is why so many people who face these or similar mental disorders rely on trained therapy dogs to help calm them down. Therapy dogs help in these kinds of situations by sensing the needs of their owner, and reacting in a way to help them cope in the event of a panic attack or manic episode.

How Dogs Create Opportunities

Dogs make great companions for all kinds of people, but are also good at helping us develop relationships with our fellow humans. Dogs provide a point of conversation that can make it easier to interact with strangers. When you take your dog out for a walk in the park, you may come across other people walking their dogs. Through the shared experience of pet ownership, you suddenly have a chance to meet someone new. Dogs are also known to lack the kind of self-doubt that many of us feel when interacting with others. Our dogs will likely pull us into situations we would otherwise never find ourselves, interacting with all kinds of people and building up our social skills.

The benefits of owning a dog are unmistakable when it comes to our mental wellness. They help us become more social, active, empathetic, and responsible, and can stabilize our mood in an instant. No matter what ills may face us, dogs always seem to offer a means to help us feel better. It’s no wonder that dogs have remained such an integral part of society for so many thousands of years.

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