Coolest Vacations for Dog Lovers
It’s also proof that owning a dog ensures you have more fun than you ever would on your own. Sure, dogs slobber, dig holes, shed, and like to roll in things that smell bad. But they are also the purest expression of joy on the planet. Almost everything is fun to dogs, whether chasing a ball or chasing their own tails.
So the question becomes, what can your dog teach you about having fun? And where would a dog choose to vacation? To help you and the pooch decide, we’ve come up with some of the world’s coolest vacations for dog lovers, whether you bring your pet along for the ride or watch other animals compete and frolic.
Geography is no limit to dog-friendly travel: race a husky across Alaska; hang out with the pampered canines of the fancy shows in Europe; run an obstacle course together in a small-town meet; or sit back and watch costumed dogs on parade at Halloween in New York City. And while some events focus a specific breed, any dog that understands a Frisbee can show up at a local Skyhoundz meet.
Hotels have taken note of the millions of pet-obsessed American travelers, and increasingly welcome dogs—some even offer outrageous perks like pet massages and surf lessons. Takeyourpet.com is among the dedicated online resources for finding a dog-friendly hotel in, say, Petaluma, CA, for the World’s Ugliest Dog Championship.
As Groucho Marx said, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Keeping a dog as your best friend means that you live in a way that’s good for you: exercise, fresh air, and that constant reminder that fun is really pretty simple. (If you don’t have one, your local ASPCA is happy to match good dogs with good people.)
So grab your four-legged friend, hang your head out the car window, and set out for a vacation sure to keep you both grinning.
AKC Agility Championship
Ask a dog what he wants to do, and you’ll get one of three answers: eat, sleep, or run. And when it’s time to run, they might as well do it through an obstacle course. Think Marines in boot camp have it rough? Let them try going through a tunnel, coming out to a teeter-totter (in training, the hard part is to keep the dog from getting startled by the clank sound), and then through the weave poles before crossing a bridge. Points scored for time, against for missing an obstacle. The AKC holds warm-up events around the country, leading to the Nationals, which will be in Tulsa, in 2013. classic.akc.org
A thousand miles of absolute wilderness, temperatures cold enough to freeze boiling coffee before it hits the ground, and days the sun barely bothers to rise above the horizon. Perfect conditions for an epic dog race. The Iditarod, held each March, stretches more than a thousand miles from Anchorage to Nome through the depths of the Alaskan winter. Come for the big party at the start, or try to find a bit of floor space in Nome to rent for the finish. The dogs can do the run in nine days and still have energy left to put on the biggest howling concert on earth after crossing the finish line. iditarod.com
World’s Ugliest Dog Championship, Petaluma, CA
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but ugly is pretty universal. Every year, the Sonoma-Marin Fair in California shows the difference. We’re talking tongues bigger than ears, hairdos that make paw-in-the-light-socket seem well groomed, eyes that absolutely refuse to look the same direction. The winner takes home a thousand bucks and a trophy and proves that all dogs are good dogs, even if they do look like leftover parts from Frankenstein’s lab. sonoma-marinfair.org
Skyhoundz Frisbee Dog Championships
Run. Chase. Leap. Catch. Then run back and do it again. Dogs and Frisbees are as natural as dogs and open car windows. A good Frisbee dog is built for speed, able to chase the disk down as it flies across the field. The human trick is, of course, training the dog to let go of the thing once he’s got it. Good human/dog Frisbee teams are as choreographed as dance champions, working on distance and accuracy as well as freestyle moves—say, dog backflips while snatching a Frisbee out of the air. Skyhoundz has worldwide events, and any dog that can run and catch is welcome. skyhoundz.com
Lundehund Gathering, Trondheim, Norway
Lundehunds were originally bred in Norway to hunt puffins by chasing them down into burrows. This means Lundehunds are about as flexible as snakes: triple jointed, with six-toed feet and the ability to bend their heads backward to touch their spine. The breed nearly went extinct, down to just two animals in the 1940s, before the Lundehund Klubb came to the rescue. Now there are a couple thousand happy, healthy dogs and an annual convention in Norway. Everybody triple jointed: to Trondheim in 2013! lundehund.no
At Dockdogs, nobody stays dry for long. At meets held across America (any pooch more than 6 months old welcome), the premier event is “big air,” essentially a long jump for dogs, who run off the end of a dock and leap into a pool of water. Distance is judged from the dock to where the tail hits. And some of these dogs can fly, covering more than 20 feet. If your dog doesn’t want to go long, consider high or fast—or combine the three for the “iron dog” championship. Ah, the wonderful smell of wet dog. Here, it smells like victory. dockdogs.com
Every summer, more than 300,000 people and dogs show up for North America’s largest outdoor dog party: peace, love, and biscuits in Toronto’s perfect June weather. Pick an event: dog speed dating; stupid tricks; Mr. and Mrs. Canine Canada; and the oh-so-slightly-risky Running of the Pugs. Got, say, a malamute or a husky who thinks snow is a toy and Canada’s supposed to be cold? Bundle up for Winter Woofstock instead: Santa hats and dog reindeer antlers optional. woofstock.ca
National Dachshund Races
If you have a dachshund, he’ll have fun running. If you have a different kind of dog, he’ll have fun laughing at the dachshunds. Races are held around the country, and it doesn’t matter if the dachshund is long-haired, short-haired, or wire-haired—as long as his legs are high enough to get that belly off the ground and he doesn’t trip over his ears. Now ask yourself: what’s better than watching wiener dogs try to reach take-off speed? nationaldachshundraces.org
World Dog Show
Westminster hogs the press, but the true world dog show is held each year in Europe (in 2013, it’ll be in Hungary; in 2014, in Finland). Same basic format as the Westminster show: not a competition of dog against dog, but dog against the standards for its breed, looking for a kind of purebred perfection. And if you think dogs are pampered in North America, wait until you’ve seen their lives in Europe.
Australia National Sheep Dog Trials, Canberra, Australia
On the vast ranches down under, dogs have jobs, and no job is more important than keeping the sheep from wandering off. At the National Sheep Dog Trials, the herders are put through their paces, moving sheep through a complicated course—including turns, a bridge, and gates—and into a pen. Handlers whistle commands, and the dogs are so well trained that they know to keep the sheep to the right of marker flags, never to the left. Take your pooch along and show him there’s more to life than “shake hands.” nationalsheepdogs.webone.com.au
North American Gun Dog Association Nationals
Dogs like to keep busy and be useful. And if that means running in the woods chasing after birds, all the better. Gun dogs—pointers, retrievers—get to be seriously useful and busy thanks to the North American Gun Dog Association. Events around the country allow these dogs to find, flush, and retrieve birds. Okay, the birds don’t like it, but being chased by a retriever still beats being raised on a chicken farm. And probably nowhere is the bond between dog and person more important. For centuries, this is how dinner got on the table, and the proudly wagging tails show how glad the dogs are to be on the chase. nagdog.com
Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade, New York City
Some dogs look insulted if you make them wear anything more than a collar. Then there are the hams of the dog world, just waiting to dress up as a leprechaun, as Harry Potter, as Cerberus, as, well, just about anything. Whether that means Mohawking your Maltese or dressing your sheepdog like a stegosaurus, do your most outrageous and then head to New York’s Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade. Oh, yeah, it’s okay if we people show up in costume, too—and you certainly don’t need to own a dog to appreciate the spectacle of watching terriers trot by dressed like trains. facebook.com/pages/Tompkins-Square-Halloween-Dog-Parade
Sure, there are bigger dog events in the world, but do any have better names? And is any other organization willing to recognize those dogs with mouths like faucets, something liquid always dripping out? If you’re tired of people glaring while they wipe up after your bulldog, your mastiff, or your Newfie, then SlobberFest is for you: a chance for your pooch to be crowned Slobber King or Queen. Proceeds go to pet charities. pawsforaminute.com
Westminster, New York City
If your dog doesn’t qualify for the World’s Ugliest Dog, maybe there’s a chance for the best of the breed at this granddaddy of all dog shows. Since 1876, the Westminster Kennel Club has held its annual dog show, with prizes for best of breed, best of group (sporting dogs, toy dogs, etc.), and the height of the dog world, best of show. Before the competitions held in Madison Square Garden, anxious owners fix up their dogs with all the care used for supermodels headed to the runway, hoping to meet the judges’ impossibly strict standards. It is the World Series/Super Bowl/World Cup combined for dogs, but even so, at the most high-pressure event in all dogdom, the tails never stop wagging. westminsterkennelclub.org