We get many questions from current and future Travel PT’s, Travel OT’s, Travel SLP’s and other traveling healthcare disciplines about bringing a pet on travel therapy job assignments. We’re excited to share a guest post by Travel Physical Therapist, Emily Cormier, about her experience traveling with her dog to help those of you considering travel therapy with a pet!
I graduated from PT school in May 2019, passed the NPTE in July, and began traveling as soon as I found my first travel PT contract as a new grad in September of the same year. I’ve always wanted to work in pediatrics, so I decided to begin taking traveling school PT contracts. I adopted my dog at the beginning of September 2020, so I’ve had the opportunity to experience travel therapy life with and without a companion! While I’m eternally grateful to have her as my travel buddy now, I’m also glad that I was able to travel on my own first so that I can really discuss the differences and pros/cons!
Making The Decision
As easy as I make it sound, adopting a dog was one of my more challenging decisions. I previously thought that I would wait to adopt a dog until I was done traveling and was more focused on settling down. The issue with that plan was that I wasn’t sure when/if I’d ever want to stop traveling… but I definitely missed having a pup! I wrote out my own pros and cons list, thought it over for a couple months, and then decided to start checking out the local rescues.
I knew I wanted a younger, medium to large sized dog, who would be active with me, but I didn’t have my heart set on any specific breed. I went in with no expectations. I was aware it might be a longer process, but I was willing to wait for my “perfect” pup. I put in a few applications as I started seeing dogs in which I was interested, but nothing worked out right away. This was mostly because these rescues were working on a first come, first serve basis as long as the family and dog were a good fit, and I was never the first one to inquire. I refreshed one of the rescue pages randomly one morning and saw a Boxer that I immediately fell in love with. I emailed the rescue as fast as I could, and turns out, I was the first one out of 42 people to inquire about her! So we set up a meet and greet, and Acadia (formerly Harley) came home with me that same day!
Housing was actually my biggest concern when making the decision to get a dog while traveling. As traveling therapists, we typically look into short-term, furnished options such as on Furnished Finder, AirBNB, VRBO, etc. On my assignment pre-Acadia, I had used Craigslist as I was located in a more rural area that had limited furnished options and no reasonable options on any of the other common short-term websites. I ended up in a furnished guest house that I loved!
Moving on to my next assignment, I utilized the Facebook group: “Travel Nurse Housing- The Gypsy Nurse.” I found my first place which was renting a pet-friendly room in a shared house. The house was shared with the owners of the home and their two small dogs. After living there for about three months with Acadia, I decided to change locations and move into the first floor of a house with a roommate. Our space now has three bedrooms, one bathroom, a private backyard, living room, and kitchen.
Both of these pet-friendly furnished rentals were found through the above Facebook group. My first rental didn’t require an additional pet fee at all (yay!) and the current rental only required a one-time pet deposit. These last two rentals didn’t have any breed or size restrictions. However, that is an issue that may come up, so it’s important to be aware of that potential hurdle! Overall, I will always plan on spending more to obtain pet friendly housing that’s a good fit for us, but it’s worth it!
I can’t speak as much to the RV side of housing as I’ve never lived in an RV, but I imagine that it has its own host of pros/cons! I’ve heard that this is a route that some pet owners who travel choose to go with.
Logistics While at Work
As far as what Acadia does while I’m working at my travel PT assignment: for the first bit of traveling together, I was working remotely and was able to stay home with her all day. Recently, since returning to working in person at my current school district, I enrolled her in doggy daycare. I drop her off each morning and pick her up after work.
Other traveling therapists may find that they can crate their dogs and leave them at home all day. I also know that some travelers try to come home at their lunch break to let their dogs out, or hire someone from Rover for dog walking services. There are lots of different options to care for your dog when you’re away at work during the day!
The Fun Part!
Now that we’ve covered some of the more difficult aspects of the decision, let’s move on to the good stuff! Who can turn down the thought of always having a hiking buddy, a brewery companion, a beach bum, or an adventure sidekick?! I never have to worry about going somewhere alone, because Acadia is always up for anything. We’ve gone to restaurants, breweries, hiking trails, beaches, lighthouses, outdoor malls, coffee shops, National Parks, State Parks, lakes, etc.! We’ve done weekend trips, road trips, and week long stays in other states. Thankfully, she does amazing in the car, but I also have to be aware of when she needs to eat and stretch her legs. This means we might take more frequent breaks than I would if I were by myself. In order to find good places for her to get out some energy and to stretch our legs, I’ve found several interesting parks and trails throughout the country. I wouldn’t have found them if it hadn’t been for Acadia! Together, we’ve visited twelve states! She really is my best motivator to be active. I’ve been on more walks and hikes with her than I could even begin to count. A dog really is an unconditional best friend, and I couldn’t imagine my life without her!
Pros/Cons of Traveling with a Dog
As you’ll notice reading through this chart, there are some aspects that are both a pro and con for different reasons. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it’s more of a pro or con to you, personally! This list is not exhaustive by any means, but these are some of the main pros and cons that I’ve found for myself and by talking with other dog owners.
|Never lonely– I have never been this motivated to get outside and explore until now! I was always an adventurer of course, but knowing you always have a hiking/adventure buddy just makes it so much more worth it.||Money- Dogs are not cheap (especially when you have a high maintenance dog like me…)! Consider vet expenses, medical emergencies, pet fees, toys, food/treats, supplies, boarding/daycare costs if needed, walking costs if needed, crates, beds, etc.|
|High energy– This is a pro because it truly makes me get outside with her and be active myself no matter what! She always needs an outlet for her energy, and since I’m responsible for her, I need to be cognizant of getting her out for walks, runs, hikes, fetch, etc.||High energy– Now, this is also a con because she’s not a dog that I can count on to just sleep the day away when I have to run errands, work, go somewhere that’s not pet-friendly, etc. However, this is a trait that’s totally dog/breed dependent so it may or may not apply to you.|
|Protection– Going on walks, hikes, runs, etc. alone as a young woman can be intimidating at times, especially depending on the area. I was always looking over my shoulder, rarely putting in headphones, and just taking all safety precautions. Having Acadia makes me feel much more at ease. She’s hyper-aware of our surroundings and is always scanning the area. She doesn’t bark much, but when she does, it’s because someone (usually a man) is approaching our house or car. Would she actually attack if needed? Who knows, but I don’t want to find out!||Separation anxiety– This is only a con for certain people and dogs of course, and thankfully, I’m not one of them. Since this isn’t something Acadia and I have had to navigate, I don’t have too many personal tips, but it is a possibility that all future dog owners should be aware of prior to adopting a new dog!|
|Travel– It’s so much fun to always have a companion when exploring! I touched on this a little bit earlier, but I love traveling to a different state and not having to explore it on my own. There are so many resources to find dog friendly locations! I also make it clear to AirBNB or VRBO hosts that my dog is crate trained and we’ll bring her crate along, so that way if I go anywhere without her, she’ll be safe and won’t have full access to the house. Getting your dog used to traveling with you can not only better socialize your pup, but it can also help develop trust and bonding. I’ve also found so many hidden gems because they’ve been dog friendly whereas the bigger tourist attractions might not be.||Travel– As I’m sure you can imagine, international travel is a major challenge. When planning an international trip, I plan far in advance and make sure I have someone I trust to stay with her for a week or so. Domestic travel is definitely easier, but I’ve opted to drive most places rather than fly due to having a dog. Having Acadia certainly doesn’t prevent me from traveling to different places, but it does limit where we can stay. Thankfully, we’ve found plenty of dog friendly AirBNBs and also stayed in dog friendly hotels! If I know I want to take a weekend trip somewhere that’s not dog friendly, I’ll either bring her on the trip and then leave her in the crate whenever she can’t come with– OR I’ll have someone I trust stay at our house and take care of her. I utilize Rover for the most part, and I’ve had great luck finding some wonderful people for dog sitting and doggy daycare.|
|Finding friends– Dogs need socialization, just as humans do! So by taking your dog on a walk, hike, to the dog park, to a brewery, etc., you can meet so many other dog owners! There are also Facebook groups for dog owners who travel often, which can be so helpful. I’ve met so many great people at the dog park, especially when going on a consistent schedule, and Acadia loves the dog park (and it helps tire her out)! It’s a win-win.||Dog restrictions– Obviously I’m biased, but I just wish everywhere was dog friendly! However, since many places aren’t, that’s a struggle you may have to navigate. Many National Parks either aren’t dog friendly or restrict dogs to certain trails. While this is certainly understandable from a safety standpoint, it can be disappointing to find out your favorite NP can’t be shared with your pup! Doing research before going somewhere is always a necessity.|
Would I Do It Again?
The short answer is absolutely. However, I did put unbiased thought into this question, and while the answer is still yes, there are some challenges I might have considered more. I definitely was not expecting to adopt a dog with medical issues, but as it turns out, Acadia does have a (minor) chronic disease that requires a special diet (which is more expensive) and requires more closely paying attention to her eating/bathroom habits. In turn, I also have to be more careful about who I leave her with if needed to ensure that they’ll watch her closely enough to prevent any complications. That part can be stressful, but I’m sure that I would be anxious leaving my dog with anyone else, no matter if the pup had medical issues or not. Overall, I would 100% do it again a thousand times over. I’ve never regretted adopting her for a second– so yes, I 10/10 recommend adopting a dog as a traveler!
If You’re On The Fence…
If you’re not fully committed to traveling with a dog, then I would highly suggest you don’t do it until you’re ready!
Our dogs are part of the family, and they deserve to be in a loving, caring home that is prepared for them. However, there are other ways in which you can begin to prepare for your future dog (if that’s part of your plan)! One wonderful option is to begin volunteering with an animal rescue– you’ll likely be able to give the pets lots of needed love and attention. What better way to spend some free time?! Another option is to foster through a local animal rescue– this is the perfect option if you’re still on the fence, but are highly considering traveling with a pet. The animal’s expenses are covered by the rescue, you’re doing something amazing for the pet and the rescue, and you can consider it to be a trial run for the future. If neither of those apply to you, but you’re reliable, love animals, and want to make a little supplemental income, then you could consider doing some pet-sitting, dog-walking, etc. through a service such as Rover or Wag.
If you do decide to pursue travel therapy with a pet, I hope you have an amazing experience traveling around with your travel companion, just like I have!
I’m a travel physical therapist with a passion for pediatrics, so I mainly take school based contracts. I’m originally from a small town in Maine. I earned my Bachelor of Science from American International College in Springfield, MA, and three years later (in 2019), earned my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from the same school as I was enrolled in an accelerated 3+3 program. Fun fact: I always thought I would return to my home state and never considered travel therapy until attending the National Student Conclave in Providence, RI. Once I began considering it, I was all in and never looked back. I’ve lived in five different states, and funny enough, the one I would like to return to the least is my home state! I love adventuring to new areas, hiking, visiting breweries, going to the beach, and enjoying the sun!!! The best way to contact me is through social media (Facebook or Instagram: @ecormier07) or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’d like to thank Emily for sharing her experience traveling with her dog as a Travel PT! If you have questions specifically about traveling with a pet, please reach out to Emily on social media or via email. If you have questions about travel therapy in general or need help getting started on your travel therapy career, please contact us!