Five Travel Lessons My Dog Taught Me


I am the proud parent of three dogs: Moya, Cody and Preston. Over the years I have observed their behavior and how they interact with the rest of the world. I soon realized that they have many lessons to share, especially for the traveling sort.

1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Our middle fur child, Cody, is a creampuff. He’s tough when he has to be (and he rarely has to be), but things don’t usually bother him. If his toy is taken away he really doesn’t seem to care. Instead of getting angry, he just wanders off and finds something else to do.

Traveling is fraught with little problems. At one point or another, most people will experience the inconvenience of missing a train or getting lost. Rather than shut down or stress over these hiccups, be like Cody and just move on. Believe me, there will be real issues that arise over which you are free to stress. In the meantime, don’t worry about the little things that ultimately do not matter.

2. Take it slow and have fun. As far as canine comfort is concerned, my dogs are in the top percentile. Their every need is seen to and they want for nothing. As a result, they sleep most of the time and when they are curious about something, they are methodical and deliberate about their explorations. This doesn’t mean they don’t have a good time. Preston, the baby of the family, in particular goes through life happy and enjoys his adventures.

This practice of approaching new places and people slowly and thoughtfully is important when seeing the world. Rather than rushing through a city marking off a checklist of museums and monuments, take some time to really explore a new place. Visit grocery stores, quiet neighborhoods, pubs and restaurants in order to really learn about the culture. You will be surprised how much more you learn about a locale from a supermarket than a cathedral. But like Preston, make sure to have a good time.

3. Be cautious but not fearful. Moya, our oldest pup, had a pretty hard life before we rescued her. As a result, she approaches new people and situations cautiously and deliberately. She is not violent or fearful, but she ensures that the new experience is safe before accepting it.

A certain amount of cautiousness and skepticism is important when traveling. I firmly believe that there are good people everywhere and have witnessed incredible acts of generosity on my trips abroad. However, I have also been approached by dubious people including drug dealers and scam artists, all wanting to take advantage of my apparent naiveté. Shady people are rare, but they do exist. Be smart and keep your wits about you. As Ronald Reagan once said, “trust but verify.”


4. Try new things. Dogs have an innate curiosity and express it in a number of ways. For my dogs it is usually a sniff, poke and a chomp. Sometimes it doesn’t go well—Cody’s attempt to eat a bee was not a good idea—but dogs seem to enjoy the process of trying to understand that which is foreign.

You should not be afraid to sample new foods, even ones that seem strange, or try new experiences. Traveling teaches us a lot, but perhaps most importantly it teaches us to reach out of our comfort zone and grasp for new experiences that may help us grow as individuals. Sometimes the rewards for this heroic fearlessness are great and sometimes, like Cody, you get stung. But without this karmic balance of traveling sensations, the trip would be as bland as a trip to your neighborhood store.

5. Kindness will always be returned. Dogs are the most popular pet in the United States for a reason (sorry to all of you cat lovers). They have the unique ability to give unconditional love in large doses that can be practically overwhelming. There have been many times in my life, such as the loss of a family member, injury or just a bad day when they have approached and carefully nuzzled against me. This simple act of kindness and empathy can melt even the coldest heart and it is impossible to fully reciprocate this most basic act of kindness.

Backpacker, wanderer or just an average person on vacation will all encounter times when they will face a unique opportunity. The chance to extend a hand in aid or provide a shoulder in comfort arises when least expected and creates a bond not only between people but cultures as well. This act of kindness though is certainly not one sided, as you too will find that hand or shoulder from a stranger when you least expect it, but most need it.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

35 thoughts on “Five Travel Lessons My Dog Taught Me”

  1. I absolutely love this post! Never mind that it’s about two of my favorite things in this world, dogs and travel, but it is loaded with all kinds of great advice and offers perspectives on things we may take for granted. Thank you for sharing this great piece.

  2. What a beautiful piece! I was going to jokingly say that my dog taught me it’s ok to eat what falls on the floor … but she’s actually taught me far more than that.

    Lemon is a 2-year-old shelter pup who was born blind in one eye and completely deaf. I’m constantly amazed by her fearlessness and sense of adventure. She doesn’t recognize her own disabilities. She’s every bit as playful and rambunctious as any other puppy.

    Since adopting her, I’ve developed a sense of patience I never had before, which comes in handy as a traveler. I also had to come up with clever strategies for training her (it’s tough when she can’t see hand signals or respond to commands!), and being mentally flexible like that is useful for travel as well.

  3. Thank you! I definitely think dogs have so much to share, which inspired me.

    Maggie – what an awesome story and how great of you to rescue Lemon. So many people wouldn’t and look how much they miss!

  4. oh wow, excellent post- very touching. Our family love dogs too! it’s true on all 5 counts.. they are such intuitive animals huh.. i wish i was as street smart as a dog. Sometimes I find it hard to differentiate the good guys from the bad guys – but of course u get better with practice. And being a foodie and all – i love the fearless experimenting with food bit!

    very cool article. thank you for sharing!

  5. Oh my. How do you know I have a dog? I really enjoy this post throughly. Yap. Everything is true and essential! I’ve never scared to travelanywhere but I’m facing trip to Cambodia and I’ve heard solo many scary things. But yes Ive decide to be cautious but not fearful. Exactly. Thanks for sharing such an amazing post.

  6. We always tell each other that we strive to be as kind and gentle as our older dog, Chewy, and as curious as our younger dog, Abby. This is a great post!

  7. Dead on about dogs and travel. Love #4. Dogs do approach situations with a curiosity and wonder that we often forget or neglect. The only problem is leaving those support systems at home when you hit the road. I hate leaving my dogs behind but if you can carry their persona in travel situations I suppose they are still with you.

  8. What a fantastic post, funny, touching and clever all at once. Great, common sense advice and wisdom for travellers with a twist. Thanks!

  9. Loved this post, I’ve been working on one similar. So much we can learn from dogs, they do travel so much better than we do in many regards.

  10. Great post, Matt! It is so true how much is to be learned from our dogs. I can’t tell you how many times that little nuzzle or curling up next to me has given me an immediate sense of comfort. Now, traveling WITH dogs is a different story…I’d love to read your experiences with that! :)

  11. How funny….this is so spot-on. I have a dog that I am absolutely in love with, so I can really relate. I never thought about it that way, but you’re right–dogs do teach us those lessons! Though I haven’t traveled with her outside of driving 2.5 hours to Houston….as Kathleen says, it’s different traveling with dogs. I can’t imagine taking mine on a plane!

  12. Ferry to Europe

    You forgot the important art of always being well mannered when meeting new people – All of our dogs meet and greet new friends in the appropriate way, don’t look straight in the eye, sniff of the bum and only if it’s replicated a quick run arround. When heading to new places learn teh customs and do your best to respect and adapt to them.

  13. Being a brand new pet owner I appreciate all the insight here. I want my puppy to get well trained and have a healthful atmosphere to live in. I am grateful for the information.

  14. This post is such a great read to share! What an inspiring thing to learn from the dogs, not only for traveling but also on how we journey through life.

  15. “There have been many times in my life, such as the loss of a family member, injury or just a bad day when they have approached and carefully nuzzled against me. This simple act of kindness and empathy can melt even the coldest heart and it is impossible to fully reciprocate this most basic act of kindness.”

    ohhhh if I had a pound for every time I have told a dog-hater this and have been scorned……I’d have alot of pounds!! Loved it, bloody loved it. Excellent article.

  16. Great post. It’s really made me think about what I’ve learned from my dogs, especially my portage partner Nancy. What stands out would be to never let the fear of looking stupid stop you from trying something. Maybe you fall, maybe there’s some laughter, but you get up and move on like nobody saw a thing.

    Preston is a very good looking dog with a great name!

  17. Love this post – and it’s all so true. I think another thing that could be added, that I’m sure you will understand from adopting a rescue, is resiliency.

  18. I love it. But how can you travel so much when you have dogs? Do you have someone else to look after them?

    I was ready to get a dog a few years ago, but my roommate backed out last minute so I couldn’t. A year later I decided to quit my job and travel for 6 months, now I travel full time and work on the road. If my roommate would not have backed out I would never have left and my life would be completely different. I absolutely love dogs, but my life would be so different with one. Luckily I get to share my parents dog when I’m back at home.

  19. It’s true. Dogs give unconditional love. I am curious do you take your dogs with you when you travel? Or do you have someone watching over them? I have a dog and don’t travel as much as I would like to. Just wondering…. If anyone with dogs out there travel a lot, I would like to know how. :-)

    1. I don’t travel with them, there’s a great place nearby where they stay when we’re away. I have heard of people traveling with their dogs, but it’s usually if they’re doing slow travel in a camper van or something.

  20. Fantastic post! Two of my favorite things, dogs and travel. My dogs teach me something every day. (BTW, you didn’t put in a pic of Moya!)

  21. To Nancy – I lucked out with a wonderful hermit of a dog-loving neighbor who watches them for me when I travel. I don’t know what I will do when I move.

  22. What a fantastic approach to travel advice! During travel there can be such a flurry of activity around you, it’s easy to get swept away in the pace of it. I love thinking that all you need do is think of your favorite pup and you’ll slow down.

  23. Having travelled quite a bit I so get what your saying and will defiantly be calling our ‘Harvey’ the fur child from now on :0) lol

    Thanks of that

  24. Matt you are right there is so much our dogs can teach us if we let them. When I think I’m training my dog she is really training me not to sweat the small stuff and live in the moment!

  25. I know this is an old post but I just wanted to say how cool it is to connect travelling with how dogs approach life. I’ve had dogs all my life and completely agree that they can really teach us about life in so many ways!

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