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Vacationing with a Service Dog

dog getting a shot

by Shanna Stichler 

Almost every summer, Diamond and I get to have a sunny seaside adventure. We spend a week or so in Oceanside, California, which is a beach town in the San Diego area. Service dogs tend to add excitement to any vacation, so we thought our readers would enjoy living vicariously through us.

We left bright and early on a Saturday. The trip out to Oceanside was pretty straightforward. Diamond is a very good flyer, so we didn’t have any problems on the plane. We did notice dogs on all our flights. One was a pet traveling in a crate. The second was probably someone’s emotional support animal that got very distracted by Diamond. He actually pounced on her head at one point, which was a bit startling.

After we landed in San Diego, we opted to spend some time in Seaport village. It’s a rather upscale area in San Diego that overlooks the ocean. Diamond did some nice work in an unfamiliar area. There were a lot of dogs out with their owners, obstacles, and interesting things to sniff, especially for a dog who isn’t around the ocean very much.


When we did finally arrive at our resort, our priority was locating the dog relief area. We thought it would be harder to locate because it had been 2 years since our last visit, but Diamond remembered the way perfectly!

The following morning, we went for a long walk along a road called The Strand, which happens to be right in front of our vacation unit. It’s a particularly difficult area to work a guide dog because there isn’t any easy way to tell the difference between the pedestrian pathway and the road itself. To make life even more exciting, we can always hear the ocean, which drowns out the sound of oncoming traffic.

We also encountered many dogs along The Strand. The majority were well-behaved, but a few were quite aggressive. Several dogs lunged at Diamond within the first couple of days of our trip. Normally, Diamond isn’t fazed much by other dogs, but they began to worry her after a while. While she didn’t get hurt, she started refusing to work past some dogs later in the week. We did some counter-conditioning around well-behaved dogs, which did help a bit.

One fantastic experience we had was a whale-watching tour. There was plenty of room on the boat for Diamond, so she got to come along. Boating on the ocean was a lot of fun, and we found a huge group of 500 dolphins that followed the boat. The dolphins let us hang out with them for about 45 minutes, after which we made our way back to the harbor. Diamond did very well on the boat in terms of behavior. Sadly, for her, she got rather seasick, despite taking some medicine before we left the hotel.  We’ll have to try a different medicine if we ever go on the ocean again.

Aside from getting seasick, Diamond and I really enjoyed the rest of our trip. We walked between 6 and 8 miles each day. Diamond only had trouble with the heat once this year because the weather was so pleasant.


We celebrated the Fourth of July while in Oceanside. Diamond and I started off the day with an invigorating walk along the beach, followed by a barbecue with family. Diamond didn’t mind the crowds or the fireworks. She has never minded loud noises, so we’ve never needed to take special precautions for the Fourth.

We spent one morning exploring some new walking paths in the Carlsbad area. There is a dog beach in that general vicinity we’d hoped to take Diamond to, but we simply didn’t have the time. We’ll try to do that next time we visit, which will probably be next summer.

  • One thing to mention quickly is that Diamond has always been a little bit anxious when we travel. She really likes routines, so often she’ll do things like refuse to eat for a couple of days, whine, or follow me everywhere. This year, she adjusted much more quickly.

Diamond and I really loved vacation, but eventually we had to return home. Our flights were very straightforward. We did attempt to use one of the indoor dog relief areas on our lay-over. The one we found had water al over the floor and didn’t seem to be very clean. Diamond wanted nothing to do with using it, so we won’t attempt indoor relieving areas unless absolutely necessary.

Over all, Diamond and I really enjoyed sunny southern California! We spent lots of quality time with family and had some new experiences. Hopefully, we were able to give our readers a sense of the area and we highly recommend Lands End, a pet friendly resort in sunny Oceanside, CA.

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