Reactive Road Trip: Day 3 Update and 3 Strategies For Eating Out

Today was a short driving day (only 2.5 hours total from Eugene to Portland) so we had plenty of time to stop and explore both Silver Falls State Park and the Oregon Gardens in Silverton Oregon.

Silver Falls State Park would be a great place to visit without a dog. The park has 8.7 miles of trails that pass by and through 10 waterfalls. When planning the trip, I misunderstood the dog rules and didn’t realize how limited the dog friendly areas were. However, since we were there we made the best of it (and it gave us more time to spend at the Oregon Garden later). There were 2 waterfall viewpoints that were dog friendly and one dog friendly trail that led to a waterfall. We stopped at both viewpoints and although there were a couple of dogs, we were able to successfully avoid them. We made our way to the trailhead of the only dog friendly waterfall trail and watched the trailhead for a couple of minutes to ensure that no dogs were going in a head of us as the trail was an up-and-back trail (we planned on turning back if we encountered any other dogs). We made it to the waterfall without seeing any other dogs and stopped to take pictures. When we turned to leave, we saw another border collie heading towards us. The path was very narrow and there was not going to be enough room for us to successfully pass or avoid the oncoming dog. I sent my husband up ahead to talk with the other dog owner. Sometimes we are able to avoid Odin’s reactivity if he thinks he is going to play with the other dog. My husband got the okay from the other dog owner for them to meet and gave the signal that we could head over. I looked at Odin and put on my most excited facial expressions and said “let’s go say hi!” “Go say Hi” is a cue I use with him at the dog park which means to go interact with the other dog. Sometimes he is too ball/Frisbee focused, he forgets that he is there to play with the other dogs and needs to be reminded. This idea worked like a charm. Odin got very excited and relaxed and pulled towards the other dog. The nicely met and sniffed each other; Odin even tried to initiate play. Once we were ready, we continued on our way back to the trailhead. After a couple of minutes, I noticed two off leash dogs up ahead and the owner did not make any attempt to leash them. I looked down at Odin, fingers crossed that this would work a second time. “Go say Hi!” I tell him and he pulled towards the oncoming dogs and greeted them nicely. Both of these experiences were the best we have ever had with him and other dogs on trails. I do not recommend trying this with your dog unless you know they will not attack the other dogs. I always have a backup plan of picking up Odin (it reduces his reactivity) if he showed any minor signs of becoming reactive.

Oregon Gardens would be a great place to hit up any time of the year, however, I personally think going during the winter months is best for reactive dogs. Yes, not all the flowers are in bloom, however the scenery overall was absolutely gorgeous. The Oregon Garden is an 80-acre botanical garden in Silverton (a small city outside of Salem). There were multiple different garden areas that were extremely fun to explore. There was a conifer garden, a sensory garden, rose garden, etc… and a pet-friendly garden which educated people on pet safe and toxic plants. Going during the winter we were expecting there to be less visitors than during the summer months. What we didn’t expect was to be the only people there with a dog! Overall, we only ran into about 3 different groups of people, so this was the perfect place to leisurely explore. We went into their children’s garden which has fun play equipment and tunnels that Odin enjoyed going in. He posed on a butterfly styled bench. He sniffed and smelled every plant he wanted to for however long he wanted. We spent 2 hours wandering around the massive park. Once we were back in the car, Odin instantly passed out showing us that the trip was a success! Tiring out a border collie is no small feat.

We had a 1 hour drive from the gardens to our Airbnb rental in Portland. We decided on an Airbnb as we know there may be more dogs out in the city and it would be nice to have a place we could take and leave Odin. If there are too many dogs in Portland, we can bring Odin back to the Airbnb while we can head back out to explore the city. We settled on an Airbnb with a large backyard so we can play frisbee with Odin to ensure he gets the necessary physical activity on these days. The house was great and the backyard provided us ample room to play frisbee. Since it has been colder in Oregon than we expected, we decided on leaving Odin crated at the Airbnb so we could grab a quick bite to eat and not have to eat outside.

Eating has been a major challenge for us this trip and I am happy to say it is not because of Odin’s reactivity. It has been rather cold in Oregon (around 40 degrees) and sitting outside is not ideal for us. For the first two nights, we ordered in and enjoyed our food in the hotel. Tonight, we decided on leaving him behind (he is fully crate trained) so we could enjoy the ambiance of eating in a restaurant in Portland.

Below are 3 strategies I have developed from first-hand experience eating out with a reactive dog.

1. Eat during off hours

Avoiding prime eating times will greatly reduce your chances of running into other dogs at restaurants. Most people eat lunch between 11 am – 2 pm and dinner between 5 pm -7 pm. Opt for a meal outside of these times to avoid the crowds.

2. Do not choose a restaurant that has a dog menu

A surefire way to determine that a restaurant gets a lot of dog traffic is if they have a dog menu. This means that they are very pet friendly and have a high amount of four legged customers. Try to choose restaurants that allow dogs but are not focused around dogs.

3. Skip the hassle and order in

Overall, this is my favorite option and it gives me an excuse to choose nice hotels with great views and a balcony. Sometimes, it is just not worth the hassle to bring out dog out to dinner. Order a pizza or from a local restaurant that you want to try. Most places will deliver to a hotel. Also, this way you get to enjoy a nice meal with you best four legged friend. So far this trip, we have ordered in twice and we are planning on doing it for the rest of the trip. We pack our own lunches, which reduces the hassle and cost of eating out, and enjoy our dinners on our hotel balconies.

Another option is to leave your dog crated wherever you are staying, however, I know for most fur-parents is the least desirable option. I choose to do this only on very few occasions and ensure that we are staying in a safe area and will not be gone for too long.

As the parent of a reactive dog, it can sometimes be hard to move away from doing things that normal dog owners get to do. However, doing things a little different can be fun. Going to a restaurant during the off hours means you avoid the lunch/dinner rush and can linger longer without the pressure of crowds. Eating in your hotel means that you can utilize the views that you are paying for. Look for the positives that come out of challenging situations. Sometimes we get too focused on the negatives and forget that being a little different than the rest of the crowd can create new and fun adventures.




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