This Dog Friendly Fitness Retreat, Tailors An Epic Hiking Adventure
Get back in shape with your furry best friend
Looking for a dog friendly fitness retreat or weight loss camp? Good for you! Few things compare to spending your precious vacation time with your dog.
It’s a hard search on google to find a health retreat where you can bring your dog without compromising the benefits of your stay. Most people enjoy active travel as a way to get a fresh start on their wellness. They want ‘pet friendly’ to actually mean it… no extra charges and a sense of freedom for both of you.
With this level of hospitality extended to my four legged guests, I’m proud to have built a unique dog friendly fitness retreat experience in B.C., Canada.
In this article you’ll learn:
- The pros and cons of bringing your dog with you on your trip
- How to travel with your dog into Canada
- The best Whistler Fitness Vacations packages for dogs
- How to make your dog feel at home and not stressed.
- Detailed comparison of pet friendly weight loss retreats in North America
First, a little introduction.
There’s nobody in this world that will be more THRILLED that you’re getting back into top physical condition than your beloved fur-baby. You can probably already imagine the circles they will spin when they learn that Mumma is going for yet-another-walk on this rainy Tuesday afternoon.
My name is Cat Smiley – I own a travel company that runs plus sized outdoor fitness and weight loss retreats for women. With both private and small group options available, from April to September in Whistler, B.C., you can work with me either daily, weekly or monthly. If you’re not plus-sized, you’re still welcome to come! We’re size inclusive and can modify workouts to be more challenging. My programs are designed to feel like utopia for plus sized women. Curvy is the standard, not the modification!
Oh – let me tell you about my puppies! The little guy is Paco, he’s really not suited to join me at work, so only Bear works with me.
More than a handful of times, I’d been packing my bags for an exciting trip with bitter-sweet emotions.
My dogs, Bear (now) and Manchas, my trustee trail dog of 12 years… they’d either crawl into my bag, curling up into my unpacked clothes. As fun as the dog boarding was, they just felt so CRUSHED that we were going to be spending time apart. I felt so guilty to not take them with me.
The pros and cons of traveling with your dog!
According to Market Research, 32 percent of pet owners take their pets on trips two nights or more. That’s almost half of the 80 million families in America that own pets. Exercising together makes your bond even greater, slimming you both down and making you feel healthier. They love a good chase around the park, as you know… and new parks? Oh boy! Even more fun!
Peace of mind is probably the biggest benefit of having your dog with you. There can be anxiety wondering if the sitters are being responsible, or the boarding kennel is nice. When in a new town, having pup with you can motivate you to get out more and explore! What restaurants have dog friendly patios? Let’s find out!
Dog friendly travel is about as common as free wifi now, with the hospitality industry expected to be on board with four legged guests. Yet bringing your dog on a trip usually gets them lots of attention from flight attendants and hotel staff. They’ll usually be totally spoiled, with gourmet cookies, extra blankets and lots of belly rubs.
Cons of bringing your dog to a health retreat
Some hotels that advertise themselves as pet friendly really are not.
If I’m traveling with my dog, I don’t want to crate them in the room when I’m not there. Or walk for miles to the nearest grass area. There shouldn’t be an extra ‘cleaning fee’ for guests who stay with their dog, but often there is. Look for hotels where pets can stay for free – in Whistler, that’s the Westin, Fairmont and Four Seasons.
Pet airline travel can be expensive, usually its over $100 one way for an in-cabin pet. Larger dogs (like my Bear) are too big to travel in a carrier bag. Some airports don’t have very good pet facilities to relieve themselves.
Lastly, dogs love routine and sometimes unfamiliar territory and people can make them nervous. Excessive barking is a no-go with hotels as you’ll disturb their other patrons.
How to travel with your dog into Canada
Dogs older than 3 months need a rabies certificate. Below is the official statement from the immigration website.
Domestic or pet dogs may enter Canada if accompanied by a valid rabies vaccination certificate. A licensed veterinarian must issue the certificate in English or French and clearly identify the dog by breed, color, weight, etc.
The certificate must state that the pet is currently vaccinated against rabies and indicate the trade name of the rabies vaccine used, including serial number and duration of validity (up to three years). The vaccination will be considered valid for one year, unless otherwise indicated.
There’s no quarantine for pets coming into Canada, from any country however check the airline requirements carefully. Sometimes they also need a current health certificate.
Packing your dogs suitcase
Here are the essentials:
- Collapsible dog bowls. Bring a spare in case you lose one. This will save you from spending valuable vacation time wandering around trying to find a place that sells them.
- Two leashes, and a harness for comfortable walking. Nobody likes to be choked!
- Enough dog food, so that you don’t have to switch brands.
- Favorite toys and blanket.
- Vaccination records
- First aid kit
- Poop bags
Other things! Get your dog microchipped before you travel. Your vet will painlessly insert the chip, so that the shelter can help return your pet to you. This is their permanent ID. Also make sure you’ve always got your phone within service range, in case you need to call a vet.
The best Whistler Fitness Vacations packages for dogs
Both you and your furbaby will be excited for new beginnings after spending time at our health retreat.
Our day camps customize a bespoke personal fitness experience in our towns best pet friendly hiking trails, based on your ability. You can book the day camp program for as long as you need. Perhaps turn it into a private version of our signature 4-week intensive!
It also includes transportation each day to the trail. This is a private booking that can be shared with up to 3 of your closest friends and family, who might also have dogs! Dogs should be able to walk up to 4 hours in undulating terrain, and need to be on leash at all times.
Learn about the Private Outdoor Fitness Experience – all day camp.
Where to walk your dog in Whistler
- The Valley Trail is the main one. This is 40+ km of winding paved trail all around the valley. The best times are very early morning as during the day it gets hectically busy with skateboards, e-bikes, and commuters peddling to work.
- Lost Lake Park is popular and close to both the Fairmont and the Four Seasons. There’s both single track trails and gravel, plus theres a nice dog park for swimming.
- Cheakamus River trails in the Whistler Interpretive Forest have many wonderful single tracks by a gorgeous river. Sometimes you’ll see kayakers making their way down the white waters. The trailhead is about 20 minutes south of the village.
- The Flank trail stretches across the valley, from north to south. It’s got entrance and exit points at various spots along the way, which makes it a good choice as you can do as much as you feel. It goes for long stretches without access to a river that your dog can drink out of, so be sure to bring enough water.
Standard Whistler dog rules
There’s a locals joke that so many Whistlerites have dog because ‘its too expensive to have children!’ With the ridiculously high cost of living, housing, and base essentials like groceries, four legged kids seem more realistic for many. With miles of trails, dog beaches and some of the best parks in the Country, it’s truly paradise for a dog.
There are a few standard things to know:
- Dogs need to be on-leash all the time, even though you’ll see off-leash dogs EVERYWHERE. The rules are that they need to be on-leash. We’ve got over 50 tagged bears in our community and if your out-of-town dog chases one, it’s not going to end well.
- While there are loads of dog friendly trails, the signature trails – including alpine – aren’t dog friendly. This is because there’s cliffs, rubble, sensitive wildlife and on Rainbow Mountain, the towns water supply.
- If visiting Whistler you need a valid license from the community where you permanently reside. This will help your dog get found. If your dog doesn’t have a license, and it gets put in the pound, the cost of release is waaaaaay more expensive. Bottom line – don’t come to Whistler without your dog being licensed.
- Lost your dog? Call the shelter on 604-935-8364. Whistler Animals Galore (WAG). If they’re closed, call Bylaw on 604-935-8280. Locals trick is also to call the cab companies and ask them to dispatch their drivers.
How to make your dogs vacation happier
Definitely bring your dogs food from home, changing their meal routine might bring on some anxiety and/or stomach upsets. Bring also your dogs favourite toys and blankets – the hotels will provide a comfortable bed and feeding bowls.
Most hotels don’t allow you to leave your dog in the room unattended, and there’s usually a hefty fine for anyone found breaking the rule. Yet even if you’re allowed to leave your dog in the room it’s a good idea not to. It’s an unfamiliar surrounding, and the housekeeper coming in might be quite scary for them.
If your dog is nervous they’ll pant more, and this will make them drink more. Make sure you’ve got portable water bowls and extra water on hand, especially if out hiking or driving.
The drive time from Vancouver International Airport to Whistler central is at least 2 hours usually. If there’s an accident on the highway or weather elements, even longer. Bring extra water in case, and stop for breaks along the way. There’s lots of gorgeous places to stop!
“Hola, I’m happy here. Love Manchas.”
Manchas was a street dog on his last few weeks of life, that we found in the garbage on a back street in Mexico. The sweet boy was severely underweight and had extreme anaemia. My partner and I took him to the vet to give him some shots, and miscommunicated that we wanted to adopt him (Spanish is no bueno).
With the paperwork back-dated to meet airline requirements for an extra 50 pesos, and the vet ringing up the crate he had on the counter, the split second decision of ‘yes, credit card’ was one that would change the course of our lives.
I could not have asked for a better fresh start, for myself or him. Flying back to Canada was easy, with Alaska Airlines baggage handlers giving me a note that read “Hola, I’m happy here. Love Manchas.”
Everything made sense in that moment.
Beautiful brown eyes, that you cannot say no to
For the next 12 years my beautiful boy came to work with me everyday – either to boot camp, personal training or on the trails.
SIDE NOTE: He had a facebook page (now deleted). When he said his goodbyes to the friends he’d met along the way, he had over 30,000 views of his video and over 1500 comments from folks he’d touched along the way. Special guy.
I didn’t have the heart to bring him on a plane again. I felt like he might think I was bringing him back to Mexico. He was forever stressed whenever he saw the crate, or saw our suitcases. Instead, we traveled without him when we went on trips. Pet friendly travel wasn’t as popular back then as it is now.
Thankfully travel trends for active travel that is pet-friendly is at an all time high!
Whistler Fitness Vacations has always been a draw for dog lovers who travel, which is why I’m sharing my back story. It’s important for me to share my authenticity in business decisions, as it comes from a personal place. As a health retreat owner, I’ve take my responsibility seriously to provide a comfortable environment for all our guests. This includes those who don’t like dogs, those that love them (or have them), and those that are them!
That’s Bear, below – very similar looking to above, without the brown markings. He’s a certified support animal. This makes it easier around guests as he’s trained to be ‘at work’ (the cue word) when at work.
Teaching your dog not to chase wildlife
Whistler is not as populated with wildlife as some other mountain resorts simply because we have so much tourism on the trails. However training your dog to be reliable is definitely important, including coming when called. Even though our Whistler hiking tours are dog friendly, they need to be on a leash. And if the dog is pulling you to chase a bear up ahead on the trail… well, it’s not so good.
Chasing is normal behaviour for dogs. The best way to deal with it is to give dogs an opportunity to chase toys whenever wildlife is around. Teach your dog that if she sees an animal (deer, crow, squirrel etc.), they should expect that you will throw a toy to chase instead. It’s easier to teach a dog, “chase this, not that” than it is to teach a dog not to chase at all. Use a squeaky toy and squeak before you toss it. Karen B. London, PhD, Certified Professional Dog Trainer.
Comparison of dog friendly weight loss retreats in North America
Whistler Fitness Vacations is definitely leading the way in dog friendly fitness retreats, in fact it’s our highest ranking search on google at the time of writing this post. It was nice to research this topic for you guys and have my own website appear as #1!
- Sparkling Hill Resort allows small dogs only, $25 per pet, per night.
- Red Mountain Resort charges $30 per pet, per night. Like our program, dogs aren’t allowed in the gym, spa or dining rooms. They’re not allowed to join program activities.
- Fit Farm in Tennassee have a kennel facility onsite. They charge $25 per dog per night, with dogs able to workout with you.
Cat Smiley Retreats & Coaching (you’re on our site right now) customizes an epic hiking week – or extended dog friendly fitness retreat – for you and pup. Includes transportation to the trails each day. You can workout with your dog, just like the Fit Farm program, and if you’re staying in a pet friendly hotel, there’s no extra charge. The program is curated especially for you as this is a private booking.
Want a group booking?
Whistler Fitness Vacations 4-week intensive allows dogs to stay with you for no extra charge, but you need to find boarding during the day. This is about $15 per dog, per hour which can be costly – pet sitters are in hot demand in Whistler. I recommend booking early!
Click here to learn about our customized health, hiking, weight loss pet friendly fitness retreat program!
Benefits Of Exercising With Your Dog
Often overweight dog owners have overweight dogs… it’s somewhat connected. Getting in shape with your dog increases the bond between you along with a host of other benefits:
- Slows the dogs aging process
- Improves their metabolism
- Regulates their sleep and appetite
- Makes them happy!
- Prevents obesity related problems
People have always enjoyed health retreats, taking time away from their home life to focus on shaping up. Now, more than ever, bringing your best friend and personal companion along will increase the longevity and fun of your fitness benefits! Think about it, when you go home, guess who’ll want to go for a walk!? Right now, come on, let’s go! What better personal trainer.