The days are getting longer, the sun is shining, and the weather is becoming warmer. It’s time to start planning holidays; new places to visit, different people to meet and a break from routine. Our dogs are very important members of the family and must be included in our holiday plans. But should they really be joining you on your trip?
Taking your dog on holiday seems so simple, but we need to consider several things before embarking on a two-week break to the coast. The first one is ‘Will my dog enjoy the time away from home’? Some dogs may find it difficult to adapt to changes in environment and routine. A dog lacking in confidence may not be able to cope with meeting new people, dogs and exuberant children. Making your dog face these new situations could be unbearable for him/her and an inappropriate reaction could result in tragic consequences.
Older dogs, and those with health problems, can become very disorientated and may become anxious and fearful in new environments. They no longer have the safety and security of familiar surroundings and normal routines. Sight-seeing and exploring means the family could be constantly ‘on the go’ and an old dog or a dog with health problems may simply not have the stamina to cope with the increase in activity. To leave him or her in an unfamiliar and strange place may be very bewildering. The car is not an alternative – as we all know the dangers of leaving dogs in cars during the summer months.
Dogs, just like us, can suffer from heatstroke. If the weather is going to be very hot, you will need to ensure that your dog is adequately hydrated by making sure that he/she has access to fresh, cold water and is able to relax in the shade, preferably on a cool floor. Pavements can become extremely hot and can burn a dog’s paws; don’t think that by getting your dog to lie under a table whilst you have a cool beer or ice cream will make him/her any more comfortable.
So, now we turn to travel. Is your dog used to long journeys, be they in a car, train or ferry? In your holiday plans and preparations, you should begin introducing your dog to these situations, your dog needs to feel safe and secure and be safe and secure!! Get a check-up at the vet. Not every dog will be suited to these types of transport, some may find it too stressful. If your dog is travel sick, your vet may be able to help with medication but you need to think ‘Is it fair to take your dog on a long journey?’
Think about the journey. By law, you must not transport your dog in a way that causes or is likely to cause, injury or unnecessary suffering. Your dog must be safely and securely restrained whilst travelling in a vehicle. This will ensure that your dog is safe should you have to brake suddenly, but it also keeps your dog safe when a door is unexpectedly opened. You may wish to use a travel harness or a travel crate. Whatever you use, you should make sure that your dog has enough room to sit and stand up, turn around and lie in a comfortable position and make sure that the airflow for your dog is not restricted by all your travel luggage!!
Journeys are long and tedious for us and this is no different for our dogs. Make sure that your dog is familiar with the mode of transport you are going to be using. If you are travelling by car, make sure your dog is happy to travel in the car and is used to long journeys. If you are travelling by train, check with the train operator as to how your dog should travel and remember that train stations are very noisy places, make sure you have accustomed your dog to this environment. Some ferry operators expect you to leave your dog in the car during the crossing and you may not be able to check on your dog during the journey; again, you should check with the operator.
If, having considered all this, you feel that your holiday might be too stressful for your dog, then it might be better to leave him/her at home, being cared for by a responsible adult.
Once you have decided that your dog is able to join you on your holiday, before you book, check that your holiday destination is dog friendly and that there are no specific requirements in relation to dogs. After all, if your dog chases cats, it’s too late once you arrive to find out that the owners have two resident cats!!!
You’re nearly on your way!!
- Check with your vet that your dog is fit to travel and make sure that he/she is up to date with vaccinations, worm and flea treatments.
- Although your dog is microchipped, all your details will relate to your home address, so you should make sure you get an identity tag with your holiday address and your name and mobile phone number, so that your dog can be reunited with you as quickly as possible should he/she go missing while you are away.
- Make sure you have enough food and medication (if needed) for the whole time you are away. Any interruption/change of diet may cause digestion problems for your dog.
- Ensure you have plenty of water for your dog throughout the journey and provide regular opportunities for your dog to relieve him/herself. You should have poo bags at the ready!! If the journey is very long, make sure that you have a portion of your dog’s food on hand.
- Pack your dog’s food and water bowl, collar and lead, bed and blanket, toys, favourite chews and treats, poo bags and towels to dry him/her off.
Once you arrive
- Get the contact details of the local vet – you then won’t be panicking if you need their help.
- Put your dog’s bed in a quiet area and allow your dog to settle into the new surroundings. It is going to be a busy couple of weeks and your dog will need to have a safe area to relax in.
- Allow your dog to settle in – try to stick as much as possible to your home routine (at least for a couple of days). This will help your dog to adjust to his/her new surroundings.
- Don’t let your dog off the lead until you have explored the area, there may be hidden hazards and/or livestock. If in doubt, keep your dog on the lead.
- There may be occasions when it is not safe or suitable for a dog to join in with some activities such as fun fairs, boat trips etc. Be prepared for one of the family to take your dog for a walk rather than leaving him/her in the car. You have made the decision to bring your dog with you on holiday so make sure that he/she has a great time as well as you!