Whilst it's true we all love a good family holiday, to many of us our dogs are cherished members of the family and leaving them behind seems unfair. Fortunately it's now easier than ever to bring them with you on holiday as more and more places understand the need to cater for our four legged travellers. So if you're one of those thinking about treating your dog to a well deserved break you will need to do your homework first. Planning ahead is essential, and can often be difficult for first time pet travellers, which is why we have compiled the top 10 most important things for you to consider when taking your dog on holiday.
Before you go
1. Consider your dogs needs
It goes without saying choosing the right place to stay for you should be important, as it should be for any other member of your travelling party, but your decision should also be governed by how suitable it is for your dogs needs. Don't be naive when reading "we allow dogs" on the website and accepting it as the gospel truth. You should always ring ahead before any booking to confirm their pets policy has not changed. Ask any questions that might relate to your dog if they have any specific needs. This is your chance to make sure they will be welcome, so check the number of dogs they allow, or whether they have any specific restrictions of size and breed. Most places don't normally allow them to be left alone in the rooms so it would be useful to find out if this applies to you. Otherwise you might need to think about alternative options for your dog.
2. Arrange a visit to the vet
It's important to book your dog in for a general health check up at least once every year. Arranging a visit to the vet prior to a trip away is especially important as your dog may come into contact with other animals that may carry fleas, ticks or worms. Getting the all clear and being up to date with your dogs flea treatment will go a long way to keeping them happy and healthy. If your canine isn't already microchipped, then it's strongly advisable to consider having this done too while at the vet. This normally costs between £10-40 at a veterinary practice, or if you live near a Dogs Trust, you can get the procedure done for free if you book far enough in advance. You should also use this time to take a look at the details of your pet insurance. It's always a good idea to cover your holiday against your pets falling ill, so if this does unfortunately happen, you won't be out of pocket.
3. Plan an itinerary before you go
Locating dog friendly accommodation is just the beginning. You'll need to think about the bigger picture. Before you go create an itinerary of places to visit and things you'd like to do. Research a selection of restaurants and cafés which will allow you to bring your four legged friend. No one wants to waste time walking around on an empty stomach searching for places that will allow your dog. Use internet resources like dogfriendlycotswolds.co.uk to fine tune the details and ensure your holiday is a walk in the park. Remember, preparation and organisation is the key for any successful trip away.
4. Plan for all emergencies
As with your itinerary, you should also plan for all emergencies. Whilst this can be an unsettling thought for dog owners, it would be dangerously naive to assume everything will be okay. By planning for every eventuality, you'll be better equipped at dealing with the situation at hand. Start by researching the areas you plan to visit. Make sure you know where all the nearest vets are to you (it would be wise to print off the directions and keep them in the car before you go). You can also find out online about the local services available to you in the area. Local dog sitters and boarding kennels are often useful in times when you can't take your pooch with you.
5. Make a list of essential items
Make a list of everything your dog will need, write it down, then cross it off as you pack it. Think of it like an inventory list. Go through your itinerary and identify all the items you'll need for each occasion. Some of the more obvious items you'll need are: food/water bowl, leash, collar, ID tags, dog waste bags, bed, shampoo and an old towel. Whilst you may be happy to shop for any items you forget to bring, there could be things you leave behind which may not be available to buy. Things to think about are: any medication your dog is on, or might need in the event of an emergency. Photographs of your dog is highly recommended in case they get lost (you'll have a much better chance of finding them if you can show people what they look like). Also, make sure you pack enough dog food for the entire trip. It's not a guarantee where you're going will stock their normal brand, and a sharp change in their diet might cause an upset stomach. Write all of these into your list and you'll be able to enjoy your holiday with peace of mind.
6. Teach your dog basic commands
The last thing you want on holiday is to be chasing after an unruly dog, causing embarrassment and potentially dangerous situations. The sad fact is not everyone loves our loyal best friends like we do or want them jumping up at them (even if we know they're only saying hello). If you can master your hound's obedience before you go away it will give you more control. Teach your dog basic commands like Sit, Come, Settle and Stay, then test them in distracting environments for training purposes. As with anything, perfect equals patience and practise. Reward them when they follow your commands and soon enough you won't need to fear letting them off the lead in public open spaces.
During your holiday
7. Travelling with your dog
If you're travelling by car make sure your dog is familiar with the experience. If they aren't well-versed to long car journeys, take them out for shorter journeys before to get them used to the car environment. Safety is crucial. For your dogs sake and your own, they must be secured down. Crating is a good safe solution as it restricts their movement and stops them distracting the driver. Dog harnesses offer another good alternative but you must always position them away from any airbags. During the journey you should aim to stop every two hours to allow them to stretch their legs. For those sensitive canines who suffer with motion sickness it would wise to keep remedies in the car (this is another good item to write on your inventory list) and avoid feeding them near to the time of travel.
8. Settling in your dog
As soon as you reach your destination, one of the first things you should do is take your dog out for a long walk to familiarise them with their foreign surroundings. It'll be just what they need after a long car journey and will help to de-stress them, tiring them out in the process. Avoid leaving your dog alone for too long as this can really unsettle them. Though they might act fine in your company, left alone and feeling confused they can quickly fear the worst. This may lead them to scratching and destroying furniture which could end up being costly to you.
9. Keep to routine
Generally most dogs can adapt quite quickly to different environments, however that's not always the case and shouldn't be assumed as a given. If you're taking your dog on holiday with you for the first time, you should be wary about how they might respond to the sudden change. It's important to keep as many constants in their routine as possible. Your doggies favourite toy or blanket will serve as a reminder of home and provides a good distraction that can help calm them in unfamiliar surroundings. Keep meal times roughly the same time as you would at home. For more extreme cases of homesickness you can use Rescue Remedy or DAP spray (a dog appeasing pheromone) to help settle their anxiety. Always take note of your dogs behaviour as this will be a clear indication of how they're feeling.
10. Be vigilant about your dogs safety
You're now on holiday, you've had time to unpack and the pooch has fully acclimatised. At this point it's easy to switch off to the potential dangers as you begin to unwind and slip into holiday mode. The most important thing to remember is always be vigilant about your dogs safety. Don't get complacent or naive just because you're out of the realms of your normal life. Be precautious while walking in areas you don't know particularly well, or where there are obvious hazards such as: busy roads, cliff edges or around other animals. Be aware of your dogs attitude towards other dogs and take this into account when out in public. Knowing when to keep them on the lead is vitally important.
This guide is intended for those who take up residency in the UK. If you are travelling to The Cotswolds from overseas there are certain requirements you must meet in order to bring your dog into the country. For more information about the overseas regulations click through on https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/overview.