Planning a pet-friendly holiday
Better weather means that lots of us will be going on minibreaks in the UK. For those of us with furry family members, our plans have to allow for their care. Decisions must be made such as whether you’ll put them in a kennel, cattery or other boarding establishment.
Do you employ a pet sitter to visit your house and take care of them, or rely on a friend, neighbour or family member to pop in? Some people can’t bear to leave their pet behind, and for them it is crucial to find a dog-friendly holiday destination.
Generally it’s more practical to bring a dog on holiday than any other animal. Cats are likely to wander, which could be risky in an unfamiliar environment, while fish and small pets will be stressed by the travel. Unless there is a medical reason to do so it is probably safer, and wiser, to seek alternative care for any such pets.
Additionally, if you are travelling abroad it can be a hassle to bring your pet along and it can be more stress for your pet than is necessary. Weigh up pros and cons of taking your pet on holiday and try to be objective and balanced when you make your decision. If, however, you are holidaying in the UK, dogs can really enjoy the opportunity to explore new environments, find new smells and be part of family time.
Picking a destination
When choosing your destination it can be easy to get distracted by photographs of beautiful cottages and sunny beaches, but if you’re intent on taking your dog with you it’s important to have them as a priority. Use a search engine that allows you to filter results with the condition that accommodation allows pets to avoid disappointment. Some cottages and hotels will allow dogs for an increased deposit and/or additional fee.
It’s also wise to do some prior planning to ensure that any sightseeing or activities are pet-friendly, or that you could complete them in enough time to leave your dog at the accommodation without causing any distress. Ceramic painting, visits to local museums and shopping excursions are all time-flexible, and allow you to schedule your activities around your dog’s needs. Also, bear in mind that you will need to get from your home to this destination. Factor in your travel arrangements when you choose your destination.
If you’d like to do something with your dog they will always enjoy a good walk, especially if you’ve gone somewhere with exiting scents and environments like a beach or the countryside. Again, advance planning is crucial, as some beaches do not allow dogs for hygiene reasons, and some walking routes will run along fields with livestock. If your dog has a prey drive or is unused to farm animals it’s best to keep them on a lead or avoid these routes altogether.
Bring plenty of poo bags and be prepared not to encounter a refuse bin for long stretches if you’re walking in remote areas. It may be sensible to consider a product like the Dickie Bag which allows you to carry your dog’s waste conveniently and hygienically until you reach an appropriate place to dispose of it.
If your dog is anxious about car travel then it is best to work on this in the preceding weeks and to take short, regular breaks on the journey, especially if you’re going a long way. If you’re travelling by train or any other means of transport it’s prudent to confirm that dogs are allowed by the travel provider. The last thing you want is to have your dog refused entry when you’re attempting to get to your destination! Many train and bus companies do allow dogs, though it’s important to remember that your dog will need to have a toilet break at some point in the journey to avoid any accidents.
Try to travel at off-peak times as your dog may be refused entry, or you may be asked to alight if the train is too crowded. You may also be asked to leave if your dog is causing upset, distress or disturbance to other passengers. Try and make your travel arrangements as far in advance as possible.
Your dog will probably relish the opportunity to explore new places and make new friends, but if they are an anxious sort they will probably benefit from a few creature comforts. At the very least you’ll need the basics: food and water bowls, a bed, food and a lead.
They will also need to wear their collar and ID tag when they’re out and about as required by law. To be on the safe side it might be wise to keep their collar on for the duration of the trip, especially while travelling, in case they get lost. It might even be worth getting an extra ID tag printed with details of where you will be staying and how to contact you during your holiday. This way if you do get separated you have the best chance of being reunited. You can even get clip-on capsules that you can attach to their collar, which are big enough to hold a piece of paper with all of the relevant contact information.
This may be preferable if you regularly take your dog on various holidays as it is reusable. They’re available in various shapes, colours and materials, though we would recommend one made of aluminium as it would be lightweight and durable. Affix it to the collar with a sturdy ring and check it’s attached every time you take your dog out to make sure it hasn’t dropped off or got caught on anything.
Of course, it’s not the end of the world if you forget the odd thing as most places you visit will have a pet shop. However, you might benefit from making a list and ticking things off as you pack them. You could even get your dog their very own suitcase with travel essentials. This will work especially well if they have a blanket or cushion in their bed that you can take everywhere as a comforter.
Unfortunately dog thefts are on the rise, particularly among pedigree and 'bully' breeds. It’s a lucrative business and dog thieves can be incredibly sneaky and devious in their attempts to separate you and your beloved pet. Use social media and internet news outlets to your advantage and research the area you plan to visit. If there has been a spate of dognappings then it may be better to look elsewhere. It is also a good idea to check for any stories of unexplained deaths or parasitic illnesses in the area, for example a town in Wiltshire has recently seen a number of poison-related deaths which are still unexplained.
Be careful and make your dog’s health and safety a priority.