The summer we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. After months spent indoors while the sun shone outside, we’re finally gearing up for a holiday season with less restrictions on travel within the country.
Staycations are looking to be popular this year, with Brits feeling uneasy about a sun-seeking, jet-setting break abroad following the pandemic. A staycation may feel more sensible in the current situation but, with careful planning, it’s logistically much more straightforward to bring along your four-legged friend to enjoy the adventure, too.
Having said that, in some cases, travelling and being away from home can be just as stressful for your dog as it can be for humans. Make a judgement call as to whether it’s better for them to be left while you’re away, either with someone you trust or at dog boarding – meaning less stress for them, and for you. We have created a handy guide packed with tips and checklists to help you plan a fantastic staycation for you and your dog, with as little stress as possible:
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
- Choose a destination that allows dogs and notify them in advance that you’re bringing yours.
- Questions to ask include: where will they sleep? Are they allowed in your accommodation with you? Does it have washing facilities? Is it secure?
- Plan to keep your dog’s routine as close to normal as possible. While they’ll be getting plenty of exercise on holiday, it’s also important they have room to rest, settle down and get familiar with their new surroundings
- Check the weather forecast in advance and prepare well, especially for hot weather
- Look up dog-friendly walks, pubs, parks and beaches nearby. Your accommodation provider is sure to have a list of recommendations too. Look at reviews before you go, or the accommodation guest book when you get there, as there may be some tried and tested gems in there
- Get the contact details of a local vet, and brush up on some basic dog first aid just in case
- Make sure their worming and flea treatments are up to date, especially if they’re likely to be around other dogs
⚠ LEGAL ALERT
- It's a legal requirement to have your dog micro-chipped. Before you go away ensure the details on the system are up to date
- Travel insurance doesn’t typically cover pets, so if you’re going abroad double check your pet insurance to see if your policy covers taking your dog away with you. It can cover things like injury, costs associated with cutting a trip short and repatriation costs. You may be able to temporarily extend your current cover for a one-off cost or buy a standalone policy
- Do you currently have insurance in place for your dog? It’s worth ensuring your policy includes things like injury, accidents and illness before you leave
What to pack:
- Collar and lead. Make sure their collar has identification and your phone number on it
- Portion out your dog’s food in either sealable food bags or Tupperware containers before you pack.
- A collapsible food and water bowl if you’re planning on day trips like hikes
- A dedicated water bottle for hygienic topping up on the go
- Their bed and blanket to take the smell of home with them
- Their favourite chew toys and play toys for walks
- At least two dog towels, maybe more if your trip is longer
- Waste bags, waste bags and more waste bags!
- A first aid kit including: bandages, gauze, tape, antibiotic ointment, wet wipes, towel or blanket, vaccination card and emergency phone numbers
- Any medication your dog is taking, ensuring you have enough for the whole trip. Speak to your vet in advance if you’ll need more
TRAVELLING WITH YOUR DOG
Keep them secure whilst travelling in the car.
⚠ LEGAL ALERT
The law says you must ‘suitably restrain’ them. This is for their own good as well as yours; they’re safe if you need to stop suddenly and keeps them from roaming around and distracting you. This can invalidate your insurance if you have an accident. A harness, a guard or a travelling crate are all good ways to keep them safe. A crate can also double up as a secure place for them to sleep at your accommodation
- If you have a long car journey ahead of you, it’s best to give your dog that little bit more exercise a few days leading up to it. If time allows, a long walk right before the journey
- Bring ice cubes for the journey and offer your dog one every 30 minutes or so to keep them hydrated
- Take a break and let them stretch their legs somewhere safe every few hours. Offer them a drink and the chance to have a wee break. Don’t stop too often though, or they won’t get the chance to settle down and relax
- Tempting though it may be, don’t allow your dog to hang its head out of the window as you’re driving!
HOW TO HELP YOUR DOG’S TAVEL SICKNESS
Younger dogs are more prone to experience travel sickness than older dogs. This is partly because their ears aren’t fully developed to help with balance yet. They’re also not used to the motion and sensory overload of travelling in a car. Most dogs will grow out of it, but for some travelling can cause anxiety and sickness.
Signs your dog may be feeling motion sickness include restlessness, drooling, licking their lips or being vocal, such as whining. Pay attention to these signals (or ask one of your passengers to, if you’re the one driving), so you can help or soothe them if needed. If you have children in the car too, make sure they know to give the dog some peace and quiet.
There are a few ways to prevent or minimise the effects of travel sickness for your dog:
- Avoid giving them food too soon before the journey
- Open the windows slightly to balance out the air pressure in the car
- Keep the car ventilated and cool for them
- If possible, have them facing towards the direction of travel
You don’t want your dog to associate car journeys with sickness and building up their tolerance over time can counteract that. Try shorter journeys to fun, enjoyable destinations for them like the park, and give them treats or toys that they only get when they’re in the car.
TAKING YOUR DOG CAMPING
Camping makes for a great family staycation where dogs can thrive – there are plenty of places in the UK that are dog-friendly. The great outdoors, walking routes and exercise are some dogs’ idea of heaven, plus it can be a great bonding experience for you as a family. It can be a bit testing at times, as special care and planning is needed in order to be a considerate dog owner and camper.
- Be confident in your dog’s basic training. This can make all the difference. Your dog’s recall needs to be good – other people’s tents and picnics may be too tempting to resist otherwise! It’s important that you can restrain and control your dog when there are distractions, including other dogs who may be nervous or aggressive. Barking at anti-social hours can also be a nuisance to other people. If your dog has behavioural issues, camping may not be the right choice
- Be mindful of what your dog is eating. Dogs are scavengers, it’s in their nature. Around campsites, there’s a lot of food, from meat that’s fallen from the BBQ to scraps in bins. Dogs unfortunately don’t have their own sense of “If I eat that now, I’ll pay for it later,” so you’ll need to do that on their behalf to avoid them getting an upset stomach or potentially choking on a bone. Find out more about what’s off limits for dogs at BBQs
- Keep them secure. Bring a stake for the ground to attach their lead to and keep them safe, particularly when you’re pitching the tent or preparing food, or use their travel crate
- Make sure there’s plenty of fresh water available
- Make some shade. Sometimes, especially in the hot weather, shade can be limited on campsites. Pack a windbreak or something similar, giving them somewhere to find some shade if it’s hot and use these tips for keeping your dog cool day and night. This can also be used to prevent them from getting excited or unsettled by passers-by
- Tire them out! One of the biggest stressors for you can be anticipating how they’ll respond and settle into a new environment. Fresh air, exploring and exercise in the day should mean they sleep well and relax into their surroundings
- Check regularly for ticks. If you’re going for fantastic countryside walks with either long grass or woodland, then always check your dog for ticks afterwards. They’re most commonly found in Spring and Summer when the temperature starts to rise. Find out more about how to spot them here.