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Holiday with Your Dog

Jun 28, 2024

Taking your dog on holiday – what you need to know!

As both dog ownership, and domestic holidays both soared during and after the pandemic, it’s no surprise that more and more people are choosing to take their beloved pets on holiday with them. However, it’s not always plain sailing- going on holiday with your dog (or multiple dogs) can be a hindrance, from preventing access to certain attractions, to stressing the dog out so badly, they’d have been happier at home or at a boarder/kennel.

Luckily, our trainer Ellie has been on many UK-holidays with her Kelpie Riddle, and just started her first summer of double-dog adventures as Norah Sprout joined the crew. In this latest blog, Ellie’s here to share all the tips & tricks she’s learnt over the years to create stress-free trips for humans and dogs!

 

Making your Booking

Obviously the first thing you need to decide is what type of accommodation will be best for you and your dog. Many hotels are dog-friendly these days, but personally I avoid establishments with anyone else staying in them. Holidays are for relaxing, and the comings and goings of hotels or B&B’s are likely to set even well-trained dogs off barking. It’s not relaxing to be asking your dog to settle repeatedly every time someone innocently enters or exits another room. My preference, therefore, is to choose a campsite, or a self-contained accommodation such as an Air BnB. Let’s begin with the former.

Camping is LOADS of fun for most dogs, the feeling of being outdoors all day is like one long walk, and as long as you are prepared (read on!!) it’s very easy to find a site which will be suitable for your dog….but how do you tell?!

On sites and apps like PitchUp, you can filter the results so it only shows dog friendly sites, sounds like a done deal, right?
Well, personally I go a step further. Even if you have a campervan or motorhome (as opposed to just a tent), you want to AVOID sites called “Touring Sites” or that say they are only for caravans or campers. These sites tend to have allocated pitches which are marked out with paint or rope, meaning you can’t choose where you camp. This means if you happen to be next to a lady with 6 yappy Shih tzus (yes this is a true story that happened to me), you are stuck and your dog isn’t going to have a great time.

Instead, I always pick a “camp anywhere” tent pitch with parking by the tent, as my awning can count as a tent and my van is my one permitted vehicle. With this option, you can position yourself wherever is best for you and your dog, whether that’s right next to the toilet block or miles away from the sheep in the next field!

What about Air BnB’s etc? Again, the site will give you the option to filter for dog-friendly places, but always check
further. There is nothing more liberating than being on holiday and being able to leave the doors open for the dogs and know they can’t get out. Not all dog-friendly places have this facility and you’ll be gutted if you turn up and your dog has to be on lead as soon as you exit the property. Look for phrases like “enclosed courtyard”, “private, secure garden” etc. Personally, I always look in the long description for things the owner has written about dogs- this is a great sign they probably have dogs themselves and understand what it’s like, rather than just permitting them! Don’t forget to read the reviews, too- you may find useful information about going with dogs.

 

Preparation

Planning prevents poor performance – be prepared! There are 3 main areas you want to focus on in the weeks before your trip.

1. Training
No surprises, it’s the top of the list! Go back to the basics- recall, lead walking, settling on their bed, and self-control.
Even well-trained dogs who respond well on your daily walks may find it harder to concentrate in new  environments, so make sure your core skills are as strong as they can be before you go away.
There may be additional things to consider, too- most Air BnB’s don’t allow dogs on the furniture for example- will this be an issue for your dog? If so, time to start training that before going on a holiday with your dog!
Think about the situations you may encounter on your holiday and train for them in advance so it’s easy when you get there!

2. Socialisation
When we talk about socialisation, we don’t mean getting your dog to meet loads of other dogs! On trips away it’s likely you’ll want your dog to ignore other dogs, especially while on lead- seaside towns in particular get a very high footfall of dog owners in the summer and if your dog is pulling to greet every one, you’ll get very frustrated.
But it’s not just dogs- if you’re heading to the countryside you’ll likely encounter livestock- sheep, cows, horses etc. How does your dog react to those at the moment? If they are interested, do some desensitisation work before you go. Remember: your dog should ALWAYS be on lead when livestock are present, even if the livestock is placid and you trust your own knowledge of dog behaviour. Please follow the countryside code!
If your dog is nervous or reactive to other dogs or people, you’re probably already working on that. You may need to plan your holiday activities around them a little, and that’s totally fine- just think ahead and put their needs first. For example, on Norah Sprout’s first trip, she was still a bit dog-reactive, so we went to the beach at sunset once most people had gone home. This little adjustment made all the difference- Riddle still got to run to her heart’s content, and Norah felt safe, so we all had a great time, and we didn’t miss anything!

3. Habituation
If your dog doesn’t have pre-existing worries, the main thing you’ll want to habituate your dog to in advance is busy areas. Once a week, take them to a busy shopping area, or a  popular local beach etc. Take things at their pace and make sure you’re reading their body language. If you listen to your dog, they’ll know you have their back and when it comes to the big trip, they will take it all in their stride.
You may also need to habituate them to any new equipment- have they been inside a tent before? Will they need to wear a harness if they don’t usually do so? What about a life jacket? Get your dog used to these before your holiday by working slowly and pairing with positive experiences.

Packing

So you’ve found your location, got your dog prepared and it’s time to get packed! What do you need for your dog to have a safe & happy time?

General
You’ll need more dog towels than you think, and always take your dog’s own bed and blankets so they have the scent of home and some familiarity to reduce any worry or stress they may feel. Ensure they have their collar on with up-to-date details on their tag. Personally even though my dogs are usually naked when not out for a walk, on holiday their tags stay on 24/7 just in case. Make sure you have their medication and the number of the local emergency vet to hand, too!

Food, Chews & Treats
If your dog is fresh or raw fed then obviously the biggest concern is having access to fridges/freezers. If you’re camping, there are a couple of sites (I can highly recommend Nicholaston Farm in the Gower) which have these facilities, but it’s not common in my experience. In these cases, you could try a freeze-dried raw. This process gives you the benefits of raw with the convenience of kibble, but make sure you trial your dog on it at home first! You don’t want to find out on holiday that a new food doesn’t agree with your dog. Don’t forget their bowls!
You will also need more natural chews than usual to help settle your dog and/or keep them occupied at times when you’re not able to actively interact with them etc.
I always tend to use way more training treats on holiday as I want to ensure my dogs are being reinforced at a higher rate than they would necessarily be on our usual walks, as the environment is probably going to be trickier due to livestock and busy pedestrian areas etc. We also always find loads of cool spots to practice Urban Freestyle so extra treats are often needed for that.

 

Tethering
If you are camping or staying in accommodation without a secure garden, then it’s likely your dog will need to be tethered, so you don’t have to be constantly holding the lead while you’re pottering about your pitch etc. Dog tether stakes or ground anchors are what you want to search for. Remember though- these are for supervised use- never leave your dog alone on a tether!

 

Harnesses
This may be a given for you if your dog always wears a harness, but if they are usually walked on a collar I would highly recommend taking a harness anyway, especially if they are young and excitable. For me, my dog is trained to walk nicely on a collar and she is allowed to pull on harness. This flexibility allows her to have some time off from being expected to walk to heel the entire time. In my experience, being away means there are loads more situations where she can’t be off lead due to cliff edges, livestock, or local byelaws. The harness allows us to relax and not worry about “breaking” our loose lead training. It’s also great for hillwalking as they can give you a bit of help near the top!!

 

Activity Equipment
Depending on what activities you have planned for your holidays, your dog may require special equipment. If you are going into open water on paddle boards or small boats, your dog should have a lifejacket. If you are planning on walking in remote areas and have a medium or large dog, it’s a good idea to have a dog evacuation kit or carry sling which allows you to essentially wear your dog back down the mountain rather than trying to carry them in case of emergency.
I also take coats and jackets for my dogs for the chilly evenings outdoors and just in case we get stranded somewhere remote overnight.

Arriving on Holiday with your dog

The first thing I do when I arrive is show my dogs where to toilet. Most dogs need the loo after a car journey so getting them straight there sets you up to succeed and allows them to be comfortable straight away.
Next, we do an on-lead perimeter walk. I want my dogs to know where the exits are, where any other dogs might be camping and generally get a feel for where we are.
I always think dogs must think cars and vans are like magical portals where all of a sudden, they wake up somewhere brand new! This must be quite overwhelming for some dogs so I want to ensure they are as familiar as possible with their surroundings before being expected to relax and sleep there!

Once that’s done, we do any setting up and/or unpacking we might need to do, then find the nearest off-lead walk and give them a massive blast. I don’t want to exhaust them, but I certainly want to get rid of any excess energy and show the dogs that this place is
AMAZING, and we are going to have lots of fun. First impressions count and if they have a really great walk in the first hour of being somewhere, they tend to have an optimistic attitude about the rest of the trip.

The Holiday Itself

Obviously what you choose to do on your holiday with your dog is a personal preference, and luckily finding dog-friendly establishments is pretty easy these days. Lots of pubs and cafes will be happy to accommodate you but if you are planning to eat, always call the pub about the dog first- they will often seat you in the bar area. If you arrive and your dog isn’t welcome you’ll be stuck between choosing to leave the dog in a hot vehicle, or having to walk away.
Sadly, most days out like theme parks and other attractions do not allow dogs, so bear this in mind when planning.
Don’t worry though, the best entertainment with your dog will be playing Urban Freestyle in new places with cool backdrops for your videos!

You will also want to find the best dog walking areas around where you’re staying. I absolutely love the AllTrails app for this, it allows you to filter for a huge number of walk features- from waterfalls to pubs on route! It’s a great resource to find off-the-beaten-track walks to enjoy with your canine companion!

As above, please always stick to the countryside code, keep dogs on lead when around livestock and stick to public footpaths. You are not Theresa May, so please don’t walk through crop fields either!

 

Happy Holiday with Your Dog!

With a little planning, travelling with our dogs can be the most joyous experience. Since getting Riddle, I have only been abroad once but I can honestly say I’ve had more adventures and seen more gorgeous beaches and spectacular scenery in the last 6 years than I ever did before!
The UK is an absolutely beautiful place once you get out of the cities, and has so much to offer to dog lovers.
Keep safe, consider your dogs’ needs and you’ll have a lifetime of awesome adventures with your pooch!