Dogs are cherished members of the family and most of us want our canine companions to bepart of the family holiday.
Fortunately, it's now easier than ever to take them with us on holiday, as more and more places understand the need to cater for four-legged travellers.
If you're thinking about treating your dog to a well-deserved break, it’s important to do your homework first - here are the most important things for you to consider when taking your dog on holiday.
Before you go
Consider your dog’s needs
Obviously choosing the right place to stay for you (and other human family members) is important, but you do also need to consider how suitable it is for your dog’s needs.
Don't assume that just because the website says, "we allow dogs" means that it is suitable for your dog. For example, is there a secure garden?
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.
You'll also need to think about the bigger picture. Before you go, create an itinerary of places to visit and things you'd like to do. Remember, preparation and organisation is the key for any successful trip away.
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.
Plan for all emergencies
Whilst none of us like to think of the worst happening, it is so important to prepare for theunexpected.
Make sure you know where all the nearest vets are to your holiday accommodation, and put their contact numbers into your phone. It would also be wise to print off the directions and keep them in the car before you go.
Consider going on a dog first aid course, where you will learn all of the basic emergency first aid skills you need to be able to help your dog until you can get them safely to a vet.
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.
Some of the more obvious items you'll need are:
- food/water bowl
- ID tags
- poo bags
- favourite toys
- an old towel
Also think about bringing along any medication your dog is on, or might need in the event of an emergency.
Packing clear photographs of your dog are 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.
Brush up on your basic commands
The last thing you want on holiday is to be chasing after a loose pooch, risking an accident or a lost dog.
Working on your dog’s obedience before you go away will lead to as stress free a holiday as possible. Good recall is probably the most important thing to master with your dog - it could save their life.
Reward them when they follow your commands and soon enough you won't need to fear letting them off the lead in safe open spaces.
During your holiday
Travelling with your dog
If you're travelling by car make sure your dog is familiar with the experience. If they haven't taken many long car journeys, take them out for shorter drives before to get them used to the car environment.
Safety is crucial. For your dog’s sake and your own, they must be secured. A dog crate is a good safe solution as it restricts their movement and stops them from distracting the driver.
During the journey you should aim to stop every two hours to allow your dog to stretch their legs.
Dogs are very susceptible to overheating, which can lead to fatal heatstroke, as they cannot regulate their body temperature as well as humans can.
To protect your dog in warm weather:
- avoid exercising in the heat of the day (gentle walks in the early morning or late eveningare best)
- ensure the dog has access to a cool shady area and drinking water at all times
- never leave your dog in a parked car
If your dog exhibits any signs of overheating (heavy panting, drooling, lethargy, rapid heart rate, dark red gums), cool them down gently by standing in cool (but not icy) water and seek urgent veterinary advice.
Some (but not all) dogs love to swim and play in water and this can be a great way of helping your dog to stay cool - but you do need to be aware of the potential dangers.
Most dogs are good swimmers, but do not let your dog swim in areas with strong currents as they can get into difficulty.
Water intoxication is a condition caused by the dog ingesting too much water (whilst jumping in and fetching) and can cause a deadly imbalance in the dog’s electrolytes. Limit and supervise water play, and get your dog to a vet urgently if you notice any unusual symptoms such as vomiting, wobbliness or glazed eyes.
Blue-green algae is another hazard to watch out for. This highly toxic substance is found on standing water bodies such as lakes and ponds during hot weather. Do not allow your dog to swim or drink from water which shows any signs of algae growth.
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 is important to keep their routine as normal as possible.
Your pup's 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, and avoid leaving your dog alone for too long.
Always take note of your dog’s behaviour as this will be a clear indication of how they're feeling - be aware of the sometime subtle signs of anxiety or stress that dogs display.
The most important thing to remember is always be vigilant about your dog’s safety. Don't get complacent.
Be cautious while walking in areas you don't know particularly well, or where there are obvious hazards, such as busy roads, cliff edges, water or around other animals.
Be aware of your dog’s attitude towards other dogs and take this into account when out in public. Knowing when to keep them on the lead is vitally important.