By Nick Jones
Not only do I work as a full time dog behaviourist, I am a proud dad to my lovely daughter and there's my better half Sara. Our daughter is now 13, and since her birth we have become firm advocates of holidaying within the UK with our dogs.
Most of our breaks are coastal, exploring Cornwall and Devon extensively as we live in land-bound Worcestershire. Holidaying with your dogs is great fun, but does bring fresh challenges that can be overcome with a little forethought. The following advice is aimed at providing a number of tips to ensure you leave any holiday experience with your head held high, and your dogs being ambassadors for the canine community.
Consistency is key to ensure that your dog remains as calm and relaxed as possible. Pack the same food as you would normally feed your dog, taking adequate supplies. Take familiar bedding – no accommodation likes dogs on beds or furniture. Think about the equipment you are likely to need during the holiday including leads, toys, chews and so on.
In the final stages of packing avoid heightened levels of anxiety by splitting responsibilities across the home. Ideally, one person can exercise the dogs, whilst the other completes the final stages of packing. Dogs can find such disruption stressful, and moderate exercise is an excellent preparation prior to a journey.
Ideally your dog should be familiar and happy with your chosen method of travel beforehand. If you know your dog finds it stressful, then seek to remedy this well before your travel date. Avoid feeding close to travel to avoid sickness. Exercise your dog so that it is physically tired, and ensure that the travel space is secure from loose items such as luggage that may fall on your dog during the journey. A comfortable temperature with familiar bedding will also help the journey. Be sure to provide adequate supplies of fresh water and to factor in toilet breaks along the journey. Also consider shades on car windows that can quickly heat up should the English sun shine.
- Accommodation. B&B / Hotel / Caravan / Tent.
Due consideration for the specific rules for your accommodation should be taken into account. Adhere to toileting area rules, where your dog is going to sleep and ensure that your dog does not form a nuisance to other residents. Make sure that you are aware of local vet details in advance of your stay.
If your dog is acclimatised to the use of a crate, this can be a good way to contain your dog for sensible periods in the day, or whilst sleeping at night. Crates can also help avoid destruction to other people’s property and ensure peace of mind for you as the owner.
Consider the individual needs of your dog when choosing holiday accommodation. If your dog is prone to be vocal, consider when staying on a camp or caravan site try to pre book a quieter pitch away from people regularly passing. It's important that your dog is not given the opportunity to become protective of your location. The use of an appropriate fixing point such as a long line to keep your dog contained on site, a comfortable place to rest and a chew or toy to keep them busy should help minimise the opportunity to be vocal towards passers-by. Provide shade and water, especially if hot. Placing the dog behind a windbreak may help if the dog is prone to constantly bark at passers-by.
- Dog behaviour in a public place.
It is very likely that you will encounter a beach, park or town environment where the manners of your dog will come under scrutiny. The level of behaviour that your dog demonstrates at home will be the best it can achieve when on holiday. Therefore your control with recall, toileting locations and consideration of other people and dogs must be taken into account whilst you are away. If you have a dog that will recall, understands basic obedience commands, and is good with other dogs and people you can allow them the appropriate levels of flexibility when in public. However, if your dog fails to meet an acceptable standard in one of these three key areas make sure you restrict their behaviour so that you don’t cause offence or concern towards other people.
It is essential to ensure that you always remove any faeces, and that you correctly dispose of it. Carry more poo bags than you think you need. Nothing worse than being caught short for a bag!
Consider researching the area you visit beforehand as a number of beaches are closed to dogs during the peak season. This has caught us out a few times and we now go prepared with a list. You can find good information on the internet for this.
- Environmental & Safety Factors.
Considerations should be given to extremes of temperature. Your dog may need shelter from the sun, lotion for sensitive areas of the body such as the nose and ridge of back. Always provide plenty of fresh clean water. Hydration is particularly important when near the sea regardless of the temperature. Most dogs will lap at sea water when thirsty, but I find this causes a great thirst due to the diuretic effect of saline. Consider carrying fresh water with you when on the beach.
Do ensure your dog has adequate identification. This could take the form of micro chipping, or at least ID on its collar.
Taking your dog away with you should enhance your holiday experience. They should be an ambassador to the canine community, and enhance your overall enjoyment and relationship.
A key point to remember is that the behaviour your dog is capable now will be the behaviour you see when on holiday. If you know you need to work on a particular area, seek the guidance of a reputable trainer to point you in the right direction.
Nick Jones MA. MCFBA