8 tips for travelling with dogs

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Taking your fur baby on holiday can be deeply rewarding with the right preparation.

WORDS Emma Ryan

1. Crate train your dog

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Not only will a dog crate enable you to transport your pet safely in the car, but it will serve as a portable kennel for him to sleep in when you arrive at your destination. This will make your dog feel at ease and more comfortable in his new surroundings. A crate has the double benefit of enabling you to keep the dog contained and safe for a few hours if you need to, for example when you’re out to dinner.

Always remember to provide water in a spill-proof bowl when leaving him in a crate for any period of time. You should crate train your pup before you go so it’s a positive place for him to be and he’ll settle easily. There is lots of information available online about how to do this.

2. Transport him safely

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Consider how you will transport your dog in the car to ensure both canine and human passengers are safe and comfortable. It is dangerous for your dog to have free roam of the car as he can be injured in a sudden stop or an accident and might slip out open doors or windows onto the road. It is distracting for the driver to have a potentially exuberant dog bounding around the car, and in some states it is even illegal.

Consider also that a dog becomes a heavy missile during a car accident, which can be deadly for human passengers. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to secure your dog in the car. If your dog gets nervous in the car, you might want to consider a thunder shirt (snug jacket for a feeling of security), but you should speak to your vet about any anxiety issues before heading off.

3. Pack a spill-proof water bowl and always carry 2L of water in your car for your pup

Dogs get especially thirsty when under stress as your pup might be when travelling, even if you don’t notice it. For any car trip always carry at least 2L of water for your dog and provide him access to it in a spill-proof bowl. Alternatively, offer him a drink in an ordinary bowl at each stop. A spill-proof bowl is the ideal way to give him access to water when he’s contained in his crate, too.

4. Take his vaccination card

You’ll need this if you plan to book your pup into doggy daycare or if you need him to spend a night or two in a kennel during the trip; commercial kennels will require proof of vaccination before checking your dog in. Both options can provide you the freedom you need to fully enjoy your holiday, as there are some activities and places, like wine tours and National Parks, that just aren’t suitable for dogs.

5. Put a tag on his collar and ensure he’s microchipped

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If he hasn’t already got one, put a tag with your phone number written clearly on it on his collar. If he gets out or roams too far during your trip, whoever finds him can easily contact you to get him back to you. It is recommended to put two numbers on the tag – your own and that of someone back home. That way, if you’re out of mobile phone service a family member of friend can be contacted to ensure the dog is kept safe until you can get to him. Your dog should also be microchipped, but that goes without saying these days.

6. Pack well

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For a stress-free holiday with your dog, it’s important to pack everything you’ll need for him. This means his collar and lead, his bedding, a spill-proof water bowl, his dinner bowl, enough food to see you through plus some, plenty of poo bags, his vaccination card, his winter coat if your destination is a chilly one, any medication he might need and some chew toys to keep him busy in the car. The more organized you are, the more enjoyable your holiday together will be.

7. Respect the rules of your accommodation

While pet-friendly accommodation is on the rise, unfortunately the main reason many places won’t take dogs is because of the owner’s behaviour more so than the dog’s. A handful of careless dog owners ruin it for the majority of us who do the right thing.

They are people who don’t pick up after their dog, who allow their dog to bark while left alone for hours, who let their dog sleep on the bed or couch even when the rules prohibit it, who let their dog roam free to explore the camps and personal space of others, who allow their dog to run up to stranger’s dogs (the biggest cause of dog fights) and who generally show disregard for other people by failing to restrain and control their animals. Don’t be that person.

8. Do some basic obedience training before you go

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Dogs don’t need to be able to perform cartwheels in order to make great pets, but they do need to know how to ‘sit’, ‘wait’ and ‘come’ on command, especially larger animals that are less easily controlled. You should have these commands mastered before setting off on a holiday together, especially if you hope for the holiday to be relaxing and stress-free.

They are easy enough to teach with the assistance of tasty treats, which you should always have a surplus of when out and about until the dog is willing to perform the commands for just a scratch behind the ears. Bribery will (usually) get you everywhere! A small belt bag loaded with treats (and poo bags) is a good idea during walks and outings to ensure you maintain your dog’s attention.