Travelling Tips For Staycations With Your Dog

guest blog by Caroline Wilkinson

We caught up with Certified Animal Behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson for advice on preparing for breaks with our four-legged friends.

Preparation is Key

Doing a little preparation work with your dog in advance of your holiday will help you all better enjoy your time away. If your dog isn’t used to long car journeys, start to build up the frequency they’re going out in the car slowly. If they usually sleep in a crate or pen but you can’t take it with you, you could get them used to a pop-up travel crate for a couple of weeks before you leave. If your dog hasn’t been out for many meals with you, practice having on-lead “pub lunches” in your own garden. Teaching your dog to settle on a specific mat or blanket can also be good practice for calmly relaxing during human mealtimes - you can then take this with you when you go away. Consider writing a list of things not to forget, collars with ID tag, meds your dog may require, long and short lead if useful, healthy treats to encourage and reward good behaviour and finally, toys to keep them busy.

Adventures with Puppies

With many owners welcoming new puppies during lockdown, they may feel daunted at the prospect of holidaying with a young dog. Creating positive early new experiences can be a good way to set your dog up for a lifetime of successful adventures! Try to take a relaxed approach to your staycation and don’t cram each day with too many activities. All dogs need lots of quality sleep to be calm and comfortable, but puppy owners should be especially mindful of balancing fun with sleep!

Home from Home

Going on holiday can bring many new experiences for dogs, starting with living in a completely new environment! Pack items that will make your dog feel more comfortable in these new environments - their own bed (full of familiar smells), their usual food, and some of their favourite toys. You may find your dog is a little less comfortable sleeping in a room on its own in this new environment, so support them by moving their bed closer to where you’re sleeping.

Seek Out Calm Spaces

We all want to be able to switch off and enjoy the calm that being out in nature can bring. Consider avoiding the local beach if busy or any other holiday hotspots and instead avoid the crowds. Seek out special off-the-beaten track walks or consider visiting a National Trust site or Woodland Trust walk. Walking in quiet spaces will allow you to fully engage in your environment - and with your dog – you will both be happier and healthier for it.

Too Much of a Good Thing

While it can be tempting to share your lovely pub lunches or ice creams with your dog, it may wreak havoc on their behaviour as well as their tummy! Too much sugar could leave you with a hyper dog who is much more likely to act up than be a calm companion for your holidays. Adding too many new foods at once - especially when they’re not ideal for our dogs - can end up in multiple overnight toilet trips… not very relaxing! Make sure you pack your dog’s usual food and treats - or check with a local pet shop in advance to see if you can pick it up there. For the first few days away, it can also be useful to bring some of your own tap water from home or buy some bottled water to keep your dog’s tummy happy.

Solo Time?

Not all holiday rentals will allow you to leave your dog unattended so make sure you check what the rules are of the place you’re staying in advance. For some dogs, a little human-free downtime between all the new adventures can be gratefully received! But if your dog hasn’t been left alone in a new space before you want to make sure they’re not getting stressed. Never leave them alone within the first 24 hours as they won’t have had time to get used to the new environment. When you do try to leave them, take a pet camera with you so you can check if they’re relaxing or stressing when left alone. If you see any stress signs, go back to them immediately. Not only do we not want to have stressed dogs, but you also want to avoid any damage to the place you’re staying in.

Safe and Calm Travels

One of the biggest areas of concern for pet owners when holidaying with their dogs is that of car travel. It’s really important that we set our dogs up for success, by getting them used to longer periods of time in the car slowly in advanced of our holidays. Make sure you have them safely secured in a crate or with a crash-tested car harness. Plan regular comfort breaks so they can have a toileting opportunity, stretch their legs, and have a nice sniff. It can be wise to feed a slightly smaller meal (or for some dogs no food at all) before you set off. Depending on the length of your journey, you can always give them a snack along the way.

Make Memories

One of the best things about holidaying with your dog is the uninterrupted time you get together. Computers have (hopefully) been left behind and your focus is on having fun together. Many pet owners find going on adventures with their dog strengthens their bond and provides the chance to really switch off and relax together. Try to avoid checking in on social media or work emails while you’re away - a digital detox will prioritise your enjoyment of the small moments of each day. Take lots of photos and enjoy the fun moments of running on the beach together or paddling in streams!.