Travelling with your canine companion can be a fantastic bonding experience, but it also takes a little more planning than just throwing a few bits in a suitcase like us humans do! From preparations prior to heading off, to the do’s and don’ts of the car journey, to arrival at the cottage and then the actual holiday itself, there’s so much to plan when it comes to taking your four-legged best friend along for the adventure!
We’ve compiled a list of our top tips when it comes to travelling and holidaying with your favourite family member.
Restrain your dog when driving
Although many dogs may like to roam freely in the back of the car, having a crate large enough for them to sit comfortably (padded with their own bedding and toys) will make the journey safer for both you and them. It will stop them from distracting you and, in the event of an accident, your pet will be less likely to escape.
There are other acceptable restraint options such as seatbelt harnesses and dog guards - just choose the one that is best for the size of your car and the number of dogs travelling.
Stop for breaks frequently
Long car journeys take their toll on dogs just as they do on humans and, just like you, they need to stop for a bathroom break too! Frequent stops for them to stretch their legs and relieve themselves can make a huge difference and will make future journeys more enjoyable too.
Most dogs will appreciate the opportunity for a little stroll and a few sniffs - just make sure that you have your dog's favourite lead firmly attached, as even the best-behaved hounds may want to take themselves off when they see all that new space on offer!
Never leave your dog alone in the car
This is one of, if not the most important rule when it comes to car journeys with dogs.
Never, under any circumstances, leave a dog in the car alone. Cars can become very hot very quickly even with windows open and, in the warmer months, it can only take 15 minutes for a dog to suffer from fatal heatstroke.
If you need to stop on a motorway service station, there are usually plenty of areas to take your dog for a walk as well as outside tables where your dog can join you for a snack. Just be aware of extra noise and traffic - if you have a nervous dog, it may be better to double leash with both collar and harness to be on the safe side.
Take plenty of water
During the journey, having fresh water is as essential to your dog as it is to you in keeping hydrated. Take a collapsible bowl for the trip and have bottled water to hand once you arrive at your cottage; the difference in tap water varies dramatically across the country, and your pooch may not like water from a different location, so take some other options just in case.
Be mindful of giving your pet bottled water long-term as some minerals can be removed during the distillation process - spring water is a better option than distilled if you only have bottled water to hand. However, this is a much-debated topic and, as always, it is better to speak to your vet before making any changes to your pet's regime.
Have treats to hand
Your pet is bound to feel slightly uneasy being somewhere totally new and may not be keen on a long car journey, so have a few treats to hand to reward them for being good. Bear in mind that some dogs suffer from travel sickness so it's best to avoid rich food or treats before or during the journey - chat with your vet about how to manage this and when to feed your dog if you have a long journey ahead.
On arrival at your holiday cottage, your dog may look for a welcoming treat from home so why not start making him some of our homemade dog treats before you go?
Be aware of letting your dog off the lead
Your prized pooch may be obedient at home, but in a new environment, they may act differently. For that reason, it's best to keep your dog on lead where possible, especially if you are discovering new areas - there may be cliff edges, lakes or livestock that you don't know about and some areas may even have regulations stating that dogs must be kept on a lead.
Keep to a routine
Your dog is probably used to a routine at home, including set feeding and walkie times. It’s best to maintain this routine to make them feel as comfortable as possible on holiday, and keeping up their walks makes for a happy, healthy hound in any case!
Make sure that you take enough of your dog's regular food in case you can't find it nearby: it’s always best to introduce new foods gradually over a period of days to avoid stomach upsets and a holiday isn’t the best time to start a new food - no hound wants a poorly tum on their jollies! Also take your dog's favourite bed, blanket and toys - the more things they have from home, the more likely they are to settle.
Don’t leave dogs alone in a new, strange place
On the same note, don’t leave dogs alone in your holiday home. Whilst most cottages may have this rule in place anyway, it’s advisable to always have a human nearby, as the new environment and strange surroundings may make your pet feel anxious and uneasy.
Always take Fido and Flora with you when you go out - there are so many brilliant dog-friendly attractions, pubs and restaurants in the UK that you will always find somewhere that welcomes all members of the family!
Help them to relax
While having a routine and bringing their favourite things on hols can help your pet settle into an unfamiliar place, there are other ways to help your pooch relax if he is still feeling unsettled, such as treating them to a massage or playing them some of Relax My Dog's soothing music. The most important thing is having their humans around them, so make sure they are with you as much as possible and that they are still getting lots of cuddles and attention, even on the busiest of days.
For even more ways to keep your dog relaxed, take a look at our ways to calm your dog down.
Get pet insurance
If anything should happen while you’re away, you need to be prepared. Having pet insurance is the best way to make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong while you are on holiday. Many insurance policies cover you if you are on holiday in the UK with your dog but it's always best to check before you go - remember to take a copy of the policy with you too, in case you need to show it to a local vet.
Net a vet
In the same vein, it’s always a good idea to check where the nearest vet practice is to your holiday cottage. If anything should go wrong and your beloved hound needs to see a vet, you’ll want to know there’s somewhere nearby where he or she will be in good hands. Sometimes the owner of your holiday cottage will recommend a trusted local vet which will be included in the welcome notes, but it's always worth doing your own research just in case. We advise doing this before you leave home so that you’re prepared if Fido gets into mischief and you need a vet quickly.
Microchipping is a must
It’s now a legal requirement to have your dog microchipped in the UK, but it's also the best way of being reunited with your dog should they go missing while you’re away. Some microchip providers will allow you to register temporary holiday addresses but even if you have a policy that doesn't, as long as your mobile number is up to date, they will have a way of contacting you should the worst happen. Make sure all your details are updated regularly both at home and on holiday.
Do your research!
Check out dog-friendly attractions, pubs and events ahead of your trip. Knowing where you can go with or without your dog could be a deal-breaker for certain locations - the time of year is also important if you want free rein of the nation’s beaches. As we mentioned above, more and more places in the UK are now welcoming holidaying hounds, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find lots of brilliant activities to do with your favourite four-legs, wherever your holiday may take you.
Our blogs and guides are full of ideas on dog-friendly beaches, days out and places to eat - check them out before you go.
Make a list
List everything you need to take prior to leaving so you don’t forget anything – from toys and blankets, to food and any medication your pooch may need. Medication is especially important as it may be difficult to obtain while you are away. If you do forget your dog's meds, speak to your vet who may be able to speak to your holiday vet to prescribe emergency rations until you get back home - bear in mind that some medicine may need to be ordered in, so it’s best not to rely on somebody else to put Rover’s tablets in the car!
If you're not sure where to start, head to our canine travel checklist for ideas on what you might need to take.
But most of all...have fun!
Having your four-legged best friend on your holiday shouldn’t be a chore, so whichever canine cottage you end up in, make sure your adventure is memorable and packed with nice long w-a-l-k-i-e-s and fun days out that you’ll all enjoy. Find your perfect dog-friendly holiday cottage in our collection and get ready to have a pawsome time with your best bud!