When it comes to taking our canine chums away on holiday, there's so much more to consider than when we go it alone. While those with four legs are happily dreaming of their next vacay - bouncing through grassy meadows and taking long sunset walks on the beach - those with just two are worrying about the safest way to get there with a furry friend in tow. Maybe you've got a hound who's used to hopping in the car at a moment's notice, but what about when travelling long distances by train or even by plane?
Travelling within the UK is pretty straightforward, but if you're taking pets overseas, there are various regulations to consider. Dogs must be microchipped (now compulsory in the UK), vaccinated against rabies, wormed and have their own pet passport just to pass border control. The rules do change depending on your destination, and with the current political climate making the rules even more complicated, it's best to check well in advance to find out what you need for you and your pooch to have a smooth and safe journey.
Want to know the ins and outs of travelling by plane, train or automobile? Then read on!
CANINE CARRIER 1: PLANE
At a glance:
- Dogs travelling in and out of the UK must travel in the hold.
- They must travel via an approved air route.
- All canines must have a pet passport before travel.
- They will need an approved crate to travel in.
- Take care with Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds.
Come fly with me? Well, it very much depends where you're going. Canines in the UK looking to boost their air miles won't have much luck as air travel is mainly used by dogs joining their owners abroad for a considerable amount of time or those returning to our shores after an extended trip. Shorter holidays can be tricky as there are no direct passenger flights in and out of the UK that accept dogs in the cabin, meaning that our four-legged friends have to travel in the hold, via an approved air route. This can be a complicated affair so if you do decide to fly, you might want to consider using an animal transport company such as PetAir UK. While it's more expensive than doing it solo, everything is taken care of and you can rest assured that you won't have any surprises when you get to the other end.
Travelling in style
If you do decide to take your dog from the UK, most airlines have very specific regulations about what cage your dog can travel in when in the hold. Generally speaking, you can't use the open metal style of crate you may have at home. Vari kennels – the plastic type with a top and bottom secured by clips - tend to be approved by most airlines or you can buy crates directly from air transporters or the airline, usually of the plastic or wooden variety.
If you use an air transport company, they will line the crates with special bedding to make sure that dogs remain dry throughout the journey; when using your own crate, put a vet bed or similar in which will have the same effect. Don't worry about hydration - airline regulations state that each crate must have a water container that can be filled from the outside so that airport staff can fill them as and when necessary.
Dedicated human alert:
Some dog owners who don't want to put their precious cargo into the hold have been known to drive their dogs from the UK into European countries and then pick up a dog-friendly flight onto their final destination. Canny canine parents know that some European airlines allow dogs below a certain weight (usually about 10 kilos) to accompany their humans in the cabin, as long as their carrier fits under the seat. Heavier dogs have to be placed in a crate in the hold so bear that in mind before booking larger dogs their annual vacation via this route.
Rules and regs
The rules and regulations of each country and airline are very specific so it's best to check current requirements with DEFRA in the UK as well as the embassy of the country you are visiting and the airline you are travelling with. As with any form of transport leaving or entering the UK, plan well in advance to make sure that you have the required health certificates and licenses, vaccines and identification, as well as the correct size and type of crate for your pet.
For dogs travelling in the plane's cargo hold, you will need a crate which complies with the International Air transport Association's (IATA) Live Animals Regulations. IATA currently represents over 250 airlines globally and their regulations are considered to be the minimum standard requirements for air transportation of live animals, so make sure that you check their website for the most current information.
Dog passports - how much do they cost and how long do they last?
With animal passport regulations being unclear due to Brexit, it is best to check with DEFRA about the documents needed for your animal to be able to travel in and out of the UK. While at the moment, all that a dog needs to enter the UK from most European countries is a passport, microchip, rabies vaccination and treatment for tapeworm (please note that there is a timeframe for this), this may change in the event of a no-deal situation. Current advice is that you should start the process at least 4 months before you travel. Passports for dogs travelling from countries outside the EU shouldn't see any change but check with your vet or DEFRA to make sure that you have up to date information.
The current cost of a passport can vary from vet to vet, and you should also consider the microchip, rabies vaccination and tapeworm costs. Luckily the passport is valid for life, with the rabies booster required just every 3 years in the UK (it can be yearly in other countries so do bear this in mind). Your dog should already have a microchip so you will not need to pay for that again but you will need to give a tapeworm treatment every time you enter the UK which is an added cost of approximately £40. The average cost of a pet passport and rabies vaccination alone is about £80-£100.
Will my dog enjoy flying?
Most dogs tolerate flying pretty well, especially once they've done it a couple of times. Take-off and landing are the only tricky part, similar to babies and young children but most animals settle down once the plane is cruising. Of course, the length of the journey, as well as the time of year, can be a factor in how your dog will react and so it's best to avoid long journeys and times of extreme heat or cold where possible. Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds such as pugs, bulldogs and boxers may have difficulties due to restricted breathing at high pressures, with some airlines actually refusing to carry them, so take this into consideration when you are planning your trip. Read more about flying with these breeds here.
Brachycephalic breeds include:
- English bulldogs
- shih tzus
- French bulldogs
Would it help to sedate my dog?
It's not only pressure changes that can cause our four-legged friends’ problems. Some dogs don't like being separated from their owners or the noises that go hand in hand with a busy airport. While sedation and anti-anxiety medications can help nervy dogs in normal circumstances, they can be dangerous for dogs while in the air. Sedation is not recommended by IATA's guidelines and many airlines will not allow it at all, so discuss this with your vet in advance of travel to see if there's anything you can do to make their journey easier.
Some air transport companies have now started to use alternative methods such as spraying crates with species-specific appeasing pheromones which have been shown to help reduce anxiety and stress during the flight. If you want to do this yourself, you can buy Adaptil pheromone sprays, collars and tablets from both your vet and large pet stores such as Pets at Home.
TOP TIP: If your dog is travelling in the cabin with you as some countries allow, you'll be limited by the size of the carrier so make sure that your pet is in it for the least time possible. Some airports have exercise areas inside, but others will not allow animals out of their carriers at all so be sure take your dog out for a short walk before checking in. The most important thing is to acclimatise your dog to the crate before travel so that they see it as a place of safety and not an added stress.
CANINE CARRIER 2: TRAIN
At a glance:
- Dogs travel free on all (non-sleeper) trains if they do not take up a passenger space.
- Dogs must be carried on escalators on the Tube or take the stairs.
- Put small dogs in a carrier and all dogs on a lead in the carriage.
- Dogs can also travel in the guard's van in a crate or with a lead and muzzle.
- You can carry up to a maximum of two dogs per person on a UK train.
Hopping aboard a train with your canine pal isn’t as difficult as you may think. While we're not going to deny that popping a small pooch on your lap is easier than trying to wrangle a couple of German Shepherds in the carriage, it can be done. In our experience, dogs seem to love a train journey with their humans. Not only can you all enjoy the beautiful British countryside together, but you can plan your journey so that you can hop off for a well-deserved walkie and toilet break before joining a later train for the rest of the journey.
Your dog won't need to dip into their holiday savings either as transport is completely free - as long as they don't take up a passenger seat, it won't cost a penny. If they do take up the space of a paying human, then you'll have to buy them their very own Rover Return ticket!
How does that work?
According to National Rail, dogs can travel free of charge on all British trains, up to a maximum of two per passenger, on a carrier placed on the floor or on a lead. They must be well-behaved and not cause a nuisance to other passengers and they are not allowed in restaurant cars (apart from assistance dogs). Caledonian Sleeper carries dogs for a charge but you will need to book at least 48 hours in advance. The Tube also welcomes dogs, but they must be carried on the escalator, apart from guide dogs who have a special pass saying that they have been trained to use them. Big dog owners can save their backs by checking online for stations with stairs here.
Can my dog sit on my lap?
Believe it or not, small dogs may be more comfortable in a cage than on your lap on busy trains. We love to think that they always want to be with us but sometimes having a safe place away from the crowds is a better option for them; you can always get them out later when there are fewer people onboard. Put their favourite blanket and toy or chew in their cage with them and they will be more likely to settle.
If you have a larger dog, it's best to avoid busy times so that they don't get stressed by too many people passing them or trying to pet them. If your furry family member is a social animal, they may well enjoy having lots of attention from fellow passengers - in this case, leave them out - after all, nobody wants to put baby in the corner!
TOP TIP: Dogs can also travel in the guard's van in a cage, or secured with a collar, chain and muzzle. Bear in mind that dogs can get stressed when muzzled, and also panic when tied up without their owner so if you have an inexperienced train traveller, best to buy a crate and accustom them to it before travel.
CANINE CARRIER 3: AUTOMOBILE
At a glance:
- Always make sure dogs are restrained with a seat belt harness.
- Try a cage in larger vehicles, with blanket and toys inside.
- Get dogs used to shorter trips before a long journey.
- Ask your vet for help with car-sick canines.
- Remember hot sun in traffic jams can also be fatal for dogs.
The easiest way to get tails wagging in most households is picking up the keys to the family car. Dogs generally love a car journey, hoping a trip to the woods is on offer and not one to the vet. But holidays are even better! A door to door trip with their very own favourite human chauffeur, in their very own car usually reserved for walkies? Numerous opportunities to bark at inferior hounds and their humans innocently walking by in areas previously unbarked at? What could be more exciting than that? Well, according to our canine friends, being allowed to just jump in and sit down exactly where they please, unrestrained. However, there are rules regarding dogs in cars and they start with keeping Fido off the front seat.
But my dog loves riding shotgun!
Being canine lovers, we understand that and would never want to take any pleasure away from our four-legged friends. But though it may be tempting to let dogs sit up front with you, it isn't advisable if your car has airbags - which most do. If it doesn't have them, dogs are allowed in the front as long as they are properly restrained. The Highway Code states: 'When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you stop quickly.'
Small dogs have been known to jump into the driver's footwell when spooked and in the event of an accident, a loose dog is likely to get injured or even escape if it's not safely secured. Not only that, having an unrestrained dog in your car could make your insurance invalid and cost you a maximum fine of £2,500 and nine penalty points.
So, what are the options?
A seat belt harness is a great way of transporting your dog if you can't fit a crate or carrier into your car. Estate cars and 4x4s usually have plenty of space for cages and if you travel a lot, there are special metal crates on the market that can be fitted to your car, helping take the impact if you are in an accident. They aren't cheap, but they are one of the best solutions for frequent road-trippers.
Get your dog used to a crate as a puppy if you can and make it as welcoming as possible, with favourite toys and a comfy blanket; when they hop in the car, it will then be seen as a happy place. If your dog won't tolerate a cage or will feel restricted in a harness, you can fit a dog guard which they can lie freely behind - this is also a good option if you have multiple dogs.
Travel sickness in dogs
Car trips aren't so great, however, for those poor pooches who suffer from car sickness. Lots of dogs suffer from this when they are puppies due to the balance mechanism in the ear not being fully developed, and the majority do grow out of it. If your pup continues being sick well into adulthood, there is help for those hounds who go a little green when in the car.
Help by conditioning them to short positive car trips. Even if they are medically sound, they may associate car trips with being sick, which will, in turn, make them nervous about travelling. Try to make car trips fun experiences, such as going for woodland walkies with their pals, driving to buy toys or treats from the pet shop or even taking them to pick up the children from school. Avoid putting them in the car to go to the vet as that is sure to make them think twice before hopping in! If that doesn't work, have a word with your vet who may suggest anti-nausea medication, special pheromone wipes or even natural remedies such as ginger to help settle delicate tums.
TOP TIP: We all know not to leave a dog in a stationary car on hot summer days but what about when driving? While air conditioning or a breeze from an open window will keep your pooch nice and cool, strong sun rays can still penetrate through windows. This is especially important to remember in traffic when most owners are unaware of hot dogs suffering in the back of cars under the direct gaze of the sun. Buy blackout blinds – the ones used for children - or make your own shade if you find yourself unexpectedly in thick traffic. If you don't have anything suitable, it may be worth taking the next exit, hot-footing it to a country pub garden and waiting for the traffic to ease. A far less stressful experience for everybody!
COME AWAY WITH US!
So now you know how to get around with your four-legged family member, why not choose one of our gorgeous dog-friendly cottages as your final destination? We have an amazing portfolio that both you and your canine family member will enjoy.
Retreat to a shepherd's hut in the depths of Dartmoor National Park, cosy up in a couple's cottage in the Brecon Beacons or even hire your own stately Georgian hall in its own grounds, complete with swimming pool and tennis courts. With all being easily reached by car, many by train and the odd one by plane, they are just the place for you and your dog to find your own happy place together.