Holidays are precious - a time to get away from the usual routine and enjoy the stimulation of new experiences without being tied to the clock. Taking your dog with you can add to your pleasure but preparation is the key to success.
If you're planning a holiday to suit your dog too, take time to think through the details beforehand. By ensuring your travel arrangements, accommodation, and holiday itinerary are all dog friendly, you won't be faced with the stress of unexpected difficulties.
… about your accommodation
When you book your place to stay, don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Ensure the venue welcomes dogs and check to what degree - where do dogs have access to and where are they expected to sleep? On the following pages, you'll find 50 reviews of genuinely dog-friendly places to stay, where your four-legged friends are actively welcomed rather than just tolerated. Each property has been tested by dog owners and lovers who know what you want from a dog-friendly holiday.
Some places will insist that dogs can only be in your room, while at others, it's access all areas. If you have more than one dog, check if there's a limit per guest. Can your dog be left there for a while if you want to visit somewhere without him?
Ask about the setting - are there any resident dogs or other animals? Is the garden securely fenced or does it open on to a main road? Are there walks close by?
If you are planning to camp, think about how you will keep your dog secure at night - tent sides can easily be pushed up by pointy noses. Your dog also needs to be able to have fun but be under control while you're at your tent generally - a tie-out line and stake can be invaluable.
…about your travel arrangements
With your accommodation settled, consider how you're going to get there. If it's a long car journey, plan in several comfort stops.
Think about how you are going to get your luggage and your dog to your accommodation safely. A crate keeps your pet safe; alternatively, if he travels on a car seat, a car harness is a good investment. If your dog needs to be moved from his usual travelling position in the car due to extra baggage, check beforehand that he's settled riding elsewhere in the car - a travel-sick or barking dog doesn't make for a relaxing getaway.
If you are planning to travel by bus or train, check with the service provider that dogs are allowed before buying a ticket. There may be restrictions such as your pet having to be in a carrier.
… about your away days
Even if you are a ‘follow your nose' type of person, consider what you may want to do and how your dog would fit in. Long walks and hikes are not likely to be a problem as long as your dog is fit enough, but you may also visit pubs or restaurants, museums or shops, or want to go on organised trips. While some may be dog friendly, providing your best friend is well behaved, dogs are not always welcome. Consider where your dog can safely and comfortably be left in these situations - and how your options will be affected by the weather. The car is not an option when it comes to leaving your dog. Equally sitting outside a pub with your dog may be lovely on a warm day, but it's not so attractive in the rain.
Think, too, about how you will manage your dog if you opt for activities such as biking or boating. Would he be rather too keen to get involved or would the idea terrify him? For a water-based holiday, invest in a dog life jacket.
If you are planning to holiday with dog-owning friends, you'll need to think about whether the dogs have met previously and how they get on. If your dogs haven't met before, introduce them before the holiday, if possible. If not, plan how they can each have their own safe place and be kept separate if necessary. When holidaying with non-doggy friends, especially if this includes children, make sure your dog knows how to meet and greet and accepts that launching himself on to the sofa is not always acceptable.
Hone your holiday skills
A well-behaved dog is a great ambassador for his kind and will make your holiday a treat rather than a trial. Here's how to work on five key skills that will help ensure your dog is a pleasure to spend time with.
1 Travel happily
Many travel problems arise from your dog being worried about the car. In these cases, spending time boosting his confidence before a big journey can help.
With the car parked, engine off, and doors open, use treats or a toy to encourage your dog to climb in himself. Do not force him. Sprinkle treats around the car, let him find them, and then ask him to get out. Repeat this a few times each day until he's happily hopping in. Then do the same exercise with some, and then all, of the doors closed. As long as he's still relaxed, start the car and switch it off immediately. Build up to longer periods of the engine running and then gradually add car movement, starting with just a metre, always rewarding.
There are times when your dog needs to accept there is nothing exciting happening and he should lay down quietly - such as when you want to enjoy a pub meal.
Teach this at home by rewarding your dog when he is laying calmly, and ignore any pawing or jumping up. Teach him to settle on a specific mat or blanket. Reward him for going on to the blanket first and use a specific word such as ‘Off' to call him away from the mat, but don't reward. Work towards rewarding a relaxed down position on the mat.
3 Be confident being alone
Should you need to leave your dog in a strange room alone, you need to be confident that he will chill out. If you have taught the settle or used a settle mat, use these to help him understand what is required.
However, if he isn't happy being left at home, he's likely to be worse somewhere new, so boost his confidence in a familiar environment first. Give him a chew or stuffed Kong on his bed or mat and leave the room for a few minutes. If he doesn't react, gradually increase the time before you return. If he tries to get your attention, ignore him until he settles back to the toy, then praise.
4 Walk on a loose lead
This is a difficult task for any dog. But to avoid your arms being longer by the end of your holiday, take time to work on this at home.
Reward your dog for walking just a few steps at a time beside you on a loose lead. If he forges ahead or sideways, stop and maintain the tension on the lead but don't pull. Wait, and when he turns back to you, allow the lead to loosen and reward again once he is back beside you. Then ask him to move forwards again. Alternatively invest in a headcollar or harness so your dog doesn't damage his neck (or your shoulders) by pulling.
5 Meet and greet appropriately
Whether it's people, other dogs, or animals, your dog will benefit if he approaches calmly.
Strangers don't often appreciate dogs who jump up at them, and it can be scary for children. Prevent this by teaching your dog to sit in order to get fuss. Jumping up should never get reward or attention.
In addition, teach your dog to react calmly to other animals. Let your dog see them and before he reacts, reward with treats. Don't force him closer than he is comfortable. For dogs who are reactive to other dogs, seek specialist advice from a trainer or behaviourist.
With your holiday booked and the travel arrangements made, it's time to think about packing. Here's our quick guide to what Fido may need…
Dog car harness.
Headcollar or harness.
Water and bowl.
Food and bowl.
Medications plus travel sickness pills.
First aid kit.
A cool/fleece coat.
Tie stake and long line.
Tailgate lock or window vents.
At last, you're holiday is here. Enjoy a smooth getaway with the following tips.
Before you leave, plan to get your dog out for a good walk so he will settle more happily for the journey. If he gets travel sick, check how long before travelling any medication needs to be given. Also avoid giving him a heavy meal before setting off.
On arrival at your destination, book in and check the arrangements for dogs before letting your dog out of the car. Keep him on a lead and encourage him to relieve himself before heading to your quarters.
Once in your accommodation, keep an eye out as even the best house-trained dog may feel the urge to react to any remaining scent of previous canine guests. Give your dog a drink and decide where he is going to sleep - show him his bed so he knows where he can go. Then, head out to explore and enjoy your holiday - a tired dog will generally be a happy one, and will settle much better in his new environment.
While one of the main attractions of being on holiday is to explore new places, it also means you and your dog are likely to come across unexpected hazards. Beaches are doggy paradise but do check the tides so you don't get cut off. Cliff top walks can also be dangerous - keep dogs on leads and balls in your pocket.
Waterways of all kinds may also prove irresistible but dangerous to dogs. Assess the current and exit points before considering letting your dog off lead. Also be aware of water covered with weed which can catch out unsuspecting canines.
You may also come across different domestic or wild animals which your dog isn't used to. Take heed of notices requesting your dog be kept on a lead.
And finally, even on seemingly safe walks, you don't know what's around the corner - if you can't see what's ahead, keep your dog under control for the safety of all concerned.
To find your perfect dog-friendly holiday, check out our Your Dog Holidays site, for ideas on accommodation and information about where to visit in the UK.