Stephen Jenkinson has some tips on how to ensure your dog-friendly break is truly memorable for all the right reasons!
When planning a holiday with your ‘best friend’, it can seem like ‘job done’ once you’ve found a dog-friendly hotel or self-catering property. But, quite apart from the accommodation being dog friendly, your surroundings can make a huge difference to finding and enjoying walks on your holiday or short break.
So, before you book, here are my top tips for deciding where to stay for a happy, hassle-free holiday.
- A secure garden? While few fences are truly dogproof, a secure gated and fenced area at your accommodation is a real help. Specifically ask about this and check if anyone else uses it, as they could leave a gate open. Being able to park within the property’s fenced off area is ideal.
- Check out the views. Use Google Street View and aerial imagery to see how close to roads and other properties you really are.
- Local restrictions? While there may seem to be lots of beaches nearby, check the local council’s website to see if there are any year-round or seasonal dog bans or on-lead restrictions, otherwise the nearest dog-friendly beach may be some distance away.
- Having public forests nearby is a real plus for both rainy days and if you simply enjoy walking in woodland. In England and Scotland, these woods are still called Forestry Commission (FC), or something very similar; in Wales they are signed as Natural Resources Wales (NRW) forests. Ordnance Survey maps show these (see below) as do the FC and NRW websites.
- Get the right maps. Few online maps show where you have a legal right to walk your dog, but in England and Wales Ordnance Survey Explorer and Landranger maps do show public rights of way, access land, and public forests, and are well worth purchasing in hard copy, as it’s easier to see a wider area, compared to looking at your phone or tablet. Find out more at www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk
- Think sheep! While lambing in springtime is an especially sensitive time, holidays at any time in areas where there are lots of sheep can limit your choices, unless you are happy for your dog to be on the lead all the time. You are less likely to find sheep on flat and coastal areas — one of the reasons why Norfolk and Suffolk are very popular.
- Use social media to contact local dog owners to see how dog friendly the area really is, or just search for ‘dog’ and ‘walk’ plus the area where you are thinking of going, and you’ll get the inside track.
- Protected wildlife can mean you need to use a lead or keep your dog on the path at sensitive times and places, especially unenclosed hill areas and heathland, between March and July. Some beaches are also sensitive for seals and birds during winter; ask locally.
- Where there are deer and sheep, you’ll also find those blood-sucking parasites ticks, which can attach themselves to you and your dog and spread harmful diseases. Ask your vet about preventative treatment options, and how to remove them safely. Also ask what to do if your dog gets bitten by an adder.
- In case of emergency, identify where the nearest vet is (www.rcvs.org.uk) and put the out-of-hours number in your phone. Also, ensure your microchip registry (usually Petlog; www.petlog.org.uk) has your holiday contact details.
- Most of all, make sure you and all responsible dog owners are welcome back by leaving the place as you found it; take extra care to remove all poo.
- Take sheets or fleeces as covers if you find it hard to keep paws off the furniture or beds.
- Give great reviews online (if deserved) as a thank you for being dog friendly.