Bringing your pet on holiday doesn’t have to be a hassle. A little planning before your trip can go a long way - from what to pack to how to prepare, we’ve got it all covered.
Of course you want your family pet to come with you on holiday and what more relaxing way for you to unwind and have fun together than exploring the forest and soaking up those good feelings that come from being out and amongst wild nature. But - and for some pets it can be a big ‘but’ - you have to get there and for dogs or owners who are concerned about making a long car journey that can be off-putting. However, be reassured; for the vast majority of dogs some simple preparation before you go will fix most issues and you’ll be sure of a safe and stress-free trip.
Before you go
If you’ve never travelled with your dog before or only taken them to the vets by car then start preparing a few weeks before you go on holiday. This is all about creating positive associations with the car so your dog feels relaxed and happy to jump inside. Always take your pet for a walk around the block first so they can work off that first burst of crazy energy - and also have the chance to make a toilet stop.
For their first time in the car, just put a favourite blanket on the seat before fastening them in and sit for a while, stroking your dog and giving them treats. Next time, turn the engine on and go for a calm short drive to a nearby park that your dog will be excited to spend time in. Your dog takes its cues from you, so stay calm, don’t talk in a high-pitched voice (“Are we going in the car? Yes!!”) and get them all excited, instead, perhaps just stay quiet and ignore them as you drive to the park. If you do this a few times before you go on your holiday, increasing the distance each time, your dog will very quickly associate the car with the payoff of a fun time.
Did you know?
Stressed dogs will enjoy a massage at the base of their head or beginning of their spine with a little lavender oil rubbed on your hands.
It’s a good plan to always make sure that your dog is wearing their collar and tag every time they go in the car; hopefully it would never happen, but if they bolt once the door is open, better that they can be easily returned to you than not. Consider buying a pet seat belt which clips to the regular seatbelt and helps secure your pet safely in the event of an accident. If you have a larger car and the chance to create a ‘dog-only’ area at the back then investigate a pet barrier which will safely contain your dog behind the back seat and out of any mischief. If your dog has a crate and feels content being crated if fits in the car, then absolutely bring it along.
If you’re concerned about your dog getting car sick, my advice would be to skip feeding them before you go and pack wet wipes, just in case. The signs are usually drooling, whining and then heaving. So pay attention and you could save yourself a clean-up. On hot days, shade the windows, let in plenty of fresh air and step up water breaks. Dogs can easily overheat so be mindful of your pet’s comfort.
On the Journey
One of the best things you can do for a stress-free trip is take your dog for a tiring exercise session before you set off. Burn off that excess energy so you have a calm, sleepy pet. You may be in a rush, but it’s well worth the 30 minutes you spend playing fetch, running around the park or whatever else you usually do to tire your dog out. Plan regular breaks so you can let your pet stretch their legs and have a toilet breaks along the way - and, of course, drive carefully. Better to arrive a little later than planned than with a whining stressed-out dog who did not appreciate your impression of the Stig!
On arrival, make your first concern settling in your dog. Unpack later; the first job is taking them for a walk on the leash as they get used to the new smells and sounds of your home from home. Once they’ve run off some of that excess energy, introduce them to your new holiday home. Make it clear that they have a place there - in their familiar basket which you bought along - and feed them something delicious. With one happy, sleepy, well-fed pet curled up in their basket, you can get on with the main business of relaxing and enjoying your time in the forest.
Did you know?
It’s not safe to let dogs ride with their heads out of the window; they can be injured by road debris or insects flying into their eyes and nose.