Tips for taking your pet on holiday
As the UK begins to ease out of lockdown, more families are beginning to travel and take holidays in the UK. Current restrictions on foreign travel are expected to remain in place for quite some time which means that most of us will be holidaying at home or having a ‘staycation’ - and with a record number of dogs and puppies being bought or adopted during lockdown, many of us will also be holidaying with our pet for the first time too.
Preparing to travel with your pet
The RSPCA’s pet welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines says that if you have not holidayed with your dog before then you need to be prepared:
"Lots of families took on a new pet during lockdown and may now be planning their first getaway since the pandemic first hit last March. It's really important that they take into consideration what they're going to do with their pet when they go away.
"If you're planning to leave your pet at home then it's important to start planning right away; will your pet be taken care of by a friend or relative, or will they be going into boarding? Arrange a visit before going away to check you're happy with the facilities they have or to go through how you'd like your pet cared for and, if possible, whether boarding or with friends, book your pet in for a short overnight stay to get them used to the experience; especially if they've never been away from you before.
"If you're planning to take your pet away with you then it's important to consider whether your dog will be happy in a new setting or whether it might be a bit overwhelming for them. It's been tricky for owners who have taken on puppies during lockdown to provide them with many experiences due to Government restrictions so going away on holiday may be difficult for some. If you feel your dog will enjoy a getaway and be relaxed and calm throughout then plan ahead and ensure your accommodation and the places you wish to visit during your stay are dog-friendly and remember to take the weather into consideration when planning your activities."
What’s right for one dog might not necessarily be right for another. Is your dog laid back or easily stressed? Due to being in lockdown, some puppies are not used to large crowds or public places and you need to bear this in mind when planning your trip. Could your holiday be frightening or overwhelming for your dog? If so it might be kindest to leave them at home with someone looking after them. You have to do what is best for your dog, as well as what is best for you. Before you set off, make sure that your accommodation is suitable for pets and that dogs are allowed. If you’re planning an itinerary for your trip, make sure the places that you intend to visit are dog friendly too. You can’t leave them in a hot car and you may need to have a family member on hand to hold them whilst you all go in somewhere. Alternatively you could also plan your holiday around your dog – with visits to dog-friendly beaches or country walks, rather than indoor attractions.
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Check the weather
Remember to check the weather reports regularly. If you’re going to be out in the sun all day make sure you have water and shade for your dog, don’t leave them unattended in a hot car or caravan and make sure that the pavement is not too hot for their paws. Many tourist attractions now sell ice cream just for dogs and this is a great way to help them stay cool if you are out in the sunshine all day, along with plenty of water.
Packing for your pet
The RSPCA suggests that you will need to make sure they are wearing their collar with ID tag and pack their lead, bed, toys and chews, poo bags, dog food, food bowls, treats, a towel for muddy paws or the beach, and a camera to take lots of photos.
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If you’re driving, make sure that your dog is sitting comfortably and not squeezed in on top of your family or luggage. Ideally they should travel securely, in a crate or car harness. If it’s going to be a long drive make regular stops so that they can go to the toilet and drink some water. Most motorway service stations have facilities for dogs but take some water and a bowl for your journey, just in case.
Once you reach your destination your dog may need some time to settle in and become accustomed to their new environment. Don’t leave them alone as this may cause them distress. They may be tired after their journey so don’t fuss over them too much and let them rest if that’s what they want to do.
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Use the lead at first
Your dog might not come straight back if they are exploring new surroundings - and they may become disorientated if they run off, so keep them on the lead to start with, Be careful if you are walking them close to a road or a cliff, be aware of hazards and take precautions if you’re not sure how your dog is going to react. Some lockdown puppies may not have had much exposure to wide open spaces and not had much practice with recall. So make sure that you are prepared for any anticipated behaviour. If you are crossing fields containing livestock you must always keep your dog on a lead, no matter how well behaved they are as this can be very distressing for the livestock, particularly if they have babies with them. Remember to keep your distance.
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Taking your cats on holiday
Are you thinking of taking your cat on holiday too? The RSPCA’s cat welfare expert Alice Potter says it is very much down to the cat whether they will enjoy travelling with you and you have to make the right decision for them:
"Think very carefully about whether your cat would enjoy heading off on holiday with you in your caravan or motorhome - life on the road may not be right for every cat.
"If you decide to take your cat with you then it's important to ensure you have all of the items they'll need and all home comforts with you to make them comfortable. Create vertical space in the caravan so they have places to climb and hiding spots to retreat to if they wish. And ensure they're microchipped and the registered details are up-to-date in case they go missing or get lost.
"It's also important to ensure you have a plan for when you'll need to leave your cat in the caravan to visit shops or tourist attractions. Always make sure they're secure and safe and never leave your cat in a vehicle on a warm day as temperatures can very quickly rise to dangerous levels."
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Planning your first staycation with your pet? We’d love to know how you get on. Let us know in the comments section below.
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