Ten tips for travelling with your dog
1 Before you set out on a trip, you must be confident that your dog is safe and comfortable travelling in your vehicle. Some dogs are happier in the back of the car, in which case select a suitable crate or a rear seat guard so that they are contained within that space. Consider removing the dog's collar whilst travelling like this: there are instances of owners not realising that collars have been caught on something, with disastrous results. Our dog is happier on the rear seat, where she can see us and let us know if she needs to stretch her legs or have a wee stop. A clip-on seat cover protects the seat, and a crash-tested harness attaches to the seat belt for her safety and ours.
2 Even on cooler days or with air conditioning, the back seat of your car can be a hot place, so shade the rear side window in some way to prevent the sun beating in. A simple shade can be improvised by hanging a piece of fabric caught in the closed rear window. We have a sun screen designed for children which attaches to the window, provides adequate shade but still allows Lola to look out and bark at the occasional passing cyclist. Take care not to restrict the driver's view in any way.
3 Ensure you always have plenty of water with you. There are various dog water bottles with attached containers to drink from, and space-saving collapsible bowls so your dog can always drink after a thirsty walk. Lola knows that she'll get some water if she nudges the bottle that clips on to my belt when out and about, with a brightly coloured flip-open cover to drink from. There is always one in the car wherever we go, home and away, and I carry one on walks. For longer journeys we have an ingenious no-spill water bowl which can sit on the back seat so that water is always available.
4 Learn your dog's body language. Do they want a drink or a wee, is it past supper time, are they getting a bit bored and just want to stretch their legs for five minutes? Lola doesn't have a set meal time, which makes it easier if we are on the road a bit longer, but some dogs have an internal bell than rings on the dot of meal times, so factor this in to your travel plans. Calculate how much food you will need for the whole trip so that your dog's diet is familiar and consistent, and it is useful to have bags of pre-measured rations.
5 Even with the best recall in the world, there are times when your dog will need to be restrained, whether on campsites or walking in unfamiliar places. Lola's recall is pretty good, but we wouldn’t want her running off after a bird and getting lost in a foreign forest. A 30ft horse lunge rein makes a great long line giving your dog the freedom to run about but always be under your control. Useful when dogs need to be kept on a lead when out walking, you can also secure your dog with it when you stop for the night, tied to a handy tree or other static object, or you can buy a stake that screws in to the ground.
6 Think about where you dog will sleep. Take a familiar bed so the dog can choose a comfortable place, though they may be just as happy finding a shady spot under the car or curling up at your feet. At home Lola has a bed downstairs, but when on the road she has the added excitement of sharing the tent with us. If your dog needs to be contained at night there are folding canvas crates that may be suitable. In some B&Bs/hotels this is a necessity, in which case introduce it at home first so it is not so strange.
7 Travelling from the UK to mainland Europe your dog will need an up-to-date rabies inoculation and passport, and a worm treatment before you return – check the regulations and follow them. If you are away from home take copies of relevant paperwork such as annual vaccinations and microchip registration. As well as a human first aid kit, we carry antiseptic wipes and dressings, so if Lola were unfortunate enough to get a minor injury, we could clean and bandage the wound before seeking veterinary advice if appropriate. Be wary of your dog drinking water or picking up discarded food that may carry bugs.
8 Does your dog have a favourite toy or are they ball fanatics? Lola travels with her trusty threadbare puppy, a water pistol (she loves trying to catch the gentle squirts and it is good for cooling her down!) and has a special tuggy toy just for expeditions. Not sure that we need to bother with the paddling pool next time...
9 Dog etiquette: different rules apply about where your dog can go – if in doubt, always ask. For example, most French cafes and some shops happily accommodate dogs, but don't assume this to be the case. Be considerate of others as you would be at home; not everyone thinks your dog is as gorgeous as you do, and may not appreciate a nudge from a cold nose, however friendly. If your dog is nervous of strangers keep them on a shorter lead in public, and don't let your dog encroach on someone else's space.
10 Finally, take spares of essential items that might be hard to find when away. We always have at least a couple of leads, a spare collar and engraved ID tag, a towel or two in case Lola gets cold and wet, and plenty of treats. Above all else, it has to be fun! If your dog needs a lot of exercise, provide plenty of opportunities for a good run; if they enjoy playing fetch, take a ball or frisbee along; if they like to sit and watch the world go by, grab a coffee and chill out yourself.
Taking your dog along for the ride should add to everyone’s enjoyment. If your dog is not happy, neither will you be, so leave them behind if that’s the case.
Luckily, Lola loves an adventure as much as we do, so we really enjoy taking her with us.