How to make sure your dog has a pawsome holiday

June 30, 2021
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Have you booked a UK break for the first time in over a year?

Perhaps you’re taking your new puppy with you and you’re wondering how they will react to finally leaving the local area?

Maybe you’re bringing your dog away with you and you want to help them have a nice holiday?

Or you’re really, really, (really times 10) ready for a holiday and you want to make sure that both you and your dog can have the best paw-sible time ever.

We all deserve a holiday after this past year and a half, especially after so many restrictions and lockdowns. It will not only be good for you but it will be enjoyable for your dog too, as well as strengthening your bond together.

But there are things that you need to consider and prepare in order to ensure you have as smooth as possible to get away. A wise saying states ‘Failure to prepare is preparing to fail’ and this is true when going away with your dog, trust me I know! 

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Kobie, Bailey and I enjoying some British sunshine

I’ve been the unprepared dog mum at the beach, waiting for my dog to come back after my failed recall attempts, but I’ve also been the prepared dog parent who’s had a relaxing time and managed to avoid Spaniel owner embarrassment… 

A lot of my clients, myself included, work really hard with their dog training to prevent their Spaniel from being distracted by their Spaniel nose and to help them calm the hell down but holiday’s and training are two words that don’t always work the way you want them to.

This is nothing to be scared of, your dog won’t regress to how they were before, but it might be more difficult to get the good as gold behaviour you’ve achieved at home and I want to assure you this is perfectly okay.

I’ve had clients ring me up in tears worried their hard work has been ruined by a holiday because their dog wouldn’t recall from the beach, but I’ll tell you a secret… mine haven’t always either! And that’s okay, because when your dog comes home they will be back to being a rapid recall superstar.

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Our trip to the Gower Peninsula

You wouldn’t expect your child to go from their math SATS in primary school to smashing a PHD at university, and it’s the same with recall on the beach… It’s the PHD level of recall! 

It’s not that they have forgotten their name, it’s just that they are having the best time ever on the sand and in the sea. Remember what going to the beach was like when you were younger? That’s exactly what it’s like for them.

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Kobie and Bailey enjoying beach life

I tell all of my clients to relax as much as possible on holiday, it’s unlikely your dog will offer you training like loose lead walking but that doesn’t mean that they’ve forgotten. For your dog they are in sensory heaven, the different smells of the location, food and beach will be driving them to pull a little more than usual. 

On my holidays with my dogs the seagulls on the beach have not only tried to steal my ice cream but also sent my boys into a frenzy, seaside birds seem to love to tease dogs, so this comes with it’s own challenges!

To prevent hours of trying to recall and run after your beach loving, seagull chasing dog my advice is to keep them on a longline and use lots of treats, that way you get the best of both worlds you can enjoy time together without trying to out chasing after your dog who has apparently forgotten their name! Running in sand after an overexcited Spaniel is hard … I’ve been there. 

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This is his ‘I don’t want to leave the beach’ face

If it is your dog’s first time on the beach reward them lots for watching people and other dogs calmly, and any behaviour that you like. Try sitting and watching the world go by with them and taking it all in, this will help to bring their arousal down.

Test your recall with them, so if they are checking in with you a lot and recalling whilst on the long line you could let them go a little bit and if you’re feeling confident drop your longline. But it is a brand new environment and very exciting for them so don’t expect the usual levels straight away.

But it is possible! Sprocker Spaniel Islay who I worked with for several months achieved recall on the beach after lots of hard work with me and her owners.

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Getting this from Islay’s owners made me very proud!

Before the holiday you could also work on teaching your dog or puppy how to settle, so that you can help them calm down when you are away. It’s a really easy way to help teach your dog to calm down, and comes in handy when you’re in new places.

For this:

  • Lure them into a down 
  • Continuously feed them between their legs when they’re in a down
  • If they get up at any point the food stops, give them 20 seconds or so to think about it, if they don’t go into a down, lure them back in and restart.
  • You should be able to start varying your duration with it as well, so you’re not having to feed them all the time. 
  • Aim to do this 3 – 4 times a day for a couple of minutes at a time
  • When you finish the exercise throw the treat away
  • Work on incorporating this into your daily life, so if you’re sitting down to have a cup of tea or using the computer use this as an opportunity to do this exercise
  • You could use a bed for this as well 
  • When you finish the exercise throw the treat away and say finished
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The boys love to place chase at the beach

So what else can you do to prepare for your holiday?

Firstly, before you go it’s important to make sure that you’re staying in a dog friendly accommodation, check their reviews and also take a look at the location. The last thing you want is to turn up and realise your dog isn’t a welcomed guest. Often dogs won’t settle in a holiday room on their own, so check that it’s okay with the property.

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A throwback beach picture of the three of us!

When I go away my dogs stay in the bedroom with me but when I’m back home they settle in their beds once again! I can’t promise your dog won’t snore, but at least they will go to sleep.

Places like DogholidaysUk can help you to pick the right place for you and your dog, Sian the owner of Dogholidays UK said:  “When travelling with your dog there’s so many factors to consider. Is the accommodation suitable for the age, size, breed and needs of your dog? What are the policies, related charges and rules? Most importantly, everyone travelling wants the ability to relax and have a brilliant time.”

Once you have the accommodation ticked off your list you can start to plan your travel, make sure your dog is comfortable with the car on shorter journeys before you decide to take them on a long road trip, this will help avoid car sickness too. 

Try taking them on short journeys with you to get a coffee or to the petrol station, where they get to experience being in the car without necessarily always going on a walk. This will get them used to being in the car and settling on journeys. 

You don’t want to cause your dog to become frightened of the car, because this is something that would take time, care and training to undo. Ultimately you want your dog to be comfortable with being in the car and relaxed.

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Quick take a picture whilst there’s no seagulls!

The advice from the PDSA is to use pet seat belts, harnesses or crates to keep your dog safe whilst travelling, this is to protect you and them if an accident were to happen. 

When packing your bikinis, sandals, suncream… or alternatively jumpers and hiking boots we are in England after all, I would also recommend putting in your bag items from home that your dog feels comfortable with, such as their bed, blanket and any of their favourite toys, if they are a bit nervous you can also take some of of your clothes that you’ve been calm in to help comfort them as the smell will help them feel at home.

These are important, like a favourite teddy bear is important to a child because it helps your puppy or dog feel safe and secure. 

Also pack lots of treats, chews, a water bowl for your dog, any medication that they need, as well as researching a number for the local vets just in case of emergency.

Once you’re set up and ready to go in the car for your break, make sure your pet is as cosy as possible, you could give them a chew, their favourite toy or a comfort blanket.

When you’re on the road, try to fight the temptation to do the journey with as little stops as possible. I know how eager it can feel to want to get away but taking breaks as often as possible, especially if it’s a warm day, will not only help you but it will help your dog. Get them out of the car for a little walk, give them water, and some treats. Driving with dogs has some suggested walks near motorways you could try.

On your arrival to your holiday accommodation it’s completely normal for your dog to be excited, so don’t worry, they are on holiday too and the new sights, smells and scenery might have them hyped up. Throw some treats on the floor when you get out of the car to redirect their attention and show them where they can go to the toilet, let them get familiar by letting them have a sniff. 

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Take lots of photos on your holiday!

Once you get inside make sure you unpack their home comforts too, show them where you’ve put their bed and their water bowl.  If your dog’s confident then they should adapt fairly easily, but it isn’t uncommon for dog’s, especially puppies who have never been away to feel a little unsettled and nervous. The usual smell of their bed, blankets and some clothes from home should help them to feel more settled.

If your dog or puppy is particularly nervous it’s a good idea to let them settle and get used to the destination before going on any adventures. You can use your settle cue to help them calm down and relax. If you can try to have a calm first day and don’t over do it.

You could always look at secure fields that are nearby to where you are staying so you can let your dog off lead to have a run around safely. That way they get to be off lead without you worrying. Make sure you book these in advance.

Take your time and be patient with your pup! And then try to plan where possible, when it comes to your days out make sure the beaches, walks and any pubs or restaurants you visit are dog friendly. The last thing you want to do is to try to find a dog friendly destination when you’re hangry… I promise you looking for food on an empty stomach doesn’t make for good holiday memories! 

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Always make sure the water is safe for your dog

Walks on the beach and letting your dog paddle if they want to is great fun for them, especially if your dog thinks they are part fish, but try not to let your dog drink it, you don’t want to cut your day short if your dog is sick and that’s exactly what salt water does to dogs, instead give them some water you’ve brought with you instead.

Also look out for blue Algae too, my rule with water is if you’re unsure don’t let them swim in it. Blue algae is toxic to dogs and is typically found in ponds, lakes and fountains, it can’t always be seen with your eyes but if your dog ingests it they can be extremely ill.  

The signs of blue algae poisoning are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea, dark, tarry stools
  • Lack of appetite
  • Excessive drooling
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Weakness/collapse or even coma
  • Muscle tremors/seizures
  • Breathing difficulties

Help to keep your dog safe by not letting them swim in contaminated or water that you’re unsure of and when they have been in any water give them a thorough rinse. Always speak to a vet if you’re concerned. 

And lastly, have fun and enjoy it! Take lots of photos, these memories will stay with you forever, and whatever you learn on this holiday about being away with your dog will help you plan for your next holiday.

If you want to find out more dog advice and get it straight to your mailbox sign up to receive my monthly Pupdates here

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Holidays in the UK don’t always mean flip flops, sometimes it’s wellies and sunglasses!

By Hannah Antrobus

Hannah is a spaniel specialist dog trainer for spaniels and spaniel crosses. Her catchment area is Warwickshire but she offers video sessions and works with clients nationally and internationally so don’t hesitate to get in touch from wherever you are in the world!

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