Travelling with pets: How to have a happy holiday with your dog

In summer 2016, more than three-quarters of the population expected to enjoy a ‘staycation’ – holidaying right here in the UK.

However, according to the Post Office, the reason one in 12 of those did so was because they wanted to holiday with their dog.

That’s more than 1.4m people choosing to take their holiday in the UK with their canine companions – more than twice the number who wanted to stay in the country so they could watch the Rio Olympics.

While some people do take their dog abroad, many feel the pet passport and health check requirements make it much easier to avoid national borders.

It’s no surprise then that the number of dog-friendly hotels and other facilities is growing around the country. But as a dog owner, you can never assume that the place you are visiting will automatically accept dogs. Many campsites, hotels, B&Bs and self-catering places do not cater for them, so it is essential to check before you book.

Dog-friendly hotels aren’t any more expensive than other accommodation, but many will make a small charge per night for your canine companion. A simple search of the internet will usually bring up a list of dog-friendly establishments, but the local tourist board at your destination is also likely to know of a few.

Some hotels really roll out the red carpet for man’s best friend, providing dog beds, their own bowls, dedicated play areas and even organic pigs’ ears and squeaky toys.

Always check with the proprietors exactly what is and isn’t allowed (some might not let your dog sleep in your room, sit on the furniture or join you in the dining room or bar). If in doubt, be cautious about letting your pooch roam as free as they would at home.

Activities

It’s one thing being in a dog-friendly hotel, but you need to make sure you can take your pooch out and about with you to the local attractions as well.

Many national monuments only allow assistance dogs, so check before you plan a long visit to a castle or stately home.

For places that do not allow dogs inside, perhaps it would be best to save your visit for another, dog-less day. It’s no fun being tied up by a fence or locked in a car for a long time. Always remember that dogs can suffer in cars even if it seems like a cool day.

If you’re looking forward to stretching your legs with your faithful friend across some of the UK’s beautiful countryside, remember you have the legal right to roam – but your dog does not.

Once more, the internet or local tourist office will tell you of lots of dog-friendly walking routes and activities.

Be particularly aware of crossing farmland and keep your dog on a lead at all times, especially near livestock.

Farmers have the right to defend their animals from ‘worrying’ and while it’s a myth that farmers are entitled to shoot at your animal, you can risk prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000. If your dog were to attack livestock or behave dangerously, it could be seized under the dangerous dogs act and possibly destroyed.

Dog-friendly beaches

Beaches are doggie holiday heaven, but dog-friendly beaches aren’t universal in the UK. Many public beaches will have signage telling you what you can and can’t do. You can always check with the local council before heading out.

There are dog-friendly beaches that nevertheless won’t allow your pet on the sand between May and September, when most children are likely to be playing. Other beaches will allow them year-round, but only in certain areas.

Whatever the rules on the particular beach you’re planning to visit, it’s incredibly important that both you and your dog are on your best behaviour.

That means always picking up their mess and not letting them off the lead – even in areas where it is allowed – if you know they can’t be trusted around children or are just too excitable to control.

Make sure you can be reunited with your dog if it does run off. While it’s a legal requirement that they are microchipped plus collard and tagged in public places, putting your mobile number on the tag, and even details of your hotel, will get you back together sharpish.

When you do find a dog-friendly beach that allows all the freedoms Fido could possibly want, there are a few other things to watch out for. Firstly, are you sure your dog can actually swim?

If the beach slopes off suddenly or it’s a blustery day, it can be really hard work getting back to shore with that ball you just threw. Are there stinging jellyfish or poisonous weeverfish about? If lifeguards are telling humans to stay out of the water, it’s best your dog does too – don’t risk swells, outgoing tides and powerful waves.

On the road

Travelling with your dog in the UK is largely a matter of common sense. If you’re going by car, make sure your dog is safely contained, either in a cage in the boot or with a safety harness. Allow plenty of water if it’s a long or hot journey, and plenty of comfort stops in safe places.

Travelling by car has the added advantage of being able to take your dog’s own possessions, such as their basket and blanket, with you. These will reassure them on the way and in the strange new place that is your destination.

If you’re taking public transport, however, be mindful that you don’t get to say when and where you stop. And dogs cannot use on-board loos! If you can keep train or bus journeys short, it will work out better for all concerned.

Flying with your dog certainly gets you a long distance in the UK without having to make frequent stops, but unless you have an assistance dog, they will have to travel away from you, stowed in the hold.

Many animals cope with this, but if your dog is nervous or you think they simply wouldn’t enjoy it, consider a different way of getting to your destination.

However you get there, it’s now easier than ever to enjoy dog-friendly holidays right here in the UK. In fact, the only thing you might struggle with is the choice!

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