Around 6.5 million of us have a dog, and many dog owners choose motorhomes or camping for holidays as they can be so pet friendly. If your four-legged friend is just as much a part of the family as one of the kids, then leaving them in kennels while you disappear off on holiday is unthinkable. Taking your dog with you means you won’t pay for kennels and will always have a companion with you. It’s a shame to leave the family pet behind when have the annual summer holiday and one of the main reasons for getting a motorhome is having the ability to take the pets with you.
Having your own motorhome gives you the flexibility to take the dogs with you, but there are some things which you’ll need to consider in order to make sure their needs are met.
Check the Site Out Carefully
It’s always worth phoning ahead to check that the campsite is happy for you to park your motorhome or pitch your tent when you’ve got a dog with you. Most are more than happy to accommodate well-behaved dogs, but some might have rules about dogs being kept on leads or might require your dog to being exercised in a fenced-off area. Wild camping on farms might ban dogs completely, especially in the lambing season so if you’re heading off the beaten track it’s worth phoning ahead to speak to the landowner about local condition. If your dog is used to a free-range life, they might find this sort of life where they’re tied up most of the time restrictive, so choose sites carefully to keep everyone happy. There are lots of dog forums and advice sites online where you can get site recommendations from other pet owners.
Consider the Packing
Remembering to take dog’s crate, bedding or food is easy, but there are several other pieces of kit you might find useful when taking a dog away with you. As many sites don’t allow dogs to wander at will, a stake driven into the ground will give you a place to secure your dog on a long lead, allowing them freedom of movement but giving you the ability to leave them safely while you cook dinner or take a shower. Take a windbreak or awning to offer them shelter, and somewhere to retreat into the dry if it starts to rain. Make sure you’ve got plenty of poo bags to promptly clear up mess and pack lots of old towels so you can dry your dog off after a walk in the rain or a day out at the beach. Some familiar toys, balls or a much-loved blanket could also help a nervous pet settle in new surroundings.
Get Some Training In
Noise travels quickly across a campsite, with noise sounding much louder when all you have to protect you is a couple of layers of canvas. If you know your dog is a barker, then work hard on training them to react in a different way, and keep quieter. This isn’t a quick process, but start early and follow a policy of rewarding good behaviour, and results can be remarkable. Any dog which is aggressive or is known to chase other dogs, children or farm animals is probably better off in kennels rather than taken camping until their conduct improves. If you’re unsure of how your dog will react in new surroundings, keep them on the lead around new people and new dogs.
Have Bottled Water
It’s never a great idea to let your dog get into bad habits while on holiday as the bad behaviour can be hard to break once you get home. Drinking out of puddles or ponds might be easy, but could lead to upset stomachs. Take an old water bottle with you, fill it and take it out on walks so you always have some fresh water to give your dog. Similarly, don’t be tempted to throw the dog’s usual food routine out and allow them to eat leftovers or sausages from the barbecue; nobody wants to be dealing with a vomiting or ill dog in the confines of a small tent or motorhome. Unless your dog is on very specialist food you probably won’t need to take much with you if storage space is an issue; just replenish supplies when you stop at the supermarket to pick up supplies for the human travellers.
Pet Passports and Trips Overseas
If you’re taking your family pet further afield on your motorhoming trip, you’ll have to investigate getting a pet passport. This requires a bit of work before you leave home in order to bring you up to speed with the requirements of the scheme and to make sure your dog meets the criteria. To get a pet passport your dog has to be microchipped, and be fully immunised against tapeworm and rabies. The rabies vaccination has to be done at least 3 weeks before you’re intending coming back to the UK, so leave time before your trip to organise this. In many cases, you’ll also have to see a vet within 24 hours of your intended return to the UK which can be costly and time-consuming if you’ve not planned it properly in advance. If you’re at all confused about how the scheme operates, speak to your vet for advice. If you’re planning on leaving the EU on your motorhome holiday the rules are even tougher, so check online for the latest rules and regulations.
Check Your Insurance
Most pet insurance policies will cover your family pet anywhere in the UK, giving you the flexibility to explore wherever you fancy. If you’re planning on going further afield though, you’ll need to sort out an additional insurance policy for your pet alongside their pet passport and any immunisations which they require before travelling. Not insuring your pet is false economy – should they fall ill overseas it’s going to cost a lot more for veterinary treatment and getting them back to the UK than the policy costs.
Think about Overheating
All responsible pet owners know that pets can soon overheat in a hot car, but a pet can also overheat shut up in a motorhome for the day. If you’re not taking your pet with you when you head off for a few hours, you have a couple of options. Awnings often provide more shade and stay cooler, as well as allowing air to flow through. Alternatively, and if the site owner is happy to allow it, your dog can be left on a long lead on a stake into the ground with access to both the awning and outdoor areas. Just don’t forget to leave lots of water.
Summer months see a rapid rise in the number of ticks around, and the illnesses which can be caused by an infected tick are just as dangerous to our pets as they are to humans. Ticks are usually picked up when walking in long grass, and their dark colour can make them difficult to spot on brown or black fur. Make sure you’ve taken advice from your vet about preventing ticks in the first place, and pack some tweezers so you can easily remove any ticks you spot. It’s good to get into the routine of checking your pet over for ticks after each walk.
Securing Dogs in the motorhome
Before you even arrive at your chosen campsite, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to transport your dogs safely in your motorhome. It’s second nature to strap the human passengers in with seatbelts, and it’s worth getting similar devices for your dogs. Harnesses will keep them safe and controlled as you travel, and will stop them being thrown around the interior of the motorhome should you be involved in a collision. Harnesses can be bought from large pet superstores and car accessory shops.
If you want your pooch to have access to fresh water on the road, an open water bowl is not going to be a practical option. Either make sure you take regular breaks to allow the dog out of the motorhome to have a drink and exercise, or look for special water bowls which are designed for use in vehicles. It’s usually best to factor in a stop every 90 minutes or so to allow the dogs out to use the toilet.
If you’re travelling to the countryside or the beach, then your dogs are going to want to make the most of running through the forest or splashing in the waves. Cleaning dirty and wet dogs isn’t as easy in a motorhome as it is at home, so minimise damage to the soft furnishings in your motorhome by investing in a set of removable seat covers which you can strip out and wash when you get home, ready for your next trip away. It’s also a good idea to take some old towels to dry off dogs if they get caught in a torrential downpour.
Most campsites will have rules about keeping your dogs tethered up on-site, for the comfort of other guests and their pets. Unless you want to keep them inside at all times when they’re not being walked, you’ll need a long spike to drive into the ground and a long length of rope to attach your dog’s collar to the spike. Look for climbing ropes with a metal clip connection at either end as this makes securing your dog quick and easy.
Heating in Winter
If you’re touring in the winter, the temperature might drop much lower than your dog is used to at home. If your dog is sleeping outside or in the awning, think about providing a fleece coat for them to wear or, giving them extra blankets. In really cold weather, it’s probably best to bring to dogs inside. Think about the configuration of the motorhome when planning a new purchase; beds which block the entrance to the motorhome aren’t a good choice if your dog needs to get out overnight.
Pack the Lead
If your dog enjoys exploring new places as much as you do, it can be tempting to let them off the lead to explore. However, this can come with its dangers, especially in areas where you aren’t familiar with the terrain either. You don’t want to be the pet owner calling the coastguard because your pet has fallen over cliffs. Check out the local bylaws too as certain beaches and other places ban dogs between Easter and the end of September.
Respect the Livestock
If you’re holidaying in a rural area, the chances are your dog is going to come across livestock, which may be something of a novelty. Every year many sheep are killed by dogs, and it’s essential to keep your dog on a tight lead around all farm animals. Farmers have the right to shoot at dogs who are worrying sheep or cows, and will do so.
Best Places To Go With Your Dog
We are blessed in the UK with a huge range of fantastic places to holiday with your dog. Wide open spaces and forest parks are paradise to dogs, who have the freedom to explore and run for miles. Beaches are great for dogs too, but check the local regulations carefully as in many parts of the UK dogs are banned from many beaches between Easter and the end of September. Many pubs and cafes in tourist areas are becoming increasingly pet-friendly, and will be happy to let well behaved pets sit with you as you have a drink or lunch. Travelling with dogs means taking regular breaks to allow the dog to go to the toilet, have a run around and have something to drink. Many service stations in the UK have facilities for pets, but it can be better to go a few miles off the motorway to find somewhere quieter and more open for a proper break from your journey.