Destination: Dog friendly holidays

From beachside bungalows to boutique B&Bs, finding the ideal holiday destination for you and your dog can be tricky. Caroline Zambrano talks to the experts for their helpful tips.

Whether it’s taking longs walks on the beach, camping under the stars or enjoying the pleasures of a five-star resort, a fantastic range of pet-friendly holiday options is available to choose from.

But how do you choose the perfect holiday destination both you and your dog will enjoy, prepare for the road trip and keep your dog happy and safe during the holiday?

Choose your destination

When choosing a holiday destination, you need to consider a few things, such as the type of holiday you want, how long to go for and how you’ll get there – not to mention your budget. But also factor in your dog’s desires, says Dr Katrina Warren.

“Does your dog like water, snow or travelling in the car? Is it an older dog with special needs or on medication?” she asks.

Keeping your preferences, as well as your dog’s personality and health in mind, decide what sort of pet-friendly holiday destination suits you both. Perhaps you’d like to stay in a self-contained cottage, a bed and breakfast or a camping or caravan site. What about a boutique hotel in the city where puppycinos and doggy massages are plentiful?

For destination ideas, ask friends who have taken their dog on holiday and check out websites with petfriendly holiday listings, such as:

Pet-friendly holidays on the rise

Latest figures from the Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS) show that, in 2010, 37 per cent of dog owners living on their own took their dogs on holiday with them, compared to just 14 per cent in the year 2000.

Willie Bedford has worked in pet tourism for more than 15 years as co-author of Holidaying with Dogs books and owner of Coast Cottages in Victoria. She is no longer involved with the book, but continues to run her ‘Five Paw’ rated dog-friendly accommodation situated on Victoria’s picturesque Great Ocean Road.

“When Holidaying with Dogs was first published 22 years ago, it listed only 100 caravan parks,” Bedford says. “But today it features more than 2000 dog-friendly destinations from self-contained cottages and bed and breakfasts to caravan parks and boutique hotels.” Alex Price, marketing consultant with Holidaying with Dogs, says camping and caravan parks have always been very popular with people travelling with their dogs, but they have noticed an increase in the number of excellent quality and sometimes luxury houses and apartments now allowing pets to stay.

“Another trend we have noticed is an increasing number of inner-city properties now allowing dogs,” Price says.

Susie Willis from PIAS says that research shows property owners really seem to be thinking about the needs of pets as well as people. “Taking a pet on a holiday has never been easier,” she says.

Ask the right questions

But not all property owners offer pet-friendly conditions that may be up to all people’s standards. Bedford suggests not just booking on the internet, but calling well in advance of the holiday.

Ask some questions, Bedford says. Are pets allowed inside and/or on furniture? Do they have fenced, safe areas? Are there any limits or restrictions to the size and number of dogs allowed?

“Some places charge a fee for having your dog there, so check for hidden fees relating to your pet,” she warns. When you’re asking questions, you can usually tell if the property owners are interested in your dog or not, Bedford adds. She suggests asking about nearby dog walks, dog-friendly beaches or any restrictions on where dogs can be taken.

“If you call and ask and they don’t know the answers, they are not interested in your dog,” she says. Also, some caravan parks don’t allow dogs all year round, so make sure you check and don’t just turn up. Finding yourself without accommodation can be distressing for you and your dog, Price adds.

Another important tip is to ask about any changes in policy regarding pets and confirm when booking, says Dr Joanne Sillince, Managing Director of Pets Australia, which represents pet businesses and pet owners across Australia.

“I have been hearing from people who are going on holiday with their pets and booking at ‘pet-friendly’ places, only to be told when they get there that the policy has changed and pets are no longer allowed,” Dr Sillince says.

On the road

Careful preparation is key to a safe and enjoyable holiday with your dog, whether you are driving or flying, Dr Warren says.

“Pack a first aid kit for your dog – you would be surprised how handy they can be,” she says. “Don’t forget to take tick and flea treatments, especially if you are heading to a high-risk tick area. It’s best to visit your vet before departure to make sure your dog is up to date with worming and vaccinations.

If car sickness is an issue, speak to your vet about medication or other options to make the journey a little more comfortable for your furry companion, Dr Warren adds.

When you are planning to fly, always book your pet in before the flight and ensure you have a secure crate approved by the carrier, recommends PIAS’s Willis. Check with the carrier about when your pet needs to arrive, and whether it should be dropped off at the airport or another address.

When it comes to driving, pets tend to prefer routine. So, says Willis, on the day of departure, time your activities so your pet can rest in the car at its normal sleeping time.

During your holiday

When you arrive at your holiday destination, keep your dog on a leash when you are outdoors, especially around wildlife. “Chasing wildlife is a big problem when travelling,” says Bedford.

A kangaroo, wallaby or possum can develop capture myopathy from the exertion and stress of being chased by a dog, causing paralysis and death even if the dog doesn’t catch the animal, Bedford warns.

Do the right thing and follow the rules and regulations while on holiday, Price from Holidays with Dogs says. This means cleaning up after your dog and leave no trace that your furry friend has been in residence.

“If dogs are not allowed inside, don’t sneak them in,” she adds. “Accommodation providers who allow dogs are relying on people to do the right thing.”

Also, remember that dogs are not permitted in some areas, such as National Parks. “If you need to leave your dog behind, some property owners are happy to pet-sit while you visit the local area so check in advance if this service is available,” Price says. As an alternative option, Dr Sillince suggests contacting a recommended pet-sitter or boarding kennel in the area, although it can be difficult to find vacancies around Christmas and Easter.

Top holiday tips

Holidays are fun but there are dangers that pet owners need to be aware of. Check for plants that can be poisonous to pets, says Dr Joanne Sillince from Pets Australia.

“In the far north, box jellyfish and irukandji jellyfish seasons are an issue for pets swimming. Also, watch out for sharks and crocodiles,” she warns. But the single biggest danger while on holiday is getting into a car accident, she says, so ensure your dog is wearing an appropriate harness secured to the backseat of the car or is confined in a crate.

“The second biggest danger is leaving your dog in a hot car,” she adds. “It generally takes an hour to do shopping and only seven minutes to kill a pet left behind in the hot car.”

Dogs can also be more territorial in strange places than at home, and a little more ‘on guard’ at the local off-leash park, Dr Sillince adds.

Also, keep vaccinations up to date. “Pets are used to local strains of disease but may not be to interstate strains, or you might run into a geographic area that is in the grip of an epidemic (such as parvo virus) and not know it,” she says. “Locating a vet at your destination beforehand can help save you time in an emergency.”

Celebrity vet Dr Katrina Warren says another danger is your dog getting lost while on holiday. “Having your home phone number on the ID tag won’t help as you are not home, and mobile reception is often poor when you’re out of the city," she says. “It’s best to get an ID tag with a contact number of where you are staying."

What to take on holiday for your dog

  • Bedding
  • Toys
  • Food and special treats
  • Food and water bowls
  • Dog poo bags
  • Leashes
  • Towel
  • Grooming equipment
  • Shampoo
  • Tick and flea control treatments
  • Any familiar objects that help your dog feel at home
  • First aid kit
  • ID tag with your accommodation details