Taking your dog on holiday: the dos and don’ts

Finally it’s holiday time, you are looking forward to a well-earned rest but you can’t decide: what should you do with your four-legged friend? Should you entrust it to a professional dog boarding facility or take it with you? Here’s some advice for a relaxing holiday.

The kennel option

If you choose the kennel option for your pet, the best way to make sure it has a relaxing stay, is to take it to visit the chosen facility two or three times before the holiday to familiarise it with the location and introduce it to the people who will be taking care of it. At the same time, the kennel staff will have plenty of opportunity to get to know your pet, its habits, likes and dislikes because, when you bring a dog to a kennel, it is important not break its routine as this could be frustrating for your pet and cause issues with their stay. It’s like passing the baton: the owner prepares the people who will be taking care of their dog, informing them about their food, routine, and games they like to play, before handing over their precious cargo. Maintaining their routine, even when being looked after by other people and not by us, allows the dog to react to the separation in a calm manner as even if we go away for just a few days, the dog will actually consider it a separation because it won’t know if or when we will return.

When the owners of the boarding kennel know and understand our dog, we can rest assured our canine friend will receive the best possible care while we are away. However, even with this ‘knowledge’ and thorough preparation, separation can still difficult for your pet. If this is the case, organising small half-day stays at the kennels, building up to an overnight stay, the most critical time for your pet, would be advisable in advance of your holiday. If the response from the dog is positive, the facility that we have chosen for our pet is the right one.

Price, stylish design or snazzy advertisements are not sensible parameters for choosing a dog boarding facility. Our animal seeks moments of fun, interaction, relaxation and freedom and they will likely just ‘know’ the right facility for them. For this reason, letting them ‘chose’ their kennels would be your best option; the moment we place them in the facility, their reaction (fear or serenity) will help us understand if we made the right decision.

Taking your dog with you

When taking Fido with us on holiday, the first thing we should do is pack their bag. It is advisable to take a number of items with us that give our dog a feeling of ‘home’. Its bed, bowls, food, toys, etc. are indispensable for the animal to understand that the place we’re going will be our home for the duration. We should also pay particular attention to our pet’s diet; a sudden change of food may cause bowel problems and make our friend feel poorly. All this advance detail not only serves to make the trip more comfortable for our pet but also maintains their everyday routine, making the dog feel more secure in their home away from home.

Why bring familiar objects? On occasion, we may need to leave our dog in the room or apartment on his or her own. To avoid them getting upset when we go out, it’s important to leave our pet feeling reassured that we will return. Surrounding them with their belongings (bed, and toys) as well as any items that will provide familiar smells, like our clothes for example, will help them understand that we will be returning. Reassuring our pet in this way will lessen the risk of destructive behaviour or barking when leaving them alone for a little while.

Before leaving on your holiday, don’t forget to visit your veterinarian to ensure that your pet’s vaccinations and anti-pest treatments are up to date. There are areas you might visit that carry a risk of leishmaniasis (a tropical and subtropical disease caused by leishmania and transmitted by the bite of sandflies) or rabies, so comprehensive vaccination coverage will provide you with peace of mind that your pet is fully protected.

Of course, a pet passport is mandatory when travelling abroad with your pet; but also ensuring that your pet is well behaved and under control is important to avoid any complaints being made against you or your animal, so be sure to bring their leash and muzzle (if required) and arm yourself with enough poop bags to ‘pick up’ after your pet. 

By car

One last tip is about the car journey. If the outside temperature is very hot and we turn on the air conditioning in the car, we need to be aware of the risk of heatstroke; this can be caused by a dramatic change of air temperature between the inside and outside of the car. To avoid any issues with heatstroke, it’s a good idea to lower the air conditioning and start letting the warm air from the outside in to the car shortly before a planned stop. In this way, both our dog and us can adjust to the temperature change gradually.

As for the stops, stopping too often, out of concern that your dog needs to pee, is probably unnecessary. A stop every 50-60 km doesn’t really give the dog a chance to relax, sleep and pass the time. Unless your dog is stirring, crying or making demands, it is best to continue on your way to make sure that the journey time is as short as possible. When we do stop however, give the dog time to explore the surroundings and do its business in peace.

Last trick, don’t forget water, especially when it’s hot outside.

After all this forethought, the rest of your holiday should be all about relaxing and having fun! Happy holidays!

Luca Scanavacca, Dog Instructor
Founder of the
Associazione Semplicemente Sordo
Author of the book “
Semplicemente Sordo” – www.semplicementesordo.com