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Dogs On Holiday: Prioritising Safety For Calm And Happy Travel

Dogs On Holiday: Prioritising Safety For Calm And Happy Travel

By Mary-Jane Gallagher

There are 3,300 pet-friendly Airbnb listings in South Africa, and taking your dog on holiday with you is becoming increasingly plausible. Travelling with your best friend is straightforward, but it requires some forward planning to make sure he’s safe and comfortable for the whole trip. Of course, you’ll have an extra body to pack for, too. It’s safe to assume that your dog will want his favourite toys and blankets in order to feel secure while you’re away. 

Forward Planning 

One of the most important things to do to protect your dog before your holiday is to make sure he’s been microchipped. In the unlikely event that he gets lost in an unfamiliar place, a microchip will help animal shelters reunite you. A microchip holds a unique identity number matched with your information and held in a centralised database. A lost animal can then be scanned and its owners contacted. 

It’s also important to make sure your dog’s vaccines are up to date before you travel. Even if you’re not travelling abroad and don’t need specific vaccinations, it’s important to be sure that your pet will be covered by his standard vaccines for your whole trip. Ensure he’s protected against parasites, too; this will keep him free of ticks and fleas when he’s exploring exciting new environments. Your vet will be able to guide you on which products will be best for your dog.

In Transit

Most airlines require animals to be in a crate or carrier, but even if you’re travelling in a car, your dog should be securely strapped in, either in a crate or using a car harness. An unsecured dog can panic or become excitable, which could cause an accident on the road. If your dog is prone to car sickness, try not to feed him right before the trip. Keep him cool in the car by opening windows and running the air conditioning, but don’t allow him to put his head out the window: he could bang his head and get an injury, and it can also distract other drivers.

Take regular toilet breaks on long drives. Your dog will stay calmer, and therefore safe, on the trip if he has a chance to drink, go to the toilet and stretch his legs. If you and your family also need a break, don’t be tempted to leave him in the car — dogs can overheat quickly and become very ill. Instead, take it in turns to visit the bathroom so someone can stay with him outside the car.

At Your Accommodation

It’s important to remember that safe dog travel also extends to reaching your destination: your pet will be in an unfamiliar environment, and there may be hazards you’re not aware of. If you’re staying in a dog-friendly hotel, take the same precautions you would with small children: before you allow him off the lead, look around the room for hazards, checking beneath the beds and under cushions. Move any dangerous items out of the way before letting your dog explore the surroundings.

Be mindful, too, that other dogs may have visited the room. Studies show that dogs use urinary communication to mark social status, and even if previous visitors have been bathroom-trained, there may be scents around the room that your dog wants to investigate. Let him explore and become familiar with his new temporary home before you set off on an adventure so that he knows it’s a safe space to come back to. 

Taking your dog on holiday can be extremely rewarding and a lot of fun for everyone. Take the stress out of travel by preparing properly, and remember that your dog has needs that are distinct from the rest of the family’s. With good preparation and attention to safety, you’re sure to have a great trip together.