Staycation Tips - Advice from Dog Behaviourist and Trainer, Adem Fehmi
Staycation Tips from Dog Behaviourist and Trainer, Adem Fehmi and Barking Heads
PREP YOUR DOG SOCIALLY BEFORE YOUR HOLIDAY
By this I mean visiting cafés, parks, restaurants, outdoor attractions and events and so on - the types of places you might want your dog to accompany you when you go no holiday together. If your dog is usually a stay-at-home pooch who likes to totter around the same patch every day, away from the hustle and bustle of life, they might find being in new, busier and nosier locations unsettling at minimum and extremely stressful at worst.
Think for your dog and help them to understand these places can be fun experiences BEFORE you chuck them in at the deep end on a holiday. As with all social exposure, start at distance and make your way in e.g. start at the edge of a town and slowly, over time and several visits, make your way into the centre where it is busier and louder. Allow them to observe and take in their environment at distance, rewarding their accepting and calm behaviour at each step with a tasty treat or favourite toy and praise in order to make the experience positive and fun.
Work at your dog’s pace and take your time to help them feel confident and secure in these types of locations. It is also important to initially keep your sessions short and sweet so as not to overwhelm your dog. You can then build on this over time.
MAKE SURE YOUR DOG IS ACCUSTOMED TO TRAVELLING BY CAR OR TRAIN
...Or however else you are choosing to travel. Start off slowly, allowing your dog to simply observe your vehicle of choice at first before then exploring the vehicle (engine both on and off) and then finally taking short journeys that build up to longer journeys. This might seem like second nature to a dog who is more confident, however some dogs might take longer to become accustomed to travelling by car or train.
Work at your dog’s pace, ensure they find each step positive, and reward their confident, calm and accepting behaviour with praise and tasty treats. Don’t be afraid to take a step back if they are feeling unsettled. The key is not to create any negative experiences for your dog.
This also includes when introducing them to the carry case, crate, car harness, or doggy seat belt that you’ll be using to secure them safely on your journeys.
DO YOUR RESEARCH WHEN CHOOSING A HOTEL, B&B OR HOLIDAY PROPERTY TO LET
Pick a dog friendly location and holiday rental – whether this be a dog friendly hotel, B&B or holiday let. Remember to check with the hotel or host in advance to ensure your dog is welcome, even if it states this on the small print as there might be exceptions or exclusions that apply. If you have more than one dog to take with you, it is a good idea to check how many dogs you are permitted to bring with you and if there is a fee for their stay (sometimes per dog and sometimes per dog, per night).
Some places might also have a policy that states that dogs cannot be left unattended in the room or holiday let, and some stipulate that dogs are not allowed to stay in bedrooms or reside on furniture. Find a place that suits you, your dog and the plans you might have for your stay.
This also includes researching that there is a nearby green space for your dog to toilet, especially if they are not used to toileting on concrete or gravelled areas. The last thing you want to be doing at bedtime is trekking to the local park, 15 minutes walk away, because there isn’t another safe green space for your dog to do their bedtime business!
PACK A SUITCASE FOR YOUR DOG AS WELL AS YOU
I like to pack a separate suitcase or holdall for my dogs. This keeps everything in one place and neat and tidy – no rummaging for an important item in a rush! See below for what I typically like to take away with me for my dogs:
This includes their normal breakfast and dinner plus tasty treats and chews. Your dog has to eat as well as you, of course! Treats can also be useful for rewarding your dog for calm and positive behaviour in new locations you might be visiting, helping to create a positive experience for all involved.
FOOD DISPENSING TOYS & CHEWS
These can be great for helping your dog to settle in a new location, whether this be in the hotel room or holiday let or at cafés, restaurants and at other attractions you might visit. Giving them something fun and tasty to do can also help to relieve boredom if you’re planning on having a more relaxed day in your hotel or holiday let.
When choosing a food dispensing toy, it is helpful to consider the life-stage that your dog is in, their breed physiology and physical capabilities, as well as the environment in which you’d like to offer the toy. Some dogs have shorter snouts, others have longer noses that make it easier to reach inside certain toys. Some dogs are agile and can ‘chase’ a toy more easily and others may prefer to lay down and simply lick at a toy.
Likewise, some toys are big and heavy and more suitable for use in a garden or other outdoor areas and others will be easier to transport on your adventures or use in an indoor location. Choose your toys with your individual dog and your chosen location in mind.
You could simply use their bed from home or there are some great travel beds on the market now - some that fold up and many that are easily washable. Some also have handles or roll/fold up so that they can be easily transported not only to your holiday destination, but also to the places you’re visiting on holiday. Having a familiar place to reside will help your dog to settle easier in these locations and give them somewhere comfortable to lay regardless of the flooring underneath.
It is a good idea to introduce and get your dog used to settling on their travel bed before you travel so it is familiar and helps them to understand you would like them to relax when you place it down for them.
COLLAPSABLE BOWLS AND WATER BOWL OR DRINKER
There are some fantastic products on the market now. You could of course take a standard bowl and bottle of water, or you can purchase dog water bottles and collapsible bowls. It is always a good idea to take water out with you when travelling and visiting places, just in case there is not any water available. As with everything else, ensure your dog is confident using the chosen bowl before simply assuming they will when you’re out!
DOG FIRST AID KIT
It is a good idea to pack one just in case. I like to have the following items in mine: tick remover, nail clippers (in case of a nail injury on your adventures that needs attention!), cotton wool, antiseptic spray, and self-adhering bandage (such as ‘vet wrap’).
DRYING TOWELS & DRYING COATS
In case of wet weather – these will keep your dog comfortable as well as save your vehicle and/or holiday let from being covered in dirty water from your dog shaking.
WET COATS & RAIN COATS
In hot weather wet coats can be a life saver, helping to keep your dog cool. A rain coat can also be handy if you’re travelling in wetter and colder months (or at any time in the UK let’s face it!), especially for breeds who might feel the cold more than others.
SPARE LEAD & COLLAR
Just in case your usual lead or collar snaps or becomes damaged! It will save you trying to hunt down a pet shop and keep your dog safe in the meantime.
So, there you have it, my top tips for taking a staycation with your four-legged best bud. I hope you find them useful!
Dog Behaviourist & Trainer, Adem Fehmi & Barking Heads
*The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified pet health provider with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s health*