This is an extract from Pets on Holiday: The best pet-friendly accommodation, activities and cafes all over Australia by Gareth Brock. ($34.99 Dymocks). .
Before you head out onto the open road with your furry friends, there’s a couple of basic do’s and don’ts that you should be aware of warns author Gareth Brock. Follow these handy tips to avoid Beethoven-level mishaps with your favourite pal.
1. Do a quick vet check-up
It is important to ensure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date. While your pet may be used to their local strains of disease, your destination may be subject to a different range of risks and diseases such as parvovirus. Discuss destination animal health issues with your local vet before departure.
Also consider your pet’s flea, tick and heartworm treatments and apply a fresh dose before you leave so they are up to date. Some pet-friendly establishments may also request this as a condition of your pet’s stay.
It’s a good idea to bring a copy of your pet’s medical records with you, including details of their vaccination status. This background can be useful for a vet in diagnosing any conditions that may arise while you’re on the road.
2. Pack home comforts
Just as you pack for yourself, you should consider the needs of your pet before you travel. How much food will they need over the duration of your holiday? Are there any creature comforts from home that will help them settle in to a new environment?
In both cases, it is often safer to overpack if space and safe storage permits. Ensure they have enough dried or canned food for the duration of your holiday just in case your dog’s regular food is hard to find. Remember to pack the necessary food for fussy eaters or those with special dietary requirements. Make sure to take your dog’s medication with you too.
Although some accommodation providers offer bedding for your dog, it’s preferable to bring your own bedding along. The familiar smell of their own blanket or bag, with some favourite toys, will help them settle in more quickly to a new place.
Pack a portable water bowl and bottles of water, as these come in handy when you make stops along the way. A spare towel or two is useful to include in case your dog takes a dip in the ocean (or rolls around in the mud, or worse).
To avoid the heartache of losing your pet on holiday, make sure it has a collar and sturdy tag with your phone number on it. A mobile and home phone number covers all bases. It is also worthwhile to have their microchip number on hand to provide to local authorities so they can keep an eye out for your runaway. Your local vet will have the necessary scanning device to quickly identify your pet’s ID number for you to file away.
Of course, don’t forget poo bags – you can never have too many of these!
3. Train your pet to love the car
When travelling with pets, the usual mode of transport is the car. If your dog isn’t accustomed to the car, it is best to introduce them to it gradually, always starting while the car is completely stationary. Let them sniff and explore their new surroundings, and even give them a treat so they associate the car with a positive experience. You can then start with short drives to the park, even if it is just around the corner.
Many pet owners only put their pet in the car to visit the vet, and we all know this isn’t generally a positive experience. Taking them in the car to the park, on the other hand, is a positive experience and over time will help your pet associate the car with good times.
Your dog must also be appropriately restrained, for their safety as well as yours. Having your dog secured will reduce the likelihood of them jumping out the window or falling in the event of sudden braking. Consider a cargo barrier for a station wagon if you travel often. There are many of these on the market but ensure you do your research, as some crash tests have suggested they can cause more harm than good. A harness or pet seat are other options, but you may need to get your dog used to them using positive reinforcement.
If you need to make a stop, never leave your dog in the car unattended. It takes just a few minutes for an animal to get heat exhaustion or heat stroke, resulting in severe illness or even death.
Finally, remember to give your pet regular pit stops along the way, always keeping them close to you on a lead.
4. Remember table manners
Many more restaurants and cafes throughout Australia are warmly welcoming pet owners with their dogs in tow, sometimes even providing a treat on arrival. It is, however, important to understand some of the unwritten rules and table manners that are expected.
Nearly all eating establishments that allow furry diners understand that you love having your pet with you, but it is a courtesy to keep them on the ground and not allow them up on a chair or near the table as some other diners will not be as tolerant. Due to food safety laws pets are only permitted in outdoor areas, not in the restaurant itself. With this in mind, always consider the weather and how it will affect your and your pet’s experience.
Outdoor seating is also sometimes limited, so best to call ahead of time to see if you can book a table. If your pet prefers either sun or shade, make sure to ask about it when you call ahead.
5. Plan pet-themed activities
There are many great activities that you can discover while you’re away with your pooch. From walking trails, beach walks and swims to markets, botanic gardens and winery visits, there’s something to suit every pet traveller’s needs.
Australia has over 500 national parks, as well as state forests, regional parks and reserves. Many of these are found in and around major tourist spots and adjacent to beaches, protecting and preserving native plants and wildlife. Dogs are not allowed in most national parks but are permitted in most other categories of parks and reserves. It is important visitors observe signage and regulations relating to their access. Be aware that different rules apply in different types of parks and reserves.
When out in public with your pet always assume the area is on leash unless there are signs clearly identifying it as an off-leash area.
Don’t forget to respect other members of the public by having your dog under control and picking up after them. If you’re unsure about your pet’s ability to socialise with others, then it may be best to keep them at home.