The year is almost over and now it’s time to plan our holidays! For many, this will be your first holiday with your dog so here are some things you need to know about, to prepare for the summer break with your furry friend.
Dog goes on holiday with you
If you have decided to head off with your dog, make sure you have back ups of everything, from leashes, to bags of dog food, bowls, blankets and poop bags. Too often we end up forgetting something or an item gets lost so it is a good idea to pack a bag just with the dog stuff so you are well prepared. I also suggest bringing items that are familiar to the dog as the new environment can be a little overwhelming. Finding their regular water bowl or smelly blanket can be comforting as it is predictable and reminds them of home. Bring some toys too that they enjoy playing with.
Find out what kind of fencing you are likely to find at your accommodation. Some places have farm fencing and others have proper secure fencing. If there is farm fencing, you might need to bring a tether or bring some fencing to create a pen/boundary to ensure your dog is secure on the property. The last thing you want is to be running after your dog while it chases sheep in the paddock next door or kangaroos in a nearby forest.
Once you arrive, before unpacking all your stuff, take your dog immediately into the garden so it can work out where the toilet is and give it a good half hour to sniff the place out. Then bring the dog inside on a leash for a walk through of the house. We often suggest doing this on leash because many dogs feel compelled to mark a new house, especially if another dog has been there before and it does not matter if your dog has been desexed or not. By keeping your dog on leash when you do the first walk through, you can minimise the risk of it cocking its leg on some furniture or wall. Set up the water bowl, set up the bed, give your dog a quick meal to settle it in and scatter some toys around so it feels like home.
If you are travelling interstate with your dog, call up the local veterinary clinic in the area to see if there is a change to their parasite control regime? There are many parasites, worms included that we do not see down here in southern Victoria but are an issue up in the north. I always suggest calling the veterinary clinic closest to where you are going and find out if they have any other suggestions on preventative control.
Plan your trip with lots of pitstops along the way for toilet breaks, especially for the younger dogs.
Ensure you check the regulations regarding bringing your dogs into certain parks. National Parks are off limits to pet dogs, including in vehicles and the only dogs allowed entry are Assistance Dogs. State Parks and reserves have different rules and you can find all this information on the Parks Vic website. You want to be sure you can enter and not be disappointed when you get turned away or fined!
Some beaches also have curfews as to what time your dog can get down there so check the signs, follow the rules and then everyone can enjoy the space.
Consider the weather variations to where you are going. We all know Melbourne is quite a cool zone so if you are heading up north, remember it is much hotter and often humid. It might affect what time you take your dog out for walks to beat the heat. And don’t forget their feet! If it is hot, their feet can burn.
Don’t underestimate wildlife as they can be deadly. Be aware of venomous snakes in the area you are travelling too. The further up north you go, the more likely you are also going to encounter the pythons. Keep an eye out for cane toads as they too are venomous and your dogs might find them interesting to lick! You will also need to inspect daily for ticks and ensure your dog is on a preventative measure to reduce the chances of it.
And do not be fooled by the humble kangaroo. Kangaroos are known to drown dogs, this is their defence tactic and I know cases where it has happened on both dams and on beaches. Kangaroos will run towards water when threatened and once in there, will grab your dog by the collar and drown it. If you see kangaroos in the area, keep your dog on leash or under strict voice control.
Ensure your dog’s microchip details and tags are current so if you somehow do get separated, you can be reunited in no time.
If you are staying somewhere with a pool or are at a nearby lake/river, ensure your dog can swim and can enter and exit easily. Consider a buoyancy vest to be on the safe side.
If you are day tripping whilst away and decide to leave your dog behind for that day, ensure your dog is secured and unable to escape or jump the fence. Also check that it is not going to howl or bark the entire time you are gone as other holiday makers will not be happy!
Make note of the closest regular veterinary clinic as well as emergency veterinary clinic to where you are staying.
Dog does not go on holiday with you
If you have decided to leave the dog behind, you will need to ensure your dog has either been booked into kennels or has a pet sitter coming over. Our preference is always a pet sitter, as your dog feels much safer and more comfortable at home. Some pet sitters come over to feed, walk and play with your dog and others can actually stay for the duration of your holiday.
Either way, ensure wherever or whoever you choose is reputable, has a good track record and great reviews, is insured and has done all the checks necessary, including police checks.
If you have chosen kennels, please do a test run first to ensure your dog can actually cope being away from home. We always recommend doing a day stay first, then a weekend stay and building up to a longer duration. Dogs do not understand the concept of holidays and for many, being left in a kennel can be quite traumatising and confusing.
If you have opted for a pet sitter, which is always our preference, ensure your dog has got to know them and a that relationship is developing. Pet sitters do trial runs, ensuring the dog is comfortable with them rolling up to your home and that the dogs look forward to seeing them each day. Pet sitter can be flexible in catering to your needs, from walking to tossing the ball at home to just cuddles on the couch!
If you have opted to have a friend or family member look after your dog, have a plan that states all your needs. Include in there, emergency contacts, what to do in case of an injury or illness (who pays while you are away, who takes it, where does it go) and a back up plan in case something happens to the person who was going to look after your dog.
Avoid pet sitters that look after your dog in their home as they often have multiple dogs and this can create instability in that environment. For some dogs, being in that setting would be great fun but for others, it can spell disaster. Consider your dog’s personality and social skills before leaving it with a pet sitter in their home.
Festive day perils
If your dog will be with you on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve, remember to watch out for these hazards.
- Fruit cake – often loaded with both alcohol and raisins and is highly toxic to dogs
- Cooked bones/BBQ bones – these are outright nasty and will cause a blockage or tear the intestine as they make their way through. Remind guests to not feed your dog the cooked bones
- Corn cobs – these buttery buggers are always an attraction and dogs will swallow them which also lead to a blockage
- Grapes – often in our fruit platters and highly toxic to dogs, causing renal failure
- Mango stone – we all love our mango on a fruit platter in the summer, but please ensure the stone has been put in the bin and not just tossed into the garden. The stone can often be swallowed easily by the curious dog but then gets stuck further down, causing a blockage
- Champagne/wine corks – the yeast on the end of these corks attracts dogs and they end up swallowing them, causing a blockage. Do a sweep of the yard before letting the dog out and remind guests to pop all corks in the bin!
- Hang over remedies – if you are feeling a tad seedy the following day, please make sure any medication needed to ease the feeling is not within reach of your dog. Medications such as Panadol, Nurofen, Tylenol and even energy drinks are toxic to dogs
For some dogs, fireworks go completely unnoticed, not even blinking an eye at the noise and wonder in the skies. However, for other dogs, anxious dogs and those that are young, inexperienced and potentially going through a sensitive developmental phase, fireworks can be their undoing.
As a general precuation, I would avoid exposing a dog to fireworks and instead set it up so it is unable to hear the noises, smell the sulphur and see the sky light up. Even hearing crowds of people cheering can be quite scary for many dogs.
- On New Year’s Eve, before 9pm, settle your dog inside in a room or space where it cannot see out windows or hear much noise
- Close the blinds, close the windows
- Pop some classical music on in the background, not too low but high enough that it can mute out potential sounds of fireworks popping
- Ensure the television volume is down if you are watching the countdown and fireworks
- For the anxious dogs and those that have already been prescribed medication by their Behaviour Veterinarians, ensure those medications have been given so there is ample time for them to kick in and reduce the panic if the dog happens to hear the sounds. Chat to your Behaviour Vet about a plan leading up to this period to ensure trauma and triggering is minimised
- And don’t forget to go and give your dog a kiss and wish it Happy New Year!
Lastly, a reminder again to know where you closest emergency veterinary clinic is so you do not panic if you have to head that way. Check their opening and closing hours as not all are open 24 hours.
Hopefully this gives you some idea or a friendly reminder on how to manage Christmas and New Years with your dogs. Have a safe and wonderful wrap up to 2022 everyone!