Christmas is upon us once again and that means one thing, holiday time!! While some of us stay back home or continue to work, many are making the migration to the beach, the bush or countryside for a well earned break. Families and friends get together and these days, this also includes the dog.
So here are some handy tips to help you and your dog travel safely, settle into the holiday destination and more importantly, have fun.
Dogs generally travel well, especially if they do if often and for many, driving for one hour or eight is no big deal. Whether your dog travels in your car with you, in a caravan or trailer, it is important that you have breaks, not just for yourself but also your furry friend.
If we need a break to go to the toilet or to have a bite to eat, we just pull into a roadhouse, grab some munchies and head to the loos but your dog does not have that control and is relying on you to give it that opportunity.
- When you do stop for a break, ensure your dog gets to come out, stretches the legs and goes to the toilet. Give it a drink, maybe a nibble of some dried biscuits and then you are ready for the next leg.
- For the younger dogs and pups, be prepared to stop every 1-2 hours and for the older dogs, you should be able to stretch it out to every 3 hours.
- For the seniors, treat them like pups as they will need to toilet more often as well as need to stretch those stiff joints.
- Ensure your dog is wearing a sturdy collar and attached to the leash before coming out of the car as sometimes you may need to just pull up on the side of the freeway and the last thing we want is a dog running into traffic! Remember to ask it to WAIT before exiting the car.
- If your dog gets car sick or a little anxious on the road, speak to your local vet about medication to ease the stress and consider Adaptil collars or Adaptil Spray as these products have a calming effect. The spray lasts about 2 hours and the collars actually last one whole month.
- Remember to secure your dog in your vehicle as it is against the law to allow it to wander freely in the cabin. Dogs need to be secured like people so consider a soft crate, car harness, barriers or seatbelt attachments.
- Be careful when it comes to allowing your dog to travel with its head out of the window. When you are traveling at 100km, so are insects around you and if your dog is not wearing doggles (Dog goggles), then you run the risk of those bugs lodging into their eyes.
Know your zone
Before heading off, I always suggest giving the local veterinary clinic in the area a quick buzz and find out whether there are any parasites or medical risks associated with that zone.
While we are rather safe along the southern end of Melbourne, as soon as we begin to head up north, we begin to move into warmer climates and this is paralysis tick, hookworm, whip worm, heartworm, snake and cane toad territory so you want to ensure your dog is covered for these and on some form of preventative medicine.
Ask the vet what you need to be aware of, what they suggest to stay safe, what the prevalence is, what the signs are and where the emergency clinics are; just in case! And if you are away for a while, ensure you bring enough preventative medication to cover you for the duration.
Update your dog records
Something we often forget to check up on is our dog records so before you go away, double check that your dog has a current, registered micro-chip and that the details are all up to date. This includes your emergency contacts so if you do lose your dog and you cannot be reached, the dog’s ‘next of kin’ can be.
Get some new I.D. tags made up to attach to the collar so there is some external information that can make getting your dog back a lot easier.
So you have arrived at your holiday destination after a long drive and the dog is hanging to get out and explore but before you open that car door and let it jump out, here are some tips to ensure it all goes smoothly.
- Check the boundaries of the holiday home and ensure all gates are closed, fences are secured and there are no escape options.
- If your dog is going to be on a tether (a long fixed line which then attaches to the collar), go and sort that out first, again ensure the ends of the line are secured to something solid like a tree and watch there are no smaller trees in the way which could cause the dog to tangle.
- Get a bucket of fresh water ready so your dog can have a good drink and also know where its water source will come from over the next few days to weeks.
- Get its bed or crate set up, out of the wind, sun and rain so that as soon as it gets in the yard, it knows where to find home base.
- When you are ready to let the dog out, literally, walk the boundaries with it and then show it where the toilet is! This will prevent confusion and prevent any accidents from happening inside. Be prepared though for the odd accident especially if other dogs have been in the house or camp site before as your dog will naturally want to mark the area. As long as it learns where its temporary toilet is, this issue should sort itself out in no time.
- As the day draws near, try to get your dog into its usual routine, walk, meal, bed so it does not become anxious or agitated.
Know your laws
When you travel with your dog, whether you are heading out of the city, going interstate or going bush, one thing you need to be aware of are the local laws in the area. Each municipality is different, however there are also some general laws which cover the whole country so here are some reminders to keep you on track.
- Dogs cannot enter National Parks but can enter some State Parks and Reserves. Check the signage before entering and ensure it states that dogs CAN go in. Signs will also tell you if the dog is to be on leash only or can be allowed off leash.
- Check curfews regarding allowing dogs in certain areas such as the beach. Some beaches have restrictions on zones and times and rangers will patrol these areas to ensure you follow the law.
- Obey laws when it comes to taking your dog into town. Dogs do need to be on leash in all places unless it states they can be free.
- Remember that you cannot tie your dog outside a shop and leave it unsupervised while you go in. Please ensure someone is outside with your dog at all times.
- If your dog is in a caravan park, holiday home or camp site, ensure it does not bark and become a nuisance as remember, this is a holiday for everyone, not just you.
- Don’t forget to collect your dog poop on your walks with your poop bag. Holiday makers don’t appreciate stepping in visiting dog poops!
- Do not allow your dog to interfere or kill wildlife as they are protected. This is the reason you cannot let your dog off leash in many National Parks and reserves. Most of our wildlife lives on the ground and don’t do that well when it comes to predators.
Getting on with the gang
Quite often when families get together or people go camping, all the dogs go too and this means they need to get along. Now if some of these dogs have never met before, it can cause a bit of tension and just like people, they take some time to warm up to their buddies and make friends.
Rather than just open the gate and let all the dogs run and jump all over each other, consider taking them all on a good walk together first so they can start to sus each other out, smell and see and relax with no added pressure. This will help it go a lot smoother as they have had time to adjust to one another and then calmly, enter the yard and give them space.
Don’t force the dogs to be together or share beds and water. They still need their own space and resources so have multiple water buckets, multiple bed options, toys, etc.
Most fights occur over food so if you have a yard of dogs, ensure they are all fed separately, far away from each other so no dog is scoffing its food or feels the need to guard it. Once they are all done, they can go back together.
Avoid meaty raw bones as these tend to be a real cause for conflict but if you feel have to give it one, then consider tethering each dog to a corner of the yard so nobody can move from its post. That way everyone can enjoy their bone in peace.
Lastly, if there is a dog that is struggling to get on with the others, maybe it needs to be on its own and that is okay. Not all dogs get along and sometimes they just need some more time to work it out. Don’t feel bad and try not to put so much pressure on yourself. Your dog might just like being away with you and not all its dog buddies. Remember to have some Adaptil on hand, whether it is the collar or even a diffuser as this can have some calming effects on your dog. It lasts one month and should cover your holiday break and it can be purchased from most vet clinics. And know when to call it…. If you are not having fun because your dog is miserable, then it might be time to go home!
So this is the morning where everyone gets up a little exhausted or hung over from celebrations on Christmas day. It also means there are things lying around in the yard and in the house that can be a bit of a hazard for your dog. Here are a few things you need to watch out for to avoid hitting the emergency clinic over the public holidays.
- Corks from wine and champagne bottles- they can get swallowed and cause a bowel obstruction.
- Wine, beer and spirits left overs- alcohol is poisonous and can cause kidney failure.
- Bottle tops and screw caps from beer bottles- they can cause bowel obstructions.
- Cooked bones from the BBQ- these cannot be digested and become rather brittle in the intestine. They cause tearing of the bowel, severe constipation and bowel obstructions and bones from steaks can become lodged in the stomach.
- Hang over medication such as Panadol, Panadeine, etc.- these medications are deadly for dogs as they cannot be broken down by the body. Ensure all packets are up high and in cupboards and not left lying on coffee tables or on the floor. If you find a chewed packet and are not sure whether your dog got to some or not, head to emergency to find out!
- Left over food- if your dog attempts to clean your yard up for you before you get out of bed, it may end up over indulging and this can cause a variety of health issues including pancreatitis. Fatty foods such as ice cream, butter, fatty sausages and meat and cream are the main culprits of pancreatitis but also watch out for chocolate cakes, BBQ onions, grapes, corn cobs and anything else rather organic as your dog will jump at the chance to ingest it. The last thing you want on Boxing Day is to be in the emergency clinic having its stomach pumped!
Now this is what many dog owners dread; the celebratory fireworks to mark the end of yet another year. While kids and adults love seeing the sky light up, many dogs are just outright horrified and this is why shelters see a massive increase in the dogs admitted in the first week of January.
So what can we do to ensure our dogs are safe while we are out partying? Here are some pointer to help you get through this night.
- Have a secure spot for your dog to hide in or go to when fireworks start popping off. For some dogs it can be a covered crate, laundry or bathroom and for others it can be under the coffee table or your bed, inside your wardrobe or wherever it can squeeze into. Providing your dog has that safe place to go to, it will cope better than if left on its own out in the yard in a state of panic.
- If you are going out that evening and know you will be not be home to watch your dog, put it inside the house before you leave
- Consider a ‘thundershirt’ as these have been known to calm dogs down. They have a hugging effect and providing your dog is already used to one, it can be useful during firework season. Please note that if you only put the thundershirt on when there are fireworks popping off, it will learn to associate it with a scary period so follow the instructions on how to use it correctly.
- Consider Adaptil, either in the diffuser or collar form as it may have a calming effect.
- Prior to fireworks season, try doing some desensitisation by playing back the sounds of fireworks going off and rewarding your dog for going to its safe space and remaining calm. This might teach it that the sounds are soothing rather than terrifying. If you hear someone in your neighbourhood letting off firecrackers, do some counter conditioning to the sound by giving your dog treats while encouraging it to remain calm.
Okay so you now have a decent list of what you need to do and what you need to be aware of to ensure you have a good holiday with your dog.
Enjoy the break, enjoy the weather, be safe and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and I look forward to seeing you in 2016!