Dogs are part of the family in my house. It’s coming up to the summer holidays and as a nation we will be packing up the car and going off on holidays or for days out. We are a nation of dog lovers so it is highly likely that a lot of us will be taking our beloved pooches with us.
Why travel with dogs?
Firstly, they are not just dogs, they are part of the family. When we got Marley back in 2007 I soon begged for another to ‘keep him company’ in kennels. Nine years on they have never been in kennels. They enjoy holidays with us and days out, seeing the excitement on their little faces is one of the many joys they bring. Of course I’d want to travel with them.
Look at their faces, who could resist? they mean the world to me, they aren’t just dogs, they are my babies, fur clad, tail wagging, paw-giving cuddly babies. Marley is 9 and his half-brother Mojo is 8. As well as kennels they have never been in doggy day care and with the exception of a few vets visits, they have never been separated. So how do we deal with holidays in our household? Quite simply, since we got them both as pups, we have taken separate holidays abroad, always ensuring someone was left behind to pup-sit. Now I know that doesn’t seem fair on the one who is left behind (usually me), but I do get more than my fair share of holidays and breaks away. My favourite of which is the week that we pack up the car, parents and pooches and head to the Lake District.
We have been doing this for 15 years now and we’ve always taken a four legged member of the family. Here are my top tips for travelling with pooches:
1) Invest in a fido-rido.
Yes, my dogs have car seats. When Marley was a teeny pup, I had only just passed my driving test and my mother was scared witless I would be distracted by the furball in the car. She bought me a pet booster seat from BM stores for £6.99 and he enjoyed rides out. Being strapped in meant he was safe and as he was boosted up he could see out of the window at the fun outside. Unfortunately, as all pup parents know, puppies grow up and whilst he is still a small dog, he outgrew his booster seat and so I came across the Fido Rido. Now 9 years ago this cost me about £30 for the item and then the same again to ship it across the pond. The price includes a harness but I have always used Puppia soft mesh harnesses.
The beauty of the Fido-Rido is that it means your pooch can enjoy the ride – either by watching out of the window, or by curling up and going to sleep. My two are chalk and cheese, Mojo happily curls up and goes to sleep, Marley on the other hand likes to see where he is going, what’s happening and will look out of the window until he can’t hod his head up anymore.
The base unit is basically like a moulded box, filled with a cushion of high density foam (coated in a waterproof fabric) and a non-slip mat. You use the cars existing seatbelt with no adaptors, just slot it straight through and clip in. There is then an elasticated cover in fleecy fabric on top. Once it is in place, pooch sits on top and two straps at the side clip to a harness. NB: DO NOT use with a collar – in the event of a crash you could seriously injure your dog.
When not in use you can remove the inner cushion and use the fido rido as a portable bath. We never have, but I do stack them in the car boot when not in use. You can also use them as portable beds whilst travelling. This is probably really useful if you are in and out of hotels. As we stay in a house for the week we do take separate beds too.
My two won’t ride without their car seats and for the initial investment they have definitely been worth the money.
As you may have realised, we spend a lot of time driving with the dogs in the car, hence we need sunshades. Over the years we have tried several types of sun shades and I’ve always been disappointed. The fold up type that sucker on are useless as within minutes they are rattling against the window, scaring the dogs and then coming off altogether when my dad presses the wrong button and the window goes down.
Next we tried the stick on film shade, the problem with this was that you couldn’t open the window with it on as then it would roll up on itself. It wrinkled and looked really ugly on my car.
Next up we opted for one that had four suckers at the corners but no frame so it could be fit to any shape window. Again, you couldn’t open the window and it offered hardly any protection from the sun.
After scouring lots of sites and reviews I finally came across the Outlook Autoshades. They fit over the top of the whole rear doors and clip to the bottom of the door. They are fitted and removed within seconds, you can open the window all the way and they are quiet. Not cheap admittedly at £29.99 but they are the ONLY set of sunshades I use now. They offer great protection from the sun whilst still offering a ride with a view.
3) Water bowls – lots of them
It goes without saying that you need to give your pooch access to fresh, clean drinking water while out and about. My two are quite particular, having a filtered water fountain at home I appear to have created a diva dog duo. They won’t drink from a communal dog drinking bowl unless they are desperate. They rarely get desperate.
For years we had a brilliant solution – my old Little Mermaid thermos flask from the age of primary school packed lunches. We used that for 13 years with our old dog, first trip out with Marley as a pup and my mum left the lid (drinking bowl) in the car park. D’oh! We never bothered with another thermos. I ended up buying those bottles you see that flip down – they wouldn’t use them. We came across these folding bowls in the Windermere Pet Shop and we have a few now that they can use. It’s easy for us as they fold flat and can be put inside a carrier bag until needed again.
We also have one of these bowl/lids which fits onto standard 500ml up to 1 litre bottles. It’s handy as it acts as the lid too so it’s always to hand. The downside is that it has been known to leak.
4) Leash bags
Obviously dogs do their business while they are out and about, so it goes without saying you need to be prepared. We keep a supply of kitchen roll and scented nappy liners in a bucci bag at the end of their leads, it doubles up as a handle so it’s super handy.
Not all us Brits are dog lovers so for those of us that are we need to respect that. Always ask pubs, restaurants and cafes if they accept dogs in the bar areas or outdoor areas. Most in tourist areas will comply with an area that paws are welcomed in. But even if they do, keep your dog on a lead and away from other diners whether on two legs or four. Not all dogs are dog lovers either and may react badly to your pooch’s display of affection thinking it’s threatening. Always respect others around you and try to keep your pooch well-behaved (for the record I have to carry Pet-Corrector spray) and you should have lots of tail-wagging travels together.
What’s your top pet travel tip?