Travelling with your Pooch

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Before you leave

If you can’t bear the thought of leaving your beloved dog, or dogs, behind, you can stop fretting – you don’t have to.  Travelling around Europe with a dog is easy!

In fact, I would say, that you will be the odd one out, without a dog!  Every motorhome has one, or even two!  Hell, we’ve even seen a number of motorhomers who travel with their cats – on leads!

All you need to do is plan in advance.  Take a look at the Government website that explains everything you need to consider.  Pettravel.com is also another good reference point.

Essentially, before you leave the UK you must;

  1. Make sure your pet is microchipped and all details are up to date (You’ll be asked to scan your dog at passport control);
  2. Vaccinate your pet against rabies (I think we paid £80);
  3. Consider other vaccinations for specific parasites if you are travelling to southern countries;
  4. Organise a Pet Passport with your local vet – You will NOT be allowed to travel without it (All in all, we spent £200 on Buddy which included the administrative payment of the passport and the rabies injection).

Obtaining a Pet Passport is a fairly easy procedure but I would recommend contacting your vet 4-6 weeks before you travel. There should be at least one vet per practice who is authorised by the government to sign off a passport.

You may need to purchase flea and tick treatment for the duration you will be away.  We purchased 12 months supply of FRONTLINE for Buddy.  We also purchased two Scalibor collars that provide effective coverage for most deadly illnesses.  Saclibor Collars last approximately 6 months and fit around the dog’s neck together with their own collar.


Travelling with a Pet

Depending on where you decide to travel from, and to, will depend on the cost and procedure for travel.

We took Buddy on the Continental Ferry from Plymouth to Brittany in France.  We chose an overnight ferry knowing that Buddy would sleep for most of the crossing.  Although there were kennels available on the deck, Buddy was required to wear a muzzle at all times.  As he had never worn a muzzle before – or been in a kennel for that matter – we decided he would be better off sleeping in the van, in familiar surroundings with his bed, water and food around him.

It is not ideal having to leave your pet in the van below deck and I welcome the day that a ferry company introduces dog-friendly cabins, but for us, it was the lesser of two evils. Buddy was fine during the crossing and we were allowed to check on him once during the evening.

However, if you are considering travelling by ferry with your dog or cat, I would consider these three things;

  • The season you travel – Ours was a mild crossing but I can imagine a rough crossing will be rough on your pets too (They do suffer seasickness like us).  I gave Buddy a calming tablet just before we travelled, just in case;
  • Where you travel from and to – Our crossing was 8 hours in duration.  Much longer than that and I think I would have worried about Buddy being on his own without a toilet break.
  • The time you travel – whilst a day crossing could reduce costs in not needing a cabin, we knew our dog would sleep for the majority of the crossing; thus causing him less anxiety.

If you would prefer a kennel on deck, I would ensure your dog is used to wearing a muzzle – perhaps practice a few times before the trip.  Likewise, we made sure Buddy had plenty of time in the van before we left so that he was familiar with his surroundings in the dark.

When you arrive in Europe

Credit where credit is due, the Europeans are incredibly dog-friendly, as are 90% of campsites and aires.  You will see hundreds of motorhomers with dogs and it is a great way to introduce yourself.  I wonder how we would have met anyone with our dog being such a friendly soul – he introduced himself to everyone!

Most restaurants are dog-friendly and we even found a McDonalds in Austria that was more than willing to welcome buddy with a free bowl of water.  There are few places you can’t go with your dog.  Public transport can depend on each city/country.

We found that many beaches said ‘No dogs’ though these were largely ignored by the locals.  If we saw local people doing it, we would copy – otherwise, we respected the rules of the beach.  Obviously picking up your dogs’ mess is a requirement across Europe.  Many beaches have different rules for different seasons.  We chose to travel from September and throughout the winter – this meant that many of the rules are relaxed because it is not peak season.  The beaches are very dog-friendly during winter months.

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Buddy loved the long beaches of Spain & Portugal

Campsites vary.  Some are amazing with dog baths and showers, special walk areas and poo bags available on every corner for free.  Others accept dogs but you feel like they are tolerated more than welcomed.  As a whole, I can think of only two campsites where we felt uncomfortable with Buddy.

Almost every campsite requests that dogs should be on leads.  We did not keep Buddy on a lead on our pitch as he is trained not to leave…but elsewhere we would obey the rules until we left the campsite!

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Dogs must be kept on leads at all campsites

European aires and campsites are designed for hot weather.  Many pitches are beneath pine trees or in shaded areas.  This makes it easier if you do need to leave your dog for any period of time.  We did leave Buddy for a couple hours at a time but we travelled mostly during the cooler months.  I’m not sure it would be appropriate during the peak summer months.

Food

Few countries provided the food that Buddy was used to.  In some countries, the food was very poor quality.  Whilst you may find some UK brands, you will pay a premium for them. If your dog/cat likes wet food, you may want to try them on dry food before you leave the UK.

We were fortunate as we did find a cheap brand that Buddy would eat but we always substituted his food with dry biscuits.  We left the UK with two bags of James Wellbeloved Dog Food Adult Turkey and Rice Kibble (15kg bags).  These bags lasted us a long time and you can find similar dry food in most Lidl stores.

Security

Travelling with a dog is a great form of security.  We all hear horror stories of motorhome break-ins.  It is a no-brainer that a dog provides an extra layer of security, especially if you have a barker!

But there are a few well-known tips to fend of opportunist thieves;

Buy the biggest bowl and a heavy chain lead and leave it tied to the outside of your van at all times.  You will see many motorhomers do this – even if they don’t have dogs!

It makes thieves think there is an extra size dog inside the van.  The bigger the chain and the bowl the better!

We purchased the Loving Pets Bella 2.2 Litre Bowl and the Pets Play Heavy Duty Dog Chain 1.2 metres.

We also added a bit of misleading sticker to our motorhome.  We didn’t want people to know we have the world’s most friendly cockapoo inside our van so we stuck two stickers to either side of the van warning people to ‘beware of the Rottweiler’.

Pet Accessories – Must have Travelling Items

Other than our pet’s favourite toys, there were a few things I was really pleased I packed;

Washable Dog Bed

You would not believe the much our dog brought into the van every day!  Every campsite has pitches under pine trees – believe me, these will be picked up by your dog and brought into the van.  Add to that, sand, leaves, mud and gravel.  I was so glad that I purchased a bed that I could just hose down.

Groomers Aquasorb Towel – Medium

These towels are miracle workers! I was unsure of them before we left the UK as you have to keep them slightly damp…but they are amazing!  They really do absorb every last bit of moisture making sure your dog dries quickly. We purchased two but I wish I had purchased one more because they double up brilliantly as a windscreen cleaner when the windows are covered in condensation!

Deshedding Tool & Pet Grooming Brush

There is a reason these combs are a No.1 best seller – they really are great.  Our cockerpoo was terrible for picking up tiny little prickly balls that are on the ground of almost every campsite – they get everywhere and cause the worst knots possible!  Every day I would spend an hour removing all of the balls from Buddy’s fur.  His other brush did not remove them because the bristles passed over them.  The de-shedding design of these brushes made it easy work.  It would have taken hours without it.  They are worth every penny!

Cool Mat 

The special cooling gel inner lining of these clever mats ensure there is always a cold surface for your dog even on the hottest summer days.  We used to place this under the van on sunny days – Buddy would lay there for hours!  Great idea and washable. Bonus!

Dog Tent

We found multiple uses for our pop-up tent but it was a lifesaver at the beach.  Having a small tent means that you can take your dog to the beach and stay there for longer.  Buddy would happily lay in here, out of the sun, with his water bowl and dog chews.

Dog Clippers

Our cockerpoo has a long curly coat.  It grows fairly fast and can be quite thick.  I used to cut him myself once a month just to keep his coat clean and cool.  Other than France I didn’t always see dog grooming salons, plus we always had the added language barrier – so you need to get used to grooming your dog’s coat yourself.

I purchased the Everesta cordless set because I knew we would not always have electricity. I also loved that they were ‘low noise’ clippers – great for our dog who hates being clipped!

I guess, if you have a short haired dog, you won’t have to worry about clippers – but, don’t forget about these;

Nail Clippers

I hate this job but somebody has to do it!

Shampoo and Conditioner

We purchased a 4ltr can of professional grooming shampoo with added conditioner – because we knew we would be away for 12 months.  We loved that this one hydrated Buddy’s coat after sunny days and swimming in the sea.

Medication

Our dog has always suffered ear infections so our vet kindly prescribed us with 12 months worth of ear drops.  If your pet has an ongoing ailment, you will need to consider this before you leave

Insurance

Please make sure you call your insurance company and tell them you are travelling.  Our policy already included travel outside of the UK but you may have to pay extra.

Coming home

Before you arrive back in the UK, your dog must receive tapeworm treatment.  They will not be allowed to re-enter the UK without the Passport being stamped by a vet.  We were able to find a vet easily in Brittany who was accustomed to administering the injection.  There are very strict rules about when it must be done so check out changing regulations on the government website.

We had the injection administered the day before we travelled.  It cost about £50.00.

You will need to show your pet passport upon entering the UK.  You will also be provided with a device to scan the microchip of your pet to ensure that all paperwork corresponds to your dog/cat.

Have Fun

We had an amazing time travelling Europe with Buddy – he adored getting to know each new environment. He had more exercise than he ever had in the UK – because we had 80% dry weather.

Don’t even worry about taking your pet to Europe.  They will adore the landscape and their new-found freedom!

Just have fun x

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Buddy in Croatia