Travelling with Dogs

This article highlights the precautions and planning considerations that go into a making a holiday away with your dog comfortable and safe - for them, your family, and other people you might encounter. We focus specifically on people taking camping or caravanning holidays but include references to other holiday accommodation options and issues.
Article By: ExplorOz Team
Created: February 2012
Revised: May 2013
Latest Feedback: January 2016

Preparation

Some people treat their dogs better than the family members, but just in case, here's a few basic reminders of things to do before you go camping with your dog:

  • Vet check - a general check-up is worthwhile to check the condition of teeth, ears, skin, weight etc. Let your vet know about your trip so that you can get any necessary medications, and get any vacinations up to date. Microchipping is also a good idea.

  • Registration, ID tag and collar - are they up to date and well secured? Check for signs of wear and replace if necessary.

  • Clipping - for medium to long-haired dogs, this makes a huge difference to keeping the dog's coat more resistant to picking up burrs, dust and general muck, which not only means he'll be more comfortable but there'll be less mess spread all over your car seats, your bed, and anywhere else your dog likes to rub and lie!

  • Car harness - consider where you dog is going to travel in the vehicle - if he's going inside the cabin of the vehicle head off to your local pet-store and get a purpose-made dog seatbelt harness which simply clicks around the dog's body and has a detachable loop through which you feed the standard seat-belt allowing the retractable action of the seat-belt to work in the same way it does to keep passengers safe.

  • Trip bedding, water bowls, dog food, treats, toys - it helps to carry a dog crate that can be folded flat for unusual situations but you'll also want a comfortable but compact place for your dog to feel is his special place to sleep - otherwise he'll be in your bed. If this means adjusting to something new, then try to phase your dog into the new bed whilst at home at least a month before you start any obvious "packing".

  • Dog food & treats - these days vets and breeders tend to recommend dry kibble is best for dogs and that's perfect for holidays - just pop it in an airtight container! You might like to take some additional single-serve sachets of wet food (available from supermarkets in foil trays) too. Treats should be used only to reward your dog for travelling well in the vehicle, coming back when called (off leash), and for showing good manners with people, to reinforce desirable behaviours. It is unhealthy to treat your dog with in-between meal snacks just because it's your morning tea time. This habit can lead to obesity in dogs and should be avoided. Small packets of liver treats, pollock or whatever your dog fancies is ideal for rewarding behaviour. Many dogs will eat differently when away from home however - sometimes they'll eat less, other times more and often they'll insist only on eating the fish that you've caught. How convenient! Just be sure to pick out the bones first and don't forget about water bowls.

  • Blankets & towels - dogs make a mess and may get sick when travelling, be prepared. The micro-fibre towels in smaller sizes from our shop might come in handy.
  • Plastic dog litter bags - same as you use when out walking the dog at home - be responsible pet owners and pick up after your dog

  • Grooming kit - look out for water-less dog shampoos that simply spray on, wipe off with a towel and if you're going away for a long time pack nail clippers and a hair shedding tool.

  • Tether - these can be fastened around a tree or a table, some have a stake you can dig into the ground giving your dog ample room to run around the campsite without taking off to chase the local wildlife, or neighbouring campers kids!

  • Camp Chair - depending on the size and nature of your dog, you might need to consider packing a special camp chair just for him. Just consider, the ground can be damp, and sand in particular gets very cold at night so a camp chair is both practical and of course more social if you'll all be the sitting around the campfire chatting - guess who's going to want to join in like one of the family!

  • Train your dog - this is last, because hopefully this is obvious. You can't take a badly behaved dog camping. The risks to both your dog's own safety and that of the people around you are far too great. If you know your dog is not well socialised and is not trained then you must keep your dog restrained at all times during your trip away, or avoid camping with your dog for another time when you have completed the training.

Tips for having fun & staying safe

If you find that you need to leave your dog in the car, whilst you are travelling remember how quickly heat can build up. Never leave pets (or children) in an enclosed vehicle in warm weather, even on overcast days. In fact, a dog in a closed car can die in six minutes on a hot summer day so be very very careful. Even for very short periods, park your vehicle in the shade and have windows open enough to ensure a strong airflow. Never leave your pet for long periods.

Never tie up your dog near the edge of your ute/trailer or near windows to avoid the risk of your dog falling out and then hanging itself. Unfortunately, this happens all too often.

Always when tieing up your dog, keep him well clear of vehicles and make sure there is a continual supply of fresh water and shade.

Travelling dogs need regular walks, just like people. Sitting in vehicles for extended driving periods is unhealthy. Plan your arrival at camp with time for a 30 minute walk either before you've setup camp, or immediately after. Give your dog plenty of attention.

Dont let your dog loose inside the vehicle during driving. As mentioned in the preparation & packing list above, dog seat belts are a sound investment in security and safety.

And last but certainly not least, never take a dog camping that isn't well socialised or trained. You must be responsible for ensuring your dog isn't going to bite strangers, bark unnecessarily, or chase children. You must also ensure your dog will respond immediately to voice commands when let off leash in wide open spaces, or in the company of other dogs. It is very common for dogs that are un-used to camping or city dogs that have not had exposure to open spaces to become quite overwhelmed with their new-found freedom. For some dogs, the temptation to chase the local wildlife can make your normally well behaved dog selectively disobedient, so it is best to teach your dog the etiquette of camping with small regular trips before embarking upon a major expedition or extended stay away from home.

Dog Friendly Camping

National Parks strictly prohibit dogs, however State Forests, Reserves and Parks are generally less restrictive - but you must obey posted rulings. There are many walk tracks which allow dogs but strictly on a leash. Also, be aware of any fox baits, these are poisonous to dogs and are prevalent in state forests, national parks, and reserves. Check signage for 1080 and keep your dog on a leash as much as possible for their own protection.

It is your responsibility to know before you go, which areas along your route where dogs are prohibited and to stay clear. Often, the fines are heafty and immediate. There are many private camping sites that allow dogs and some allow access for your dog over the entire camping area, whereas some sites may have restricted use. Dogs are allowed at several caravan parks today - just make sure you call ahead as often these parks are independently operated and you'll need to pass different criteria with each one and availability can be limited to just a few sites during the peak tourist season.

You'll find that with a bit of research you will find several camping sites in each state and territory where dogs are allowed but you may need to alter your trip plans. To sift through the maze of regulations which differ from state to state, we suggest that you seek out specific information for the region you intend to travel well in advance.

Some suggestions for obtaining references

  • Purchase any of the good books about where you can camp with your dog from our online shop.
  • Use the Camps & Caravan Parks Finder on this website (go to Places). Each campsite or caravan park will show a dog friendly icon if dogs are allowed. This is a widely used and popular Australia-wide resource with many thousands of entries.
  • Post a question or comment in the Article Feedback at the bottom of this article - this will post your say into our Forum. You might also like to browse through the other questions and comments here already.
  • Search the Forum by entering a keyword, say "dog" for loads of great discussions that have already been had on this subject with loads of ideas and suggestions.
  • Search the Blogs by entering a keyword, say "dog" or search by Tag (select Pets/Animals) to quickly find relevant stories published by other people.

TIP

We recommend the following two books: Bush Camping with Dogs, and Holidaying with Dogs. Both available from our online shop.

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