When we head away on holidays, we switch up the scenery and immerse ourselves in a different routine. And for us humans, the novelty of a new place can be a very energising and restorative thing!
But when it comes to holidaying with pets, it’s not quite so simple. Sure, some doggos might love nothing more than a new adventure. But there can be such thing as excitement overload for our four-legged friends. While humans tend to treat holidays as an excuse to turn routines upside down, so much change can leave many pets feeling a little anxious.
To ensure your fur baby has a fabulous holiday, it’s best to stick as closely as you can to the routines they follow at home. This will regulate their behaviour, keep them calm and happy and ultimately allow the whole family to kick back and relax.
In our experience, there are a few core areas you can focus on to speed up the ’settling-in’ period and keep your pet happy on holidays.
Orient your pet with their new surroundings:
When you first arrive at your destination, it’s so important to spend some time introducing your pet to the property. Take them for a guided walk around the indoor areas (if your accommodation allows it!) and explore the backyard together, letting them sniff things out to their heart’s content. This is also a good time to consider safety! Are all fences and balconies secure and gates and pool areas locked? Do a thorough check for any potential hazards like pest traps, poisonous plants, uneven terrain and sharp objects. Most importantly, stick with your pet during this orientation, so they feel reassured while still being aware of the boundaries.
We don’t suggest leaving your pet alone in an unfamiliar environment, at least until they are truly at home within the space and they typically respond well to solo time. And before you do, make sure you won’t be in violation of your rental’s policies, which can sometimes specify that pets aren’t to be left alone. It’s best to spend as much time as possible with your pooch and if you’re heading out of the day where they can’t accompany you, either ask your accommodation whether they have in-house pet-sitting, or explore some local options.
Keep your pet’s sleep cycle consistent:
Just like us humans, a change in scenery can sometimes translate to a less-than-perfect sleep for our pets. This is especially true if your accommodation has strict rules around where they’re allowed to crash for the night. If they’re accustomed to sleeping with you or other family members and suddenly have to sleep outside or in an unfamiliar room, there’s more chance of disturbances throughout the night.
Start by checking what the sleeping arrangements will be before you head off on the holiday. If your pet can’t sleep closely, it’s a good idea to practise solo sleeping before you leave home, so they can get used to it in advance. We recommend bringing your pet’s bedding so they are surrounded by a familiar smell and even throwing in a piece of your own clothing, so they can be comforted by your scent. And if you are allowed to have your pet in the same room, be sure to bring some travel-friendly cleaning products and towels so you leave behind minimal mess!
Keeping your pet happy on holidays is all about a balancing act. While it’s useful for your pet to be around familiar faces, it’s also important to keep their sleeping zone away from distractions of television, late night dinners and too many holiday guests. And even though it’s essential for them to have time out from too much stimulation, it’s also a good idea to take them out for lots of exercise, so they get rid of any excess energy and sleep better at night.
Maintain your pet’s healthy, high-quality diet:
Our four-legged friends fare better when they have all their nutritional needs met. Maintaining their diet while on holidays is a surefire way to avoid general anxiety and gastro issues.
For us humans, holidays are often a prime time for entertaining larger groups and digging into richer, more indulgent foods. This means there’s usually a surplus of higher-fat treats around and more chance of your pet scoping out enticing scraps. Sugary treats, aromatic herbs, fatty gravy, chocolate and even plastic wrappers and foils can be highly dangerous for dogs to ingest, so it pays to be extra vigilant around the dinner table! Abrupt changes in diet can trigger a condition known as pancreatitis. So, be aware for any changes in behaviour or appetite.
Other than avoiding out-of-the-ordinary foods, your best bet is bringing your pet’s favourite foods from home. We always suggest packing dehydrated or freeze-dried food in their brand of choice. This means you’ll always have something healthy and ready to go, even when you don’t have the kitchen facilities to cook fresh food.
Plus, adding in a can-opener, water and food bowls will mean you’re never caught off guard. Aside from their usual meals, it’s also a good idea to pack their favourite doggie treats. These can be used to positive reinforce good behaviour, whether it’s around the holiday accommodation or further afield at the dog park or beach.
Find an outlet for pent-up pet energy:
Exercise is an important part of animal health, no matter where you are. But it can play an essential role in keeping your pet happy on holidays. Especially when they have a dose of nervous energy, taking them out for a good, long walk can work it out. It will keep them calm in the moment and ensure you all get a good night’s sleep later on! It’s also a great way to get acquainted with their new surroundings. Use Take Your Pet’s search function to find local pet friendly beaches, parks and hikes, so that you can enjoy the great outdoors while you get your fur-baby settled.
When you’re heading out for exercise, remember to prioritise safety first. Whatever your pet is like at home, being in an unfamiliar environment can send them into some distress. Make sure you keep your dog on a lead when in public spaces until you know they are comfortable and confident. This applies even if they’d usually go off-leash. It also pays to master your training commands before leaving home turf – ensuring your pet can come when called is essential in the event they get spooked or take off in the local park.
Beyond exercise, you can always pre-plan other pet friendly activities. So many destinations now have a bunch of dog friendly cafes, restaurants and pubs to frequent, where your whole family can enjoy a feed. Plus, you’d be surprised how many places offer ‘pet friendly experiences’ that open up a whole new world of entertainment. Think wineries, walking tours, markets and more!
A final note:
By being prepared with the right food and resources, you’ll avoid any potential anxiety or disorientation. And when in doubt? We think it’s all about giving your pets some tender loving care. After all, what are holidays for if you don’t snuggle your fur-babies on the lounge and spend quality time together. Often, keeping your pet happy on holidays can be as simple as cuddles and plenty of back scratches!
So, in all the hustle and bustle of the holiday, don’t forget to truly hit the pause button. Enjoy having all your family under one roof!