Take your dog on holiday – top tips for choosing pet friendly accommodation

Are you planning your summer holiday? The increasing acceptance of dogs as companions rather than just objects of human ownership means that an increasing amount of holiday rental properties are recognising their place in families and allowing dogs to stay over too.

Although there are a number of web sites around for pet-friendly accommodation, the one I use most regularly is http://www.stayz.com.au as it’s very flexible – you can add a filter of ‘pets allowed’ for the specific regions, towns or properties you are searching for. In the last few years I have noticed a definite increase in the amount of properties that are allowing dogs as guests.

The vast majority of these are really lovely places to stay at and not run-down do-me-uppers that people have, to use a clichéd saying, ‘let go to the dogs’.

So how do you choose a property that will suit both your and your dog’s needs? Some handy tips include:

  • Choose a place for you firstly – one that you like the look of and will be happy spending your hard-earned money on as a holiday rental. Do you want to be near the beach or stay on a farm? Do you like modern or quaint? What other non-negotiables are on your list, such as having a barbeque area, open fire or spa bath?
  • Think about the needs of your dog. If they are likely to want to chase every kangaroo they see or be frightened of cows and other animals, then perhaps a farm stay in the country isn’t the right choice.
  • Are dogs allowed inside? Some places (usually in the minority) don’t allow dogs inside but it’s worth checking. Your dog is going to be in a new environment and forcing them to stay outside may cause them stress if they are used to being with you.
  • Fencing around the property is important, even if you are going to be keeping your dog inside with you. It’s handy for those night time toilet breaks to let them out for a sniff or just to let them explore new smells while you unpack the car or are relaxing with your book.
  • Check what facilities are provided for dogs. Some places are very well stocked and provide dog bowls, beds and toys. A lot of places don’t allow dogs on furniture or beds, so make sure you know what to bring to make them comfortable during their stay.

While going away with your dog is a great way to spend quality time with them, remember that going into a new environment can be a bit stressful for them. Over the years I have learned to help Zac adjust by:

  • Letting him have a good sniff and wee outside before coming into the house the first time.
  • Putting his bed and blanket in a protected corner of the lounge that is not in the middle of the pathway and showing him where to lie down with a treat.
  • Taking him for an accompanied walk through the place to familiarise him with the layout. I notice he’ll follow me around for the first little while then eventually settle down. Sometimes a game of fetch or something energetic will help him divest the little bit of tension into a positive activity.

Respect the rules of the property such as not allowing dogs on furniture or cleaning up the brown piles on the grass so others can benefit from bringing their dogs there in future. Happy holidaying with your dog!

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My dog lead became electrified

Fight or flight. These are two automatic reactions that unite us with our dogs as base animal responses during times of intense stress. Just recently Zac and I had exactly the same reaction as two unleashed dogs ran full-pelt towards us. We both froze. Looking back on it now, I certainly could have done better in transmitting more positive energy down the lead.

It happened during a rare break in the late-winter rain and with sunshine clearing the way for a feeling of the spring that was on the doorstep, the Staffy and I headed into the bush for a walk. Ambling along a straight stretch of fire trail with Zac on lead, I saw first an offlead dog, then two horses, one being ridden by a woman with one being lead, then a man on foot and another dog, turn the corner around 100 metres ahead of us.

The minute the two Belgian Sheepdogs saw Zac they started running, gathering their legs underneath them like cheetahs. Time stood still as they bolted towards us, their whole bodies directed forward like arrows. The lady on the horse was shouting and the man was yelling at them but they did not even blink.

It’s really hard to tell what a dog’s intention is when it’s barreling towards you like that. Is it friendly or enthusiastic, are they paired up to attack or to seek out fun with another companion? Anticipatory electricity travelled up and down my dog lead from both ends, it was almost palpable.

When they finally reached us, I came to out of my frightened stupor and looked down at Zac. The bum sniff was in process already (slow reaction of the human being) and Zac was changing his posture from watchful wariness to don’t-mess-with-me and was stiffening up, hackles rising and tail stiff.

“Let’s go!” I called out in my happiest voice, “all good, let’s go” using the catchcry that means good things in Zac’s vocabulary. He started walking towards me and in that moment, the dog’s focus changed as well – immediately losing interest and running back to their owners.

Having my dog on lead on my end certainly gave me the upper hand here. As we continued our walk, I reflected on how I could have handled that differently:

  • Getting out of my freeze quicker and putting on my happy voice before the dogs got to us. Keep the whole thing positive and light.
  • Really focus on being relaxed while watching the initial interaction, rather than anticipating the worse and unconsciously channeling this stress back down the lead.
  • Rather than standing still and waiting for them to come to us I wonder what would have happened if we came to them by walking slowly forward, changing the dynamics from pursue to greeting perhaps.

This is what I love about dog training. And life in general really. Every day gives you a chance to learn and try something different.