Tips for travelling with dogs in a motorhome and campervan
Words: Sharon Brown
Animals are a part of our motorhome holidays. However, it is not just a case of all aboard and off we go – it takes planning. Following these tips can help make the journey to go as smoothly as possible.
Pets require passports for foreign travel and these can take some time to get and require veterinary visits and vaccinations. The most up-to-date information on pet passports is on the DEFRA website so check it, especially with the Brexit situation.
When we travel abroad, we book an appointment with a vet within the timescale detailed by DEFRA for the necessary medication to be administered and the passport stamped prior to returning to the UK. There are many vets in Europe and it isn’t difficult to get an appointment; often campsite staff will help.
I also look up any health risks to the animals in the countries we’re visiting so I can take precautions and avoid situations that may cause problems.
Also investigate the different ways in which dogs may be trained in other countries. On visiting northern Spain, we encountered a lot of aggressive and vocal dogs and learned, from the local vet, that most dogs in the area were used as guard dogs and were expected to show aggression and bark.
We also discovered, when in this area, that dogs were to be muzzled on trains and were not allowed on buses. It would be prudent, therefore, to familiarise your dog with wearing a muzzle prior to the holiday. A tasty delicacy to lick at the end of the muzzle works a treat.
Travel in the UK
Even travel within this country requires some foresight. For instance, we recently visited Shetland and our dog (we just had one then) had to travel in a kennel on the sailing from Aberdeen to Lerwick, a journey of some 12 hours. We were allowed to visit Geordie once, to allow him out to do the essentials, before he was kennelled once again. To enable Geordie to cope with this (he has never previously been kennelled before), we acted calmly and did not overfuss him, put in his own blanket, toys, treats and water, then simply left him, telling him, ‘Good boy, stay’.
My mantra with dogs and any animals is to be calm and consistent. And a good walk prior to boarding, with plenty of opportunity to empty both bladder and bowels is essential.
We have taught our dogs, as puppies, to ‘go’ on command by simply adding a command to the natural event. We give that command before travel and the dogs usually oblige.
Inside the campervan
Space is at a premium in most motorhomes but it is beneficial that dogs understand which space is theirs. Our dogs know that the cab is their space and we put a board across to prevent them coming into the main area. They could jump this, but they know not to.
To alleviate boredom in the campervan, games like hiding a treat for the dog to sniff out, or simply a few toys to play with will all help.
We have a list of all the necessary things to bring – leads, leads for outside the campervan, brush, towels, beds, toys, dog bags, food, bowls, medication, vet numbers, ID collar, etc.
In an ideal situation, the dogs would travel in a crate. However, our motorhome would not accommodate that so we use harnesses, with the leads attached to the seatbelts on the dinette seats. The dogs then travel in the area between the seats, with room to lie down, but still securely attached.
We recently got a labrador puppy, Fern and, as they seem to wriggle out of most things, harnesses in particular, we have the added precaution of placing a board between the main motorhome and the cab area.
To expect dogs to travel happily, it is essential to exercise them adequately before and to ensure they have had the opportunity to drink water. Plenty of stops on the way for a drink, walk, play and perhaps a small amount of food, is vital.
If a dog travels badly it is best to avoid food until the journey is complete, but putting in some toys and chews, plus a familiar blanket will help. Sometimes, pulling the side window blinds down can also help a nervous dog.
At the campsite
Dogs are excited to arrive and are eager to explore. We find a walk around the campsite, a visit to the dog walk area and general familiarisation helps to settle the dogs.
Our dogs are attached to leads outside the campervan and, having two dogs, they can get tangled up together, or one gets a leg caught in a loop and looks forlornly up at us until we come to untangle them.
We secure the dogs so they can lie by each other, but their leads are set apart. We often have one on the step and one on the tow rope attachment.
Dogs should never be left secured outside the campervan unattended.
On her first outing, our puppy barked when people approached – we did not want her to do this so, when she was quiet, we praised her, gave her a treat and encouraged her to focus on us. Now, at nine months old she watches the goings on around her and quietly wags her tail at passers by.
- Leads, harnesses, extending leads
- Dog bags
- Food – tins/biscuits/treats
- Toys and chews
- Tick hook