Pet-owning caravanners would have guessed this really, but research has revealed that more than 65% of people who go caravanning also take their pets on tour with them.
It makes perfect sense…. with a van, you have total freedom to head wherever you want, the space is your own, hundreds of sites welcome well-behaved mutts (and other creatures), you save a bundle on kennel fees and you get to share quality time with the whole family.
Dogs are great ice-breakers, too – a brilliant way to initiate conversations. We’ve found these impromptu chats can often lead to acquiring very useful information from other dog-owners, particularly when we’re visiting somewhere new.
They can enhance your sense of comfort and security, too, especially for solo caravanners.
Here’s how to make your tour enjoyable for all – family, dogs, and campsite neighbours!
Hitting the road
Although it is, in fact, legal to transport pets in your caravan, we absolutely wouldn’t recommend it. Far better for them, and you, that they travel securely with you in the tow car.
Rule 57 of The Highway Code states: “When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”
Walk your dog before you head off on your trip, and plan for regular breaks during the journey. Bigger families, who always fill the booth/hatch when touring, might need to consider a toolbox for their kit, to allow space for a pet crate in the car.
At the campsite
Harnesses, crates and kennels can also be used onsite, as the pooch’s spot on your pitch or in your awning. Every dog is different, and only you will know how well-behaved your hound is, but an adjustable tether and a corkscrew ground anchor are great ways to ensure your pet doesn’t wander away or upset other campers.
In warmer weather, your dog could have a basket in the awning, while hardier animals might prefer a HoundHouse collapsible dog kennel, which can be ‘pitched’ outside the van. We’ve had one for a decade, and it’s great at home and onsite.
We have also invested in collapsible, silicone dog bowls (£6.99, wackypractials.com), which take up less space in, say, a daypack. These quality products are hygienic, easy-clean and colourful, too.
Awnings are useful spaces if you’re touring with a dog. This can become your pet’s domain, and they can be very smelly if eaten inside the tourer!
Many sites have specified dog-walking areas on the periphery of the grounds. Do your research before you arrive, to ensure the destination is the right choice for you and your pet.
Some posher campsites also offer little luxuries including dog-showers! This might sound daft, but they’re ideal if you’ve just taken a long, muddy walk, and your dog’s going to be inside your clean caravan.
On this theme, we also like the look of the microfibre dog drying bags now on the market. These absorbent ‘towels’ cover the dog, keep it from running off, and hold in hair, water and heat while you rub your pet dry.
Check out the Henry Wag Dog Drying Bag (from £19.999 at innerwolf.co.uk). In fact, this website is a goldmine of pet products you din’t know you needed!
Taking a dog on tour does mean you’ll need to spend more time planning your itinerary to make the most of your trip. You’ll also have to be very considerate of your fellow campers.
Remember that many venues and attractions, particularly indoor ones, do not allow doggie visitors. For example, caravanning canines are not welcome in National Trust houses, although they can visit land owned by the NT.
You will also need to play a suitable agenda for your leisure time, and be prepared to leave your dog in the van, on the pitch or in your car. Again, only you know if this will suit your pet, and only you can assess whether conditions at the time allow it.
Bear in mind that some sites might charge a few extra pounds per night if you have a dog with you, so factor this in.
All dogs should be kept on a lead, and boisterous ones muzzled, if you are walking or staying on farmland, especially at lambing time. Normally placid dogs can get overexcited around farm animals, and although you know that they wouldn’t do any harm, the farmer doesn’t. Always better to be safe than sorry.
TOP TIPS FOR CANINE CARAVANNING
It’s easy to make your tour really relaxing for the family and your pet, if you plan ahead and take a few careful steps in advance:
Before you leave
Make sure that your dog is microchipped and wearing a tag with your contact details on it.
Always ensure your chosen campsite accepts dogs, and find out whether this will oblige you to stay on a specific part of the site’s grounds.
Check out the campsite’s doggie rules.
If you have room, take some spare dog essentials with you: leads, bowls, and so on.
If you’re touring abroad, take essential pet documentation (insurance and passport/animal health certificate details) with you, and keep photos of the paperwork stored on your phone.
If you dog has a special diet, make sure you take enough food. Allow a few days’ extra, in case high winds or other factors delay your return home.
During your stay
Make sure you keep your dog hydrated, with regular drinking stops. Folding waterproof or collapsible silicone dog bowls are a great idea for walkers, and for saving space/weight.
Try to avoid leaving your pet in the car or caravan for long periods – especially during spells of hot weather! – and ensure they have access to good ventilation and plenty of water.
I’ve been tempted many times in the past to hook the dog’s lead onto the car’s towbar while I carry out a small chore. I resist the temptation, as I’m worried I’ll get distracted, and with my mind on other things, drive off – it’s so much better to be safe than sorry.
Always clean up after your dog, and keep a few spare bags in the caravan and the car.
Ground spikes and adjustable tethers are a great idea, but do ensure you position them where your dog has access to shade and water… remembering the sun will move during the day.
For older dogs, thick-coated breeds and short-nosed varieties, take extra care in hot weather.
In the caravan
Consider ‘crate training’ your dog, because even normally docile pets can become upset when they find themselves being ‘caged’ in a car, van or awning.
Covering the crate at night can help your dog to relax inside, but bear in mind possible heat build-up and ventilation issues.
Don’t forget to take a few dog towels with you.
Consider air fresheners for your caravan and car, especially after a wet dog walk. We like the subtle aromas of oil diffusers from the likes of Neon (from £25) or Aldi (from £3.49), but sometimes only the power of a spray or plug-in freshener will do! Lighting scented candles is best avoided in caravans.
It’s worth bearing in mind that some dogs are allergic to oil diffusers, and this could be exacerbated by using them in relatively confined spaces.
If your dog is allowed on the furniture, preserve your pristine caravan upholstery by using throws to cover it. This can be very stylish and is a simple (and cost-effective) solution.
Consider a short break, closer to home, when you are planning your first doggie tour, just in case things don’t work out that well to begin with.
Do not store dog food in the caravan between trips – it can attract mice and rats.
Allow a couple of months or more to arrange a dog passport/animal heath certificate, and check up on the latest EU legislation changes post-Brexit. Find out more here, and in future issues of Practical Caravan.
When caravanning abroad, check the ferry’s website for the options for transporting your pet, because car decks are inaccessible during the crossing.
Select a route to suit your pet’s temperament. For example, Dover-Calais takes 75 minutes, while Portsmouth-Caen is a four-hour crossing.
Brittany Ferries offers its PETS Travel Scheme for cats, dogs – and ferrets! This costs £29 on any route to France and £90 for the 24-hour crossing to Spain, Pet-friendly cabins are also available.
Pets can remain in your car for the 35-minute Channel Tunnel crossing to Calais, but dogs, cars and, yes, ferrets are charged from £20 per pet (each way).
Pets, rabbits and rodents, domestic birds, invertebrates (not crustaceans or bees), ornamental tropical fish, amphibians and reptiles can all travel free of charge.
Canine kit – the latest gear for dogs… walking, touring, exploring
Barbour Classic Tartan dog travel harness
- For aspirational dogs
- Price £32.95
- Web johnlewis.com
Mountain Paws karabiner dog lead
- For outdoor dogs
- Price From £16.99
- Web mountain paws.com
Ruff and Tumble Drying Coat
- For dogs that like to play in water
- Price From £26
- Web ruffiandtumbledogcoats.com
Animology Stink Bomb deodorising dog spray
- For aromatic dogs
- Price £5.79
- Web yourdogsclub.co.uk
Bottom Sniffer non-alcoholic, non-carbonated dog beer
- For CAMRA dogs
- Price From £2.99
- Web woofandbrew.com
Ruff and Tumble sofa throw
- For dogs that are into interior design
- Price From £74.95
- Web ruffandtumbledogcoats.com
Lick mat for doggie treats
- For dogs that need entertaining
- Price £7.99
- Web www.dogstrustgifts.com
Stake and tie-out cable
- For dogs that might wander off
- Price Cable £6-£8, stake £6
- Web www.petsathome.com
Fiamma Carry Dog folding kennel
- For dogs that like their own space
- Price £57
- Web everythingfiamma.co.uk
Mountain Paws Dog First Aid Kit
- For adventurous pooches
- Price £17.99
- Web mountainpaws.com
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Dogs are great ice-breakers, too - a brilliant way to initiate conversations. We've found these impromptu chats can often lead to acquiring very useful information from other dog-owners