As the saying goes, a dog is man’s best friend, and if you share your home with one of the 9.2 million dogs living in South Africa, you’ll know exactly why this is true. Dogs quickly become part of the family, and it comes as no surprise that a growing number of owners are now taking their dog on holiday. Thanks to pet passports, it is now even possible to take your dog abroad with you. But for the more eco-conscious traveller, there are plenty of places like Drakensberg in South Africa that are very dog-friendly. Sharing your trip with your dog is a great feeling, but to make sure it’s a good experience for everyone and it’s kind to the environment, there are a few essential things you should keep in mind.
Know Your Dog’s Behaviour
If you haven’t travelled with your dog before then you won’t really know how they will cope with being away from home and the change of environment. But understanding your dog’s behaviour will help you to predict how they will behave. If your dog, for example, barks at people walking past a window, then ask the hotel for a room on a higher floor. If they get nervous in lifts then request a room on a lower floor. It’s also important to think about how your dog reacts when they are left alone. If your dog is likely to bark or be destructive when left alone, then it may be that you have to always take them with you or make alternative arrangements for them, such as hiring the services of a local dog walker or sitter.
The key to enjoying a positive vacation with your dog is all in the preparation. Make a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need to pack for your dog so you don’t forget anything or have to buy things while you are away. As much as 1.5 million tonnes of plastic is produced in South Africa each year. So with that in mind, take a couple of large refillable bottles with you that you can easily fill up with water to fill your dog’s water bowl: this way, you’ll avoid the need to buy any single-use plastic bottles. Pack a good supply of your dog’s medication, food and snacks, along with water bowls, leash and biodegradable bags to pick up their waste. Don’t forget to also include your dog’s collar and tags, and their toys, blankets and pillows to keep them happy and comfortable in a different environment.
If you will be making a lengthy car journey, it’s imperative that you remember to take a bowl and water with you, and include plenty of stops along the way. Make sure they are protected during the journey by using a proper dog restraint or carrier. It helps to avoid feeding your dog for around three hours before you set off, and to take them for a long walk before getting into the car. Make sure your dog can get enough fresh air during the journey by opening windows just wide enough for the air to circulate. To make sure your car journey is as eco-friendly as possible, give your car a good service before you leave, and pump up the tyres with air. As tempting as it is to use the air con, try to just keep a window open instead.
It’s impossible to ignore the fact that planes are bad for the environment. The worst plane emissions are produced during take-off, so if you can, try to find a direct flight. You can also keep your waste on board to a minimum by taking an eco-water bottle with you, along with your own snacks. When you are travelling with your dog, shorter flights are best anyway. Look for a pet-friendly airline that allows small dogs to travel with you in the passenger cabin. Bigger dogs may have to go in the cargo hold, which can be extremely distressing for them. Your dog should have a good bill of health from a veterinarian, and depending on where you are travelling to, your dog will require certain vaccinations against such things as rabies.
Ideally, you will have already ensured that your accommodation is pet-friendly and offers enough space for your dog, but you still need to take some precautions. When you first arrive, your dog may seem very unsettled. Unpack their toys and blankets so they can feel more at home. Take them around their new surroundings, and give them the chance to explore. If your dog has a toilet accident in the room, don’t automatically reach for the nearest cleaning product, as it might contain harsh ingredients. Travelling with a bottle of white vinegar in your luggage means you have a gentler and more eco-friendly product at hand to clean any mess and dog smells from upholstery and carpets.
Vacationing with your dog is a wonderful experience, and with some careful planning and preparation, you can ensure that your trip is great for you, and kind to the environment as well.