There is nothing quite like that feeling of shame you get as you watch your dog pee on the carpet at the feet of the hotel staff member who has just helped you with your bags.
This, just after we had to take the sorry remains of the complimentary dog bed down to reception after the first night – our six-month-old puppy had shredded the entire three-foot-wide cushion, leaving the cover empty and the foam inner in tiny pieces all over the bathroom floor. It wasn’t the relaxing weekend in Brighton we were hoping for.
In his short but adventurous life, my first dog Milo peed on hotel carpets in the Isles of Scilly, he barked incessantly at the vacuum cleaner at a spa hotel on the Polperro Heritage Coast, and he even threw up on cross-country trains from London to various countryside destinations. He was, without doubt, a terrible traveller. But as a travel companion, he was the best.
He was a great road trip buddy – he never wanted to change the radio station. He made a joyful distraction and, most importantly, he was a conversation starter. With him by my side, wherever I went, people wanted to know how old he was, what breed and could they stroke him? He was an ice-breaker on tours around Lincoln Cathedral (he even got a blessing from a clergyman) and a source of great entertainment on the beach as he zoomed around eating crab shells and seaweed. I met and talked to so many more locals when I travelled with him, and have even made friends I keep in touch with now thanks to his wily charms.
If you’re one of the tens of thousands of households who welcomed a new puppy into your home in the last year, it’s likely you’re also considering a summer holiday with the dog. Had I known then what I know now, my trips with Milo might not have been so fraught. If you got yourself a lockdown puppy, here’s what you need to know before you hit the road.
Master the most important commands
Before I took my current dog – Arty, another cheeky Manchester Terrier – away on our first work trip for a dog-friendly guidebook, my trusty trainer insisted we master the two most important commands: ‘wait’ and ‘come back’. “The former is absolutely essential in new places – if you don’t know what’s up ahead and the dog is roaming off lead, you need to be able to tell them to stop and wait wherever they are,” Kate O’Rourke from Brightwell Barkers says. “The latter is really important in all situations, but especially when there are kids or picnics around that might attract attention from curious dogs.”
Don’t go inside straight away
This sage piece of advice comes from dog-friendly travel company PetsPyjamas, who produced a “Petiquette” guide for dog owners heading on holidays this year. They say the first thing you should do on arrival at any hotel or restaurant is have a quick mooch around the grounds. “After being cooped up on the journey, a dog is bound to be excited when they reach their final destination so before you check-in, give your furry friend a quick show round the exterior grounds for a comfort break.” That’ll certainly save them from soiling the carpet in reception.
Always bring a distraction
Young or highly strung dogs often struggle to settle in new or busy places, so if you’re going to be doing long dinners in the pub or leisurely breakfasts at the hotel bar, they’ll need a distraction. Bring a toy, such as a Kong or these K9 Connectables that can be filled with treats to keep their minds occupied while you indulge. These are also handy for keeping them entertained if you’re going to leave them in the room for a while.
Follow the hotel’s rules – within reason
Lots of hotels and even some self catering accommodation will give you a list of rules to adhere to during your stay. The number one request is usually: “Keep dogs off the furniture.” It sounds reasonable enough, but when your dog is used to hopping up next to you on the sofa or snoozing at your feet on the bed, such a simple rule can make your holiday quite stressful. No one wants to be constantly telling their pet off for doing things they’re allowed to do at home.
That’s why I always bring a large throw to chuck over sofas or on top of the bed so when the dog does hop up, it’s protected from any sharp claws and muddy paws. I also bring a foldable crate for Arty to sleep in, which stops him from climbing under the duvet in the middle of the night.
Don’t show the rest of us up
Your holiday should be relaxing, sure, but that doesn’t mean you can get complacent – you’ve still got to be a responsible dog owner and follow all the usual rules. That means picking up poo wherever you are, even if you’re miles from the nearest bin (my Dicky Bag is my saviour), and putting the dog on the lead when there’s wildlife and livestock. You don’t want to be the next Fenton.
Lottie is writing the new Bradt Guide to dog-friendly weekends away (May 2022). You can pre-order your copy here and get exclusive rewards for buying early.