Whilst some of these tips include some funny anecdotes from our adventures, there are also some genuine practical tips relating to travelling with dogs in here too (I hope)
1. Sudden changes to diet and travel are not a good mix!
Picture the scene; Annie, my mum and I wandering the beautiful cobbled streets of San Gimignano in Tuscany. We had arrived early in the morning to avoid the midday summer heat and the streets were just starting to become crowded following the inevitable arrival of the coach tour throngs.
Right outside a busy Charcuterie with barrels stylishly placed to allow people to enjoy their delicious Italian nibbles, we suddenly came to a screeching halt. Poor Annie was obviously taken as much by surprise as we were at her sudden need to go to the toilet. What followed was a mortifying scene with Annie having what seemed like the most explosive case of diarrhoea ever, whilst tourists and locals alike tried to take a wide berth around us. The street was too busy for people to avoid us and we received a range of looks varying from sympathy, to disgust, to nausea.
I tried my best to clean up the mess with my water bottle and some tissues but it was a futile exercise. God bless my mum for not making a fuss! We had to then just make a quick exit. We also had to suffer the noxious fumes she was emitting on the car journey back to our accommodation
Luckily Annie was totally fine but, the moral of this story is, don’t make sudden changes to your dog’s diet. Not a good idea at any time, I would always say introduce new foods gradually, but especially when you are on the road! I had wanted to give her a little treat as the heat had been affecting her appetite – I don’t know what I was thinking, big mistake!
2. Hand sanitiser will become your best friend
So, after “The San Gimignano Explosion” I think I used just about an entire travel-sized bottle of hand sanitiser. It is not the only time I needed this though. I am sure plenty of dog owners have had the accidental poop touch when they have been scooping it up with a bag. Maybe it was a bit softer than you expected or you got knocked off balance when your on-lead dog spotted a cat or a potential friend. I think Mum was probably put off owning a dog for life with all these incidents happening in her presence. This one happened when she was visiting us in Courmayeur recently. Annoyingly it then transferred to my removed glove and a little up my sleeve. The biggest disaster was that I had forgotten my hand sanitiser so the rest of the walk was spent wondering if it was my imagination that I kept getting strong whiffs of poop!
3. You learn certain words in the local dialect much quicker
You learn all sorts of new words when you mingle with other dog owners in a different country. Dog in Italian sounds like ‘can’t’ from a Scots person: ‘Cane’! One of the first words I heard in relation to dogs was “Femmina?” , used when someone has a feisty male dog that must only like the ladies.
The next one I often hear being shouted but not being responded to much is “Vieni Qui” . This means “come here” and, like in the UK, it often falls on deaf ears.
The last one, that I was quite offended by at first, is often shouted in a frustrated tone of voice. When I first heard “Basta!” being shouted I thought, sheesh, there is no need to speak to your dog like that, poor thing. It turns out that they are not shouting profanities at their dog but just telling them “Enough!”
4. Don’t forget the dog first aid kit
I bought a dog first aid kit before leaving on our adventures thinking it would probably be one of those unnecessary purchases that would sit unopened in the car for yonks. How wrong was I! It has been used quite a few times. Luckily, never for anything too serious.
The first time it was used was to patch me up! Our friendly neighbourhood Collie often joins Annie and I for our first morning constitutional. He sometimes gives me a fright as he is sitting right at our front door waiting for us to come out!
On this particular morning, he had brought a stick over wanting me to throw it. It was huge with lots of pointy bits and Annie was trying to grab it too. I wanted to get rid of it and when I took it out of his mouth he grabbed it to take it back, outraged that I didn’t actually want to throw it. He accidentally caught my thumb and I got a bit of a nasty wound as a result.
Cue the magical dog first aid kit! My friend Susan was visiting at the time and she is, handily, a First Aider at her work. She cleaned me up and dressed the wound fabulously!
The second time was when we had our first hard frost and Annie was a little over excited when we went out that morning. She proceeded to do the craziest zoomies I have seen yet. I thought it was hilarious at the time and lovely to see her having fun but, maybe I should have reined her in slightly. It turns out that in her over-enthusiasm she had managed to rip off most of one of her dew claws. Cue a bit of panic from me, help from my most recent guest and the trusty first aid kit coming to the rescue again. Annie was a perfect patient and sat so well whilst we faffed about with the quick stop pencil and bandages. She was right as rain again in no time.
5. Who knew; Poo bags make a great emergency water bowl
I always carry a travel water bowl in my daysack, especially on hot days.
This particular day I hadn’t taken a day sack and we had met a neighbour and walked further than we expected. It was quite hot and I wanted to give Annie a drink from a water trough. The trough looked a bit mouldy so I didn’t want to hold her up to drink from this and she wouldn’t manage straight from the tap. An unusual moment of inspiration struck me and we managed to make a little bowl from a poo bag and she was quite happy to drink from this. Perfect!
6. Your dog could end up with a bigger wardrobe than you
Don’t forget to make room in your suitcase for your dog’s supplies. Annie has amassed quite a collection of her own. Not only does she have a couldn’t-be-without cool coat for our hot weather trips but she also has a number of coats and fleeces for the alpine winter weather. We do sometimes notice a few smirks when she has on her Equafleece trouser suit but she really does feel the cold and it also keeps her from getting too many snowballs gathering on her body in the wintry conditions.
7. Who knew olive oil is perfect for preventing dog snowballs
On the subject of snowballing, when the snow first arrived in Courmayeur we had a few days of struggling with mega snowballs gathering on Annie’s legs and they were a source of discomfort and frustration for her by the end of our hikes.
Thanks to my doggy loving pals we received a few tips for keeping them at bay. One suggestion was to use a little olive oil.
Some other suggestions were Coconut Oil and Mane and Tail Spray.
8. “You expect me to pee on this!”
This is one that I hadn’t anticipated when I first started travelling with Daisy on our trip to Spain. All my dogs, like most, have been toilet trained to go on grass. When I booked some of our first road trip accommodation I hadn’t considered whether it was next to green space. Cue a lot of traipsing around a strange place in the wee small hours searching for a pee spot. In the city
It was also an issue for us on the ferry too. The exercise area obviously doesn’t have any grass. When we did the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre I was so grateful that, even as an older lady, Daisy had a cast iron bladder!
9. Teaching ‘Watch Me’ is super useful for getting great photos
It is always lovely to have the memories of the trip to look back on. Want to get a good photo of your dog whilst you are on your adventures? Is your dog easily distracted? Daisy and Sam, my previous dogs, had always been easy to engage for a photo. One whiff of a treat and you had their utmost focus. Annie is a little more skittish and is always on the lookout for squirrels and birds. We have worked hard on a reliable ‘Watch me’ with the help of yummy frankfurter sausages and, her personal favourite, a little bit of smelly Brie.
Every time she gives me eye contact in a training session, I reward her with a click and a treat. I continued working on this until she was giving me lots of reliable eye contact and then I introduced the ‘Watch me’ Command whenever she made eye contact too. We repeated this process until she was googling me constantly in anticipation of something yummy. Works perfectly for getting a lovely photo.
10. Watch out for the Griffon Vultures in Spain
Okay, so it is highly unlikely your dog is going to be swept away by a hungry vulture but we did have a pretty unnerving experience whilst travelling down through Spain.
We were in a relatively remote location on our journey down to Southern Spain and we took a walk into the countryside. My Auntie was with us on this leg of the journey and, with it being January, it was pretty chilly. Daisy had her little red fleece jumper on to keep her old lady bones cosy.
We suddenly heard some loud, pretty unusual bird calls. We were surprised to see a couple of REALLY large birds flying overhead.
Within 5 minutes there were loads of them circling above us and sometimes swooping down pretty close to us.
It was a bit unsettling and we joked that perhaps they thought Daisy was dinner! My Auntie got a bit overly freaked and picked up a nearby big stick to “keep Daisy safe” .
When we got back home we checked and discovered that the area was famous for their Griffon Vultures. They can have a 2.8 metre wingspan and, although it is rare, they have been known to attack livestock in the area – eeck!