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Maybe you haven't taken your holiday yet this year or maybe you're already looking for ideas for the next trip. What about a self catering holiday in this country and taking your dog with you? With a little planning and consideration, this can be a great alternative to leaving your pet behind. Not that there's anything wrong with kennels or pet sitters - find a good one and your dog will have just as good a time as you, maybe even better - but it's not the only option. There are numerous companies offering self catering holiday accommodation, or you can book directly with property owners and there are plenty of guide books and websites to help you. Personal recommendation from dog-owning family, friends and colleagues is also worth having.
First of all, decide which is more important to you - the right location (I can personally recommend Northumberland and Wales as good, dog-friendly areas) or the right accommodation, no matter where it is. This will determine how to start your search. When looking for the accommodation, look at the details - how many dogs are allowed, is the size of dog specified? This might be negotiable with the owner or agent. Look to see if there's a garden and whether it's enclosed, whether it's shared etc. This may be important if you're concerned about your dog running off, meeting other dogs etc. Also check if there's a charge for taking your dog. Whether to pay extra for taking your dog is of course personal choice but it's not always necessary as many companies/owners don't charge. If you do object to paying, shop around. You also need to consider what you will do and where you will go during your holiday. As described below, leaving your dog behind while you go out for the day isn't an option. And nor is leaving him in the car. You will need to stick to places where you can take your dog with you. So that rules out theme parks, stately homes, zoos etc. In peak season, beaches and piers in town/resort centres might be off limits too, you will need to check locally. They'll probably be quite crowded anyway which might not be suitable for your dog. And don't forget that shopping could be tricky too and would involve taking turns so someone is always on dog duty. Be prepared to go a bit further afield to find dog friendly places such as non-central beaches, country parks etc. If that sounds too restrictive, remember that this is a dog-inclusive holiday so will mean doing things a bit differently compared with what you're used to. And anyway, you can do all those other things another time when you go on holiday without your dog.
Some restrictions and rules in the holiday cottage are to be expected. For example, it is standard procedure that dogs are not to be left alone in the property, and are not allowed upstairs or in bedrooms. But if there are stricter rules than this, you may question how dog-friendly this property really is. For example, I have seen properties where the dog is not allowed in the garden, or at the other end of the scale, is not allowed in the house but must stay in a kennel outside. This may be fine for you and your dog if this is the same arrangement that you have at home, but was not what I was looking for. Why are dogs not allowed to be left alone? Basically, to prevent the possibility of damage. Your dog may be fine when left alone at home but this might change in a strange environment and the stress may lead to chewing, scratching, toileting or howling/barking which disturbs the neighbours. If you choose not to comply with these rules, be prepared for potential consequences. The owner is entitled to ask you to pay for any repairs or extra cleaning required. They could even ask you to leave. If the owner or manager/caretaker lives on site or nearby, they may be watching what you're up to! Ultimately, you're staying in someone else's house and even though you're paying for that, they do have the right to lay down some ground rules. Wouldn't you in their situation?
It would be unusual for any dog paraphernalia to be provided. So you need to take the essentials - your dog's bed/basket, food and water bowls, poo bags, toys and if your dog wears one in bad weather, a coat. If your dog has specialist food, take enough for the whole holiday as you might not be able to get it easily locally - and you don't want to spend valuable holiday time shopping for it. And if your dog is on medication, don't forget to take that too. Make sure your dog's ID tag has your mobile number on it. Some travel accessories might be useful too, for the journey as well as trips out while you're away - for example, a water bottle and bowl kit. Speaking of water, did you know that dogs can taste water and that it does have a different taste in different parts of the country? Take a large bottle of water with you. Some of it you will need for the journey, the rest can be put in the bowl when you arrive. Then you can gradually add the local tap water to it so your dog gets used to it.
If there's a garden, and it's supposed to be enclosed, check it for security. It's better that you find any gaps in the fence before your dog does! Also check for anything dangerous eg broken glass, barbed wire - yes it's true, as I have found in the past. Get your dog's bed in place so there's something familiar. You might want to check out the location/phone number of the local vet - hopefully you won't need it but better to have it ready rather than have to look for it in an emergency. Then you can start checking out the local area - places to walk, where dogs are and aren't allowed to go eg fields, beaches - ready to have a great holiday.
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