Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Road-tripping...with your dog

I have been pretty lucky with Sage in that, from the start of our 'relationship', she has been happy to come along with me, wherever and however I was going.


But I've met a lot of dogs who are not so comfortable traveling by car - who get sick, or anxious or misbehave. I believe that almost all dogs can get used to almost any situation, as long as it has positive associations. Here are some tips I have been given by owners who've had a tough time getting their dogs on board:

  • Don't force your dog into the car. Set aside plenty of time to get your dog used to the space. You can try doing this on a couple of occasions, just sitting in the car, playing, grooming, a few treats. Even doing this for 5-10 minutes, a couple of times, will reassure your dog that there is nothing to be afraid of. In this way, the space stops being threatening and starts to be associated with positive activities

  • You can build this up by turning on the engine, but staying parked, so that your dog also gets used to some of the sounds and smells of the car, while still playing with them or stroking them

  • Don't rush into a long distance journey. For the first few times, try short, fun trips to the local dog park, or round to see a dog-loving friend. Somewhere fun, so that your dog will associate the car with pleasurable activities. If your dog is nervous of cars, definitely avoid the vets on the first one or two trips in the car 

  • Designate a space where your dog will always sit to travel. Whether that is in a cage in the back, on the back seat, or even down by the front passenger seat, get your dog into the routine of getting into the car and settling in the same, familiar spot. Lay a favourite blanket in the space, or bring a well-loved toy, so that the setting seems more like 'home'

  • Avoid feeding your dog before car travel, especially before long journeys. Limit the amount of water they drink too. But, be sure to bring food and water, so that your dog can drink little and often along the way, and eat as soon as you reach your destination (creating another positive association) 

  • Make sure there is plenty of air movement around the car. If your dog is likely to stick its head too far out of an open window, or possibly even make a bid for freedom, open more windows but just wide enough to cool down and let air in

  • Make lots of rest stops along the way. If there is nowhere suitable, make sure you stop every hour or so for a quick pee, a little water, and a moment of quiet. If possible, make a stop somewhere your dog can have a run around and stretch out their legs

  • If you dog is still sickly, having not eaten, with plenty of air movement and lots of rest stops, keep practising with shorter trips, don't give up, and put down an easily washable old sheet to protect your car 

Betty admiring the view from the car
Many people find travel carriers or cages are convenient, as they prevent  your dog from moving about, and function in the same way as a seatbelt - protecting your dog in case of an accident. TransK9 is a company based in the UK that produces a range of cages and cases for  protecting your dog on road trips.


You can also buy specially designed harnesses that attach to the seat belts in your car, so that your dog is safely strapped in, like these from Waggy Campers/Holiday Pet Products

The late Garby in her usual place for car travel

For boisterous dogs who won't settle while on the road, a good piece of advice from dog behaviourist/trainer Gwynne Lowther via Twitter : If your dog is stressed in the car, putting screens on windows or covering the crate has a calming effect just like it does with a bird!


Or you can fit a barrier to prevent your dogs jumping forwards and putting you all at risk, like these from US based company Pet Smart, which offer a wide range of barriers, from small ones that block the space between front seats, to full floor to roof permanent dividers. All are designed to allow interaction between dog and owner.

Sage, Poppy and Betty on a road trip
Finally, it goes without saying but I'm going to say it anyway - don't leave your dog unattended in a hot car. Even in the shade with the windows cracked, temperatures inside the car can get extremely high.

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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Go running ...with your dog

In both Crete and Cyprus, there are some amazing areas of natural beauty, nature trails, coastal paths etc. where you can hike all day with your dog off leash.  Within the towns, however, it's almost impossible to find somewhere to let your dog run around off leash. There are almost no dog parks in either Crete or Cyprus, and very few areas where you are allowed to give your dog the freedom to get the exercise they really need.

It's important for your dog to exercise fully, for weight control and physical well-being, as well as for their mental health. Walking around the streets on a leash is often not enough, especially for a young or energetic dog. 

Walking around the streets with my dog was not enough exercise for me either, but was enough of an excuse not to go and do something more active. 

So I started running with my girl, Sage. We have become regular jogging companions, and I thought I'd write a quick post about my experiences of running with my dog...

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I keep Sage on a long leash if we are running on the streets, although this isn't very convenient for either of us. It is not very natural for her to maintain a steady running rhythm, and she constantly pulls ahead or stops to sniff something.

Whenever possible, I try to find an area with no cars and not too many people, so I can let her run at her own speed. It's a good idea to walk the route first, so you can see how busy the area is, whether there are families with young children who might be afraid of your dog, if there are any roads to cross, how long the route will be, and just generally look out for any possible hazards.
Stretching after a run... with my dog

I always carry a few things with me when I go running with my dog:

  • Bag for poo collection
  • Leash (just in case)
  • A ball or stick to hold in her mouth to limit her scavenging
  • Water and bowl (which I usually leave at the start/finish point)
  • Couple of dog biscuits if it's a long or strenuous route


For myself as much as for her, I like to run in the evenings when it's not too hot. I always watch for signs that she is struggling (excessive panting, constantly sitting down, no sniffing/exploring etc), although I think she is fitter than I am! You know your dog, if you see that they are behaving strangely, stop and rest, or walk for a while.

In hotter conditions, carry more water and head for shadier routes.
Post-run drink
To make sure she is comfortable, I don't feed her for a few hours before running, and try to make sure she has drunk some water before we begin. I also try to wait for her to poo and pee before I start running, as she gets anxious if I don't wait for her (and I don't like to stop).

When running in parks or fields in the evenings, make sure your dog is wearing their collar against fleas/ticks, and that all medication is up to date.

When running in the dark, I carry a torch so that I can check that Sage is ok (and not eating anything she shouldn't be...). You can also find reflective collars and leads if there is a chance you may meet cyclists or traffic (I searched online and found lots of companies selling reflective leads, collars, patches etc, such as: http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/dayglow.html).

There are loads of great products designed for active dogs - harnesses, packs so they can carry their own water when hiking, special boots to protect their feet on hard mountain trails... have a look at the Ruffwear UK range: http://www.ruffwear.co.uk/dog-gear/new-redesigned-products   and check out their Facebook page for inspiration on the limitless outdoor adventures you can have with your dog: https://www.facebook.com/RuffwearUK


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Why travel with your dog?

Outside the airport at Larnaca, Cyprus
People look at me like I'm crazy when I say that I travel with my dog. The first questions I get asked are usually about the cost of plane tickets, then about whether I give her sedatives when flying. There are difficulties and expenses, of course, but I think the benefits of having your furry friend with you when you travel often outweigh the negatives.

Here are a few good reasons to go to the trouble of taking your dog with you when you travel...
Boarding the ferry at Xora Sfakion, Crete

Cost
It depends how long you are going for, but if you plan to be away for a couple of weeks (and don't have doting family to dog-sit), the cost of leaving your dog in a kennel can be pretty high. Sage has stayed for a weekend at our closest dog-hotel (http://www.petstopcyprus.com). There we paid around 12€ per day (at 30kg she falls in their 'medium-sized dog' price range).

The cost of traveling with your dog will depend on A) where you are going from/to  B) whether you are going by plane, ferry, car etc. C) the size and weight of your dog.


Less anxiety
If, like me, you are a neurotic 'pet parent', and you have to leave your dog at a dog-hotel, or even with friends/family, you will probably not completely relax until you are back home and reunited. I went to see the Pet Stop Cyprus dog-hotel. I spoke with the owner, who was lovely. I looked over the premises and saw clean cages, open spaces for exercise, all sorts of different animals the owner had rescued (cats, dogs, parrot, monkeys!). Everything there was fine. Better than fine. But the feeling I had when we dropped her off and left her sitting alone and anxious in a cage, and the doubt I had all weekend that I had done the wrong thing, and the desperation I had when we got stuck in traffic and were late to retrieve her...
European Pet Passport


On a boat along the South coast of Crete
Chance to give time and attention to your dog
Your holidays are a great chance to really spend time with your dog, without work and the daily chores that get in the way at home. If you are holidaying together, this is a perfect opportunity to put in some extra training time, and to spend more time walking around new cities, hiking in countryside, swimming in the sea etc.

Dogs need new smells and sounds in order to learn and develop. You don't need to leave the country to provide access to new stimuli, but traveling together is a good way for you both to make the most of new experiences and have a break from the everyday routines of home.
Car travel

Opportunity to meet like-minded people
Turning up to a new area with your dog can be a great way to meet new people. As with any group of people with shared interests, dog owners love to get together and share stories and advice.

Finding your way to the local dog park or dog beach, or simply doing the same walk a couple of times and getting to know the local dog walkers, often leads to new acquaintances. You can even research online first, as most communities have dog walking or dog training groups you can join. Some larger cities also organise dog shows and festivals, or charity events for the animal shelters.

At the dog park in Heraklion, Crete
Motivation to go places you might not otherwise visit
Just as at home, having a dog means you have to get up and go out walking whether you feel like it or not. The need to find places where your dog can exercise freely can be a great motivation to go out and explore a new area. Since moving to a town that is not very dog-friendly, here in Cyprus, I have taken  trips all over the island, looking for mountains to climb, gorges to explore, deserted coastlines and woodlands. Whether it is cold and rainy or baking hot, my dog needs a good run around every now and then, and that is the best motivation for me to go out and explore.
Clearing immigration at Larnaca airport, Cyprus

Gives you freedom
At work at archaeological excavation...with my dog

It is very convenient to have a dog who is used to travelling if you ever find that your situation changes - you move home (or country), or spend some time away from home traveling for work.

I was very lucky with Sage. She came along with me while I was working all over Crete, as well as camping trips and holidays, and never seemed bothered by car or ferry travel. I always try to bring things to remind her of home, and to give her as much time as possible, but she has adapted to a slightly nomadic life and really enjoys being in new places.


Life is just better when you're with your dog
Well, not much to say about this really. You'll either understand or you won't. I just know that I enjoy my holidays and travels much more when I'm sharing them with my dog, Sage.
Near Governor's Beach, Cyprus

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Eat out at Hellas Taverna, Palaikastro... with your dog

Eating outside at Hellas Taverna
 The Hellas is one of the biggest tavernas in Palaikastro. It's located right on the central square of the village, with the associated hotel just behind on the street leading up to the square (I haven't found out yet whether the hotel is dog-friendly). I have eaten out here many times, as it is one of the favourite choices of the archaeologists at Palaikastro to get together for big group dinners.

The Hellas also serves breakfast and lunch, and is open (although with reduced opening hours) all through the winter. They serve a variety of salads, omelettes and pastas for a lighter lunch, as well as large range of traditional Cretan dishes (fish, stew, souvlaki, bean dishes etc). Prices here are typical for the area (lower than for most of the island) - I paid under 10€ for a big portion of meatballs in a tomato sauce with rice, salad and a large beer.
Dinner at Hellas Taverna
Sage at the Hellas Taverna
I have brought Sage with me to the Hellas on several occasions. Staff and owners here have always been very accommodating - on a visit in early Spring, we found a quiet corner to sit inside to escape the cold, while on a summer evening last year they had no problem with us sitting out on the busy terrace. I should say here that Sage is particularly well-behaved, doesn't bark and annoy other customers, and stays on her lead at my side.

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