Like many of you, we love to take our two dogs away with us when we go on holiday - we even took Sprocket on our honeymoon in a VW Camper to the Isle of Skye!
Whilst we're here to care for your dog if they can't join you, it is lovely to pack up your things and take the whole family away for a break, letting your dog explore new smells and find new awkward places to poop.
Dog Holiday Pre-Departure Checklist
Before you leave, it's a good idea to make a list of all the things to take for your dog to ensure a safe and fun trip.Here's the checklist we use:
Leads, Collars and Harnesses
If you are away to the country, you might need to keep your dog on a lead due to livestock.
In this case, it's better to have a harness for long spells on the lead as that eliminates the danger of throttling your pal when he lunges to chase a rabbit.
We use these Ezydog harnesses, as they can also be clipped onto your seatbelt for added dog safety on the road.
We've also started using Halti leads for our boarders, as they are strong and you can alter their size to suit the dog using clips.
Bed or Blankets
Taking a bed or blanket is not only to keep your furry pal warm, but the smell of home will also be comforting. This is why we ask you to bring your dogs' bed when they stay with us, as it reduces stress and reminds them of home.
Many dogs like a quiet corner of a room that they can call their own, without being disturbed or harassed and have a sleep. Of course, that's not always the case...
If your dog is a big breed, you might not want or need these. For little breeds, like our Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, we need to either keep them dry, or get them dry quickly as they are so little and totsy they can get ill with the coldness.
We think of dog jackets as having two types - ones where you go out in the rain, and ones where you come back home wet, whether by accident or design.
In the "going out in the wet on purpose" category are these waterproof jackets from 3 Peaks which we find are easy to get on and off, and keeps our two dry on top.
One tip we have with these is to keep the velcro sections by the dogs head always connected, and push/pull the coat over the head of the dog instead. Otherwise, the loud noise of ripping velcro right by their ear could cause them to fear/hate the coat, making your life much more difficult.
The second type are those to dry off after becoming wet, or to warm up after swimming or just generally cold conditions.
We use these little jackets called Equafleece, the blue version modelled on Sprocket here.
Designed initially for horses, they do two things. One, they draw moisture away from your dog's skin, drying them off quicker. And two, they are nice and cosy, helping your dog heat up if they have been in for a swim.
We have found that after a swim, our pups can be quite shivery and tired, but putting these on them gives them a second wind and off they go running amok again.
Our other type of jacket is a onesie, and Indie's comes from Willowheart Onesies, a growing local Edinburgh business that creates bespoke, hand-made jackets for your pup. They are frankly adorable, and create quite the talking point when out and about! They are really well made and durable, washable and very funky.
This is more important in the summer months, but worth having year round.
Some people are squeamish about removing ticks, and if you are prepared to pay a vet to do it, that's fine. But for those of us who enjoy getting far away from civilisation it becomes more important, because the longer a tick is on your dog (or you!) the more damage it can do, including passing on Lyme Disease.
There are a range to choose from, but our current favourite is this kind of tick remover, which acts like a claw from a soft toy arcade machine and is very easy to use, and makes tick removal a very simple process. We've also been known to use these tick twisters, and although effective, we found that they can can be a bit finicky with smaller ticks. We've also tried these ones, but they aren't worth the money.
Don't even think about using a sharp pair of tweezers/some vaseline/a hot knife either as they can make matters worse:
For more information on ticks, how to deal with them and how to dispose of them, here's the Lyme Disease Action link (which contains photos of ticks, in case you are one of the squeamish ones).
I mean, obviously bring food, unless your dog has to hunt for himself. At least remember to take his food and water bowl, don't make him a complete barbarian.
For out and about, we carry a bottle along with one of these sorts of plastic bowls, but we've also seen folk use bowls made out of a lighter material It's a handy little bowl, and really useful for when you'll be away from any source of freshwater on your walks to keep pup hydrated.
We've reviewed the poop pots before, and are generally favourable to them. Here's a photo of Cheryl modelling her finery.
We've since added a caveat to the review as we find ours sometimes pops open when it's full, but that shouldn't necessarily put you off.
They are still great for when you are far from a bin and Fido lets loose the dog poops of war, and when not totally full they keep the smell in and mean you are not leaving poop all over the country paths.
Something else we would recommend is never breathing in the air when you open the pot up. The concentrated stench is enough to knock out a hippo.
Here's one I bet you didn't think of.
Whilst vinegar is an important part of any chip diet, it's also a magic ingredient for removing the smell of fox poo on your dog. Many people recommend tomato ketchup for this, but it is the vinegar in the ketchup that does the trick. Also, if you have a white dog, we really don't recommend you covering them in red sauce...
I've tried to find the science behind why this works, but have drawn a blank. I guess the only way to prove it to you is to give it a try next time your dog rolls in a present from Mr. Fox. I sometimes know how Boggis, Bunce and Bean must have felt...
So what have we missed? Anything slightly unusual that you take on your hols?
And remember, for when you can't take your dog, we're here to help and make sure they get a holiday of their own!
You all have probably seen that meme on Facebook of an old looking dog in a flat cap, reminiscing aboutwhen he was a pup he had one toy, and it was a stick.
Throwing a stick for your dog is one of those iconic images that movies and TV shows are filled with. But it's not as harmless a pastime as you may think, and as many dog owners have found out to their horror it can be one of the most dangerous things to do with your dog pal.
Time and time again we are warned of the risks of throwing sticks. Apart from chewing and swallowing sharp splinters, the risks include a stick landing and poking up from the ground like a spear. A running dog can easily impale their body or throat on it, especially if the ground is wet and slippy, leading to horrific and life threatening injuries.
The danger is so real that the Kennel Club have banned images of dogs holding sticks in their mouths in their annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition, and say on their website: "We believe in happy and healthy dogs. Dogs playing or chewing on sticks may cause serious injury so we only want to see dogs playing with dog toys that are considered safe by vets and Kennel Club Accreditation Scheme dog trainers and instructors."
"I've thrown sticks for 35 yrs without a problem."
Look, here's Ben Fogle disagreeing with us and most of the vet world:
Even if, like Ben Fogle, you have thrown sticks for your dogs all your life, you should still stop now. Just because nothing bad has happened, doesn't mean nothing will - is that a risk you are really willing to take with your dog?
Oh Ben Fogle. What a diddy.
The dangers of your dog impaling themselves on a stick is real and documented and if your stomach can take it, a quick Google will show some of the terrible damage a simple piece of oak can cause.
It's a manageable, recognised risk, so let's look at alternatives.
Rubber Balls and Launchers
Our go-to outdoors toy has always been the rubber ball. We use the smaller foamy balls rather than tennis balls because Sprocket and Indie have teeny totsy mouths and can't manage a big tennis ball. We tended to use ball launchers like this Chuckit one, but it got to the stage where Barky McBarkerston wouldn't let us walk in peace so it has been quietly retired to the cupboard, coming out only on special occasions.
The K-9 Kannon
We invested in a Hyperpet K-9 Kannon Mini bought from the excellent Harry's Treats in Portobello. It's a small gun that shoots out a ball using the science of a humungous elastic band, as demonstrated by the handsome young man of a model in the image.
It can fair blast the ball some distance, and would save a heck of a lot of shoulder-aching from using a launcher. You can also shout "Get to the choppa" in a terrible Austrian accent and people will accept you for it. The only problem for us is that Sprocket is afraid of the Kannon, so it has had limited usage recently.
Sprocket is afraid of many things which pop, so this came as little surprise to us. However, the Kannon is very useful for when we have high-energy boarders staying with us (we just have to distract Sprocket with something else!)
We just bought one of these the other day to give it a try as a safer alternative to sticks. It's called a Kong Wubba and is described by its own blurb as a "...fun, interactive toss and tug toy" which is one of the rudest descriptions of a dog toy I've come across, but I guess not everyone has the mind of a teenager.
The idea is that it is tough and durable, with a tennis ball and a smaller, squeaky ball covered in a hard nylon cloth that should hold up to a good game of fetch or tug-o-war.
So far so good - in that it's seen some action between two energetic dogs and has come home in one piece. i'll update the blog when we have used it a bit more, and see how durable it really is.
There are loads of alternatives to sticks, of course, and we haven't tried most of them. Have you?
From rubber fetch sticks to throw, to knotted ropes for tug-o-war, all the way to the top of the range i-Fetch ball launcher for the more laid-back dog owner amongst us, there is surely an affordable option that would allow everyone to move away from the pointy sticks and danger of a nasty and avoidable stabbing of your dog.
Let us have your recommendation for alternatives to sticks below. And if we've learned one thing from this blog, it's clearly don't listen to Ben Fogle.
*EDIT* Since writing this blog, we've got a few updates on the poop pot, and they're not great i'm afraid. See the bottom of the article.
This week, Cheryl and I have been struck down separately with lurgy. Whilst Cheryl had a small, trifling cold, I had a ferocious case of the man flu and nearly required the last rites, no matter what she tells you.
So to cheer ourselves up, we bought two things. A Top Gun Blu-ray so we could safely enter the Danger Zone, and a PoopPot, so we could safely dispose of the mess that comes out of our dogs' danger zones.
The Growth of Poo Trees
In recent years, the UK has been slowly invaded by a new species of tree: the Poo Tree.
How sick are you of seeing this?
How annoyed are you when the fruits of the Poo Tree drop and we get this?
Yeah, it annoys us too. Whilst we applaud people picking up their dog’s mess, hanging them onto trees like the worst Christmas decorations ever or leaving them in the middle of the path doesn’t really help matters and is somewhat missing the point.
Very British Poo Problems
Cheryl and I enjoy long walks in the country, meaning zero chance of bins most of the time. But as we have dogs, we believe we have the responsibility to leave nothing other than footprints and that includes our dogs’ poos. We don’t like kicking it off to the side of the path, because often it is off the path we like to walk and have our adventures, especially when foraging for our mushrooms and wild garlic.
We're also concerned about the dangers poo bags can be to horses, as seen in the image, who are attracted to the smell of the bags, ingest them, and could potentially die.
So we’ll tend to carry the poos tied round our fingers; in a bag or slipped inside a pocket.
However, there are few moments more grotesque than reaching in for your gloves only to find…er…something a little more squidgy.
We had been looking for something we could use to avoid this happening again.
So this led us to buying a PoopPot*, which we bought in an effort to be more responsible. It claims to be “…the hands free, odour free solution to carrying dog poop”. Oh really? We’ll be the judge of that, thank you.
Claiming to have an air tight lid which keeps the smell inside, it attaches to your belt or bag for ease of carry, and is made of a soft plastic so it only needs to extend as big as you need it.
The pot we bought is the large version, and comes in at around 5cm thick when fully collapsed, and around 14cm tall when extended. Empty, it weighs 194g, including the carabiner it comes with.
It’s probably worth noting that the PoopPot is designed for you to put your bagged-up poo into. Please don't have your dog poo directly into it. I mean, can you imagine cleaning that out? Don't be that guy.
No no, get some nice eco friendly poo bags*, pick it up and tie it in as usual, and pop it in the pot so you can hands free carry it to the nearest bin without smelling anything. Well, that’s the idea, let’s see if it works.
A Pot Full Of Poo
Here's Cheryl showing the glitz and glamour of our lives by modelling a pot to put dog poo in.
So off we went on out nice river walk. There is a path next to the river which is quite narrow, meaning any poo left on the ground is liable to end up on your wellie/bicycle/dog, so any opportunity to stop this from happening is good.
Before long the pot was called into action. Whilst Sprocket is used to have his photo taken (Cheryl being the Edinburgh Dog Photographer), he's not used to being papped in compromising situations.
To action! Well, Sprocket had clearly been enjoying his Easter break because this was a right ponger.
So into the PoopPot it went without any mess or fuss. The lid came off with little effort, and went back on with a satisfying click very easily and was secure once in place. The lid is attached to the main pot, so no danger of dropping it on the ground.
Then Indie wanted in on this action as she is a diva.
So two poops up and off we carried on with our walk. We were quite happy that not a smell could be smelled. The lid was air tight and the carabiner that came with the pot was suitably strong for carrying it. It wasn’t heavy, but I guess if your dog poos a heavy poo then it will be. Because that’s how science works.
We added another couple of poo bags to the pot as we went, managing four in total but we could probably have slipped another couple in if need be.
Once back at home, with the poo pot a suitably far distance from the nostrils, in the bags were tipped to the deepest depths of our bin, and it was a jobbie done.
Buy Or No Buy?
So, whilst I can’t comment on the longevity or sturdiness of the PoopPot over time (yet), we were really happy with our first outing and meant no more squelchy surprises in our pockets. I'll update this blog with any relevant info as events warrant.
We’d happily recommend a PoopPot of these for anyone who likes to get out of the parks and other areas with bins already supplied. Handy and lightweight, we’ll be taking this out with us again for sure. It's a buy from us! **EDIT: After using this regularly, we have decided we wouldn't recommend it, or buy one again. See Edit 2 below.**
We bought our PoopPot from Amazon and it cost us £14.99 + £3.99 UK delivery. You can view and buy the same PoopPot we have by clicking here.* Other sizes are available.
Do you use a PoopPot? Or something similar? Perhaps you carry a plastic bag for the same purpose, or have a handy gizmo of your own. Let us know in the comments below.
UPDATE 1, 22/06/2017: We've been using the pot daily for a few week now. It still holds up very well and certainly keep the smell in, but it's not great when it reaches capacity as the lid often pops open. We feel it could be better secured somehow, perhaps with a simple clip or similar. With many of the dogs we board, it doesn't take long for this bad boy to fill up, so knowing you're safe from a faceful of fecal ferocity if it pops open would be rather welcome.
UPDATE 2, 18/07/2018: Alas, we've given up on the poop pot. Some time ago the hingey bit attaching the lid to the pot itself started to crack and, not long after, it broke. We've been holding off posting an update as we've been trying to get in touch with Poop Pot to let them know, as it's a pretty serious design flaw. We were using it every day, sure - but isn't that the point? Either way, they never responded to our emails or DMs on social media, so gave up and bought a competitor product. Shame, really.
Would we still recommend buying a PoopPot?
No poos were harmed in the making of this blog - all that we saw and photographed were safely delivered to the comfort of our wheelie bin.
Poo count: We have used the word poo or poop, including those two, 35 times in this blog which, as a grown man, I am delighted about.