On the ‘poop’ deck! Tips on taking your dog on a ferry

Rens Hageman
Rens Hageman

Going abroad by ferry can be a much more pleasant way to travel with your dog than by plane. While you will be subject to the same regulations for taking a dog abroad regardless of how you get there, the country-specific vaccinations, the pet passport, and a crate big enough for them to spend long stretches of time in it can be easier on both dog and owner, as you'll at least be able to spend some time together during the journey.

Planning for the sea

Consult with your vet well in advance of departing - they will know which vaccinations and certificates are required in each country. It's never too early to set this process in motion as it could take months to get everything sorted.

Some ferries will offer kennel services on board, but there's also a good chance that your dog will have to spend the majority of the journey in your car.

Place a crate long-side against the seat back or boot, secured in place by a seatbelt or luggage straps (or both, if possible) to keep your dog safe and, provided you follow our tips for travelling in a crate, comfortable and happy as well.

Make sure you pack them plenty of water, and keep the windows open at least a little bit to ensure your dog stays cool and well hydrated, and pack some of your dog's favourite toys in their crate to keep them entertained.

Safe travelling in a dog carrier

Whether you are travelling in a car or by plane, it's really important to make sure that your dog is in a crate or carrier that is the right size and kitted out with all the right accessories for a comfortable journey.

It's usually best to start carrier training when your dog is a puppy, but you can still teach an old dog some new tricks - it will just take a bit longer, so start preparing well before your holiday begins.

Find the right carrier

You will need a carrier that is tall enough for them to sit up without hitting their heads and long enough that they can stretch out without being cramped, so make sure you measure them carefully before buying one - you can always bring them in to a store for a size comparison! Make sure it's not too big, and that bedding covers the whole carrier, so they won't be tempted to use a corner for soiling. It will also need to be sturdy enough that they can't chew through it.

Preparation, preparation…

To get your dog used to the carrier, begin leaving their favourite toys or treats just inside the door, moving them further in every day - eventually they will get used to going all the way in, and even lying down inside. Once they're happy inside, start closing the door for a few minutes at a time. Be sure to reward them with a treat when you do let them out!

Gradually start leaving your dog for longer and longer periods - eventually they will be happy to lie in the carrier and fall asleep. You will also need to leave the house for short periods while they are in the carrier, to get them used to being alone, and so they learn that you will come back for them. Don't let them out just because they bark, or they will think that barking is the key to being released.

Keep them calm

If your dog is still a little bit anxious in the carrier, spray their bedding with a pheromone spray such as Adaptil a few days before you leave, as it can help alleviate travel stress. On the day, remove your dog's collar and tags - they could get caught in the carrier. Don't feed them immediately before you leave to help avoid travel sickness, but make sure they have plenty of water available to them.

Ideally, the crate should be placed with the long side against the seat back, held in place with a seatbelt and luggage straps. While you're on the road, make sure you take regular rest breaks for both you and your dog. Let them out of the carrier to stretch their legs and relieve themselves, and you'll have one happy road-tripping dog!

On the deck

The rules will vary from operator to operator, so make sure you check with them in advance of any bookings, and research other passengers' pet experiences to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Pet facilities often book up quickly, too, so plan well ahead. Many ferry operators will allow your dog to accompany you on deck or in a cabin, but will usually require a muzzle and lead at all times.

If they do insist that your dog is confined to the car, make sure you spend plenty of time with them, and let them out of the crate if possible to give them a chance to stretch their legs. As always, start planning early, and research everything carefully for the key to a comfortable journey with your dog!

(Article source: Pets at Home)

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