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Travelling Australia With Pets: Your Guide To Taking Your Pet On The Big Lap

by Rose Foster

If you and your family are planning on hitting the road and travelling around Australia, your plans probably include every member of your family, including the furry ones.

From small fluffy ones to big slobbery ones and the feathered ones in between, no matter what shape or size your pet comes in, you’re probably wondering what you need to know about travelling Australia with them.

It’s true that doing a Big Lap with a pet in tow can change things a little but it doesn’t make them impossible.

Since the most common pets to travel with are dogs, this article will mainly focus on what doing a big lap with man’s best friend, and the implications that may have.

Limitations of Taking Your Dog On Your Big Lap

One of the main things you’ll want to know about travelling Australia with your dog is the limitations that comes with doing this. Unfortunately, travelling with a pet isn’t as easy as just packing your car and van and going where the wind may take you. In many cases, it requires a good degree of planning, some compromise and a little sacrifice.

From not being able to go everywhere you might want (namely National Parks) to being limited on where you can stay, travelling Australia with your dog can definitely limit you. That said, if you don’t want to leave your furry friend behind, it’s still entirely doable. In fact, thousands of people take their dog travelling every year.

So, what’s the deal with National Parks?

Many of you will ask, “Can I take my dog into a National Park?”

Well, this one is simple: dogs aren’t allowed in National Parks. Unfortunately there’s no way around this. And while you might think it’s as simple as unhitching your van at the park’s entrance while you go exploring, leaving your dog in a van all day is definitely not recommended. In fact, it’s similar to leaving them in the car all day: it can get very hot.

If you do have your heart set on visiting at least some of Australia’s National Parks, there is a solution though. Savvy business owners near to some of the major National Parks, including Kakadu and Katherine Gorge, have set up doggy day cares which allow you to explore whilst your dog is looked after. Obviously, if you’re thinking about camping in National Parks, you need to allow for the overnight expenses of your pooch at a designated kennel (and that includes ensuring their vaccinations are up to date).

Pet Friendly Caravan Parks

Luckily there are many caravan parks that accept dogs throughout Australia, but you’d be wise to do your research before you arrive in a town, just to make sure you can get a place. Depending on the time of year, these parks may fill up fast, especially if they’re the only pet-friendly park in town.

Another thing to note is that even pet-friendly parks have strict rules when it comes to taking your dog. Generally, dogs must always be on the leash and you’re not allowed to leave them unattended on-site whilst you venture out for the day. So, if you’re planning on doing things without taking your dog and leave them in your van, you may have to rethink.

That said, there are many Big Lappers who earn extra money from looking after pets, so you’re likely to be able to find someone to look after your four-legged family member when you head out.

Free Camping With Dogs

If you’re looking to free camp quite often with your dog, then you’re in luck. There are thousands of free camps throughout Australia at which you can stay with your dog. If you are going to stay at these sites though (and this really goes for when you go anywhere in Australia with your dog), you must be a responsible dog owner. Respect the campgrounds you’re at and pick up after your dog, and respect the people there too – not everyone will love your furry friend as much as you do!

Doggy Day Care

Undoubtedly, if you’re taking your dog travelling with you, you’ll generally need to budget for some type of doggy day care at some point or other.

Pet Sitters

In every town you visit in Australia, you’ll be able to find pet sitter who are able to take your dog for a day or even overnight. Checking local Facebook pages can be a gold mine, and even asking at the reception of your caravan park can be a good idea too. Sometimes, even fellow travellers will look after pets for a day. Pet sitting site, Mad Paws will also help you find pet sitters wherever you are too.

The costs vary wildly but you’ll usually be looking at around $20-$30 per day.

Boarding Kennels

Kennels are another option for accommodation for your pooch whilst you explore. They are generally a little more expensive that the pet sitting option but they are often much better set up, and give you much more peace of mind.

If you’re planning on taking this option, be mindful that you will need to ensure you dog’s vaccinations are up to date, and you’ll need proof of this too in the form of a certificate from your vet.

You must also remember that sometimes you’ll have to book in advance. During school holidays, when locals head out of town, travellers aren’t the only ones who need pet care. So, make sure you plan ahead.

Doggy Day Care

If you’re just planning on exploring for the day, your four-legged friend may enjoy some time at a doggy day care. The costs of doggy day care are similar to that of a pet sitter but it offers a good opportunity for your dog to socialise and exercise. They sometimes even get a bath.

Travel Sickness

It’s worth noting that not all dogs are good with driving long distances. Dogs can experience car sickness like humans.

If you’ve never travelled with your dog in the car, doing a few test runs may help you establish how your dog fairs. According to University of Queensland’s Dr Bob Doneley, while some dogs do legitimately get car sick, others’ nausea is caused by anxiety. So, you really need to assess your dog before you hit the road and take any necessary action ahead of time.

There’s nothing worse that your plans being scuppered by a sick pup!

Life On The Road with a Dog

Another thing to consider is how life on the road will change you dog’s lifestyle. You may envision your dog’s new life as an endless summer of chasing waterfalls and running on beaches but if you’re staying at caravan parks, the likelihood of them being able to run free all the time is slim to none. This could be a stark change if your dog is used to the freedom of a big backyard.

There are some solutions that will ensure your dog isn’t just tied to a chain the whole time though, so you could investigate those before you go. Depending on the size of the dog, people have been known to invest in foldable fencing which cordon’s off your site’s slab, or the clothes-line leash approach which allows dogs to freely walk up and down the outside of your van without wandering too far.

Most towns have designated dog parks and beaches which will allow your dog to roam for a while off-leash so make sure you check the local council’s website before you arrive.

Extra Cost

Travelling with your dog will definitely add a little more to what you spend each month. From their food to doggy day care, you must add your canine’s cost to your Big Lap budget.

For most people, this shouldn’t be much more that what you spend on your pooch on a weekly basis, but for others, especially those looking to do more without their dog in tow, it may cost a little more.

Space Implications

Depending on the size of your dog, you’ll need to think about where they’re going to sit while travelling, where they’re going to sleep and where their food/toys/bed will be stored. For little pups, this might not be such a big deal as they can fit into the small spaces you have available, but for bigger dogs, this may be a part of your Big Lap logistics that you’ll have to think about a little but harder.

Health and Safety

While there are no hard and fast rules about restraining dogs in the car, there are some rules and regulations under which the police and RSPCA can issue fines. For example, if an animal is causing the driver to be not in full control of the vehicle, or if they are driving with a dog on their lap, the driver can be fined three demerit points and $425.

Similarly, if an animal is injured because the right measures were not taken to protect it whilst travelling in a vehicle, the driver can be fined up to $5,000 and even serve 6 months in prison!

It is your call as to whether you restrain your dog or not, but it is highly recommended that you do.

Aside from the safety of your dog when they’re a passenger in your vehicle, you should also think about their safety when they’re outside of your car too. Making sure they’re microchipped so you can easily find them if they go missing, and giving them adequate protection against fleas, ticks and worms is paramount.

Your Travelling With Pets Checklist

So, before you set off on your Big Lap with your dog, make sure you’ve ticked off each item of this checklist.

  • Download WikiCamps to help you identify pet-friendly accommodation.
  • Allocate a space in your car and van for your dog and their things.
  • Add doggy day care to your budget if you’re planning to visit National Parks or go on non pet-friendly day trips
  • Get your dog microchipped and make sure their vaccinations are up to date.
  • Do a test run with your dog.
  • Get Australia-wide pet insurance.
  • Make sure your dog has a nametag with your phone number.
  • Purchase any equipment to keep your dog safe while travelling.
  • Ensure you have a ‘by the van’ solution like a tether, crate or enclosure.
  • Stock up on poo bags and a pooper scooper!

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