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Taking your dog on holiday

Planning a holiday with your furry friend this summer? Here are our top tips for enjoying a summer break with your dog.


I’m writing this in the throes of a heatwave. It’s 30 degrees or more outside nearly every day. Very hot and very dry and to be honest, travelling anywhere is very uncomfortable for me – let alone for my dogs.

If I were getting ready to embark on a car journey, I would plan to complete as much of the journey as possible between 6pm and 8am. In other words, overnight and before the sun gets really hot. Even though my car has air conditioning, we’ll be stopping regularly for drinks and comfort breaks and the least time any of us spend in the hot sun, the better as far as I’m concerned.

Cooling mats and cooling coats for the dogs are a must on long hot journeys. And you will probably find them useful throughout the whole holiday – so well worth making the investment.

In your holiday accommodation

If you are camping, caravanning or staying in a holiday cottage, you will, at some point, need to stock up on groceries. You can’t take the dog into a food shop, and you certainly can’t leave him in the car, or even tied up outside the shop. What about using a grocery delivery service? Most of the large supermarkets will deliver to camp sites and holiday cottages and you can place the order online. It’s well worth the small charge that they make.

It’s all going to be about keeping as cool as possible this summer. In some cases indoors will be more comfortable than outside, but it may be the other way around. Many holiday cottages have nice secure gardens so that your dog can noodle around and find a shady spot to relax in. If however that’s not the case, your pet might me more comfy either in a shady place, either in his crate (provided he is crate trained and happy to be in there) or tethered with a long lead and a harness.

It goes without saying that there should be a big bowl of water beside him and he should be making the most of his cooling mat and/or coat.

Days out and sightseeing

In my experience, most dog-friendly holiday accommodation asks that the dog is not left alone in the property. For obvious reasons. Even the most laid back dog can be confused by a temporary change of home and might react badly, damaging the furniture and fittings in the process.

That means, that if you go sightseeing, your dog will need to go too. For some dogs it’s a stimulating and enjoyable experience, others might find new situations stressful and worrying.

First of all, think about travelling and how you will keep everyone happy and healthy on the journey. Remember your cooling mat and a big bottle of water with a dog bowl. Never assume that you will be able to find a bowl of dog water wherever you go.

How well socialised is your dog? Is he happy to meet new people and new dogs?

Wherever I go with my dogs, there is always someone who wants to say hello. My gang are happy to greet people and I trust them not to jump up at anyone. But I have met lots of dogs who are fearful of strangers and might nip if they felt overwhelmed by an enthusiastic person wanting a cuddle. How will you cope with that situation if it arose?

Likewise with meeting new dogs. Dog friendly tourist attractions often have lots of canine visitors. Is your dog polite to others? Maybe socialising your dog is still a work in progress? If that’s the case, why not book a session with a dog behaviourist before you go on holiday. There may not be time to deal with all of the issues but you will certainly come away with lots of ideas for coping with situations that your dog finds difficult and you end up feeling stressed and embarrassed.

Basic obedience to ensure your doggy holiday is stress free

The UK has some stunning beauty spots and amazing places to visit with your dog. But somehow, their beauty fades when you are being dragged around them by a straining, panting, overenthusiastic pooch.

Before you go on holiday, make sure your dog knows how to walk on a loose lead. It’s well worth brushing up on his recall too. After all, he won’t be on home ground and if the two of you get separated it could be difficult to re-unite you again.  If you don’t trust your dog to come back to you when he’s called, then don’t let him off the lead. Simple.

Eating out with your dog

More and more pubs, restaurants and tea rooms are happy to welcome well behaved dogs. Some of them even keep a supply of dog biscuits to help everyone settle.

In an ideal world, your dog will relax at your feet while you are eating. He won’t be wandering around scrounging treats from the other diners. Neither will he be tugging at the lead, panting, whining or generally being a pain.

Having a dog that behaves well in public is not a matter of being lucky enough to pick the right puppy. It comes through careful training and socialisation. A good “trick” to train your dog is to settle on his own mat or towel and relax there until you ask him to move. You can start by training “on your mat” at home.

Choose a mat or a towel that is easily transported. Something that you can pick up and take with you wherever you go. Vet bed make some lightweight, washable mats that can be folded, rolled or squished without losing their shape.

Spread the mat on the ground and with your dog standing beside it give the cue “on your mat”. Use a treat to entice him onto the mat and reward him when he does so. Once “on your mat” has been learned, encourage him to sit or lie down before he is rewarded. The next stage of training will be to reward him for staying on the mat.  It’s hard to explain in a blog – I really need to show you in person so that we can adapt the training to you and your dog.

Do you need help preparing your dog for a holiday?

Please get in touch if you have any questions about

  • Loose lead walking
  • Meeting other dogs
  • Greeting humans politely
  • Coming back when called
  • Behaving nicely in a restaurant
  • Settling in a strange place
  • Travelling long or short distances
  • Keeping your dog calm and happy when you just want to kick back and relax

It doesn’t matter if your holiday is imminent. Even if we haven’t got enough time to completely resolve any issues, we can certainly help you devise some coping mechanisms.

Contact CK9 Training

Related Reading

Read my blog about keeping your dog healthy in hot weather

Making dog walking an enjoyable experience for everyone

Book a behaviour consultation

How to keep your dog happy and healthy in a heatwave

Hot weather is not normally something we get to complain about in the UK but this year is the exception. A long period of hot dry weather has parched our parks and gardens and is making our dogs puffy, panty and lethargic. So is it still important to walk your dog every day? If not what can you do to keep your dog happy and healthy in this heatwave?

Take the cues from your dog

Animals have a remarkable ability to adapt to the environment around them. In fact, I believe it’s only humans and possibly also honey bees who try to control the environment to suit their needs. We like to crank up the heating in winter and switch on the air con in summer. (Honey bees in the hive beat their wings to warm or cool the hive).

Lions in the Serengeti, polar bears in the Artic, squirrels in the woods etc all change their activity levels to cope with conditions. In fact, in the UK, the only animals that are really active in the middle of a hot hot day are the ones that are working for humans.

If you watch your dog, and read his body language he’ll tell you what he needs.

Provide somewhere peaceful and cool

Left to make his own decisions, your dog will probably find a nice cool spot, lie flat on his side and snooze his way through the hot weather.

Not all modern homes have a cool spot. If you can, allow your dog to free range around the house, he’ll find the best place to be.  For dogs that usually spend time in crates etc whilst you’re out of the house, consider moving the crate to somewhere that the temperature is more amenable. And maybe arrange for someone to visit them fairly frequently to check for signs of distress.

More than ever during a heatwave, it’s vital that children understand that the dog is not to be disturbed when he’s resting. These temperatures are enough to make anyone – including the dog – more irritable than usual. There’s no sense in tempting fate.

Helpful gadgets for hot dogs

Modern technology is amazing. My favourite doggy “gadgets” for hot weather is a cool mat. They somehow absorb the dog’s body heat and help to reduce his temperature.

For times when walking or training in hot weather outside is unavoidable, a cooling jacket for your dog is a must. I have them for my shelties and I have no doubt that they make a big difference to the dogs comfort. The manufacturers claim that cooling jackets vastly reduce the risk of heat stroke, which is a killer for dogs. Highly recommended.

Top 15 Best Cooling Vests for Dogs

Put the walking on hold for now

If your dog seems unenthusiastic about walkies – take note. He’s probably being very wise. And he could be looking out for your health as well as his own. Physical exercise in hot weather is something that needs to be managed very carefully – for any creature.

Unless your vet has advised differently, there’s no need to walk your dog every day. Dog walking is more about mental stimulation for the dog, than it is about physical exercise. It’s not the running around that wears him out, it’s sniffing hither and thither and discovering who’s been where. Loose lead walking, takes a lot of concentration for your dog, as does behaving well and responding to everyone he’s with. If he doesn’t get a run he’ll be OK – provided he has something else to occupy his brain.

Walking barefoot on hot paving or tarmac is a no-no for people and dogs alike. It can cause horrific burn injuries that take a long time to heal.  If you feel it really is vital that you walk your dog here’s our checklist

  • Does your dog really need a walk? Is there an alternative activity that could occupy his brain? (more on this later)
  • Take plenty of water and something for him to drink from
  • Aim to go out VERY early in the morning or quite late in the evening when temperatures are naturally cooler
  • Swimming is OK but watch out for algal blooms on ponds and lakes – they can be fatal for dogs.
  • Keep the walk short – 10 -15 minutes is plenty
  • Avoid fast and furious games – stick to loose lead walking
  • Find somewhere shaded for your walk – woodland is ideal
  • Avoid hard surfaces like tarmac or paving – burnt paws are painful
  • If you’re travelling there by car don’t even think about leaving the dog in the car – not even for a minute
  • At the risk of repeating myself – consider very carefully whether a different activity that will use up your dog’s mental energy would be better than a walk in hot weather.

Alternatives to Walking

Some dogs just can’t switch off their brains, no matter what the weather is like. They need to be busy. Walking satisfies their curiosity. It allows them to use their nose, ears and eyes just as nature means them too. However, walking isn’t always practical. Here are some ideas that allow your dog to use his senses – but in a sensible way


Whenever you watch a TV programme about wild dogs, there’ll be at least on shot of them sitting around chewing on a bone. It’s a natural behaviour that scientists believe releases dopamine into the brain.  Dopamine is a chemical in your brain which stimulates the nervous system and makes you feel good.  For a dog, chewing is the equivalent of watching a film, reading a book, going out for coffee. (That feel good chemical also explains why dogs chew to relieve anxiety).

If you can’t take your dog for a walk, a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter or a tasty bone are an alternative way to keep him busy.  NOTE. If your dog has problems with resource guarding, please talk to a dog behaviourist before you try this.


A great tool for dogs who like to be busy is a snuffle mat. It’s like an old fashioned rag rug, or maybe one of those play mats for babies where there are lots of flaps and pockets to explore.

Hide small treats in the mat and allow your dog to nose around and find them all. I like to use a small handful of their dried food ration that way I can keep an eye on their diet. For greedy dogs, a snuffle mat can be used to feed their whole meal – it slows them down and helps take the strain off their digestive system.

If you don’t have a snuffle mat, a cardboard box filled with scrunched up newspaper balls makes a good search and find game. As does a child’s ball pit. You could even use the whole of your living room and hide treats all around – but only if you trust the dog not to get over excited and rush around wrecking the place!

Spend quality quiet time together

Just spend quality time with your dog. Gently interacting together is great therapy for both of you, especially when it’s just too hot to move.

Steve Mann and Nancy from IMDT explain the importance of quality time.

Training Tricks

Nothing occupies a dog’s brain – or yours – like learning new skills. Why not join in on one of our tricks training workshops and develop some new skills for both of you. It’s just for fun. You could teach your dog how to ride a skateboard, jump through your arms, or fetch the TV remote. Fabulous hot weather activities that will leave you both feeling relaxed.

More about teaching your dog tricks

Children and dogs. The ideal combination or a recipe for disaster?

In my career as a dog trainer, I’ve come across many different attitudes to mixing children and dogs. There are those who are afraid that the dog will hurt the child (or vice-versa). And unfortunately there are still too many nasty incidents occuring. I can see how people might get anxious about mixing dogs and children. Some people think (as I do) that if dogs and children are taught how to respect each other, they can and do make firm friendships and can support each other through life’s trials and tribulations.

It’s all about communication

Our school curriculums are not just academic learning, they’re also about children learning to communicate and get on well with each other using words and body language. Being able to communicate is an essential life skill. It allows you to ask for what you need, safeguard yourself and others and build strong, supportive relationships.

Children are also encouraged to learn foreign languages in school and if they’re lucky, they also get to learn some sign language. Well, I think of “dog” as another language. Dogs don’t use words to communicate with each other or with people, but they DO use body language. I have no doubt that dogs think that humans speak and behave like aliens. And so it’s important for dogs to learn to understand us and for humans to learn to understand dogs. Which is what dog training is all about.

When communications break down or are misinterpreted – then we get conflict. If a child (or an adult) doesn’t realise when a dog is asking for more space, then both parties are at risk. The human may get bitten, the dog may be re-homed or worse.

Understanding the limitations of children and dogs

Adults have rules and beliefs around what counts as acceptable behaviour. Children learn those rules as part of the growing process. While they are still learning, adults tend to either avoid putting a child into a situation he or she isn’t ready to cope with. For example, you wouldn’t ask a 3 year old to walk himself to nursery. He might know the way, he might even be very good at road safety but what if something unexpected happened? Could he cope? No of course not. Which is why he needs supervision.

In the same way, it’s not fair to ask a dog to cope with a lively toddler who, although he knows not to pull the dogs tail, sit on its bed or taste-test its Bonio, will probably do those things anyway as soon as Mum isn’t looking. Toddlers like to test the boundaries. Dog’s can’t say “no”, neither can they distract the child with a different toy. When a dog is afraid or in pain, it has two options, run away or stand and fight.

I’m not saying that the child is always to blame when things go wrong. A young dog is apt to jump up, lick, nip, scratch and potentially hurt a child just out of excitement. It’s not malicious at all, in fact it’s how puppies play.  However, it could make a child wary and possibly instill a lifelong fear of dogs. It’s for the supervising adult to make sure that the dog stays calm around the child and the child stays calm around the dog.

Why Supervision is paramount

Until your child is able to respect the dog and vice-versa, never ever leave the two of them together unsupervised. If you leave the room, either take one of them with you or put some sort of barrier between the two of them. Perhaps the dog can have a toddler-proof crate or a pen where he is safe.

I’m not going to set guidelines for what a child can do at any given age – that’s for parents and guardians to decide on based on the child’s maturity and the dogs’ temperament.

Accentuate the positive and look for age-appropriate activities

Show your child what IS acceptable as well as what is not. Help the dog and the child to build a bond by making sure all of their contact is positive.

An older child must also learn that a dog can’t always change the rules according to who it’s with. As an example, 12 year old Justin loves playing fast and furious games with his Nan’s adolescent Labrador. He would be happy to let the dog jump up at him but Gran has explained to him that the dog will then think it’s OK to jump on his 2 year old cousin or his 80 year old great grandma….either which could cause injury. So he helps to train the dog by discouraging unwanted behaviours and encouraging good manners.

The same dog, loves food treats (what Labrador doesn’t?) and little Alice, aged 2, loves to hand snacks to the dog. Grandma actively encourages the interaction but because it’s helping to build the relationship. However, there were a couple of incidents where the dog mouthed at the little girl’s hand when no treat was offered. No harm was done, but Grandma could see how the behaviour could escalate and lead to an injury. Alice is too young begin to understand dog training so Grandma needed to take steps to modify this behaviour.

After a quick chat with a trusted dog trainer, Grandma changed tactics and taught the little girl to place treats on the floor rather than feed the dog from her hand. Baby and dog still enjoyed the “game” but the dog has stopped thinking of Alice’s hand as a food dispenser and instead looks to the ground beneath her feet.

Dogs and children training together

Watching a child enjoying the company of a dog is a real joy to me. Whether they are noodling about in the garden, relaxing in front of the TV or burning off energy with a game of chase, it’s an absolute delight. It’s almost like a Disney movie. Remember though, that every Disney movie takes a lot of planning, and many many rehearsals before it is perfect. It doesn’t just happen.

A brilliant way to for children to really enjoy spending time with dogs, is to involve them with training and socialisation. It gets the children away from the TV and teaches them communication skills. It also helps focus the dog’s brain, burns off his excess energy and enriches his life.

CK9 dog training run a kids club in Banstead Surrey, where children can learn more about dog behaviour whilst having fun with their own dog. It’s a mix of agility training, teaching the dog to do tricks and understanding how to encourage and reward good manners.

This is a very popular workshop with a limited number of places so book soon to avoid disappointment.

More details about childrens dog training classes here

Top Ten Tips for adopting a rescue dog

First of all, thank you for thinking about adopting a rescue dog instead of buying a new puppy. There are so many beautiful animals out there who are homeless through no fault of their own. Most of them have the potential to become amazing furry friends – even if they do need a little bit of help and training to adapt to their new lifestyle.

Here are my top ten tips for adopting a rescue dog

  1. Don’t rush into a decision. Most of the rescue homes are very experienced and very good at matching dogs with new homes. So visit several homes if you can and talk to the people who have worked with the dogs. You need to find out about their little character quirks…the cuddly ones AND the ones that are not so cute. Then make an informed decision. The right rescue dog for you is out there but you might not find him or her straight away.
  2. Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with a dog who is nothing like the one you thought you wanted. Trust your instincts on this one. Looks aren’t everything when it comes to choosing a dog.
  3. Be prepared to spend time training and socialising your new dog. Perhaps book a couple of days off work so that you can observe and get to know him.
  4. You may not be lucky enough to have lots of information about the dog’s past. He will know nothing about your lifestyle or expectations. You each have lots to learn about each other. Kennel staff can give you some insights into his likes and dislikes but kennel life is not the same as home life and he may behave in unexpected ways. Keep an open mind and be patient.
  5. Before bringing your dog home, create an area in your home that the dog can retreat to if he wants to. Somewhere he will call his own. A suitably sized dog crate is ideal. Perhaps give him a blanket that he can sleep on at the dogs’ home for a couple of days and then bring home with him to make him feel secure.
  6. If you want to change his diet or feeding times from what he had at the kennels to what fits best with your lifestyle, do it gradually over the course of a week or more. Sudden changes could cause stress or tummy upsets.
  7. Introduce him very gradually to other pets and don’t leave him unsupervised with other animals until you are 100% confident he can be polite to them.
  8. Start training him as soon as possible. He needs to know that there’s no need to jump on visitors, bark at the postman or panic if left alone for a short while. Because he’s safe in his new home and he can relax.
  9. Don’t overwhelm him by inviting all your friends and relatives round at the same time. The arrival of a new family member is exciting for people but it be worrisome for the dog. He needs to meet his new family but it would be better to restrict visitors to one or two at a time. If he’s nervous of strangers, ask your visitors to ignore him at first. He’ll let you know when he’s ready to greet them.
  10. If you are adopting a rescue dog who is already an adult don’t assume that he will be 100% housetrained from day 1 or that he or she will settle straight away. You may need to start at the beginning as if he were a young puppy. That’s not a negative. Training and socialising a dog is a fabulous way to build a strong bond between you and you’ll feel fantastic every time you discover something new about him. If he already responds to basic commands, think about joining an adult dog training class to help him make the most of his brilliant brain.

Every dog brings new experiences for the owners

No two dogs are the same. Each of my shelties has a very different character and needs different ways of motivation. I consider myself an experienced dog owner and even though I have studied dog behaviour in great detail, I still get surprises.

When you buy a new puppy or adopt a rescue dog, you will come across new challenges. That’s natural, and for me, it’s one of the joys of living and working with dogs. It helps though, to have someone on hand to offer impartial advice and help you to build a strong bond with your dog (or dogs).

CK9 offer rescue dog home visits in the Croydon, Caterham, Epsom, Horsham and Sutton areas. One of our dog behavioural experts will visit you in your home to help tackle any worries you have about your new pet. We can explain how dogs learn and offer practical solutions for any problems.

Typical topics are:

  • How to manage separation anxiety
  • Making sure your dog is happy and relaxed around new people and other dogs
  • Stopping any existing bad habits such as jumping up, emptying bins, inappropriate chewing, pulling on the lead, chasing cyclists, barking at visitors
  • Ongoing training to keep your dog’s mind active and keep him out of mischief

Book a rescue dog home visit:

More articles about living with dogs

Building a close relationship between you and your dog

Making dog walking into a great experience for everyone


Help! My puppy has turned into a rebel!

The team at CK9 regularly hear from worried dog owners who thought they had successfully “cracked” their puppy’s training, only to find that at roughly 5-7 months of age, the dog starts to behave in unexpected ways. He may pay less attention to you, “forget” his recall command, jump up at visitors or bark more than he needs to. Your dog has become a teenager.

Rest assured that you are not the first to be challenged by adolescent doggy behaviour. Don’t lose faith. With careful training and socialisation for your dog, you’ll get through this phase.

In this blog we look at dog training techniques to help you through the adolescent stage.

What adolescent dogs have in common with human teenagers

Starting at around 5-6 months of age, puppies – or rather young dogs – go through an adolescent phase. Some of them sail through it with ease. Some show signs of fearful behaviour and anxiety and nearly all of them test the boundaries by “forgetting” what they have learned so far.

Anybody who has parented human teenagers and survived will be able to relate to the phenomenon. It’s not the dog’s fault, but that doesn’t make your life any easier and you certainly don’t want to allow bad habits to establish at this age. Patience, consistency and calmness are what’s called for.

Hormones have turned your puppy’s brains to mush and his behaviour is once again as unconstrained as it was when he first entered your life. This is the life-stage when some dogs find themselves in rehoming centres because their first owners are not equipped to cope with their behaviour.

Don’t take your dog’s behaviour personally

Any good dog trainer will confirm that your dog is just doing what comes naturally. He’s trying to work out how best to live with his human family whilst retaining his doggy identity.  In no way is he behaving badly in order to wreak revenge on you for something that happened when he was younger. His behaviour is not about a personal vendetta. It’s just dog.

If your adolescent dog starts ignoring his recall commands, pulling on the lead or jumping up. It’s not because he doesn’t like you. Don’t take it personally. Just teach him to control his impulses by showing him a better way to behave.

How to survive doggy adolescent behaviour

The way to survive life with an adolescent dog is to keep them too busy to get into mischief, and to consistently reinforce good behaviour.

Exercising body and mind

Think of your dog as a bundle of energy. Most of them are. He can use that energy in several ways.

  • Physical exercise – walks and/or fast play in the garden
  • Mental energy – puzzle solving, hunting for toys, learning new things, training
  • Natural Doggy behaviour – aka chewing for leisure

Dogs under 2 years of age are still growing and could be damaged by too much exercise. So a 3 hour walk every day is not a good idea, even if your Labrador has got energy to spare. The answer is to help him to divide his energy use between the 3 categories. So for a 6 month old dog, you might choose to give him a 30 minute walk in the morning, a 30 minute training session in the afternoon and a lovely juicy bone to gnaw on between times.

Learning right from wrong

If you haven’t done much obedience training with your dog, now is the time to start. Keeping your adolescent dog’s mind busy is a great way to wear him out so that he doesn’t try to make his own entertainment. If his brain is no longer racing, he’ll be less excitable. That means better able to control his behaviour around people and dogs, less likely to pull on the lead and generally be more settled.

In order for you to teach your dog right from wrong, you need to understand how dogs learn. Animal behaviourists have spent a lot of time and energy trying to work out what makes different species “tick”. It’s a fascinating subject and too big to get into in this little blog post. But by working with a dog behaviourist, you’ll begin to understand how your dog learns and how best to help him retain information.

Doggy decision making seems to revolve around the phrase “what’s in it for dog”. Armed with that knowledge you will be able to tailor your dog’s training around what he most enjoys.

When presented with a choice of behaviours, the dog will think to himself “what’s in it for dog”. If the answer is “nothing” or “not sure” he probably won’t waste his energy. Especially if the alternative choice will almost certainly lead to his favourite treat.

As humans, we’re very good at using treats to puppies in order to build the relationship and teach commands. However, once the puppy becomes good at responding to commands, we assume that he has learned that behaviour and the treats become less frequent. They may even stop. The incentives end – usually just about the time that adolescent hormones start to kick in. Confusion reigns and the dog makes mistakes.

Consistency, repetition and reinforcement are the three buzzwords. He may need to re-learn some of the commands he was once familiar with.

Neutering is no substitute for training

Neutering is often considered at this stage in a dog’s life. Neutering is important but it can never be a substitute for good training. Yes, as a responsible pet owner you really should have that discussion with your vet. But don’t be fooled into thinking an operation will transform your dog from a tearaway into a perfect pet. He’ll still need guidance.

Specialist Adolescent dog training classes

AT CK9 Training we’ve met a lot of adolescent dogs and we’ve helped their owners through this difficult stage in their dog’s development. So many in fact that we’ve devised a dog training class especially for adolescents. After all, they’re usually too big and boisterous for a puppy class but not quite mature enough for an adult training class.

The class will help you to teach your dog important life skills such as

  • Focusing on you and ignoring distractions
  • Being relaxed and be calm whilst out and about
  • Walking on a loose lead
  • Recall
  • Behaving appropriately around food, other dogs and people
  • Mentally stimulating ways to occupy himself at home (without destroying your property!)

Learn more about locations and dates for adolescent dog training here

You may also find these articles useful

Building a strong relationship with your dog

Making dog walking a pleasure for you and your dog