When Kylie and Marty from RVee There Yet told us they were hitting the road for their lap of oz with 3 dogs we thought they were nuts!! Last year at the Melbourne Caravan Supershow, Kylie showed us photos of their little pooches and we all agreed that this threesome will have a blast! We recently asked Kylie how she was preparing to hit the road and she shares some amazing tips below…
Marty and I had been talking about doing the big trip around Australia for a number of years but at some point we both realised that, if it was ever to happen, that talk had to turn into action. We finally made the decision to throw it all in and travel Australia with a firm date of departure of 29 April 2018.
That was 3 years ago and in that time we’ve been making preparations for the change. We upgraded our caravan from a small 17” a 20ft Roadstar Safari Tamer with all the mod cons for a life on the road. We also upgraded to a bigger tow vehicle to suit. We sold our house and the vast majority of our possessions. That left us just one choice to make. What would we do with our 3 fur babies? Would they come with us or would we look for another home for them while we’re away?
For anyone with human kids still living at home, the decision to take them with you is no real decision at all. Of course you take them and why wouldn’t you? Dogs, on the other hand, bring a different set of complications that need to be considered, and, in essence, it’s a decision you really do have to consider carefully.
Marty and I were never able to have children. As a result, our dogs have become our children. Kassidy, Savannah and Poppy are West Highland White Terriers. Kassidy is 11, Savannah is 9 and Poppy is 7. They aren’t young dogs but certainly aren’t old by any stretch of the imagination. They are quite used to being with us inside and out and they do not like it when we go away without them. We also love them desperately and we would miss them if they were not with us for such a long period of time.
Having dogs with us will restrict where we can go, particularly National Parks but also caravan parks that are not pet friendly. But we’re not the first people to travel full time with dogs and there is so much to see and do where the dogs are welcome. There’s also plenty of dog minding services available should we want to enjoy ourselves without them every once in a while.
So, our decision was that we would take them with us and our thoughts turned to how to prepare for a life on the road travelling with our dogs?
We are very lucky in that all three girls are no strangers to holidaying with us. They love travelling in the car and will sleep anywhere as long as we’re with them. That said, we will be spending long hours in the car in mostly warm to hot weather. They need to be as comfortable as possible.
Much to Marty’s dismay at the time, one of the first items I purchased were individual car seats for each of the girls. Dogs love their own space and feel secure in in them. The dog seats have individual cushions for comfort as well as cooling pads for hot weather. The girls are harnessed into the seat and can sit or sleep in their own individual space. Being slightly raised allows them to see out the window or to see us up front. The girls will happily sleep for hours in these seats making long distance driving a breeze.
Westie’s are not hot weather dogs and even with the air conditioner going in the car, the hot sun coming through the windows will cause them some discomfort. We had seen plenty of cars fitted with Solarscreen Window Shades and thought they would be great for keeping the sun off the girls during the heat of the day. They are extremely well made, and very durable. We purchased the “Travelling Set” suitable for our Landcruiser which covers all the rear windows. They work a treat, cutting the interior temperature and allowing both the air conditioner and our car fridge to work at peak efficiency.
Keeping the girls restrained outside of the van is very important. With weight a very real issue, we purchased two soft play pens for the girls to sit in when outdoors. We attach the two together giving them a small area that they can relax in unrestrained and away from the bugs. The girls were crate trained as puppies so they see the pens as another secure place for them to rest. The only issue with the pens is they fold up like origami and require a degree in rocket science to pack away.
There’s nothing worse than stepping in dog dropping and, as responsible dog owners, we always carry Pooh Bags (feed them and they shall poop…!) We have tried a multitude of different pooh bags over the years and frankly weak or easily broken bags are no fun at all. The best bags are those that are supplied by councils and caravan parks that cater for dogs. They are strong and biodegradable. We tracked down an online supplier and bought them in bulk. We won’t be running out of pooh bags in a hurry, that’s for sure.
Like us, the girls can get sick or injured so first aid is a priority. In addition to the ‘human’ first aid kit, we made a small kit for them comprised of ear cleaners, tick twisters, eye gels and some non-stick bandages. We have also bought some muzzles for them. These are only for when we are free camping where there is a possibility of 1080 bait lying around. Two of the girls like food a lot and will eat anything organic. We would rather them safe than sorry.
Sleeping arrangements in the van becomes a very interesting game of Tetris with three dogs inside. At home, Kassidy sleeps on a pillow behind my head (did I mention she’s spoilt), Vana and Poppy sleep in their crates. We aren’t bringing the crates with us due to their size and weight. They could all sleep on the bed with us but on hot summer nights, that’s not going to be at all comfortable. In a moment of brilliance, we made a pillow up that fits under the bed overhang and had a curtain made to ‘enclose’ the area. Again, it’s all about making enclosed spaces for the girls to feel secure.
Feeding dogs on the road can actually be quite tricky. Dog food takes up valuable space and can be quite heavy especially if you’re planning to be away from supermarkets for a long period of time. Our girls need to eat high quality, grain free dry food which we can purchase in 12 kg bags. We keep some in the van and the rest in the car, spreading the load. We can only purchase this at specialist pet food retailers so will need to be mindful of our reserves depending on where we are heading. Their wet food is raw kangaroo mince which can be purchased almost anywhere and can be packed into the freezer. We have bought collapsible bowls for their dinner and a plastic bowl for water.
Washing and grooming any dog is an important consideration. Westies are a long haired double coated breed so they will require regular grooming. They don’t need to be maintained in show condition but we can’t clip them right back either as their coat protects their skin. We have a high quality set of groomer’s clippers and we clip them down to 6mm in total length (Wahl size 2 guard). The rest of our grooming kit includes scissors, a coat rake, nail trimmers and shampoos. We will wash them in a small collapsible trough or we will take advantage of the dog wash facilities that you find in the car washes these days. We have learnt to clean all three for around $10 all up.
With all the right gear packed and travelling arrangement sorted out, the next thing to think about is where are we actually going to go? Again we have found that planning is the key success. The internet is your friend as is social media. Ensure that you confirm your next camp or Caravan Park is dog friendly before you get there. We email caravan parks in advance to check to see if they are willing to have us there with the dogs. We include a picture of them asleep on the bed of the van to show they are genuinely happy campers. The smartphone app Wiki Camps is essential as is joining Facebook groups such as Holidaying with Dogs and Caravanning with Pets to name a few.
Finally, all the preparation in the world is pointless if you’re not prepared to be a responsible dog owner. Caravanners with dogs have a bad enough reputation as it is. We see it as our responsibility to demonstrate what it means to be a responsible dog owner.
Dogs like to be occupied and boredom leads to bad behaviour. We keep our girls busy and pay them constant attention. Taking them for long, regular walks is good exercise for both them and us, plus it tires them out so they sleep a lot in-between walks. We don’t let them wander off lead and we make sure we pick up after them. No one likes a dog that constantly barks and to be honest, the youngest girl Poppy has a tendency to see dead people. Again, keeping her busy, walked regularly and correcting her bad behaviour ensures this she doesn’t annoy anyone else.
Finally, we highly recommend that owners groom their dogs each night and make sure they check them for ticks. Learn how to remove them correctly using tick tweezers.
Doing the big trip is supposed to be an enjoyable adventure for both us and the dogs. With a little bit of planning and investment in the right gear, we know we will be able to enjoy the experience with our best friends and we encourage others to do the same.