Hard truths about travelling Australia with dogs

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Fremantle dog beach, Western Australia
  1. It’s going to be difficult at times

It might seem obvious, but travelling with dogs isn’t always the rosy cup of tea we’re all longing for. While we live for their company, moving about this fabulous country with our four-legged companions presents many challenges. It’s not always going to be easy, and just like unruly toddlers at a wedding, you’re going to feel embarrassed, ashamed, even guilty about their behaviour at times – no matter how well trained or docile your dog is. Once you make peace with that, things will get easier.

  1. Not everyone likes dogs (Shame, right?)

As an avid dog lover, it seems almost Ludacris that people wouldn’t like the company of cute, panty, smiley floofs, but sadly a lot of the time, that is the case. While the dogs always generate interest and usually attract people who are dying to pat them or give them a scratch behind the ear, it’s equally common for people to avoid you entirely when they see you hanging out with your best mate. You’ll most likely be told off at some point, usually it’s when your dogs are out running around in an area they’re allowed to be, and they approach people who don’t want to be approached (I know right?). At times you might be ignored by people entirely purely because you have a dog with you. Keeping in mind, it’s not always this negative, but it can be, so it’s always best to be mindful of other peoples’ feelings and err on the side of caution when you’re around people. Maybe choose to keep them on a tight lead when you’re passing people in the street so people don’t feel threatened or grossed out by a pup trying say hello. Maybe ask the people dining next to you if they’re ok with your dogs sitting with you at the café.

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Kalbarri, Western Australia
  1. Not everyone understands dogs

So you have your people who like dogs, people who don’t, and then there’s this weird middle group of folks who may very well enjoy the company of dogs, but don’t have the knowledge or experience to understand how dogs operate.

Our young pup Oak is a bit of a shit on the lead. We’ve invested in a Halti to keep him from pulling, but when we walk past other dogs in the street, he tries to lunge at them and will sometimes bark at them. Oak LOVES other dogs and is in no way aggressive. He is purely that excited to meet a new fluffy friend that he can’t contain himself and he gets frustrated about being pulled back. He’s also a puppy who is still learning right from wrong. To others, this might look like aggression, and we often find ourselves apologizing for his behaviour when there’s really no need. Same goes for when it’s dark and someone walks close to our camp. Oak will sometimes growl or bark, just to let us know someone is there. This can also be seen as aggression when he’s just doing his job and keeping an eye out for his family.

I could go on and on forever about examples of when dogs behave a particular way and it’s perceived differently by others. It’s just important to remember to be mindful of this, and to again, be aware of your dog’s behaviour so others don’t feel unsafe or annoyed. You won’t always prevent things from happening however, and while you can’t control the actions of others, you can control the way you respond to a situation. Dogs will always be seen as ‘the bad guys’ in most situations involving other people, so all you can do is treat people with respect and do your best to be a responsible dog owner.

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Alpha, Western Queensland
  1. You can’t take them EVERYWHERE

Another obvious one, but travelling with dogs will at times, be restrictive. You won’t always get to go out for dinner, you won’t always get to see that attraction or visit that landmark, and you certainly will NEVER be able to visit a national park with your furry mate.

National parks are the single biggest hurdle for travelling with dogs. The most phenomenal parts of our country are contained to national parks, and sadly if you’ve got a dog with you, they’re a no-go. I argue humans can be far more destructive in these areas than a couple of dogs on leads, but even their scent can deter native animals, and that’s why it’s a big N-O for dogs in national parks. You will get your odd place which will allow them to stay in the car park, but it’s rare.

Finding accommodation with dogs can also pose a hurdle sometimes. I must say, it’s easier now, more than ever to travel with your pet and we haven’t really had too much trouble finding a place to stay, but it can be difficult – particularly along the east coast where the population is high and tolerance for pets is low.

We hear all the time about people who have struggled to find free camps (in particular) which allow dogs, and this can really create a problem if you’re travelling on a budget like we are. For us personally, we have no problem bush camping and we’re self-sufficient so finding a place on the side of the road doesn’t faze us, but nevertheless, when population is high and it’s tourism season, it can get tricky. That’s when our next hard truth is extremely important.

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Esperance, Western Australia
  1. Being too laid back isn’t gonna fly – you need to be organised

It’s plain and simple. If you want to visit areas that don’t allow dogs, you need to have a plan. This also goes for accommodation.

We’ll start with national parks first. Our experience has been a bit all over the place for national parks. We have done it all – left them in the car park, paid a dog sitter, left them with family and friends, and tag-teamed the attraction so someone is always with the dogs. We’ve even snuck into a national park and left them in the car just so we could go get a quick photo (yes, shame, I know). Here’s what we’ve learnt:

  • Always speak to the local Tourist Information Centre first. These guys have been so helpful in suggesting dog sitters or arrangements for your pooch when you want to visit a national park. We’ve even had info centres hand over lists of people who are happy to look after your dogs, and sometimes they even have kennel facilities.
  • Hire a dog sitter. Again, self-explanatory, but it’s a simple, sure fire way to ensure your doggy will be safe and looked after. If you are having trouble finding someone, try MadPaws – an online site dedicated to linking you with locals who can watch your pets
  • Leave with friend or family. Plan ahead and find out who you know in the local area. Put a shoutout on social media. Peoples’ kindness might surprise you.
  • Tag-team. Ben and I did this at Kalbarri. Ben really wanted to see the ‘nature’s window’ and we couldn’t find a single person to watch the dogs. I decided to stay behind with them so Ben could go and enjoy the national park. A bit of give and take might be necessary.
  • Make friends with your neighbours. We’ve done this too! It’s amazing what you’ll learn about people if you’re willing to have a chat at the local caravan park or campsite. You’d be surprised how many people would be willing to watch your pooches if you’re willing to get to know them and offer something in return (a beer or $20 perhaps?) Some legends will even do it for nothing. It’s just about striking up that relationship first. We’d always be happy to watch other pooches. I’m sure we’re not the only ones.

As for accommodation, it’s really about calling around and finding out who allows dogs and who doesn’t. We use WikiCamps and select the ‘dogs allowed’ filter so we only see the locations that allow dogs. Again, the tourist centre is handy for this. It’s also way easier than it’s ever been to stay at a caravan park with dogs. It’s like the accommodation providers have finally cottoned on to the fact that people are travelling with their pets now, and they’re making it more accessible, and that’s great. Some parks even have dog off-leash areas within them!

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Exmouth, Western Australia
  1. You’ll have to pay more

In many cases, caravan parks will charge extra if you have dogs with you. I guess this is their own little insurance policy and while I tend to disagree with this approach, it’s just a fact of life on the road. Some parks will only charge a ‘bond’, so if there is no issue with your pooch being a nuisance or causing damage you get it back on departure. It varies from place to place and season to season, and it’s more just something to be mindful of.

Dog sitting can get a bit pricey too, but it’s all part and parcel of travelling with dogs and you just budget for it. If you’re anything like us, we’d rather pay good money to know the boys will be loved and cared for and that makes the cost of pet sitters priceless.

  1. The pros do outweigh the cons

We say this often. While it’s difficult and takes a bit of work, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Our dogs bring so much joy to our everyday and they are a brilliant reminder to live in the present. They take us to places we wouldn’t normally visit without them and they’re a great conversation starter. While there are a lot of people out there who don’t like dogs for whatever reason, there are just as many who do and we’ve met wonderful people on the road, all because they wanted to come over and have a chat and pat our pups. It’s important to tackle travelling with dogs with your eyes wide open, and to always be a responsible pet owner who is always aware of their surroundings and of their pup’s own needs. Oak and Sam brighten every one of our days, and we just love taking them around this brilliant country. While the challenges can be a deterrent, you must remember that the pros will always outweigh the cons.

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Glen Mervyn Dam, Western Australia

Pets Travel tips

enlightenmeemily View All →

A lover of the written word.

Journalist by trade, writer by hobby. Writing fuels my soul and I promised myself I’d string words together more often, so here I am.

A collection of pieces that describe the inner workings of my mind.

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