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The hardest part of the holiday

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It’s not locating your passport or trying to fit that extra pair of skinny jeans into your already-not-going-to-zip suitcase. 

For many people, it’s saying goodbye to your pet for the weeks (or months) that you’re going on holidays.

You may have cottoned on to this fact by now, but my dog Buddy is one of the most important creatures in my life. Pet owners will get it – that feeling of snuggling on a couch with something small and furry on a cold winter’s day; the unconditional love that a dog gives you when you come home (because let’s face it – you’re merely a pawn in a cat’s attempt of taking over the world); and the ridiculous desire to hug your pet and never let them go despite their wriggly protests.

It’s these things that make leaving your pet behind while on holiday the hardest.

My husband and I are wanderers. We aim to travel somewhere new every year, but the idea of leaving our special little guy behind is hard to bear sometimes. We do it because the wanderlust is too strong to ignore, but we’re also the first ones to pull out our phones while at dinner with our tour mates to show them the multitude of photos we have our dog back home.

Communicating to your pet that you will be back is almost impossible.

All they know is that you leave for roughly eight hours every day, and then they greet you when you return and they go for a walk.

But what happens to your dog if you don’t come back after those eight hours? Or the next eight hours? What are they thinking after a week or two? Are you ever coming back? Have they given up on you entirely? Do they like your in-laws better then you now and will ignore you when you come home? That particular question is probably the worst to think about.

With some experience under my belt at saying goodbye to my furry baby (and having recently come back from another trip) here are some tried and tested tips I have at saying goodbye while going on holiday. You might find they come in handy while you plan your next trip to Singapore or New Zealand when the Canberra International Airport opens!

Don’t linger on the goodbye

Dogs feed off of our energy, so when you’re feeling guilty and sad they can pick up on it and get distressed because they know something is wrong.

It might be hard, but when you leave your dog for your holiday don’t overact and spend ages cuddling them and saying that you are going to miss them – this will make them feel like you’re saying goodbye forever and cause anxiety. Leave the house like you would any other day and get the vibe across that this is totally normal – it will make them understand that you will be back (albeit much later than a normal working day).

Leave at a normal time

While you’re leaving, make sure you also leave at an appropriate time. Getting up at 2.30am in the morning and walking out the door with big heavy packs and suitcases may agitate your dog because you are upsetting your usual routine and alerting them to something being different.

On our recent trip away we left our dog at dinner time and had already packed the car, so there was less agitation at the idea that we were doing something abnormal. Depending on your flights and plans, minimising this as much as possible is a good idea.


Be confident by leaving them in safe hands

When choosing where your pet will be spending their time while you are away, make sure they will be happy, comfortable and safe and this in turn will help you to enjoy your holiday knowing that they are in safe hands. Leaving your pet with people that they know and regularly visit (like in-laws or friends who have dogs) is the best option, but understandably, not everyone has someone who can look after your dog for you.

In this case, you should do your research on pet lodges and accommodations in your area and your price range and find the best one to suit your pet. The Laurel Pet Lodge is one of the best ones in Canberra, and can provide you with constant updates on your pet’s wellbeing and give you peace of mind while you are away. Check them out at their website.

Don’t fret about being second best

It can take months for a dog to settle in to a new environment and develop a bond with a new owner, depending on their age and previous living arrangements.

Once you have developed that bond with your pet, it’s a hard thing for them to forget, so don’t worry about the idea that upon your return your pet will snub you in favour of the person who has been looking after them while you are on holidays. They might like them – they did feed them after all – but the joy and surprise on their face when you come home is absolutely priceless. You won’t be forgotten, so don’t worry that you will be.

Do what’s best for your dog

Expect that there might be a little bit of separation anxiety (such as barking or whining when you leave) but this is normal. If your dog suffers separation anxiety at a higher degree you may need to rework some of these tips to make them suit for you, and if you have further problems it might be worth seeing an instructor or trainer to work through these behaviours.

These are tips that worked for me, but you know your dog and their behaviours better than anyone, so do what it is in the best interest for you and them.

Otherwise get on that plane, unfurl on your beach chair and try to enjoy the freedom. Cherish the moments while you’re away, but also look forward to coming home to a wagging tail – it’s a pretty damn good feeling!

All photography by Peter Hollmann Photography

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