5 great spots for a Devon doggie staycation
- Credit: Greig Barclay
Highlighting five great places to take your dog on holiday in Devon... with advice from an expert on how best to make the trip a big success for your pooch
In the wake of COVID-19, staycations are having a continued renaissance, with many dog owners choosing to stay in the UK instead of travelling abroad. Devon is home to a myriad of dog-friendly accommodation offerings, so why not pack a bag for your four-legged friends to accompany you on your travels?
Here’s my selection of five fab places to stay with your dog:
1) Bovey Castle - nestled in the rolling valleys of Dartmoor National Park, award-winning pet friendly, Bovey Castle offers a dramatic wilderness location for a relaxing getaway with your four-legged friend. A booklet is provided on walks around the estate, allowing you and your canine pal to discover the many trails, a stick’s throw away.
2) Two Bridges Hotel – enjoy the magic of a Dartmoor hideaway, with your hound at your side. Two Bridges Hotel is situated in the midst of jaw-dropping countryside, providing historic charm and the finest seasonal fare.
3) Lewtrenchard Manor, Okehampton - a quintessential Devonshire setting, on the edge of Dartmoor National Park, Lewtrenchard offers a superb dog-friendly retreat, where comfort is fused with old-school grandeur, surrounded by a myriad of fabulous walking spots.
4) The Horn of Plenty, Tavistock - experience a luxe countryside escape on the edge of Dartmoor, with your four-legged friend at your side. The Horn of Plenty is a vibrant home-from-home with 12 dog-friendly rooms, where your canine pal will find a gourmet meal waiting on arrival.
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5) Whitehouse Hotel - a classic Georgian country house with a difference – Whitehouse Hotel offers a refreshing take on the traditional dog-friendly country pile; a home-from-home bursting with character and a unique design, surrounded by mature gardens, and in easy reach of some traditional dog-friendly Devon pubs.
And as much as we love our pups, if you are unfamiliar with holidaying with your dog at your heels, it’s a good idea to prepare; a trip with your canine pal isn’t without its trials and tribulations, especially if your dog isn’t used to travelling and staying in unfamiliar haunts – preparation is key to keep you from going barking mad.
My ten-year-old cockerpoo, Partridge, is a seasoned traveller, regularly sniffing out luxury hotels, boutique B&Bs, and unique glamping sites.
When travelling together in the car, her anxiety kicks in instantly; she will enter a stressed state of panting and shaking. Partridge also suffers with separation anxiety, so leaving her alone in hotel rooms is an additional worry.
I caught up with one expert - certified animal behaviourist Caroline Wilkinson, founder of digital pet coaching service Barket Place - to talk me through what I could do to alleviate this, as well as a multitude of tips for happy and safe travels with your pup to ensure you get the most out of your holidog this summer!
1) Preparation is key – consider writing a list of things to pack including, treats, toys, bed and blanket, poo bags as well as any necessary medication. Pack items that your dog is familiar with, to ensure they feel more comfortable and at ease in a new environment.
2) Safe and calm travels – many dogs find car journeys stressful. This can be due to an emotional connection or it could be related to physical issues - the motion makes them feel uncomfortable, the space they travel in doesn’t make them feel secure, or they can’t see what’s ahead.
If your dog is really scared of the car, taking some time off from car journeys before a big trip can be useful. During this time, swap out car journeys for car food-finds - scattering treats around the space your dog usually travels and allowing them to search for it.
Switching where your dog travels can sometimes change their response to the journey too. For example, if they usually travel in the boot, you could try a crate or dog harness in the back seat.
The most important thing is they have a firm a base underneath them and that they are safe from any sudden movements. You could also try blacking out windows with stick-on sunshades - as they might not like seeing the world whizz by.
Plan regular comfort breaks so they have toileting opportunities, stretch their legs and a nice sniff!
3) Solo time? Be sure to check the rules relating to leaving your dog alone in your holiday accommodation. For some dogs a little human-free downtime between adventures can be greatly received, but if your dog hasn’t been left alone in a new space before, you will need to ensure they’re not getting stressed or anxious.
Plus there’s the chance of damage to the property you’re staying in or noise disturbances.
If there is a ‘no dogs on furniture’ policy, then you’ll need to prepare in advance. Teach your dog to settle on a specific bed - and build up the time they feel comfortable. Ensure you take the bed on your travels and reward with something yummy when they relax on it.
4) Adventures with puppies – creating positive early new experiences can be a good way to set your dog up for a lifetime of successful adventures. Try not to cram too many activities into each day, and ensure your pup has lots of rest time and quality sleep.
5) Seek out calm spaces – try avoiding the crowds, instead find off-the-beaten-track walks or consider walking at a National Trust site or Woodland Trust walk. Walking in quiet spaces will allow you to fully engage in your environment and with your dog.
6) Too much of a good thing – however tempting it may be, try not to share your pub lunches and ice cream with your furry friend as this can wreak havoc on their behaviour as well as their tummies. Too much sugar can cause dogs to be hyper, whilst too many new flavours can end up in multiple overnight toilet trips – not so relaxing for your staycation!
7) Keep calm and carry on dining - getting your dog used to settling on a specific blanket before travelling is a great way to create the right emotional response to a specific visual cue. When your dog sees the blanket set up, they know what is expected and they’ll automatically feel more comfortable whilst you’re dining.
8) Best behaviour in company of other dogs - in distracting environments, it might be difficult for your dog to calmly sit and watch other dogs move past. But getting them to look up at you when you say their name is something they might easily do. When they look up, sprinkle a few treats to take their attention away from approaching dogs or people.