Playtime and Travel

Walking on a lead

Teaching your dog to walk on a lead can take time and patience. A good mantra is: “Walk your dog — don’t let your dog walk you”. With that in mind, here are a few tips that will help get you started.

Purchase the right collar and lead for your dog: While it can be fun choosing the perfect print or colour to match your pet’s personality, selecting the right walking gear is actually really important for your pet’s safety. If you’re using a collar, opt for a good-quality buckle up collar. 

Harnesses with a back clip are better for smaller dogs, while harnesses with a chest clip are better suited to larger, stronger dogs. These harnesses are designed to use dogs’ body weight against themselves so that if they strain too much, the harness will turn them around. 

Strong and boisterous dogs will benefit greatly from head collars, as they work by controlling the head, allowing the rest of the body to follow. Also opt for a premium quality lead with strong clips and stitching to avoid breaking. 

Before purchasing, speak to your vet or trainer for individual advice on which collar and lead is the best fit for your dog.

Put the collar on first, and then connect the lead: Once on, the collar should be snug, but loose enough to slip two fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck. Always display your dog’s council registration and identification on the collar.

Holding the lead: Place your hand through the handle like a bracelet, tie it around your hand, and grip the lead.

Loose lead technique: Decide which side you want your dog to walk. Hold the lead by the handle and step forward. If your dog is walking nicely beside you, praise and reward him or her with a treat. If he or she pulls or crosses over, stop and walk backwards until the lead becomes loose. Repeat this in a small area until your dog understands that the quickest way to move forward is by having a loose lead.

Be confident, but don’t be mean. You should lead your dog at all times and praise your dog for proper manners.

Start early and be consistent: Train your dog to walk on-lead as early as possible. You may need to start from scratch, for instance with puppies, or you may need to provide a refresher for adult dogs who haven’t had consistent training. Dog obedience and training schools offer beginner’s courses, which include walking dogs on a lead.

Once you’ve mastered the art of walking on lead, remember to:  

Take your dog to a fun place: Walking your dog is not only good physical exercise; it also stimulates its sense of smell, hearing and sight. Provide variety by changing your walking route, trying new parks or venturing out to dog-friendly beaches.

Bag it: Take a plastic bag along with you and clean up after your dog.

Things to pack: If you plan to be out longer than usual, make sure you have ample water and treats.

Have fun: Walking your dog should be a positive experience for you and your pet, so make it something enjoyable that you both look forward to. 

Holidaying with your pet

Here are some handy tips when holidaying with your pet.

Identify, update, reunite: Before leaving home, ensure your pet has a microchip, collar tag and is registered with your local council. Make sure all contact information corresponding to your pet’s identification is up-to-date. If you are going on an extended holiday, perhaps consider changing your contact details to where you are staying. Always include your mobile phone number in your contact information, along with an emergency contact for someone you trust and who is not on holidays with you.

Though you will make sense of your holiday surroundings, your pet may not. Being in an unfamiliar environment can make some pets anxious and therefore at greater risk of escaping and going missing.

Will your pet enjoy the holiday as much as you? Research pet-friendly destinations and accommodation that will have plenty of things for you to enjoy with your pet, such as parks and dog-friendly beaches. Keep in mind cats feel safer in a familiar place, so perhaps they are better suited a holiday house or a place they have been to before and/or travel to regularly.

Some pets are more anxious than others. Carefully consider whether your pet will cope with a holiday, or if he or she may be happier left at home or somewhere secure, like a boarding facility.

Research and book in advance: Some places advertised as pet-friendly do not accept pets during certain times of the year, so make sure the accommodation provider is aware that you will be bringing your pet. Keep in mind that some may have restrictions on breeds and sizes. Have a list of questions handy, such as where is the nearest park, is my pet permitted in doors, will a kennel/pen be provided, and is there an extra fee for bringing a pet?

Start off small: If you are considering holidaying with your pet, first test run a weekend away, rather than an extended holiday. You will be able to find out a lot about how your pet copes with travel in just a couple of days.

Invest time in obedience training: A well-mannered, trained and socialised dog will make better company, particularly when you are travelling. It will make holidaying more enjoyable for you and those around you.

Vaccinations and worming: Make sure your pet’s vaccinations and worming are up to date before your holiday, especially if he or she is likely to meet other dogs or cats.

Pack: Pack ample food and water for your pet, prescribed medication, insect repellent, treats, protection for the sun and cold, toys and games. It is important to take your pets bed and any familiar things that will help them feel more settled and at home. A pet first aid kit is also a good idea.

Online resources

There are a range of online resources:

Planning a holiday with your pooch?

Listing of parks and beaches to take your pooch 

Holidaying without your pet

When planning your next holiday, one of the most important things to consider is the arrangements for your pet. If your pet is better off staying at home with a responsible and reliable carer, here are some tips:

Identify, update, reunite: Ensure your pet is identified with a microchip and a collar tag, and that your contact details are always up to date. In most states, dogs and cats are required by law to be microchipped and registered with the local council. Include an emergency contact, someone who is not on holidays with you. 

Friend or family: Many people choose to leave their pet with a family member or friend while on holiday. The pet may go and stay with this person in his or her home, or your friend or family member may move in to your home. Make sure the person you choose is experienced, reliable, responsible, and will enjoy spending time with your pet. It is best that your pet is familiar with the person, and that you all meet up prior to going away to spend time together and go through all important information (see ‘Go-to guide’ below).

Pet sitter: If you don’t have a suitable friend or family member, you may want to consider a professional pet sitter. You can find pet sitting services online or you may be able to get a recommendation from your vet or a friend. Be sure to meet up with your sitter prior to going away – most sitters will insist on this. Also, make sure to check references and see if the sitter has a valid police check for the security of your pet and home. Give the sitter your contact details and those of an emergency contact.

Go-to guide: Put together comprehensive and easy-to-read notes about your pet to leave with your sitter. The notes should include information about your pet’s diet, medication, routine, idiosyncrasies, favourite toys, your contact details while travelling, and an emergency contact who will be on call if he or she is needed.

Bushfire areas: If you live in bushfire prone areas, make sure your sitter has a copy of your pet’s bushfire plan. It is also important you have an emergency contact that lives outside the bushfire prone area in case of an emergency. Read our fact sheet for more information on pets and bushfires.

Calling in: If you leave your pet at home and organise a sitter, family member or friend to drop in to check on him or her, it is crucial that the person visits twice a day for dogs, and at least once a day for cats. Dogs should be walked at least once a day. The ‘calling in’ approach is not recommended for extended periods for dogs, but cats (depending on their temperament and breed) will be happy with this method for a few days. Although cats may seem independent, they too need regular human contact and affection.

Pet accommodation: For those going on a holiday for more than a long weekend, a kennel or cattery may be the best and safest option. The best ones are usually those recommended to you by friends and family. If you are searching online, make sure to consider unbiased reviews and information about kennels. You may want to visit the kennels first and request a tour before leaving on holidays.

Visit your vet: Drop into your vet and let him or her know you will be going away and for how long. Many vets would be happy to arrange to take payment when you’re back, should something happen while you are away. If you are putting your pet into a boarding facility, its vaccinations must be up-to-date and you need to plan this several weeks before leaving.

Be realistic: Keep in mind that things can go wrong. It is important to not blame the sitter if something beyond their control happens to your pet.

Car trips

Training your dog to enjoy road trips can make life much easier and allow you to enjoy getting out and about with your dog.

Start off with small journeys and gradually build up to longer ones. If you can, take your dog everywhere you go to help him or her get used to car travel. Never leave your pet unattended in a car.

Ensure your dog is safe and secure, either in a secured travel crate (large enough for the dog to turn around and lie down) or with a car harness. Allowing your dog to roam freely around the car can cause distractions for the driver and possible injury to your dog.

The Department of Primary Industries recommends the following:

  • For best practice, it is recommended that dogs travel in the cabin of the vehicle and are kept either on the backseat in a restraining device or in the open cargo area of a wagon type vehicle behind a cargo barrier.
  • Dogs need to be adequately restrained when travelling inside a vehicle for the safety of both the dog and human passengers.
  • Unrestrained dogs can cause accidents and should never be allowed in the vicinity of the driver. In the case of an accident, an unrestrained dog may become a projectile and can damage itself and/or the occupants of the vehicle.
  • Give your dog lots of praise and rewards as they learn to stay quiet, calm and enjoy car travel. 

For more information on travelling in vehicles with dogs visit the Department of Primary Industries website.

Off-lead etiquette

It’s important to understand the limitations of your own dog in order to ensure a trip to the park or beach is a pleasant and safe experience for everyone. The following tips are a starting point that will help you introduce your dog to the off-lead world:

Pick up after your dog: If your dog makes a mess, clean it up. Most parks and beaches will supply bins and bags.

Don’t stand around and chat: Have a walking conversation and stay close to your dog — that way you can keep an eye on him or her and other dogs nearby.

Pay attention: Never assume that all dogs at an off-lead park or beach are friendly, well trained and sociable. Keep an eye on your dog at all times. This way you can avoid fights or negative experiences. If you or your dog feels uncomfortable at any stage, head home or find another way to burn off that excess energy.

Ask before giving out treats: Check with other dog owners if you really want to give their dog a treat; they may be on a diet, be sensitive to certain foods or not allowed to have freebies (treats without working for them). Of course it is OK to treat your own dog, but do it discretely, as food can be a catalyst for scuffles. 

Train your recall: A good, strong recall is a must for off-lead locations, so start by training this at home and then in quiet areas outside. A recall can also be very important for times when you need to remove your dog from potential dangers.



Winter entertainment for your pet

It may be pouring outside, but all dogs need daily exercise. Thankfully there are ways to achieve this without battling rain, hail or lack of daylight.

Hide and seek: You can either hide treats, toys or yourself for this one. If using treats or toys, put your dog in the laundry or bathroom while you hide his or her favourite treats/toys around the house. When it’s time to find everything, get your dog excited and use the word “seek” as he or she moves around the house. Do a run-through search first to show your dog where the item is, and get really excited when he or she discovers it. Your dog will quickly learn what "seek" means.

If you want to hide yourself, you may need a friend to help you out at the start. Get your friend to hold onto your dog while you hide, and then release the dog when you are ready. You may need to call your dog at first and encourage him or her with “seek”, but soon your friend will be able to give the command and they will come and find you. Be sure to give the dog lots of praise and treat or toy reward when he or she finds you.

Puzzling toys: There are a number of puzzle type toys available and most have the option to be filled with food or treats to encourage your dog to play with them. These include KONGs, buster cubes and treat balls. Always supervise your dog at first to make sure he or she knows how to use the toy.

Training: This is a great way to bond with your dog and provide a great source of mental and physical stimulation. Between 10 to 15 minutes a day is usually enough, but in the colder weather you can increase the number of sessions.Use a gentle, positive training method and start off by going over the basics and teaching your dog simple things, such as sit and drop, before moving on to more complicated tricks.Please remember that not all dogs will enjoy these activities the same as going for a walk, which stimulates all of their senses, so it’s important to do what is right for your dog. Mix it up until you find something your dog really enjoys.