Travelling with dogs can be stressful, not just for our dogs, but us humans too! In this article we're going to be covering travelling with dogs on a ferry from the UK to elsewhere in the European Union. My personal experience is based on travelling to Spain, but should be relevant for anywhere in the EU. We used Brittany Ferries who run a 24 hour crossing from Portsmouth or Plymouth to Santander or Bilboa in Northern Spain.
What you need to know before you make your travel plans
These are the very first things you need to think about before travelling with your dog.
- Pet Passport
You need a pet passport to travel with your pet in the EU. The passports usually take around 3 weeks to complete - so be sure to get these done at least a month before you travel. Transport regulations may vary depending on which country you are travelling to, but within the EU, applying for a pet passport will usually require your dog to be:
- All vaccinations up to date
- Rabies vaccination
The cost of a pet passport is around £120 per dog in the UK and while photos are optional, they definitely add to the cute factor! For more information about pet passports have a look a the following link, particularly if you are travelling with more than five dogs: https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/overview
- Ferry Booking
When you book with Brittany Ferries, you'll need to ask specifically for a pet-friendly cabin. They generally mention only one dog per cabin but if you have two dogs, call them as they'll usually allow two dogs in the cabin if pre-warned.
They will ask your dog's breed and size (we travelled with a Greyhound and a Lurcher) and there are a limited amount of pet friendly cabins which are booked up quickly. You can, however, go on a waiting list and be contacted as soon as one is available - I would recommend this to ensure getting a booking.
The ferries also have a kennel area with small and large cages as an alternative to a pet-friendly cabin, this would depend on how tolerant your dog would in a cage. There is an exercise area and access to the kennels is available 24 hours a day.
What you need to know when you travel
- Make sure you pack your pet passports!
- Dog's collars and lead
- Muzzles are compulsory when your dog is in a public area, e.g. when you fetch your dog from the ferry garage and take them to the cabin and when you go to the exercise area which is one deck up from the cabins.
- There are stairs to negotiate to the exercise area and they are open type stairs, this spooked Tom my Lurcher and I ended up carrying a 25k dog up the stairs!
- When you take your dog to and from the garage, you will find that there are a number of dogs being moved at the same time - we were in the lift with 5 other dogs and their humans! This can be stressful for nervous ore reactive dogs so keep this in mind.
- Brittany Ferries give you a free pack that contains a portable water bowl, a toy, some treats and poo bags. However I would advise taking your dogs blankets, some of their own toys, some treats and food for the journey.
- If your dog is nervous, and because the journey can be stressful, I would ask your vet for recommendations or enquire about Rescue Remedy as that is often helpful.
I also took some puppy pads in case our dogs got caught short in the cabin (although the floors are tiled so easy to clear if that is the case).
My dogs also got stressed if I left the Cabin even when with my husband, this made it difficult to go out, it's a long crossing and can be rough in the Bay of Biscay, fortunately hounds love to sleep so when they settled we all slept from 8:30pm until 9am which made it easier on a rough crossing.
What you need to know when you get there
When you arrive you'll make your way back to the the car and then you're on your way.
The dogs are taken back to the car about hour before you dock so by the time you get off the ferry, they most likely will need a toilet break, it is worth checking the map to know where the first services are for this purpose.
From here you'll need the usual stuff for a long car journey with your dogs; I took small tasty snacks for the journey and plenty of fresh water. We stopped frequently for pee breaks and little food often seemed to work well for us.
Ours travel well in the car and we didnt really know they were there, I have a Honda CRV 4x4 so they had plenty of room to relax in the back. I only fed tasty snacks frequently and lots of water available and that seemed to work well for them.
If you think the long crossing may be too much for your dogs you could also consider a shorter crossing and a longer drive. There are no pet friendly cabins on shorter crossings and dogs have to stay in your vehicle with a couple of visits allowed during the journey to check on them.
My dogs took a few days to get over the journey, as did we, but that's expected when you're in a new environment. I found as long as they were with me they were fine.
Bella did get ill a couple days after our arrival and the vet put it down to the stress of the journey so dont underestimate the effect of such a change and how your dog may react to it. However, if you are well prepared and take all the above into consideration, your journey should go as smoothly as ours :-)
Good luck! And please come back to share your own experience in the comments below.
Joined: Apr 2012
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