I have always loved the idea of going abroad with the hounds but wasn’t sure it if it would be a real faff. I certainly didn’t want to go the ferry route, we have done that with Scout twice (once when he had to stay in the kennels - never again & once where he could stay in the car on his own, not ideal). So when we got the opportunity to stay at a friends property in Hautefort in the Dordogne, we decided to take the leap.
We looked into Eurotunnel and it seemed so easy! Why hadn’t we thought of this before? A few people have been interested in how the process went, so I’ll start from the beginning 😊
Before we even looked at train times, we knew that passports and rabies jabs needed to be first on the list. Rabies jabs need to be done 21 days before travelling and it has to be done after your dog has been microchipped (which of course is a legal requirement now).
As with most things in the Jordan household, we left things a little last minute and did it about 1 month before travelling, and all at the same time. We are lucky enough to have a very patient and sensitive vet who did the relevant check over and took all the details for their passports which we picked up about a week later.
Considering we have 5 dogs, this wasn’t a cheap process, the bill coming up to around 450.00 (it would have been more however Shadow already had his passport). They will scan for the chip and make a note of the location, and take details of any distinguishing marks which all go on the passport (there is the option to add their photo too if you like!) and add all the rabies vaccination information. Double check all the details are correct before you go!
This is honestly the thing that caused me the most stress. I wont use any ‘spot’ treatments anymore after both Scout & Jasper lost fur that still hasn’t grown back and there was no way I was going to feed my hounds one of the oral pills which apparently keep ticks away for 3 months, the thought terrified me that is how long it stays in their system.
So I had two options: the collars or a natural remedy.
I really wanted to go with a natural remedy. Friends have sworn by Billy No Mates by CSJ, unfortunately you need to be feeding that months before you go away, and as I mentioned, the Jordan household can be a tad disorganised.
I already knew from past research that ticks and flees seem to be repelled by the smell of lemongrass and/or cedarwood essential oils so I decided to look into this a little more. That’s when I are across this blog: http://www.primallyinspired.com/easy-natural-tick-repellent-that-really-works-essential-oils/
Here was a woman and her dog who had been diagnosed with Lyme disease but didn’t want to use harmful chemicals on her dog and had a natural remedy!
I put a post up on facebook to see if anyone else had similar results but not many people had tried it. I then got a little scared because of the warnings regarding how much worse the ticks were in Europe to the UK and so, I decided to go down the collar route.
This honestly still made me feel uncomfortable, if you read the instructions you have to wash your hands after coming in contact with it, and yet we put them round our dogs necks. If I had something like a husky I don’t think I would have been so concerned, however my hounds have barely any fur round their necks.
The two main options that came up were Seresto & Scalibor. Seresto was out after a friend with a short haired Daxie said that her hound had lost the fur round it’s neck. This was turning out to be a nightmare! I bought the Scalibor after a another friend who is completely nuts about her hound and travels extensively recommended it. Thankfully I called my vets to double check with him; he told me that Seresto is the one he recommends as it has been registered, but if I wanted to go with Scalibor I needed to take it off before they go in water because it can be dangerous to small equatic life (seriously!?).
The good thing about Scalibor is that the collar has much more flex than the Seresto (which is much thicker) so it’s easier to slip over the dogs necks to take them off.
In the end, the hound hardly wore their Scalibor as I didn’t think it was necessary when walking round towns. They are supposed to wear them all the time to be effective, but instead I put a drop of Rose Geranium on my finger and rubbed it on their shoulder blades and top of the tail for when we were walking in low risk areas. I even put a few dabs on the hems of my shorts and on my shoes (it is an oil though so be careful of staining). Neither hounds or humans came away with bites of any kind. I am not saying that this is the right or correct thing to do, it’s just what we did.
Fun fact I came across: Ticks must be engorged from 24 to 36 hours before they are able to transmit Lyme disease and only 25% of nymphs and 50% of adults carry Lyme in the highest endemic areas. This might seem like a high number, but only 5% of dogs who are naturally exposed to Lyme disease become clinically ill. This means that if you find a nymph on your dog, the risk of Lyme disease in endemic areas is 1.25 out of a hundred and 2.5 out of a hundred if you find an adult tick on your dog. Of course, the risk will be lower in other areas. (Source: https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/ticks-natural-prevention/ - it’s a really interesting read and includes herbal methods to boost the immune system agains Lyme disease)
This was the easy part, so easy that actually we somehow managed to bypass the lounge and the dog excercise area (which looks fab with mini agility courses), and found ourselves in the lane for the tunnel in the blink of an eye. Which is a bit of a shame as we decided to take the ‘flexi’ option which gives you access to their fancy new lounge - it did mean however that we had the fast track on boarding & it didn’t matter what time we arrived.
Our passports were checked on the way out but not the hounds.
You are loaded onto this huge transport train, one car wide, bumper to bumper and within 40 minutes we were at Calais.
The hounds didn’t seem to be bothered by the process at all, it was pretty quiet journey.
Here’s the great thing about travelling in France, once outside of Calais, approximately every 10-15 miles there were ‘rest stops’ usually signposted as Aire de Repos. Some are quite basic but most include pretty picnic areas with large grassy sections, and if you are lucky, you may get one with a lovely wooded footpath for you to walk your hounds.
There are a few toll roads but it’s well worth it as the roads brilliant. We went the week before the school holidays and only came across traffic when we went round the French version of the M25 on the way back. Generally we found the roads wide, smooth and free of traffic jams (and when I say ‘we’ I mean my husband as he was a superstar and did all the driving!).
For some reason, our old boy Jasper was over excited as soon as we got to Calais, which meant more stops than usual just to make sure he wasn’t too hot or needed the toilet.
We were in a tiny place called Hautefort and it was my idea of heaven. Our home for the next week, the stunning Rediat Cor, sat nestled at the base of the impressive Chatau at the top of a hill. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect location after a hectic and sometimes stressful year so far. The lanes were one car width (although plenty of parking spaces) and every home seemed to have a beautiful array of flowers on their doorsteps and window boxes. Pair that with the rustic shutters and and stone buildings and it felt like a fairytale location. It was super clean, and get this, despite it’s rustic location, there were discreet stations for electric car top ups!
We had a whole list of recommendations of places to go, we only managed a couple as we were content to slow the pace of life a little and sit out on the terrace with the wonderful views and read books that had been stacking up for months.
For anyone worried about not being able to take your dogs in places in France, you needn’t. Everywhere we went, people went out of their way to make us comfortable, from a fancy restaurant down an alley in Perideux where we stopped for lunch (they moved chairs so we could have more space) to the lakeside cafe who brought water bowls to our table. Although we could see dogs were more than welcome in restaurants in the evening, we decided to eat in after we had to leave red faced when the hounds got too excited after seeing a cat. They weren’t settling down (I should have brought my Guru trip bones - hindsight and all that!) so we cooked in the house in the evenings. If we had only two hounds it’s likely they would have settled much easier, but with five, they just ended up feeding off each others excitement. We did find that the majority of places had outside areas too where we saw dogs a plenty.
A friend who visited France could barely believe that her two hounds were even allowed in a beautifully ornate hotels and restaurants (seriously, one was called Hotel Imperial Palace, yes Palace; think carpeted restaurant and marble staircases).
The dogs were on lead most of the time however they didn’t seem to mind as it was quite warm so they weren’t up to doing anything energetic. We visited the insanely pretty Segur on the way back from the vets which has a shallow river running through it - we let the hounds have a paddle to cool off and they then had a mental zoomies for a good half an hour.
Rediat Cor is at the base of the Chateau and dogs are welcomed in the gardens so I went twice in one day as it was so amazing.
Apart from a couple of hair raising moments (thanks to Shadow thinking that he was made of rubber) and the embarrassment of having to leave the restaurant, it was super relaxing. I felt so inspired taking early morning walks, usually with just one of the hounds, before anything opened. I’d go and sit at the local cafe and have a coffee watching as the town woke up, and felt really welcomed when after a few days they knew my order.
Here's a link to where we stayed, I honestly can't recommend it enough!: www.positivelyfrench.co.uk/index.html
We were lucky enough to have the details of a vet that the owner of the house uses. We called on the Tuesday to get an appointment for the Thursday (we left on the Saturday). Working tablets should be taken no less than 24 hours and no more than 5 days before you travel back to the UK. I’d recommend doing a search in the area you are staying and giving them a call before you travel to book your dogs in. Most receptionists will speak enough English to understand what you need.
Our vet spoke good English and was brilliant with the dogs. We found the price ridiculously reasonable - 5 dogs worming plus a 30 pack of calming tablets was 77€ - he went through and double checked all the details with me as the last thing you want is to get to Calais and realise something is incorrect!
One thing to note is that we tried to call on the Monday not realising it was a French public holiday so most places were closed.
Food: We packed Guru for the hounds (you can read why we chose this here) and a couple of times bought mince, chicken wings, eggs and tinned fish from the local supermarket as an evening meal (I also brought a tin of pumpkin and their golden paste).
Beds: We took the hounds favourite beds (Charley Chau Donut & Snuggle beds), a couple of The Whippet Company fleeces to throw on furniture or leave on the patio and two Charley Chau spotted blankets that we could take when we ate out. I kid you not, we got a roof box specifically for all the beds! We dotted them all with lavender essential oils before we left so that they had the benefit of the relaxing effect the entire way through the holiday. I also think its good to have something that they know from home.
Calmex: We got this from the vets before we went as Boo was anxious in the car after I had an accident last year. We have been working on her confidence however it was too long a journey to risk her being stressed the entire way. We tried it on a couple of journey’s before we left and she definitely made an improvement. It may be worth having something like this on standby (or for example, the pet remedy defuser) as even for the most confident of dogs this could be a strange experience. I’m glad we did as the weather was warm when we went and we had a few thunder storms so it really helped with Shadow.
Bandanas: We took bandanas for two reasons; one so that we could wet them if the hounds got too warm and secondly to dab essential oils like lavender on before the journey. Ours are from Redhound for Dogs.
Essential Oils: It’s only in the last 6 months or so I’ve really started to get to know and love the natural benefits of essential oils (thanks to Sam at Hoof to Tail Healing) and now I use them all the time for both myself and the hounds. I took lavender for their beds and bandanas to help them relax, I dabbed either cedarwood or lemongrass on their bandanas to help repel ticks (they are quite strong smelling so I left it for about 30 mins before putting them on), and then the rose geranium for ticks too.
Passports: If you are even thinking of taking your hound abroad it may be good to get this whenever you can as it lasts for 7 years.
Favourite Toys: It’s really good for your hound to have something that is familiar to him when you are in a new place.
Harnesses, Leads & tag collars: We took more leads than we needed just in case we lost one and made sure our tag collars had all the details visible & correct.
Portable water bowl: We had one in the house however we kept one in the car too with a litre bottle of water. Most places had water bowls available however my lot are a bit fussy and only seem to like fresh water and not ones that other dogs have used. Pampered much??
Poo bags: took way more than we needed so that we could put them in the car, pockets & bags all over the place.
Jumpers: thankfully we didn’t need them, but I was worried on the way out in case the nights were a bit cooler. I also should have thought about their wax coats in case of rain!
First aid kit: We have a dog first aid kit at home and it was only after I thought back to Shadow’s antics of the week it would have been a good thing to bring. Thankfully we didn’t need it!
I hope you enjoyed our journey! If you have any questions about travelling to France with your dog, please do as and I'll answer if I am able! Kerry x
Surrey | Sussex | Hampshire Dog Photographer
Based in Haslemere
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