So, you’re planning a family holiday to France but you have a new pet and you’re wondering just how easy (or difficult!) it is to take your mutt with you.
Luckily, help is at hand courtesy of France for Families. We have taken our family pet Harry (very lively springer spaniel) with us to France on numerous occasions, so here are some handy tips plus a link to a short informative video.
With all the changes coming into place with Brexit, who knows what the future will be in terms of taking your pet to France, but at the moment it’s fairly straightforward! Will keep you updated!
The first question to ask yourself – do you actually want to take your dog?
You want your family holiday to France to be relaxing for you all, so think carefully about what you want to get out of your break.
We do occasionally enjoy few days in a caravan in France without our dog, as we are worried about his barking disturbing other holidaymakers. However in the main summer holidays when we hire a gite or apartment in France, he is very much part of the family trip.
The best thing about taking a dog to France is that the country is the most amazingly dog-friendly place I’ve ever come across. You can take your pet anywhere. Even our springer spaniel (a breed of dog that does get some strange looks from this poodle-loving nation) is allowed into a steak house for an evening meal. He happily lies under the table eating our bones.
So firstly check out the accommodation you wish to stay in and see if it’s suitable. Many of the gites featured here on France for Families are dog friendly; you just need to check with the owners first.
Quick questions to ask would be is there plenty of shade for the dog during the heat of the day? Is there space for playing off the lead? Is it close to a road? Can the dog be left by himself in a safe space in the house if you go out?
To take your dog to France from the UK, your dog must be micro chipped and he/she must have a passport. You probably already have your pet so you’re half way there.
You can use your usual vet to get your dogs’ passport – this must be done at least 21 days before you travel as you dog will need to have a rabies injection, which is marked on the passport. This will be checked carefully on your entry back into the UK so don’t travel without it.
All cross-channel travel companies will charge an extra fee for taking your pet and the experience varies between the companies.
We have found Eurotunnel to be the easiest and fastest. The checking in procedure is very smooth – you simply have to hand in your dog’s passport with your own at the ticket checkpoint, and you will be handed a scanner to check your pet’s microchip.
If you have time there is a nice free doggy play area next to the terminal, completely fenced in and featuring some play equipment for you and your pet to stretch your legs in.
And then during the crossing, which is just over thirty minutes, you stay in your car with your pet all the way which is very easy and reassuring, both for you and your pet.
We’ve also travelled with P&O Ferries. On all cross channel ferries the dog must stay in the car during the crossing, which is always a worry the first time you experience it. Harry was left in his bed in a well-ventilated car, with some water, and apart from looking a little sorry for himself (his normal expression in the car really) he was fine and survived the journey well. If your dog is anything like ours and suffers from a bit of travel sickness then avoid feeding too much food to your pet the day of the travel. It sounds mean but is saves it all coming back up in the back of your car and he can have a nice big meal on arrival at our destination.
Brittany Ferries have a Pets travel scheme and it is their rule that all dogs must be muzzled during check-in. I guess you need to spend some time acclimatizing your pet to this treatment, don’t leave it until the day you travel.
Driving Across France
The main routes through France have frequent ‘Aires De Service’. These are break out areas which are different to the normal service stations that have a petrol pump. (You’ll find that the normal service stations don’t tend to have much break out space around them).
The ‘Aires’ that are signposted with just a picnic table and a toilet are perfect for a walk and stretch and there tends to be a nice area with grass, trees and picnic benches.
It’s far better to plan your journey so that you picnic at one of these natural ‘Aires’ as oppose to one of the petrol station ‘Aires’. As in the UK, the food and coffee is not great at most petrol service stations and there tends not to be as many outside eating areas, away from the traffic and noise.
Our dog Harry loves a summer holiday in the mountains. The French Alps are a perfect destination for a dog that likes to run…and run….and run. We spent quite a few days taking him and the bikes up the cable cars and cycling down the scenic routes of the mountain (family friendly routes, I would add).
Don’t underestimate how hot France can get in July / August, so if you’re in an area that is baking then be prepared to walk early in the morning and late at night, and ensure there is a nice place, somewhere cool for your pet to relax in.
Travelling home with your pet
The one aspect of taking your pet on holiday with you to France is the faff of firstly understanding the over complicated rule of ‘your dog needs to be treated for tapeworm, not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1-5 days) before the scheduled time of entry into the UK’ and secondly finding a vet to do it!
However, what you need to remember is that in most tourist areas the local vet will probably be used to dealing with this requirement. The two different vets that we had to deal with were very ‘au fait’ with the process and made the visit very easy.
If you need to find a vet, start by asking the representatives of the holiday company you travelled with or the gite owners if they can recommend one. Alternatively, simply type ‘vet in ’ into Google (or other search engine of your choice!) and you will see a host of local clinics to choose from. It’s probably worth a phone call before you go on holiday to check if (a) they speak English (b) they run the pet passport scheme and (c) they won’t have a bank holiday closure on the day you wish to have an appointment.
Costs do vary by clinic; you will probably pay something between 40 to 60 euros.
Check the pet passport carefully
You must check the pet passport carefully to ensure that it is filled in correctly, as you are responsible for the details being correct on the document. The last thing you want to do is turn up at the port only to find that something is missing or incorrect. The main points to check are that the date is correct – date and year – and that it has been signed and stamped by the clinic.